It wasn’t always like this.
Conservative parties-and the Conservative ideologies behind them- used to be constructive, inspiring, progressive. Sir John A. Macdonald built this country and a railway to connect it all together. Sir Robert Borden guided Canada through WW1. Our 13th Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker, appointed the first female minister in Canadian history to his cabinet and the first aboriginal member to the senate. He passed the Canadian Bill of Rights, calling it, “the only way to stop the march on the part of the government towards arbitrary power.” Ontario’s 18th Premier, Bill Davis increased educational expenditure (between 1962 and 1971 by 454 per cent), created the community college system (ie. Loyalist College) and established new public universities. Brian Mulroney brought us a North American Free Trade deal. Conservatives, and all Canadians, should be proud of what was achieved.
But not anymore.
A newer, meaner, destructive, regressive Conservative ideology has come to Canada, and indeed, to many parts of the world. We only have to look south to Donald Trump, to England’s Boris Johnson, to Geert Wilders of Holland, to France’s Marine Le Pen, and others. Here at home we have Ontario’s Doug Ford and Alberta’s Jason Kenney following the new Conservative ideology.
In Ontario we can look at Mike Harris, Ontario’s 22nd Premier (1995-2001) and his regressive measures that ran counter to the traditional Conservative and Canadian values with cuts to education and social services that hurt Ontario citizens for years afterwards. Numerous books have been written describing the destructive regime of Steven Harper who took Canada down a dark path and who, contrary to the wishes of John Diefenbaker years earlier, worked to grow the arbitrary power of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Modern Conservatives want to cut taxes, reduce the size of government, deregulate and weaken the laws that protect us from big business and big money. They weaken the social services, initiate cuts to health care and education and play down climate change issues. Conservative governments across Canada do not support the Carbon Tax, shown to be successful in British Colombia and California, as a way to help attack climate change. By cutting taxes, Conservative governments reduce governmental income thereby reducing their spending powers for education, health care and other services.
Then there’s Maxime Bernier, one of the finest examples of how far the current Conservative ideology can go in Canada. Fortunately, most Canadian voters do not buy into his extreme thinking.
Andrew Scheer is left of Mr. Bernier to be sure. However, it may be wise for us to look closely at his ideology and how it compares to the era of Progressive Conservatives over the years. I wonder if Macdonald, Borden, Diefenbaker, Davis or Mulroney would approve of the direction he is trying to take the Conservative movement, and Canada, today?
Nigel J. Sivel