By: Dexter Docherty
Last week, I registered for a political party for the first time in my life: The Conservative Party of Canada. After growing up in East Vancouver (the strongest NDP riding in the country), after attending the alma mater of both Justin Trudeau and Tom Mulcair, and having celebrated Stephen Harper’s ousting as the best thing to happen to Canada since Sidney Crosby’s golden goal, let me explain why I registered as a Tory.
The Conservative leadership race is vital to the future of this country. Donald Trump has demonstrated that the left cannot ignore the bigotry and populism on the right. There is a battle being waged between prudent, pragmatic conservatism and divisive demagoguery. Pragmatic conservatism contributes to a vibrant democracy; angry populism should be feared and vigilantly fought against. The same xenophobic zealotry that is in power in the United States is rearing its ugly head in Canada. The CPC vote in May is the first, and probably best chance Canadians have to stop its spread. As a Canadian, it is my duty to cast my vote in this election. I encourage all others with the same conviction to do so by 5 pm on March 28th as well.
There are not enough sunny days in Canada for a government to sustain power on nothing but “sunny ways.”
The Conservative Party has a very real chance of winning the next federal election, regardless of their leader. There are not enough sunny days in Canada for a government to sustain power on nothing but “sunny ways.” Justin Trudeau’s government has an integrity problem – his many broken promises undermine the optimism that holds the Liberal coalition of voters together. Furthermore, the NDP is currently leaderless and there are few signs of a serious New Democrat resurgence in the near future, other than the growing disapproval of the Liberals. As of today, neither the Liberals nor the NDP have demonstrated the competence needed to fend off the angry wave of dejected populism popping up in the Western world.
What would most young Americans pay to have anyone but Donald Trump in the White House right now? Well, Canada’s going rate, a one-year Conservative Party membership, costs $15 – not a steep price to pay to keep demagoguery out of our political system. There is an added incentive in registering for the Tory race: If you live in a traditionally non-conservative neighbourhood, your vote matters more to the Conservative Party. Whereas in a general election my vote as a progressive urbanite is devalued, in the CPC election my vote carries significantly more weight. The Conservative Party of Canada’s leadership race rules and procedures do not count all votes equally. Rather, every electoral district is counted equally. This means that my vote in progressive, urban Montreal counts more than a vote from, say, Central Ontario or Moose Jaw.
There is an ethical dilemma in making the decision to register as a Tory: why do I, as a non-committed Conservative, get to vote for their leader? The simple answer is because I can: There has never been any rule stipulating that a party member is required to vote for their party leader in the general election. Most Canada-loving Tories in my neighbourhood would have voted for the NDP’s Helène Laverdière in order to keep Gilles Duceppe out of office. However, there is a stronger answer to this question. As a young Canadian, I have the right to demand that all potential prime ministers understand that climate change is real and that the federal government must play a role in combatting it. I have the right to demand that all potential prime ministers understand that Islamophobia must be condemned. Michael Chong is the only candidate in the Tory race willing to stand up against Islamophobia and support a carbon tax.
Michael Chong can be our saviour from Canadian Trump-knockoffs. While most of the other candidates spend their time currying favour with Ezra Levant and company, Michael Chong is standing up for integrity, prudence and pragmatism. This is a candidate who quit the Harper cabinet on principle in late 2006. It was not for a principle I fully endorse, but it demonstrates that, to him, integrity matters more than power.
I have a suspicion that having a reasonable Conservative alternative will force the Liberals into progressive action in a way that a radical opposition will not. In the wake of Trump’s travel ban, the Trudeau government did not take on more responsibility in helping refugees. Trump-ism has bred a case of complacency in the Liberals who seem content to simply look good by comparison. If Kellie Leitch were in charge of the Conservative party, there is a strong chance the Liberals might rely too heavily on the fact that they are not a regressive party to curry favour among voters. This is not a formula that solves the problems facing this country, nor one that will lessen the anger driving the populist backlash. I want a viable alternative to the Liberals, so that keeping promises becomes an actual priority in Ottawa.
To denounce all conservatives is ignorant; yes, there are people with whom we disagree, but we want them to be part of the discussion.
Registering as a Conservative may be the best way I can use my vote to effect positive change in this country. This is a vital moment to stand up for the democratic principles of compromise and consensus building. It is a time to empower Red Tories as well as to remember that there is a form of sensible, principled conservatism that is important to a healthy political discourse. To denounce all conservatives is ignorant; yes, there are people with whom we disagree, but we want them to be part of the discussion. We do not want to live in an echo chamber of yes-men and yes-women. There is currently a fight for the soul of the Conservative Party of Canada; let’s make sure it is won by a candidate with a soul.
Here is the link to register: https://donate.conservative.ca/membership