Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Pity the Conservatives

Apparently, the only way to be a "westerner" these days is to be a western social Conservative. I know this because yesterday Lowell Green, Ottawa's resident blowhard, said that Canada had finally elected it's first "western" Prime Minister. He then went on to say quite carefully that neither Clark nor Diefenbaker counted as "westerners."

Let's put aside for a moment that Harper was born and raised in Toronto, while Clark was actually born in Alberta. Does this scare anyone else - that Conservatives are now laying claim to all of Canada west of Churchill, Manitoba based solely on ideological purity?

If it does scare you, it shouldn't. The western Conservatives may think their day has come, but in reality the worst possible thing has happened to them - a Conservative government led by Stephen Harper.

Let me explain.

So long as the government was led by Quebec Liberals, the Cons could say that the west doesn't have a voice. So, superficially, some would now say that Harper will lead a "western" government in Ottawa. Don't count on it. Look at the seat count: 59 of the Cons' 124 seats come from Ontario, Quebec, or the Maritimes. Harper won 10 seats in Quebec, despite the fact that three quarters of that province voted against him. Meanwhile, two thirds of Alberta went Conservative, but they "only" won 28 seats there. After this election, the Conservative party is no longer "western" based: there are 30% more Ontario Conservatives in Harper's caucus then there are Albertans.

A self-aware Conservative would be weeping right about now. To win a majority in Canada, you still need to win Quebec and Ontario, preferably with some inroads in to the major cities (where the Conservatives have been shut out.) What do you think is more likely - that we'll see a bunch of western radicals take over, or that Harper will govern like any other politician - concerned for his own reelection, and pandering to Ontario and Quebec?

I don't deny that some crazy Conservativeness is bound to happen. But here's the thing - Harper needs to win more votes in Quebec and Ontario, period. The west is barren ground for the Conservatives, electorally speaking. They've won all they can there. So Harper (despite leading a nominally "western" government) is going to pander to the centre of the country as much as any leader. Either that or he'll lose the next election.

Over the next two years, western Conservatives are going to watch this happen, and weep. This was supposed to be their moment, and it's going to turn to crap on them.

Sorry Alberta, we win again!


Declan said...

There's still one big block of Western seats the Conservatives could pick up - greater Vancouver.

Today's Vancouver Sun headline: BC wants billions from Harper: Tories need cities support to elect majority [Vancouver Mayor] Sullivan says.

Bring on the pork, baby!

D said...

Dief. spent the first 8 years of his life in Ontario, before moving out West to Saskatchewan (Prince Albert to be exact).

Beyond geographical location, I wouldn't put many Ontarian neo-Conservatives in a different catagory than Albertan MPs. In my opinion, just as many of them are social-conservatives with agenda's of social regression, militarization, and American integration.