Harper Conservatives missing the paradigm shift in communications
THUNDER BAY – Editorial – While many people believe that the federal Conservatives are, ideologically a right-wing group, the truth is they are a coalition of beliefs. There are fiscal conservatives, social conservatives,reformers, and libertarian minded individual who are all bunched up together in Canada’s Conservative Party. It is a coalition welded together in many ways over their frustration over the Mulroney and then Chretien governments, and their perceived lack of respect for the democratic process.
It is also a coalition facing serious challenges because it increasingly appears that the Conservatives are starting to lose touch with Canadians, and especially their Conservative base. Having lived in western Canada, one was witness to the distaste over the actions of Brian Mulroney as it grew at prairie grass-fire speed.
‘Know more’ often read as ‘NO MORE’ was the starting mantra of the reform movement as Preston Manning and the Reform Party grew across the west. Voting down the Progressive Conservative’s efforts at constitutional reform was seen as voting down the ‘Mulroney deal’. The Progressive Conservatives had lost touch with their base in the west.
The next steps came as the Liberals formed government for three successive majority governments under former PM Chretien. Increasingly using the mantra that the ‘Reform Party is scary’ the Liberals held government.
The Reformers melted into the Canadian Alliance and then the Conservative Party mostly in efforts to grow into Ontario and finally form first minority and now majority governments. However many of the actions of the Conservative government are mirroring the problems many saw with the former Chretien and Mulroney governments. That is a lack of openness, a lack of respect for tax-dollars, and a growing arrogance at the top of the party.
There has now, perhaps, been a turning point in how even the most hard-core conservatives see the government that they worked so long and so hard to elect. Statements by Tony Clement on the importance of building a monument to Dr. Norman Bethune have taken some of the government’s strongest voices on the Sun News Network and turned them into angry voices. Charles Adler and Ezra Levant are on the march over government spending of $2.5million on a monument to honour Dr. Norman Bethune.
The potential for cracks in the conservative hull have always been there.
Just like attempting to weld together very diverse metals, the conservative coalition has great potential to blow apart.
What is different today, and seemingly being missed by the Harper Conservatives is the massive growth of social media, and the growing shift to the Internet as a source for news and information.
There is a paradigm shift ongoing in how Canadians communicate, and the Harper Government seems oblivious to that shift. The world of communications has shifted, and Conservatives are stuck in the past, feeling content that their only need of the new communications world will be topped by their high-tech fundraising machine.
The degree of secrecy, control and concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s office is something the opposition Reform, Canadian Alliance, and then Conservative Party were opposed to in opposition. Once in power, that concentration has grown and Prime Minister Harper is arguably more of a ‘control freak’ than any former PM in recent memory. Former Reformers, and libertarians watching that are likely to become increasingly distant and increasingly less enthused.
The lack of respect for tax dollars have the Conservatives looking less fiscally conservative and more like high-rolling hogs slurping away at the trough. That is going to cause cracks in the sides of conservative coalition as well. Should that arrogance continue, it is likely to cause cracks in the Conservative efforts to fund-raise as Canadians refuse to crack open their wallets.
The Conservatives were elected by just under forty per cent of Canadian voters. As the Conservatives continue their current path, they are politically safe for the next several years.
However if the opposition New Democrats start figuring out how to drive political wedges into the Conservative coalition, or the Liberals re-invent themselves and select a leader who Canadians will follow, the Harper Government could easily find itself sitting on the opposition benches after a one term majority.
Chief Content Officer