Will the the Stephen Harper Conservative base split?

April 30, 2012 | By | Reply More

If it does, it’s the fiscal conservatives that’ll go

Bruce Stewart

Photo: Bruce A. Stewart

By Bruce A Stewart     

Stephen Woodworth (MP, Kitchener) brought an abortion-related private member’s bill to the House of Commons last week.

It was stomped on by his fellow Conservatives.

Still, it’s a sign that some of the many strands of “conservative” that make up the Conservative Party are starting to assert themselves.

If I were Stephen Harper, though, the social conservatives wouldn’t be my worry.

I’d fret over the fiscal conservatives.

You see, the fiscal conservatives do have other places to go.

First, they’re unlikely to be bought off with other types of legislation.

Law and order agenda? “Who’s paying for this?” is going to be the answer.

Not to mention that the more libertarian elements are also more likely to be the fiscal conservative elements in the party.



No, to hold the fiscal conservatives, there actually has to be some fiscal conservatism.

You know, those old ideas of budgets that balance, civil service numbers that are restrained, debt that’s retired.

None of that has happened in the six years of the Harper Government.

Fiscal conservatives also cast a weather eye over their shoulder at the provinces. They know who gets to bail out that mess.

They’re also acutely aware that right now Ottawa’s house isn’t up to the task.

Ask yourself why Harper’s numbers have fallen more in the year since winning his majority than they did after the minority wins of 2006 or 2008.

(He’s now more or less even with the NDP at 33-34%, if you haven’t been following the ups-and-downs.)

Why? It’s the fiscal conservatives who are peeling away.

Some of them have moved to “undecided”. Some are parking with the Liberals. In the Maritimes, they’re parking with the NDP (since in Nova Scotia it’s an NDP government that’s providing fiscal sanity.)

What they aren’t doing is lining up behind three more years of deficits, more Economic Action Plan, more fiddling at the edges while Ottawa’s bloat continues to grow.

Sure, election day won’t come until 2015, by which point, if all goes according to plan, Harper will be running on having zeroed the deficit.

But everything has to go well to get there. No housing bubble crash in Canada. No international interest rate skyrocket due to collapses elsewhere digging heavily into Ottawa’s (and the provinces’) debts.

Unemployment has to stay in line. The dollar can’t move up too far. The Americans have to resist the urge to lock their doors, really impose “Buy America” and slam our fingers in the NAFTA doorjamb once again.

If you believe that all of that will work out, I have a bridge to sell you.

Even if all the fiscal conservatives do in 2015 is stay home on voting day, it’s good-bye Conservative majority — and hello Prime Minister Thomas Mulcair.

You’d think something like that might matter.

So far, apparently not.

Bruce Stewart is a consultant, educator and philosopher with a passion for public affairs currently located in Toronto. He is well known across the Internet for his blogs on management (Getting Value from IT) and social affairs (Just a Jump to the Left, then a Step to the Right) and for his daily stream of commentary on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can reach him at bastewart.toronto@gmail.com.



Category: Federal, Opinion

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