Today's discussion:

A week of important anniversaries highlights a pivotal truth: We shape history, we are not bound by it

The test for us—and for future generations—is whether we can muster the courage and honour of ordinary yet heroic people to shape history in the direction of justice.

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Gord Edwards

While I respect the accomplishments of Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay in reuniting conservatives under the CPC banner, I think the claim that they “came together to establish a centre-right party that could consistently compete in and win national elections” is premature. The Harper era is just one iteration of the CPC and, while he formed three governments, can be looked at as one data point. And you can’t forecast anything from one data point.

In fact this seems contrary to the trend of the last 30 years. Following the Mulroney era the centre-right fractured resulting in Chrétien marching effectively unopposed to three majority governments. While the Liberals after Chrétien didn’t externally facture, they did spend over a decade trying and rejecting leaders in a fashion reminiscent of Gal Gadot looking for a suitable outfit in Wonder Woman. During this period Harper successfully formed government with little effective opposition. Since his departure, the CPC has been repeating the try-fail-reject methodology of the Liberals post-Chrétien.

We seem to be in a period of strong and/or charismatic leaders able to discipline rival factions and appeal, at least temporarily, to the public. But when The Leader departs the party is left in chaos. I suspect this is a function of media polarization, the rise of cable news and more recently social media. Message discipline is all important and decisions are centralized, resulting in MPs not gaining the experience or public profile necessary to make viable future leaders.

Political parties aren’t, nor should they be, frozen in time. Circumstances change and parties need to adapt to effectively address the issues of the day. But those changes should be grounded in a core ideological framework which evolves incrementally. We seem stuck in endless cycles of parties reinventing themselves. It would be nice to go a few elections knowing what the CPC (or the Liberals) stand for. I’ve enjoyed the Hub’s discussions about conservatism in the past year or so as it speaks directly to this. I would just like our main political parties to go through the same sort of intellectual exercise.

10th November 2023 at 2:02 pm
The Hub Staff

Thank you for engaging with the article and participating in the Hub Forum.

10th November 2023 at 3:33 pm
Thor Ragnorson

I haven’t read Sohrab’s book yet but I like him and I’m sympathetic to the critique of Liberalism. My personal thought is that under a Christian zeitgeist liberalism was a kind of intellectual supplement to Christianity that provided a social and economic synergy but like a steroid that has short term benefits it caused long term decline in Christianity by corroding the Christian social norms that maintained social order. I’m not sure libertarians could understand this. And while I agree that getting rid of Sunday shopping sounds like small ball, from my own experience it had a substantial impact on the family, the pace of and in some ways the meaning of life. Instead of Sunday we now had 2 Saturdays. Sunday was gone. Which popped rivet is the one that causes the airplane wing to let go? Likely it depends on the conditions at the time but maybe we should put some of the rivets back because it appears the west is quickly losing altitude.

10th November 2023 at 9:36 am

A Poilievre government would not be the silver bullet many are expecting. Under the Harper regime, personal freedom meant agreement with the Con agenda and so it will be with Poilievre. There is no evidence that Con are open to dialogue and compromise. This is evident as Danielle Smith pushed a Con agenda without consultation using the majority to ram legislation through. The same in Ontario as Ford pushes on with legislation which is not favorable to the wishes of the electorate but only takes into consideration his agenda and those who support him. The trans gendered issue is another case in point. There has been no dialogue in any of the Con led provinces which argue parental rights. These governments have never entered into a dialogue with trans gendered people or their families. Parental rights is a thinly veiled excuse for a far right view and control. Con like, want control. They value a world of black and white. There can be no dialogue in this world.
The author of the article says that agencies from business to ngos are preparing for a Poilievre led government, do not thin that all are looking forward to that. These preparations for many of these agencies will a matter of survival as Poilievre is dedicated to deconstruction. Many of the gains made by the ngos will be threatened by a Poilievre government.
History is a great teacher but sadly many do not learn from history. We repeat the same mistakes over and over. The present conflict in the Middle East proves that the same old way of doing things cannot work. In Canada, there has to be a fresh way of doing politics. The partisan mode is useless. It just creates division and accomplishes nothing as succeeding governments come in and change everything to suit their agenda.
This article is also very disappointing because it contradicts the main idea that history teaches us. This article pits one group against another instead of showing that one group just mirrors the other. They each point the finger at the other accusing the other of barbarism and this article just continues the same. The author seems to have missed the point of his thesis.

10th November 2023 at 8:49 am
Thor Ragnorson

So you are a professional liberal troll. Good grief. Get off the public dime and maybe actually accomplish something.

10th November 2023 at 9:13 am
Gord Edwards

“personal freedom meant agreement with the Con agenda”. Oh my. To the best of my recollection Harper never froze anyone’s bank account… Perhaps we have different definitions of “personal freedom”.

The initial part of your comment is the too common declaration “It isn’t democracy if I didn’t get my way!”

10th November 2023 at 2:08 pm
Michael F

No one occupied downtown Ottawa and tried to stop trade at the border over misinformation when Harper was PM.

10th November 2023 at 2:20 pm

Quote from today’s lead article: “… there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. ”
{ … “You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause.
And you were right not to doubt
President Reagan speaking at a Remembrance day ceremony.

Mr Speer’s use of this quote is in direct contradiction of all those in Canada (or elsewhere) who are claiming that Hamas/Palestine-Gaza was not acting immorally by attacking cross border Israelis – who continue holding 2 million Palestinians hostage in a fenced enclosure situated along 40 km of sea coast, and averaging about 9 km wide It was clearly a fight for their liberty.

Is there any doubt that the Palestinians are fighting for their liberation from their captivity by a colonizing Israeli society? Not only does Israel hold them in inhumane conditions, it continues to steal (and illegally settle ) Palestinian land in the West Bank area. And has now slaughtered over 10,000 Gazan civilians in a vicious and unforgivable act of revenge, using excessive force in a clear demonstration of their hatred of these unfortunate dispossessed people.

10th November 2023 at 9:48 am
Richard Courtemanche

I don’t think we can muster such courage. We may be too passive, indifferent, naive… prone to the slavery that awaits us. And, it might be too late to clean up already even with a well-intentioned new political party.

10th November 2023 at 9:05 am
Rob Tyrrell

“In this sense, Mr. Harper’s long-term legacy may be best understood in institutional terms rather than merely looking at his policy accomplishments. If “personnel is policy”, subsequent Conservative governments and their own policy reforms will be built on the strong foundation that he and Mr. MacKay established in December 2003.”

I have reread this several times and I am still not understanding. Is my following translation of this section, with its murky conclusion, accurate?… The legacy of Prime Minister Harper, unlocked by the necessary creation (really a re-assembly) of the Conservative party meant more experienced members in which to eventually govern more effectively, thus endowing a Poilievre led government to “hit the ground running” with direction and competence.

I give Prime Minister Harper a lot of credit for being a very effective leader, as well as a truly decent person, particularly considering in hindsight the now obvious “boisterous and substantial” fringe elements of the party. I was not a fan of much of the policy and the execution, particularly in its penchant for seeming to choose the outcome and work backward, even stooping to disappear the government data and information that did not support the policy objective. As the government faltered and got more than a little desperate towards the end (like the current Liberal government?), some truly wacky ideas and actions came out as the members became less constrained.

All of that said, and from my very limited vantage point as just a working stiff but engaged citizen, I think Prime Minister Harper’s long-term legacy was quiet and humble governing competence. Sure, his personality was not showy in any way, but in a political system in which celebrity seems to be the biggest factor at the highest-level political success, his unlikely rise and effectiveness deserves even more respect in hindsight.

10th November 2023 at 8:28 am
Paul Haliburton

Prime Minister Harper wasn’t flashy; he was a good “behind the scenes guy”, he made things happen; just the kind of leader we needed and still need. Canada was a good place back then.

10th November 2023 at 9:13 am
Michael F

I will counter that Harper was a micro-managing control freak that used wedge issues like a cudgel. Canadians won’t forget his dismantling of the gun registry, the muzzling of scientists, the long form census debacle and the increasingly desperate attempt to use the niqab as a wedge issue in the 2015 election.

10th November 2023 at 11:47 am
Rob Tyrrell

On the specifics of your counter (the second sentence) rather than the characterization, I alluded to those very things, and others, in my comment, as well as specifying one specifically, no?

10th November 2023 at 11:55 am
Michael F

Fair enough. You referred to him as a decent man. I respond by saying he had a dour, conniving, petty and vindictive element to him as well.

10th November 2023 at 12:29 pm
Warren Laws

Like Sean Speer, I have become a devoted listener and reader of Jonah Goldberg of The Dispatch, who is perhaps (along – of course! – with Mr. Speer in Canada) the most articulate, honest and broadminded voice on political thought and philosophy our brothers and sisters south of the border have produced for the early 21st century. So like Jonah Goldberg and Sean Speer, I have developed an attentive eye and a bent ear every time Sohrab Ahmari gives an interview, or writes an opinion piece or especially in this case, takes part in a debate.

Mr. Speer is polite when he calls Ahmari’s debating methods “maximalist.” Mr Speer needs to be polite to grow his audience. I don’t begrudge that stand. In fact I applaud it. But sensibilities and decorum rule the Canadian roost, a fact never more apparent than when Canada’s pre-eminent conservative columnist repeatedly refers to the leader of the opposition as a “thug.” Or in the case of his own interview with Sean Speer, refuses to answer why he refuses absolutely to write about culturally sensitive subjects. This is too smug by half.

So I’ll come right out and say what Mr. Speer thinks and what Jonah Goldberg more or less says out loud: Sohrab Ahmari is full of shit, and you don’t have to look any further than his Munk Debate opening statement published by The Hub the other day in order to discover that fact. It’s rare to see assertions about liberal democracy that are as completely wrong as his are (if you exclude the utter nonsense declared by the progressive/regressive left), but there they are. He asserts, “The brutal state of nature is a philosopher’s myth, as is the atomized liberal individual.” What? Okay, Okay, non sequiturs aren’t uncommon these days but holy doodle, two manifestly untrue declarations are actually tied together as if they made sense. And this is an argument?

As many have noted lately, Sohrab Ahmari’s twists and turns in the conservative ideological space are suspiciously common. Then there is the zeal of the convert. My father warned me about Catholic converts; and his warnings bore fruit at St. Michael’s College at U of T, never mind the Catholic Register.

Thanks for all your hard work at The Hub. I really enjoy and appreciate your project.

10th November 2023 at 3:04 pm

Speer, you cannot umbilically detach yourself from Harper, can you? That was the only position you ever held that might have given you credibility for this job.

10th November 2023 at 2:58 pm
The Hub Staff

Thank you to those who are participating in discussions here. Another piece from The Hub focuses on the extremism that exists in political parties, which can be accessed here:

10th November 2023 at 3:38 pm
Michael F

Not even a mention of the over 4000 children killed so far in the Gaza strikes. And it’s a little early to call a Poilievre government a certainty in the next election. The man has a lot of baggage and that new leader shine is going to wear off sooner or later. All the designer black T-shirts and catchy slogans in the world can’t hide the truth. Take his communications director for example, there’s a political liability just waiting to go off.

10th November 2023 at 11:56 am

Over 4,000 children in Gaza killed – really? Others before you have claimed it was 5,000 and more. As with them, I’d ask you who or what verifiable sources are you relying upon to support your claim – Hamas?

As with them, I will not hold my breath awaiting a response.

10th November 2023 at 2:11 pm
Michael F

A simple online search will show that the UN and the US government don’t dispute the numbers.

10th November 2023 at 2:36 pm

You’ll need to try again. That the numbers in the link you’ve provided come through sources inside Gaza under the control of Hamas and can never be independently verified lack any credibility.

That Hamas quickly scurried into their vast tunnel system built under hospitals, schools, and residences after unleashing their latest terror campaign compounds the difficulty that the Israeli Defense Forces have in rooting out these thugs.

That Hamas prevents Palestinians from fleeing these areas now under seige further emphasizes the need to hold their leaders to account.

Those that don’t perish in the fighting they initiated should be rounded up and brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague to answer for their crimes against humanity.

10th November 2023 at 7:49 pm