Brandon-Souris will be having a by-election on November 25, 2013 after the Prime Minister dropped the election writ for 4 ridings a week ago.
The lead up to this election has been interesting to say the least. When former Brandon-Souris MP Merv Tweed resigned his seat back in August, it was a forgone conclusion that the next MP for the area would be the person who managed to win the Tory nomination process, which promised to be the real race to watch in this constituency. Except for a blip in 1993 when the Reform Party was splitting the vote on the right, allowing the Liberals to shoot up the middle, Brandon-Souris had always voted for the Tories.
For most of that time, The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada was THAT party. At one point I was a member of that party.
Now, I would describe my political leanings of that time as a fiscal conservative with some doubts (in fact major doubts) about the social agenda of many on the right. While I had interest in following the antics of the Reformers, deep down I knew that I would never fit in that party. The social platform of the party was just too far right of my personal beliefs.
I was what you would call a Red Tory. The leader I would identify closest with in the party would have been Joe Clark. For a politician he was unusual. He worked hard to get his job done, something I had seen during the dying days of the Meech Lake Accord. While every other politician, including his boss Brian Mulroney, were busy posing for photo ops, Clark was actually busy trying to get the accord to work. He seemed to work hard and wasn’t looking for the glory. It is perhaps why he is one of our shortest serving Prime Ministers. He wanted to do what was right and needed, instead of what was popular.
He was also what you would call a Red Tory.
On the topic of my social beliefs; they have evolved, much like my religious beliefs. I had probably always had my doubts about the Judeo-Christian belief system that I was brought up in;’ you know, that niggling sensation that something just doesn’t add up. So, over the years I have moved from being apologetic for Christian beliefs, to calling myself agnostic, to pretty much referring to myself as an atheist. Having grown up with an interest in mathematics and computers, the scientific method has been ingrained in me enough that I have to follow the evidence. And the evidence says that there is not evidence to support that the Bible is anything more than a best-selling fiction book. Not very well written either. I recently completed reading Genesis and it hurt my head.
So, back to politics. It is with my slow evolution from religious apologist to secular humanist that I have found that I can no longer support the social stands of the right leaning politicians of this country. I believe in the separation of church and state, freedom of thought and association, and when in doubt about something that you should follow the evidence where it leads. Despite this deviation from the political right, I was and still am a fiscal conservative. I believe that governments need to run with reasonable to no debt loads in order to not burden future generations.
In 2003, Peter McKay succeeded Joe Clark as leader of the Progressive Conservatives and by the end of the year the party was gone, merged with the Canadian Alliance Party to form the Conservative Party of Canada. While technically a member of the new party, I had never asked to be and soon let my membership lapse as it was apparent that the party had went further right than I was comfortable with.
Much like former Prime Minister Joe Clark and my local Brandon-Souris MP, Rick Borotsik, my feeling was that I had not left the party, it had left me.
Now, during all this time in the 1990s and 2000s, it was actually apparent to me that the Liberal Party of Canada from a policy standpoint was probably most in line with my own personal political leanings. They were a centrist party, with both right and left leaning members. It was their really obvious feeling of entitlement that turned me off. It left a bad taste in my mouth the way they seemed to feel that they deserved to govern, and not that they needed to earn our trust. I couldn’t bring myself to vote for them. When I could no longer vote Conservative I jumped all the way to the NDP because, despite their obvious shortcomings, I knew what the NDP stood for. The Liberals never seemed to stand for anything. In 2006 they were punished for that attitude.
So, now it is October 2013. The Liberals have been through a handful of leaders. It is obvious at this point that they have now got the message that they have to earn the trust of the Canadian people. They no longer believe that they can make a gerbil their leader and that said gerbil will eventually become Prime Minister. While I believe that former astronaut Marc Garneau would have been a great choice for leader, it is becoming more apparent to me that Justin Trudeau has a lot of potential. Most importantly to me, this new batch of Liberal leadership supports evidence based solutions to real problems; not old tired rhetoric that has been disproven again and again. “Tough on crime” for example sounds good, and even has its place, but the evidence says otherwise when it comes to our justice system. The Tory muzzling of the nation’s scientists to the point that environmental experts are not allowed to discuss man made climate change is ridiculous. I cannot support it.
The NDP is not a reasonable option for me, and any belief that they have a chance in Brandon-Souris is laughable. Unfortunately, in our “first past the post” system, a vote for the NDP or the Greens is a vote for Larry Maguire and the Conservatives.
Back to that Tory nomination race. Three people were running, two got disqualified despite one of them having already pulled out, and Maguire was acclaimed. I don’t know if their were shenanigans, but it sure seems like there might have been. There was a lot of smoke for there to have been no fire. Whether or not his campaign was clean, Maguire’s nomination has a smell of taint, and that has allowed the local Liberal candidate, Rolf Dinsdale, to all of a sudden look like a contender. Even a recent poll puts Dinsdale in a possible lead.
Now, while still an uphill battle, Dinsdale has a couple of things in his favour. Name recognition can be a great help, and Rolf’s father Walter was our Progressive Conservative MP for 31 years. The Liberals have a young new leader who also has a political legacy in his father. Pierre Elliot Trudeau was one of this country’s longest serving Prime Ministers, and while his economic legacy could be described as a disaster, his social agenda and legacy defines the Canada we have today. While our southern neighbours are fighting over things we decided years ago, we have become more like the “Just Society” that Trudeau Senior described decades ago. If Justin Trudeau has just a small amount of the leadership qualities of his father we could be in for an interesting future.
Dinsdale also has the fact that Brandon-Souris is not as far right leaning as much of the rest of the area. When much of the West went Reform/Alliance, Brandon-Souris stayed Progressive Conservative. We only went Conservative when the old PC Party ceased to exist. To me, the Liberal Party of 2013 is the obvious place for a “Red Tory” to park their vote. They are after all the party who balanced the federal budget. With the Conservative move further right, it seems to me that the Liberals sit exactly where the old Progressive Conservative party used to exist.
On October 12, 2013 I bought a membership to the Liberal Party of Canada, and on November 25 I intend to vote for Rolf Dinsdale as our next Liberal Member of Parliament.