Machine politics

The sound you heard over the weekend at the Conservative Party leadership convention was not only machines mutilating ballots but also the last gasp of the Red Tory wing of the party. There was a time when Red Tories dominated under leaders Robert Stanfield, Joe Clark, and Brian Mulroney. With the defeat of Peter MacKay they’re no longer even a wing, barely a prayer.

What exactly is a Red Tory? Well, someone who is pro-choice, favours intrusion by the state, and might even lean towards a guaranteed annual income. She is a caring person, not someone who thinks everyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. First of all, as Hugh Segal said in his most recent book, you have to have boots to begin with. Segal’s a Red Tory but was OK with the name change of the party from Progressive Conservative to Conservative.

I was not happy with the new name although Progressive Conservative is an unusual combination of words. When I worked for The Financial Post in Washington D.C. the only thing harder to explain to Americans than Progressive Conservative was Leader of the Opposition. As close as I could come to describe the latter was to draw a parallel with the minority leader in the Senate. I got about as far with that as claiming the cold air coming from Canada actually had its beginnings in Alaska and we did our best to warm it up on the way through.

Just as there used to be Red Tories, there were also Blue Liberals, those who were sufficiently right-wing they were not part of the mainstream. These days, with a deficit of $363 billion no one in that party can claim to be Blue anymore. There’s too much government activism for that.

In 2015, I voted for Justin Trudeau. I hadn’t voted Liberal since I cast my ballot for his father in 1968. When the next election is called, I don’t know where I’ll go. I can’t vote for the prime minister, he has no idea how to run a cabinet or where the line is when it comes to ethical behaviour. My former party has disappeared but I’ll keep a close eye on the new Conservative leader and see how much he kow-tows to the social conservatives who put him in the job. Failing that, maybe I’ll mail in my ballot and hope it gets destroyed by some machine.


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