I read in the Post a couple of days ago that the Conservatives had engaged in focus groups before the election, with Conservative party members. It was illuminating because, as I recall, the Conservative party supporters felt exactly the same towards the Harper government as did Liberals and NDPers. It shows that conservative Canadians were, at the least, as sane as their countrymen.
We should be clear where the roots of that culture lie. The nastiness of Tory politics under Harper, the mindless partisanship, the throttling of backbench MPs, are not outgrowths of conservatism. They were born, rather, of its repudiation: of the decision to sterilize the new party of any ideological convictions, the better (it was supposed) to remove any obstacle to its electability.
Politics fills a vacuum: in the absence of substantive differences with your opponents, partisanship takes its place. If, what is more, a party no longer stands for much as a party, then its policies will default to whatever the leader decides. And the leader, having been given that power and that assignment — win at all costs — can tolerate no deviations from MPs still under the impression that the party harbours some lingering principles.
I also disagree with those who think that the media were responsible for misrepresenting the Tories. I think that, with the National Post, there continues to be a principled source of conservative and liberal (meaning market-oriented) opinion in this country, and that on the whole, the media’s leftist bias had no particular effect in lowering the esteem of the government in the eyes of Canadians. The Harper government was seen accurately by all, and condemned accordingly.
The sad fact is that a party of ideas needs to emerge before a winning electoral combination can be created. That requires that conservatives once again embrace a culture of discussion, which existed for a time in the old Reform.
And barking dogs like Pierre Poilievre need to be tamed or shown to the door.