Red October: A Post-mortem Examination

Written by Jamie MacMaster

From the perspective of a spectator watching a major sporting event, it was fascinating, in a very morbid sense, to see Tim Hudak’s Conservatives snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in October’s election. I mean, what does a fellow have to do to climb down from a lofty 40 – 28 lead in mid-summer polls to lose to the hopelessly incompetent Dalton McGuinty three months later?

I pose the question mainly as a rhetorical device, because I have little hope that it will be raised where it is needed most: as a tool of introspection among the movers and shakers (mainly shakers) that populate the ranks of Ontario’s PC Party. And in the unlikely event that the question would be asked, we can rest comfortably assured that none of the answers would be permitted to stray into the realm of uncomfortable but accurate analysis.

However, free as we are from the constraints of political correctness, sycophancy and timidity that silence the inhabitants of the inner sanctums, we have no inhibitors to due enquiry. So let’s put our pathologist’s caps on and conduct a post-mortem examination of the facts and circumstances that led to the recent demise of Conservative fortunes in our sad province.

First of all, Hudak et al will have to learn what it means to be a modern ‘conservative’ (note the small ‘c’). At the very least this means being substantially different in substance and appearance from McGuinty’s Liberals. It would entail an understanding of the liberties espoused by John Stuart Mill and the economic truisms of Adam Smith, and then committing unreservedly to those tenets by word and deed.

Now this would certainly cause quite a stir in the media, which leads us to the second observation about our provincial PCs: they have been paralyzed into resolute inactivity by the Toronto media. When all your thoughts words and actions are predicated by the likely reaction of the press, you are marching to their drum, not your own. And if your message is crafted to give the least offence possible, then you end up saying nothing of substance. Though it is difficult for me to give him any credit, Trudeau treated the press with the contempt it deserved – the press worked for him. Mike Harris understood this, and so did Rene Levesque. And there’s something else this trio understood – let’s make it point three: the roles and functions of advisory staff.

A true leader has to have a gut instinct about what will resonate with people. Advice from a young chap with a Master’s Degree in Political Science might have its place, but as the sorry fates of Messrs. Eves, Tory and most recently Hudak have shown us, it is quite often at odds with what the population wants to hear. And getting your finger on the pulse of the population isn’t all that difficult, unless malady number four – snobbery and arrogance – prevents that from happening.

As true conservatives we won’t allow ourselves to be used. We instinctively recognize platitudes for what they are, so we know when politicians are playing mere lip-service to important matters like property rights, and we resent it. We feel it when MPPs distance themselves from having anything to do with The Landowners – as if association with hard-working, honest rural folks might contaminate or infect. And we have arrived at the only logical conclusion that can be drawn from the Conservatives’ refusal to speak out against the predations of the OSPCA, the Endangered Species Act, the Provincial Policy Statement on Land Use, and the Clean Water Act: the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario simply does not care about the victims. And that’s a pity.

Because we could have made a difference in October. Landowners could have organized and dominated all-candidates debates and asked the hard questions, but we didn’t. We could have bombarded the media with press releases, letters-to-editors and columns as we did in the past, to drive home McGuinty’s ineptness, but we didn’t. And thousands upon thousands of us, whether out of anger, despair or frustration, cast our ballots for one of the other parties, or, committed the ultimate heresy and stayed home on Election Day.

It was all so avoidable.

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