Now, if ever there was a blog post to keep short!
All joking aside, I can’t count the number of Tories who have exclaimed to me they would vote NDP before Liberal and the number of New Democrats who have said as much about casting a vote for the Conservatives. I have personally voted Tory in the past, but that was before the new Conservative Party came into being and at a time when the daylight between all three parties was relatively thin.
Unlike in the United Kingdom, the NDP are often battling for the same constituency of voters in Canada as the Conservatives. In the UK, working class voters and those otherwise outside of the “establishment” almost exclusively vote Labour; there is a very weak populist strain in the Conservative party which might have otherwise appealed to the disaffected. In Canada, the Conservative Party and the NDP have long fought for the same votes in rural Canada, particularly in the West, Atlantic Canada and parts of Ontario. Both parties have populist roots, particularly the old Reform strain of the current Conservative Party.
I’m sure it strikes many as strange that two parties on the “extremes” of Canada’s political spectrum would appeal to the same voters. However, the old Tory party in particular had many virtues. The recent passing of Nelson Mandela should remind Canadians of the work of former Prime Minister Mulroney, who was at the forefront of international efforts to free South Africa from apartheid rule. Indeed, the strides he made in protecting the environment, leading to tangible results, should serve as a model for all future governments. Today’s Tories should take pride in, rather than shun, his legacy of effective leadership.
The grassroots of today’s Conservative Party find common ground with New Democrats in seeking reforms to Canada’s parliamentary institutions to make them more representative, accountable and accessible. Preston Manning was often heard to say growth outside of Alberta would have been most likely in Quebec, where Quebeckers shared the same historic disaffection with Ottawa. Unfortunately, the policy distinctions between today’s Tories and New Democrats, not to mention their approach to public policy, are considerable. However, I am still proud to call many Tories friends. A party’s true quality is reflected in its members and I can confidently say that the Conservatives are rich in this regard.
Most of my friends are Liberals, and they’re good people, too. As for a compliment: being a bald man I am green with envy whenever I see Trudeau’s unruly mass of hair. I foresee a convertible campaign video in his future.