Has the “big blue tent” party become too big?

Written By Amiel Pion, Posted on December 10, 2019

Following another Conservative defeat, concerns arose on whether the Leader of the Official Opposition, Andrew Scheer, was long for his role as party leader.

His opponents cite several factors for the general queasiness. Some blame his leadership style, which funnelled downward to his lacklustre campaign. Others note his views on abortion and absence from Pride Parades as concerning. Further to the east, it was his lack of appeal amongst Quebec voters.

In all, Red Tories view Scheer as too socially conservative, while the so-con faction claim he is too moderate. 

Anthony Koch, a young Conservative studying at McGill University, has been one of his most ardent detractors, as co-founder of the “Scheer Must Go” movement.

During a post-election segment with CBC, Koch found the CPC’s “catastrophic” performance to be nothing short of uninspiring. “We didn’t realize any of the gains we were expecting in Ontario. If you look at the 905, we only picked up one seat,” he said.

The seat went to deputy leader, Leona Alleslev, who has since found herself in hot water over her comments comparing Pride parades to St. Patrick’s Day. 

With only one net seat had between Ontario and Quebec, and four in the Maritimes from the previous election, the longevity of his leadership, is in question. Despite the backing of the Conservative caucus, they have opted to let party members determine his fate.

From the 90 incumbents that made gains in 2019, 83 came from western Canada. Elsewhere, it was relatively marginal.

Amongst Conservatives from Quebec, he became a liability for the province. A 338Canada analysis indicated support outside of Quebec City was lacking, partly due to a lack of appeal for Quebec nationalist voters.

Peter MacKay, who most recently served as Harper’s Minister of Justice from 2013-2015, believed the campaign performed “like having a breakaway on an open net and missing the net.” He later walked back on his comment. 

Kory Teneycke, former aid of Stephen Harper, has led the calls for Scheer to resign but has come under fire from fellow Conservatives over “highly suspect” motives.

Amongst the descent lies firm support for Scheer, including high-profile names like that of premier Kenney, who has urged “stability over conflict” in hopes the party can unify against a surging Liberal Party.

Infighting amongst Canada’s right-wing is nothing new

The aftermath of the election has not been kind for the Regina—Qu’Appelle representative. Despite considerable gains in the number of seats and the popular vote, the mounting opposition is concerning.

According to 338canada, the Conservatives lost their slim lead on the popular vote to the Liberals, who have made gains over the Bloc in Quebec, since the election.

With the potential for further infighting amongst the Conservatives—a trend, we are all too familiar with historically—the trajectory of the party is now in question. From Clark versus Mulroney, Diefenbaker against Dalton Camp, and the split between the PCs and Reform party, the phenomena has been widely documented.

It is inevitable for different factions to fight each other for the soul of the party. Its human nature for any camp to want to prevail over the other.

Broadly, the Blue Tories are anti-big government and pro-free market, while their adversarial Red Tories encourage government involvement to improve the country’s welfare.

While appealing solely to one camp would create a narrow set of interests that generates less conflict, it would relegate the movement to the Opposition, at best.

A 2015 Abacus survey confirms a trend we have grown accustomed to—that the Conservatives concede on their principles considerably to form the government. Over half of the respondents positioned themselves at the centre of the political spectrum.

Our electoral system both shapes and constrains the fortunes for the two dominant parties, the Tories and the Grits. Both, however, are not as ideologically predisposed as some of their western counterparts (see Wexit and other pro-independence parties) or that of the Bloc.

And balancing the interests of the Blue Tories, Red Tories, Social Conservatives, Progressive Conservatives, Western Conservatives and Quebec Conservatives is quite the juggling act, but is needed to maintain party unity.

History has shown that infighting is a poison that paralyzed the Conservatives and gave the Liberals a comfortable majority. And those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.

Perhaps the “big blue tent” party will choose conflict over stability, as the movement splinters further.

Amiel Pion

Comments are closed.