Solving the conundrum at the heart of Canadian conservatism

Nor, however, do these interventions make an insurgency against Scheer more likely to succeed. Because Scheer’s fate ultimately lies in the hands of the Conservative membership and they’re not exactly representative of the Canadian population as a whole. And in a febrile atmosphere, where conservatives’ distrust of the media naturally runs high, any press attacks or attacks on Scheer’s leadership carried via the press are likely to be discounted, and might even provoke an immune response inoculating Scheer from further criticism.

In other words, the party has a bit of a ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ problem, in that the party membership, which isn’t representative of the country, is down for what their leader is selling, even if the rest of the country finds it unappealing, or at least not appealing enough to win an election. Which means the Conservative Party of Canada can probably forget about power until it can solve the conundrum at the heart of the modern party: how to carry the base along while growing it into more centrist territory.

The simple truth is that no existing or prospective Conservative leader can ignore the fact that the movement includes an overwhelming segment of the minority view on issues like abortion, gay marriage and immigration. Nor, however, can the leader ignore the fact these views are a big part of the barrier to growth. More to the point, the country isn’t likely to get more conservative on culture or social issues. To put it in terms that might not be well received by the base: if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go the mountain.

Past tactics on party unity won’t work again. Stephen Harper convinced social conservatives to hide their light under a bushel because it wasn’t electorally advantageous to let it out. Harper was pragmatic, not dogmatic, in his approach, and that pragmatism must continue as the party moves into the 2020s. Now that public attitudes on issues like gay marriage have progressed even further it’s incumbent on the Conservative leader to lead the conversation within the movement and park the issue once and for all.

And the same goes for abortion; the majority of Canadians simply will not restrict the right to an abortion. This fact might offend some sensibilities but it’s a reality. Another reality is that no reputable doctor will do a late-term abortion absent a threat to the mother’s life and that abortion rates aren’t trending upward. In other words, there is no public policy problem to solve. If opposition to abortion is what motivates you then public life isn’t the pitch on which to pursue it.

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