Wednesday, June 30, 2004

If we promise to lose in advance, will you vote for us?

National Post columnist Andrew Coyne is more generous than most election commentators in writing that social conservatives aren't to blame for the Tories' electoral loss on Monday.

I like some of what he has to say, but I'd like to apologize to him in advance for using his column to take issue with some urbanized fiscal conservatives (probably not Mr. Coyne) who are taking potshots at social conservatives and other brave dissenters against the "Trudeauvian consensus."

Sorry, Mr. Coyne.

In a recent column, he writes:

...."I do not share the opinions of social conservatives on most issues (for example, on gay marriage), but I recognize these are legitimate views that deserve representation -- and respect. But if there is any lesson in this election, it is that they are going to have to learn to express these views within the limits imposed by an equal respect for others -- and by the Charter of Rights..... "

Questions for Mr. Coyne:

1. Can he define what he means by "equal respect for others" in a practical political sense?

As Mr. Coyne may remember, the Tories advanced nothing in their platform or official statements that advanced social conservatism. All the "controversy" came from various MPs thinking out loud about social conservative issues.

Leftish Canadians were whipped into a frenzy at the mere *idea* of social conservatives changing things. If Mr. Coyne means by "equal respect" that we social conservatives don't say anything that could possibly lose the Tory votes cast by urban libertarians, then we can discount ever getting an opportunity to try to change government policies that impact upon the moral choices of the federal government.

I wonder if Mr. Coyne may be thinking along these lines based on this suggestion from the same column:

More broadly, Conservatives will have to acquire the maturity and discipline to focus on their core objectives, and not be sidetracked by hobbyhorse issues. How on earth did bilingualism on Air Canada become an issue in this election? Because a Conservative official sent Air Canada a letter making promises on the subject in the middle of the campaign. (Gosh: do you suppose someone might have leaked it?)

An accommodation with the Trudeauvian consensus on these issues need not and should not mean an abandonment or watering down of the central tenets of modern Conservatism. Quite the opposite: having reassured Canadians that they are no threat to the Charter, nor about to give away the store to the provinces, Conservatives are likelier to get a hearing on the issues that are most dear to them, or ought to be.

I can see the choices of the fiscal conservatives trumping the choices of the social conservatives far too often. Pro-life MPs will bring forward a bill to defund abortion. Not ban abortion, remove the funding provisions for it from the Canada Health Act. Some party bigwig from Toronto will delay or stop the move based on abortion not being a "central policy" of the Tory party. These so-con MPs would then spend the next 20 years voting on tax cuts or tax breaks for Canada's cities, but would never get the opportunity to vote on the social conservative issues that brought them into politics in the first place.

We need to ask if this would work too. Harper promised a zillion times in the English debate that the Tories would not bring forth legislation on abortion, for example. But, people didn't believe him based on the fact that he didn't start purging pro-lifers from the party for expressing their views.

2. The "Trudeauvian consensus"? Trudeau came to be loathed in the West. Do we now have to endorse ideas that we never agreed with to get votes in Ontario?

"Okay, you win, and you win forever, on these ideas that we never got to stop in the 1970s. Please vote for us now." What kind of platform is that?

"We promise in advance to lose any arguments about these morally-related government social policies if you will vote for us."

3. When did Canadians get to vote on the "Trudeauvian consensus" expressed in the sense that these would be permanent changes for the next 50, 100, or 500 years? Was it ever explained that, in the minds of some small-l liberals, if the "Trudeauvian consensus" proved flawed they would do nothing to fix it?

If Trudeau and his fellows could start hacking at the political balance of powers negotaited by the Fathers of Confederaion and embodied in the BNA Act, what should stop us from fixing what the Trudeauvians wrought?

4. Since when do voters owe the Charter of Rights any loyality, since it was passed by legislatures and never endorsed by the general public?

5. Is the Charter of Rights perfect? If not, why object to suggestions to changing it? (i.e. disrespecting "the limits set by the Charter of Rights".)

6.Was Canada so undemocratic before the Charter of Rights that we cannot return to the principles of parliamentary supremacy and a mostly unwritten consititution?

7. What rights would Canadians not have if there were no Charter of Rights next week?

[And keep in mind that if you advance the concept "Well these rights could be threatened in the future if..." that it is a logical premise that social conservatives often use to protest gay marriage, unrestricted abortion rights and such. Don't complain about their use of hypotheticals if you use them yourself.]

If we go slow, the "Trudeauvian consensus" can be changed and improved, or discarded as harmful in a practical sense to our country. Fixing the "Trudeavian consensus" is probably what Conservatives need to do to save our country.