the party’s national president, says: Yes—but the party must be revitalized, find new leadership, new direction
DOES CANADA NEED THE TORIES?
the party’s national president, says: Yes—but the party must be revitalized, find new leadership, new direction
“THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY,” someone remarked recently, “is like a company going out of business. This September’s convention will be the bankruptcy proceedings.”
It’s a point of view that’s always been fashionable. Since last November’s annual meeting, the argument runs, the party has become so deeply divided between its proand anti-Diefenbaker wings that it may never recover. This September’s leadership convention, with at least eight candidates now in the running, will only widen the split — leaving the newly respectable NDP in an ideal position to become Canada’s “other” political party, and leaving the Conservatives in limbo.
The argument is plausible only if you choose to ignore a number of realities. The first of them is the fact that, despite its recurrent death wish, the Conservative party can’t go out of business — simply because it still represents the sentiments of too many Canadians.
All through the 1940s, for instance, pundits were predicting the party’s immediate demise when, under Manion and Bracken, the Conservatives dropped to third place in the opinion polls, and representation in parliament fell to as low as 40 seats. But the ingredients of renewal were always present then — as they are now.
Even today, when Conservative fortunes are generally conceded to be at low ebb, the party shows astonishing vigor. In Nova Scotia, a Conservative government has won its fourth election by a second consecutive landslide. The party remains in power in Ontario and Manitoba. It is undergoing a remarkable renaissance in Alberta, under Peter Lougheed and a host of bright, contemporary young people, including former Liberals, once-disengaged Tories and political independents.
The federal party, at this writing, is again in second place in the Gallup Poll, a mere five percentage points below the Liberals, having recovered from its dismal slump in public support suffered before its November annual meeting, when it fell behind the NDP.
In Quebec, the party organization is struggling for rebirth under the leadership of Paul O. Trepanier, its provincial president, and with the support of an executive committee that is uncommonly cohesive, tough-minded and spirited. It is fighting, and winning, the battle for its integrity and independence from the dead hand of the party's National Headquarters.
In Newfoundland, it has found new leadership of quality and stamina for the long, hard struggle against the Smallwood government, while in New Brunswick, the party appears, by general consensus, to be only an election away from victory.
The Conservative Party, in other words, has seldom been in a healthier state provincially. Without this grass-roots base, no national party can flourish. With it, no party can fail to survive.
But survival and success are two different things. The question before the September convention is how to recreate a national party capable of victory — capable, in short, of becoming the party of the majority of Canadians. To some, it is a simple matter of restoring party unity after last November's fearsome division over the issue of reassessing the party’s leadership. To others, the solution lies in the charisma of leadership itself. In truth, it is neither.
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TORIES — CAMP continued from page 22
■‘Voters didn’t reject party policy, only its practitioners”
Victory will be achieved only by a frank confrontation with reality. And to begin, the party must make up its mind about its own recent history.
What happened to Conservatism after 1958? At what point did the Vision turn into a mirage? Why did the party tumble from the largest parliamentary majority in our history?
What did the party do, or not do, that repelled a million voters between the elections of 1958 and 1963? Was it the fault of one man? Or of many?
Was it Conservative policies that the voters rejected, or was it the lack of them?
One wing of the party has a simple explanation for the party’s failure: that John Diefenbaker was the victim of the greatest and most complex conspiracy in the history of the Western world. This conspiratorial view involves personalities who range from Norman De Poe to John F.
Kennedy, from A. V. Roe and the Toronto Globe and Mail to the CBC and the Bank of Canada, from Charles King of Southam News to Philip Graham of Newsweek, from “a nest of traitors" in cabinet and caucus to a brace of employees at party headquarters, from the U. S. embassy at Ottawa to the inner sanctum of the Toronto Club. And throughout this bizarre, byzantine mosaic of alleged treachery and treason runs the ubiquitous "they” — those in high places, "the powerful," whoever, wherever and whatever “they" are.
It wasn’t a conspiracy, of course. For one thing, such a theory doesn’t explain why. between 1958 and 1963, George Hees.
Douglas Harkness, Pierre Sévigny. Leon Balcer, Ernest Hal penny, Davie Fulton, Donald Fleming and scores of other prominent Conservatives (John Hamilton, Edmund Morris, Arthur Smith) quit their posts or withdrew from active politics, or left the party.
Nor does it explain the astonishing defection, between 1958 and 1963, of hundreds of thousands of urban voters. It is in these statistics that the lull dimension of the party's failure can be charted. The 19 Canadian centres with populations of 100,000 and more are represented by 89 parliamentary seats. (Under redistribution, these will increase to 100.) In 1953. Conservatives held 22 of these 89 urban seats. In 1958, the year of the great landslide, the party won 69 of them. In 1965. it won just 17. In our three largest cities, Toronto. Montreal and Vancouver. Conservative support declined by almost 500,000 votes between 1958 and 1965. and more than half the Conservative candidates in these centres lost their
deposits. This decline in urban support was far greater than the decline in the country as a whole. The message is plain: urban voters — whose voice under redistribution will be stronger than ever before — plainly didn't want whatever it was the Conservative Party was offering them.
This decline occurred despite many solid legislative achievements. It was the Diefenbaker government that restored western agriculture, pioneered the wheat sales to China, launched the technical and vocational program, introduced ARDA, provided special grants to the Atlantic provinces, built dams and highways, and roads to resources. rescued the nation from the arrogance of a Liberal one-party state, and, however it was done, devalued the dollar to the advantage of Canada's trade and tourist industry.
The Canadian voter did not reject Conservative policy: instead, he re-
jected its practitioners. It was as though the voter approved of what was done, but disapproved of who was doing it. or the manner in which it was done.
There were persistent public quarrels between the prime minister and the CBC. with the director of the National Gallery, with the civil service, especially within the Department of External Affairs, with the premier of Newfoundland, the Bank of Canada, and an endless series of misunderstandings with allies, friends and innocent bystanders. The Canadian voter got the impression that he had not only the strongest, most solidly entrenched government in history, but also the most quarrelsome and querulous. And in the end it became clear it was a government that quarreled endlessly with itself.
Too often, during these years, the Conservative Party allowed itself to appear as the party of negative thinking and partisan invective. Conservatives established the CBC', but have suspected it ever since — most of all the presence within the corporation of the creaative, independent mind. In the same spirit, the Conservative government struggled to bring Expo 67 to Montreal, and then employed it as a target for the party's philistines and yahoos. When the symbol for Canada's Centennial year was unveiled, the Conservative P a r l y denounced it. When the new flag was unveiled, it wept. When a joint parliamentary committee brought in recommendations for procedural reforms, it fought them tooth and claw.
Taken singly, these were small things. But their cumulative effect was to portray Conservatives as the party of small-mindedness, of stubborn opposition to change, preaching a politics of negation. But despite appearances, that is not the posture of Canadian Conservatives. The issues are too important for that, and most Conservatives are aware of them.
It is the duty, I should think, of politicians to lead public opinion toward making life more tolerant, compassionate and humane. Yet our laws in regard to divorce and abortion, for example, are both intolerant and inhuman. Our concepts of justice are still punitive and vengeful. Public understanding of juvenile problems and of the growing drug traffic are dangerously low, and the growth of these problems far outpaces public
Mental health, physical fitness and the growing need for recreation areas and facilities are matters of vital importance to
modern urban society. They are of natural interest to the Conservative, since he ought to be concerned with the conservation of
his nation’s human and natural re-
sources. Yet all around us are the casualties of our indifference and the victims of our lack of concern. We have exhausted parliament, and public patience, with a long and largely irrelevant debate on our so-called military policy. As a nation, we spend nearly two and a half times as much for defense research as we spend for medical research. Political priorities and values are strangely nonaligned with the public’s.
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“We should be better than competent: we must excel”
Nowhere is this more true than in the field of education — surely the supreme concern in domestic policy. It is also the most ill-considered, or least-considered, by the present Liberal government. To neglect the needs of education by hiding behind the constitution merely begs the question.
It is possible, for example, to equalize teaching standards in Canada by equalizing teaching salaries, through income-tax incentives for teachers in areas where teacher supply and standards are chronically low. What we are doing for industry in some parts of Canada we may well have to do for personnel.
Since the government of Canada is the major source of research funds, and since research is the first imperative of postgraduate education for medicine, engineering and the sciences, it is within the capability of the federal government to increase the supply of graduate students and to make postgraduate studies free of cost.
It is characteristic of present - day Liberalism to promise (as of July, 1968) free medical services to all Canadians, yet overlook the critical shortage of doctors, medical technicians, clinics, laboratories and hospital beds.
We will never run short of muddled politicians, but we are already short of teachers and doctors; by 1970 we shall be short some 2,400 medical technicians, by 1975 we shall need 30,000 new managers, who are not now being produced. The question for the Canadian is not only who will “own” his country, but who will manage it. Should we fail in education, we lose our capability to build and manage a modern nation. And should we fail, we will harvest enormous generations of dropouts and disadvantaged citizens who will make demands on the welfare state beyond the capacity of even this wealthy land.
Many of our most stubborn social problems, those of structured poverty, urban and rural slums, of the Indian and Métis populations, defy solutions because of the lack of understanding, meaning the lack of sufficient information and of trained experts. We borrow heavily from the United States: they declare war on poverty, we have a skirmish; they establish a Peace Corps, we form a Company of Young Canadians. But we produce little enough through our own initiatives, lacking not only sufficient talent but a sense of innovation.
For the Conservative, this should be a challenge to his sense of national self-reliance. We ought to be more than comfortable: we should be enterprising. We should be better than competent: we must excel.
Canadians are concerned about the quality of their lives. For a century we have sought our own identity and fashioned our own security. No nation could be more secure, indulged by American power, capital and technology, and by our own lavish resources.
But we are bored. Risk, enterprise and excellence, the development of the uncommon man, have become so secondary to the kind of muzzy egalitarianism, fashioned by Mackenzie King, two wars and one depression, that we have lost our competitive edge and our urge to achieve.
continued on page 84
TORIES — CAMP continued
This is probably the emergent difference in emphasis between the modern Conservative and the The Others: the preservation of excellence in the secure society. It is a subtle issue, but an increasingly important one. Why, for instance, hasn't lumberrich Canada developed a flair for tasteful, exportable furniture, as the Scandinavians have? Why haven’t we developed scientific communities, like Berkeley’s or Boston’s, where research and development is the main industry? Why can’t we convert our armed forces to an army of agronomists, teachers and technicians who would he welcomed where our conventional soldiers now are spurned? Why has no Canadian won the Nobel Prize for literature, or, for that matter, why has no Canadian university nurtured a Nobel Prize winner since 1927? I don’t pretend that there are legislative answers to all these questions. But I uni sure that such developments are more likely to occur under a government that recognizes the need for both risk and reward, even in a welfare society.
Canada needs a renewed, revitalized Progressive Conservative Party, not only as an expression of contemporary conservatism, hut as an immediate alternative to present-day Liberalism. The NDP, plainly, presents no alternative; it promises the same bureaucratized, stagnant government and society, only possibly sooner — “Liberals in a hurry,” as Mr. St. Laurent so aptly put it.
The party need not surrender in September to a bogus spirit of “unity” — it can best be restored as an effective political movement by clearly recognizing the truth of its recent past and confronting its future. It must find new leadership, but, more important, it must choose a new direction.
The choice is clear: mock sentiment, recrimination and vindictiveness, or an unflinching confrontation with the realities of Canadian life. This, of course, is what September’s convention is all about. The choice for conservatism is between yesterday and tomorrow, and the decision taken rests solely with the party itself.
We shall see, and soon, what its resolve will be. ★
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