OK everybody. In keeping with the proud tradition of "If nobody else is going to say it, I am" that has come to characterize TCAM since its inception, it is now time to say what has to be said.
In Alberta yesterday, voters were given a choice between Principled Conservatism and Unprincipled Conservatism. And Unprincipled Conservatism- populism- won the day. Boy, did they ever win the day.
Now, I'm not going to lecture Albertans on their choice. But I am going to say that, with the results of this election being as decisive as they were, it is time for Principled Conservatives to stop their lecturing.
All of you- Sun News especially- need to take a deep breath and a hard look at what just happened. You all need to start wrapping your heads around the possibility that Principled Conservatism isn't the goddamned answer. Sure, it's important. Sure, it's needed to keep us from becoming a cult like the Liberals. But it isn't the be all and end all answer, like it's made out to be.
The Wild Rose offered the most conservative province in the country the most conservative list of policy positions that you could ask for. Abolishing human rights commissions. Conscience rights. Balancing the budget in no time flat. Support for private options in health care. Charter schools. Respecting private landowners. It was all there.
The Wild Rose did this because they believed that if we adhere to Principled Conservatism, we win elections. That's what we've been told since the beginning. If we lose elections, it's because we didn't stick to our principles.
Well guess what? Tim Hudak, the guy who put forward Changebook, did better than the Wildrose. Against an actual Liberal Premier, instead of a pretend one.
This was the Wild Rose's chance to prove to everyone that waffly pseudo-Liberalism is no match for honest conservatism with all its flaws. And that didn't happen.
What's more, the list of reasons issued by so-called "grassroots members" of the PCPO as to why we lost in October can now seriously be called into question. Candidates were muzzled? Hudak didn't attack as much as he needed to during the debate? Lack of fundraising? Top down policy process? The fact that the P in PCPO stands for "Progressive"? The Wild Rose didn't have any of those problems.
What's more, the PC Party of Alberta's strategy of "Ahhhhhhh! Scary!" worked. This is the same strategy that has been used on conservatives since Stockwell Day. How do we get past this strategy? Ask Harper.
Oh, and the fact that the PCPO "blew a big lead in the polls"? Well, as a whole bunch of pollsters and people who read polls are finding out today (myself among them), a big lead in the polls doesn't always count for a whole hell of a lot.
If we judge the Wild Rose by the standard that this was this was their first general election in which they were competitive, they certainly did well. They bore up well against the firestorm of criticism that was hurled their way. They won a bunch of seats, got Smith into the Legislature, and have a chance to win government if they work at it.
But you see, too many people want Principled Conservatism now. They think that all you have to do is offer people what the Wild Rose offered, and all will be sunshine and roses. So now Danielle Smith, Principled Conservative, will have to deal with the same complaining and disappointment from her base that Hudak has to deal with.
Now let's talk about the day that was in Ontario. We are not, as I said a month ago, going to have an election, because the NDP put discretion before valour. Dalton decided to accede to an NDP demand to raise taxes on the wealthy, thus breaking his promise to not raise taxes for the billionth time. Both of these decisions were not principled ones. Instead, they were based on popular perceptions here in Ontario that an election is a terrible idea and that soaking the rich is a great idea.
Now, if you disagree with those ideas, then the only party for you is the PC Party of Ontario. Because we opposed this charade as soon as we read the budget and saw that Dalton lacked the testicular fortitude to address Ontario's problems. You wouldn't know that if you listened to Dalton, who says that we marginalized ourselves here. But what Dalton won't tell you is that he- and the NDP- have to deal with the fallout from this budget, as it was and as it stands.
If you read the Toronto Star, you'll find a column by Carol Goar, who thinks Ontario doesn't have a humane welfare system. If you read the National Post, you'll find a column by James Doak, who thinks higher taxes on the rich is comparable to ethnic cleansing. Then, as you move towards the centre, you have corporations, doctors, environmentalists, unions, teachers, rural Ontarians, and everyone else who doesn't like this budget. Dalton and his NDP friends think they can deal with this lot, and I wish them well.
Tim Hudak's job is to take the people who think the government is off track and needs change - that is, the people who Dalton labelled "marginal"- and translate that into real change. This is going to take time. It isn't going to happen tomorrow. It isn't going to happen if we totally lose our backbones a la John Tory. It isn't going to happen at all if real effort isn't made by him to address what our party is doing wrong and how we can fix it, like, "Why can't we get our basic message out?" Could it have something to do with this?
As for us on the ground? We can stop pretending that just because our views are principled, people will share them.