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The conclusion from the Conservative defeat should not be to create a second Liberal Party Print E-mail
Written by Link Byfield   
Monday, 12 July 2004

Reacting to his party's defeat in eastern Canada, Steve Harper said last week that the Conservatives must be more "moderate" in what they say and stand for.

For most people -- at least most people in the media -- more "moderate" means more "liberal."

We kept hearing during this election about "gaffes" committed by various Conservative candidates. Now the same journalists who identified the "gaffes" are advising the Conservatives to "get rid of," "dump," "evict," "expunge" and "purge" those who made them.

They think it was a mistake to suggest (as Lanark MP Scott Reid did) that bilingual services ought to be confined to areas of significant demand, not splashed across the country where no demand exists.

Or that it would be "valuable" for women to get voluntary medical counsel before choosing abortion (as Rob Merrifield did early in the campaign -- along with Paul Martin), or to equate dismemberment of a human fetus with the Iraqi decapitation of an hostage, (as Cheryl Gallant did one month before the election campaign began).

Or for an MP (Randy White) to say (a month and half before the campaign) that Parliament should use its powers under the Charter of Rights when MPs believe judges have exceeded their authority.

Or for someone (Steve Harper) to propose that Air Canada should have the same bilingual service requirement as every other Canadian airline, or for him to point out that Liberals have supported the courts' "artistic expression" exemption for pedophile pornography.

But is the media consensus right? Politically speaking, were these "gaffes"?

If so, perhaps they can explain why Cheryl Gallant won her Ontario riding by a margin of 12,000 votes, Rob Merrifield in Alberta by 21,000, Randy White in B.C. by 20,000, Scott Reid in Ottawa by 10,000, and Stephen Harper in Calgary by 26,0000.

Are all these thousands of Canadian voters, urban and rural, and millions like them across the country, now to be abandoned as "unCanadian"? Apparently so. The media says so.

There's a widespread delusion in Canadian media that conservative politicians can and should separate "economic" policy from "social" or "moral" policy.

Why not simply campaign for low taxes, and against Liberal corruption, and nothing else?

After all, so it's said, it's the money issues people care about--not nonsense about fetuses and French and Charter rights.

Well, voters aren't that stupid.

They know the central question is whether (as the Liberals believe) the state should control the people, or (as Conservatives believe) the people should control the state.

Regardless of which they choose, they know that is the choice.

If you agree that the state should control the citizens, you will have big government, high taxes, and weak democracy. In fact, you'll get the kind of Canada we've got.

If, however, citizens control the state, you end up with democratic debate, checks and balances, and only as much taxation and government as most people actually want.

Social policy will be left to Parliament, not judges.

If Harper now "moderates" the Conservatives by introducing skillful new ways of expressing the old conservative principles of limited government and democratic accountability, he'll come out far ahead.

If, instead, he listens to the media and "purges" people and policies the media don't like, the party will die.

There's already one Liberal Party. We don't need two.

- Link Byfield

Link Byfield is chairman of the Edmonton-based Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy, and an Alberta senator-elect.
"Just Between Us" is a feature service of the Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy. The purpose of the Citizens Centre is to enhance freedom and democracy by enabling ordinary citizens to become active and effective on important issues outside the normal processes of party politics.

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