Commentary  Why Harper didn’t win

Hyde Park

All the parties are saying that they somehow “won” last Tuesday’s election. The Greens got more votes, the NDP has more seats, the Liberals are proud to be the Official Opposition, and the Conservatives have a new mandate. While all of that may be true, I think it’s fair to say that only one party lost. The Conservatives set out to earn a majority government just over a month ago, and they didn’t get it. As always, Canadian politics are simple and easy to understand: the winners lost. Get it?

So as I sat down to watch the Prime Minister’s victory speech for a campaign he didn’t really win, I wasn’t expecting much. I certainly wasn’t expecting to have my conservative nature stoked into a frustrated disgust. But Harper managed to do so with only his first two words – the same tired greeting John McCain has been repeating to increasingly ravenous crowds across the U.S.: “My friends…”

The first time he said the words, I cringed, the second offering exasperated me, and by the third, I had been driven to write this little rant. The media has been discussing all kinds of reasons why the Conservatives lost the election, but, my friends, let me tell you the real reason is much more simple. No, those elitists in their government-sponsored ivory towers of opinion will over-think the point on this one. Sure the Conservatives thoughtlessly cut spending to sensitive Quebec arts programs! Sure they ran a gaffe-prone, visionless campaign! But the real reasons are simpler than that; the Conservatives don’t have a majority government today because a few powerful people in the Conservative party wish that they were working for the Republican Party. And, my friends, most Canadians don’t much like Republicanism.

Seriously Harper, I’m rooting for you here. My friends? My goddamn friends! You’re not my friend, you’re my Prime Minister. I find that kind of talk condescending, and I haven’t even been an adult that long. How must it make the rest of the electorate feel?

I cannot believe that Harper’s entourage is blind to just how fake, awkward, and down-right creepy it sounds when McCain refers to his audience in such a friendly way. When Harper says it, it just sounds plagiarized. Perhaps I should be thankful it only sounds plagiaristic. What are you going to do next Harper, start saying God Bless Canada at the end of every speech? Oh…wait.

I proudly cast a ballot for the Tory candidate in my Montreal riding. In fact, I’m a card-carrying Conservative. And yet the party itself never ceases to amaze me with its blunders. I believe that most of them are the result of its attachment to a weird strand of conservatism that has swept our ideological neighbours south of the border since the Reagan: neo-conservatism.

Bright, rightward-leaning politicos have been in awe of the electoral successes of their American counterparts for years, and wondered why they haven’t been able to achieve similar results. With Harper they thought they finally had their chance, and they went for it with guns a’ blazing and life sentences for 14-year-old children.

Conservatives lost the campaign because they lost Quebec. And they lost Quebec because they failed to adequately fumigate their party of its neo-conservative, evangelical, Reform past.

There is a new – or should I say old? – conservatism brewing out there. It rejects the ideologically driven strictures of George W.’s neo-con faith, and is beginning to find a voice in authors like Andrew Sullivan and W. Wesley McDonald. It is in the interest of the Conservative Party of Canada to pursue some of these new, more open forms of conservatism. It caught the last philosophical wave much after it had crested. For my party’s sake, I hope it doesn’t entirely miss the next one.

Clarke Olsen is a U3 Political Science and Economics student, and the Events Director of Conservative McGill.