Back before 2003, Canada’s right-wing existed in two parties: the “socially progressive fiscally conservative” Progressive Conservatives of Canada; and the Reform Party, which is what the tea party would be if they had maple syrup rather than tea. Then in 2003 the two parties merged and formed an effective political strategy using the “big tent” under the banner of the “Conservative Party of Canada,” wherein “respectable” conservatives would court less savoury voting blocs under the assumption that the demands of these blocs would be defeated in government so as to continue winning their vote without actually implementing their shitty policy, whereas the respectables would get their agenda through.
This was the function of Conservabot Model 4.16A, aka Stephen Harper. Harper was able to somehow project the image of being a moderate, even handed conservative, even whilst he executed an alarmingly Randian agenda. People seemed to fixate on the fact that some Conservatives voted in favour of legalizing gay marriage in 2005, forgetting the rest of the big tent that had been screeching brimstone and hellfire the entire debate. Harper refused to put abortion rights to a vote, maintaining a quasi-legal status quo, but his religious backbenchers huffed and puffed. Rinse and repeat for a number of important progressive causes–Harper didn’t support them, but simply not antagonizing them was somehow seen as a sign of Conservative moderation, even as vast tracts of his party nearly burst at the seams any time it was suggested the government ought to acknowledge the humanity of anyone who wasn’t white, straight, cisgender or a man, and even as he made some pretty fucked up policy.
But, you know, it’s hard not to notice those Conservative backbenchers with the sort of voting records you’d expect from a tinpot dictator. Those of us who’ve been watching closely identified nearly a decade ago that Harper was the only thing filtering out the worst of his hoary-throated reactionary dipshits under the new “big tent,” but these people still had seats of government and they were clearly jonesing for some regression, even as the rest of the country marched on. American readers are familiar with this too, given that their de facto two party system by definition tries to mash together political alliances that often manifest as separate parties in other countries.
Then Harper resigned after his 2015 defeat, in which the country gave the Liberal party a majority in Parliament.
With the party’s filter removed, the big tent appears to be unraveling spectacularly.
The first question, then, is whether the new “big tent” will fly the flag of so-called moderates, or whether it will fly the flag of Canada’s aluminum-sheet-flailing-anti-reality bloc. The second question is whether they will maintain their big tent at all. And the third, if the big tent is preserved, will the so-called moderates gamble on the rights of minorities to vote for tax cuts in their favour or will they finally have the sense to see the pus-filled pimple growing steadily in their midst and consider the not-terribly-liberal-anyway Liberals?
It will all depend on who wins the leadership race. The political geoscape at the federal level can change rapidly depending in the course of the right-wing cruiser.
And here’s a fun game for y’all: Let’s play Spot the “Moderate.”
The Conservative leadership race (or who I’m paying attention to, at least)