By Lethbridge Herald Opinion on April 24, 2021.
The federal Conservatives have expended copious breath of late in attempting to convince Canadians that their new “not-a-carbon-tax” climate plan is the solution all conservative voters should opt for in the next election. Conservative leader Erin O’Toole even takes it one step further: Canadians from across the political spectrum should be attracted to the CPC’s new vision.
To be fair, the Conservatives have outlined their plan rather cleverly, proposing a “levy” on fuel purchases while dumping the money raised into personal savings accounts to be used for environmentally-friendly purchases. It would give the perception – rightly or wrongly – that government isn’t reaching into the pockets of Canadians to line their own.
While we should be used to pie-in-the-sky pronouncements from our federal leadership by now – it is, after all, politics we’re talking about here – in reality O’Toole’s new climate plan probably won’t be universally loved or endorsed by all Canadians.
In fact, rather than devoted adulation O’Toole may have his work cut out for him in simply securing the goodwill of some of the more radical elements of his own party, much less politically unaligned Canadians (if such mythical creatures still exist in Canada).
Such considerations have been central to the political balancing act that is big-tent conservative politics at the federal level in Canada.
Endless party debate over the years has coalesced around one fundamental truth: that conservative voters in Canada are not all a faceless, homogenous group with closely aligned right-of-center political opinions.
In short, today’s Tory blue is actually a kaleidoscope of shades that reflect where various internal factions actually rest on the spectrum. And many on the inside have far more radical views than the more pragmatic, centrist vision the party and O’Toole wish to present to the greater public.
Therein lies the problem. Trying to please these elements in the party while simultaneously attempting to convince the wider electorate that the Conservatives are not a radical organization has been difficult for the CPC in the years since the merger of the PC and Alliance parties. And fractures have already begun to appear, embodied in the most recent federal election with the defection of Maxime Bernier and his People’s Party of Canada.
More fractures and spin-offs on the right is really the nightmare scenario for the CPC, the very thing the party originally wished to prevent.
This must be a revelation that most conservative voters are dimly aware of, that a divided right spells electoral disaster in Canada.
So internal displeasure over O’Toole’s plan is only more evidence that the CPC membership isn’t very “united” over environmental policy. Hard to sell that vision to voters when there are members of your own party don’t appear to be very enthusiastic about major platform promises.
To say nothing of what internal disunity means to a voter contemplating whether a party and leader is actually ready to govern.