A Reality Check for the Canadian Right

Sometimes it's hard to believe that Canada and the USA are mere footsteps apart, geographically-speaking, when their governments couldn't be further apart on the political spectrum. To say that conservatism in Canada has a serious problem is like saying that Ted Kennedy is a tad on the chubby side, that the New York Times is slightly liberal-leaning, or that Bill Clinton indulges in the odd extramarital affair.

So why should Republicans care about what's happening north of the 49th Parallel? Well, how about this: While the US is fighting a war on terrorism on both foreign and domestic fronts, the liberal Canadian government has been allowing a Hamas front group to operate freely within the country as a charitable organization. While George W. Bush has been recruiting international financial and military support in the aftermath of the liberation of Iraq, Canadian liberals have been decimating this country's military to the point where--if you take a good look at the Canadian military recruitment ads--you'll notice that recruits are no longer being sought for Canada's "armed forces," but rather for Canada's "forces." The Canadian military recognizes that it can't in good conscience describe itself as "armed" when it can't even afford to hold training sessions for reserve officers a mere four times a month, conduct courses for its soldiers on the use of machine guns, or even purchase ammunition. I have no doubt that the conservative Canadian Alliance party can fix these things--if only they could muster up enough public confidence and support to get elected. But herein lies a major problem.

Canada's falling apart on the social front, too. For example, the Canadian government by-and- large backed a bill--birthed by Canada's left-wing fringe party--that would make a criminal act out of saying anything "hateful" about homosexuals. The federal Liberals seem to forget that saying anything threatening or hateful towards ANYONE (let alone homosexuals) is already criminal. The last thing we need in a supposed democracy is to start doling out special rights and privileges for minority groups. Personally, I don't have anything against gays. I have friends who happen to be homosexual, and they're some of the kindest human beings I know. It may be God's job to judge their lives as he does with each one of us--but it certainly doesn't fall to me, or to anyone else, to pass judgment on other people and their lifestyles. But that doesn't mean that these people deserve any more special consideration than anyone else in this society. From gays to pot-smokers, Canada is turning into a tyranny of minorities and special interest groups that are calling the shots from way outside the key.

This kind of total political lopsidedness would never prevail in the USA. Why? Because the Democrats and Republicans are pretty evenly matched in terms of public support. Candidates from both parties lean a little more towards their ideological extreme when campaigning for their party's nomination, but they also seem to realize that if they drift too far into the deep end with extremist views, they risk a fatal dunking. After winning their party's nomination, candidates then move closer to the center as the general election approaches. Most Americans linger around the center of the political spectrum; therefore, the "slide-to-center" strategy results in a pretty evenly-matched contest.

In Canada, however, the federal Liberals do things a little differently. They run from the center and then govern shamelessly from the left--and they win in a landslide every time. When the Liberals start slipping and sliding towards the center in preparation for a general election, the conservative Canadian Alliance cannot just simply take a hard right-turn for the sake of differentiation. I can't think of a better way to scare the heck out of the Canadian public. Sure, the Alliance has some ideas that would be wonderful for the country, but they have to get into office first if they ever want to be able to implement them. Put it this way: When you're courting someone (the Canadian public in this case), there are certain things that you just don't want to come right out with and throw in their face on the very first date. After all, this IS Canada we're talking about--a country so liberal that it makes the State of California look like Utah. One's likely to find more Canadians who admit to having leprosy than who actually admit to being conservatives.

It's difficult to be courting the public effectively when media reports are making it seem as though the sole focus of the Canadian Alliance in recent months has been to marry up with Canada's other party on the Right: the Progressive Conservatives. Publicity surrounding the unity talks make it appear as though the Right cares more about a possible merger than it does about the business of the country. The reality is that if the Canadian Alliance had an attractive policy platform--and a strategy for its gradual, selective dissemination--then it wouldn't need to bother trying to "unite the Right." The fact that both parties are polling in the low-teens right now in terms of general support--and that neither party finds the other attractive enough to go through with a shotgun-marriage--should be a surefire sign that it's time for an extreme makeover with respect to both policy and strategy.

The Canadian Alliance's actions in the House of Commons since the beginning of the Fall session are hardly symptomatic of effective "political strategy" or adequate leadership at work. The party has been beating the drum repeatedly with respect to issues such as same-sex marriage and defense spending. While both are important, neither is going to be enough to get the party into office--which is exactly what must happen if either of these issues is ever to be dealt with in Canada according to sound conservative principles.

Playing footsie with de facto Liberal leader (and Prime Minister-in-Waiting) Paul Martin and his "flip-flops" is another favorite pastime of the Alliance that has to be seriously tempered if the party is ever to be viewed as being capable of leading the country. To be honest, the Canadian public really doesn't care if Paul Martin flip-flops more often than a beaching whale. Canadians are more likely to view his behavior as "open-minded" and "compromising," rather than in any kind of a negative sense. And politics, after all, is a game of compromise. The Alliance wouldn't want to suggest to the public that it isn't in favor of such a thing; but that's exactly what it risks doing.

Finally, the Canadian Alliance needs to start showing some real leadership. The party recently introduced an opposition motion in the House of Commons suggesting that individual municipalities across the country should be getting back a bigger slice of the pie with respect to federal gas tax revenue. Where did the Alliance get this brilliant idea for a motion? From a speech PM-in-Waiting Martin had given only days before! In other words, while Martin was busy running his own marathon, the fresh-faced Alliance members popped out of the bushes just before the finish line and broke through the tape. This isn't leadership; it's lip- service.

The Canadian Alliance must stop following the Liberals' agenda. Instead, it should focus on revamping its own party policies so that it has something fresh, exciting and irresistibly appealing to offer Canadians. If MPs need to get out of their offices and put in some serious face-time with Mr. and Mrs. Joe Constituent in order to get a better idea of what Canadians really want, then so be it. Clear short-term and long-term approaches must be developed in order to strategically publicize the party's platform. But the Alliance also needs to remember that this is Canada they're dealing with, and that Canadians need to be gently spoon-fed conservatism--especially after having acquired a taste for almost pure liberalism over the years.