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GOLDSTEIN: Conservatives playing hardball — like everyone else

GOLDSTEIN: Conservatives playing hardball — like everyone else

Conservative Party of Canada leadership contenders Jean Charest (L) and Pierre Poilievre.
Conservative Party of Canada leadership contenders Jean Charest (L) and Pierre Poilievre.  Postmedia and Canadian Press files

People who believe the Liberals are the natural governing party of Canada are predictably clutching their pearls and wagging their disapproving fingers at the political brawl in the Conservative leadership race.

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That’s because they’re offended that conflict, both externally against one’s political opponents and internally with one’s ostensible allies, is how political parties evolve.

Except when Liberals do it, of course.

Two of the fiercest internal battles in Canadian politics in the modern era were not defined by Pierre Poilievre and Jean Charest not shaking hands at last week’s Conservative leadership debate.

One of them was the civil war between Jean Chretien and Paul Martin for control of the Liberal party from 1993 until 2006, when they lost power to Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.

The other was Harper’s campaign to reunite the conservative movement after the old Progressive Conservative alliance shattered in the 1993 election, reducing Brian Mulroney’s ruling party, with Kim Campbell in charge at the very end, to two seats, one of them occupied, ironically, by Charest.

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Out of that, Harper eventually forged a new Conservative Party from the remains of most, but not all, of the Progressive Conservatives, the Reform party and later offshoots — the United Alternative and Canadian Alliance parties.

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Internal conflict is how political parties evolve.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s spendthrift Liberal government — well before the pandemic hit — is nothing like the fiscally conservative Chretien/Martin Liberals of the 1990s.

The Harper Conservatives were nothing like the Mulroney Progressive Conservatives.

In Ontario, the Doug Ford Progressive Conservative government, now seeking re-election, is nothing like the last successful PC government — Mike Harris’ “common sense” revolutionaries.

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Harris’ government was nothing like the last successful PC government before it — led by Bill Davis with his political philosophy that “bland works.”

Many of those appalled by the political brawl for the Conservative leadership today believe, for example, that there is only one “correct” position on abortion — the status quo — with no recognition of the fact many Canadians have genuine concerns about late-term and sex-selective abortions.

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That there is only one “correct” position on climate change — more carbon taxes.

That there is only one “correct” position on the international order — with no recognition of the fact global organizations like the United Nations do in fact aim to reduce the sovereignty of nations and individuals for the presumed greater good of humanity, on issues such as climate change.

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As the UN itself puts it, “lifestyle changes are a prerequisite for sustaining reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and for bridging the emissions gap. Around two-thirds of global emissions are linked to … private household activities … Reducing emissions through lifestyle changes requires changing both broader systemic conditions and individual actions.”

Governments, the UN says, “have a major role in setting the conditions under which lifestyle changes can occur, through shaping policy, regulations and infrastructure investments … necessary to bring about wider changes in the social, cultural, political and economic systems in which people live.

“COVID-19 has provided insight into how rapid lifestyle changes can be brought about by governments … In planning the recovery from COVID-19, governments have an opportunity to catalyze low-carbon lifestyle changes by disrupting entrenched practices.”

Governments can achieve these goals, the UN says, through taxation and other policies affecting fundamental decisions we make about our lives, from what we eat (preferably meatless, low-carbon diets) to how we travel (less by air, more by subsidized electric cars).

It’s not a “global conspiracy” — it’s right out in the open.

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