A CONSERVATIVE PARTY member recently said he was fed up with the direction of various federal leadership candidates. He wants to lead a discussion about Canadian conservatism’s future and help create a new national party along these lines.
Who’s behind this initiative?
Let’s be frank. Most Canadians don’t have the foggiest idea who Gilmore is. He’s not a household name in Tory circles of interest – or most circles, for that matter.
He’s a former diplomat and social entrepreneur who founded a worthwhile charity, Building Markets. As noted in the Dec. 2, 2013, issue of Forbes, its mission has been to identify “local businesses in six developing countries, including Liberia,” and to help “them grow by linking them with global contracts and suppliers.”
Gilmore also writes a weekly column for Maclean’s magazine and contributes to the Boston Globe. His political views appear to mostly fall under the classification of Red Toryism or left-leaning conservatism, and he’s been fairly critical of Canada’s Conservatives and the U.S. Republican Party.
Gilmore even admitted in an Oct. 20, 2015, Maclean’s column that in spite of his family having “supported the Conservative party since they arrived in Canada,” he voted for Justin Trudeau. His wife, Catherine McKenna, also happens to be the federal Liberal minister of the Environment. While this isn’t a big deal (my wife isn’t a Tory and votes differently than I do), this fact has kept the chattering classes busy, rightly or wrongly.
Hence, his frustration with the Conservative leadership candidates isn’t a huge surprise and is becoming more intense.
In his March 29 Maclean’s column, he wrote that “I am left wondering how I ended up in a party seemingly dominated by xenophobic, economically illiterate, populist buffoons.” He also believes the party’s two competing philosophies – “one group is socially conservative and economically populist, and the other is focused on individual liberty and free markets” – have reached a point where they “cannot be reconciled.”
Claiming that only some Canadian conservatives are on the moral high ground will cause short-term frustration and long-term division
Gilmore’s suggested route? There could be a “populist, nationalist, socially conservative party that focuses on older, rural, white, male, voters” for people like “(Kevin) O’Leary and (Maxime) Bernier and Pierre Lemieux and Ezra Levant.” Meanwhile, the rest of Canada’s conservative movement could help build “a right of centre party that genuinely believes in individual liberty, that the state has no right to tell us who we can love, what we can smoke or what we can say.”
The Hill Times reported on April 12 that Gilmore will host dinners in eight cities between April 24 and May 8 to discuss this idea, and “Maclean’s will be covering some of Mr. Gilmore’s costs for the tour.” He’s also set up a website, newconservatives.ca, and 1,500 people have expressed interest in attending.
I won’t be one of them and I strongly doubt most Tories will support this one-man crusade.
You see, we’ve been down this path before. The federal Progressive Conservatives and Reform Party/Canadian Alliance spent 17 long years in the political wilderness due to party infighting and policy differences. While some of these wounds still exist, most Canadian conservatives have no interest in splitting apart – and handing more elections to the Liberals on a silver platter.
Whether that’s the end game, there’s a much bigger issue at stake.
Any attempt to divide Canadian conservatism into warring factions isn’t even slightly worthy of intellectual debate. People don’t always see eye-to-eye with political parties, philosophies or leaders, and that’s perfectly fine. But to use a type of a divide-and-conquer strategy, and claim that only some Canadian conservatives stand on the moral high ground, will surely cause short-term frustration and long-term division(s).
Gilmore’s dinners, therefore, aren’t constructive – but they are potentially destructive. This will hurt the political movement, aid its political rivals and accomplish nothing.
Thanks, but no thanks.
Political commentator Michael Taube was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper.
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