The supply-and-confidence agreement between the Liberals and the NDP presents a splendid opportunity for the federal Conservatives, if they can let go of their anger.
By 2025, if the accord survives that long, many Canadians will be sick of the higher taxes, chronic deficits, federal-provincial squabbling over dental care, ever-worsening housing-crisis and general exhaustion of a Liberal government that will have been in power for a decade.
Not to mention Aubergine-gate. More on that later.
The Conservatives will have 3 1/2 years to craft a brand and a program suited for government. Right now, however, they are too angry to think clearly. They are too much the party of protesting truckers, of rural resentment, of a knee-jerk populism that seeks to fight battles already lost.
The next leader must transform the Conservatives from angry into sensible. By taking an early election off the table, the Liberal and NDP have given that leader the time they need to achieve it. Those voting in the Conservative leadership race should seek the candidate best suited to that task.
There are so many ways in which this Liberal government and its New Democrat partner could founder. Dental care for low-and-moderate-income families sounds terrific, but it’s hugely expensive. And pharmacare, too? Did anyone think to ask Quebec about these intrusions into its jurisdiction?
New social programs will divert money needed for defence, leaving Canada unprotected in an increasingly dangerous world.
What will happen when, more likely than if, Canada’s credit rating gets downgraded because of this country’s inability to pay down debt, despite higher taxes?
Imagine how angry voters in the West will be now that the federal government is even more committed to neglecting the oil-and-gas sector.
Most important, how will voters respond when it becomes clear that neither the Liberals nor the NDP has a solution to the crisis of housing affordability?
We urgently need to reduce housing prices by increasing the suburban supply, even though the very idea offends urban elites. We need homes that young families with moderate incomes can afford and want to live in. For many, that means a reasonably-sized house with the reasonably-sized yard and a garage or driveway. The sort of house that the people who elect governments live in. The Liberals prefer subsidies and taxes, which only makes things worse.
And there will be Aubergine-gate, also known as the Aubergine Affair. What is Aubergine-gate? I haven’t a clue, but this is a Liberal government in its third term. The likelihood of a huge scandal is pretty much baked in. Let’s call it Aubergine-gate for now.
These are just a few of the ways in which a Liberal government backed by the NDP could make itself unpopular over the course of the next few years. The question is whether the Conservative Party will be ready and waiting to assume government, or be distracted with internal bickering and populist rants.
Which is why those voting for the next leader might want to ask the candidates a few questions. Such as:
You want to axe the carbon tax? Fine, but what’s your plan to combat global warming? No, I mean your serious plan.
As leader, will you waste your time on unimportant rural diversions, such as gun rights, or on important suburban priorities, such as infrastructure funding for new subdivisions?
(The needs of moderate-income suburban voters are part of any sensible conservative party’s DNA. See Premiers Doug Ford of Ontario or François Legault of Quebec, or any of the many small-c conservative provincial governments throughout the land. It’s astonishing that the federal Conservatives don’t have it in their DNA as well.)
You want to lower taxes and balance the budget while spending more on defence. What gets cut? “Government waste” is not an answer.
Is there, in your campaign, even the slightest whiff, the faintest hint, of anti-immigrant or racist sentiment, of wanting to limit abortion rights, of stigmatizing sexual and gender minorities? Because that’s a guaranteed path to electoral oblivion.
This Liberal-NDP accord gives the next leader of the Conservative Party a solid shot at becoming prime minister. All they have to do is let go of the angry and embrace the sensible. How hard can that be? I mean really, how hard?
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