Garnett Genuis is the member of Parliament for Sherwood Park–Fort Saskatchewan.
What comes next for Canadian Conservatives?
Where do we as Conservatives go from here? Since the modern, united Conservative party was created, we’ve won three out of five elections. We’ve won one majority and two minorities, while giving up one minority and one majority. That’s a relatively good record. Frankly, our latest loss wasn’t so big. It just stings a little more, because the collapse of the NDP made the magnitude of the Liberal gains much bigger than the magnitude of our losses.
As a newly elected Conservative MP, I feel as if I just caught the ball on a Kansas City home run. Still, I’m looking forward to being part of the discussion about where we go from here.
The numbers I started with, three out of five wins since the formation of our party, are important for us to reflect on. Those who think we lost this time because of a failure to position ourselves well on the ideological spectrum have to explain why we formed government after 2006, 2008 and 2011. The outgoing Prime Minister (well, not that outgoing) was the longest-serving Conservative Prime Minister since Sir John A. Macdonald.
Election post-mortems always end up making it sound as though the winner did everything right and the loser did everything wrong. This is understandable, since winning campaigns probably do more things right than losing campaigns. However, winning an election can be as much about luck and timing as it is about policy and leadership. Winning campaigns would do well to still look for ways they can do better next time, and losing campaigns should be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water.
As Conservatives, we’re going to need to have some important conversations about where we go from here. I already sense there are some who want to take advantage of what happened to fundamentally re-orient our party, especially with respect to our positions on key issues. But the modern, united Conservative party has had an above-average run. Certainly, we have a better success rate than any of our predecessor parties achieved.
Voters I spoke with during this campaign certainly had some complaints about us. But none of those complaints struck at the core of who and what we are as Conservatives. Our support for low taxes, open trade, balanced budgets, a serious and hard-headed foreign policy, and an approach to citizenship that prohibits those who would destroy our way of life from trading on the value of a Canadian passport, remains very popular, even among many who, ultimately, did not vote for us.
As we go forward, we should make a particular point of talking with and listening to those who voted for us in 2011, but did not in 2015. Our new leader, especially, will need to have the contacts and credibility to renew our relationships with conservative-minded new Canadians. We should be willing to change where necessary, including policy positions. But if we change too much, we risk alienating key swaths of supporters. We won’t grow from 30 per cent to 40 per cent by alienating any group of conservatives.
Whatever direction we take, it is clear to me that, 12 years since the formation of our party, we are strong, united and capable of respectful and sincere internal debate. We are still the most successful and effective conservative political vehicle that has existed in this country in more than 100 years. There’s some bath water on board, but also a whole lot of baby.
- Read senior Harper advisors Ken Boessenkool and Sean Speer’s take on why the Conservatives were left frozen on the Liberals’ deficit gambit here.
- Read Kory Teneycke’s insider account of what happened for the Conservatives in the election here, from our day-after live event.
- Aaron Wherry and Martin Patriquin on how the Tory campaign got spectacularly wrong