John Robson: Wake up folks. You should have seen Doug Ford coming

Well, well, well. So it’s Doug Ford leading the Ontario PCs and very likely the province as well. After Donald Trump, Brexit etc. who saw this one coming? Who saw that an elite that could not control spending or smugness might repel actual people? Time to smell the over-brewed, bitter coffee, folks. Because until you offer better choices, it’s going to keep happening.

Months ago, I clipped an opinion column, “How to rescue Canadian conservatism from the hard right,” that claimed: “The more vacant the centre becomes, the more space there is for it to be filled by socially progressive, fiscally responsible centre-right leaders.” I’ve been pondering a response but I think the Ontario PC membership just answered it for me.

Some commentators claim the PCs took a foolish risk instead of the “safe” choice of a self-satisfied Red Tory insider. But offered a repeat of the party’s triumphs under Ernie Eves, John Tory and Tim Hudak, I say again: Smell the coffee. Doug Ford didn’t win despite Establishment hostility. Like Donald Trump, he won because of it. Even Patrick Brown, though he had cunning plans to campaign for premier as a bright red Tory centrist, ran for the leadership as a socially conservative outsider.

The rescue-from-the-hard-right piece was by a self-proclaimed “moderate member of the Conservative Party of Canada” chortling prematurely over the demise of Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media. And his argument was that “Since John Diefenbaker, the conservative tradition in Canada has always stood for three primary things: emphasis on the rights of the individual; a commitment to sound economic management … and a celebration of Canada’s history as a country created and made better by immigration.”

I’m all for the rights of the individual, including free speech and free association. But it is not clear how this fabled “hard right” sweeping Canadian conservativism off its feet favours collectivism. I’m also in favour of sound economic management. But again it’s not obvious that the hard right opposes it, unlike the “moderate right” that can’t find a thing to cut in a $338-billion federal or $144-billion provincial budget both marinated in red ink.

As for immigration, the question is not whether we “favour” it or don’t. It is how much we favour, given concerns that what makes Canada “Canada” are cultural traditions that would rapidly be overwhelmed if, say, we set annual immigration quotas at 10 per cent of current population. (Conservatives like myself who consider what was once called “conservation” a key part of our philosophy are also uneasy with neoliberal enthusiasm for tripling our population or whatever the plan is.)

Ontario PC leadership candidates, from left, Tanya Granic Allen, Caroline Mulroney, Christine Elliott and Doug Ford pose for a photo after a debate in Ottawa on Feb. 28, 2018.

Yes, you can argue that there is anger as well as despair in voters’ embrace of impolite populism. But you can’t argue that the movement that exploits, or at least benefits from, these feelings also created them. Someone else did that bit. And if …read more

Source:: Nationalpost – News


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