The Conservative Party’s Red Future

The Conservative Party of Canada will soon have to choose a new leader, as the division between Western and Eastern Conservatives seems increasingly inevitable. However, there is a very local Conservative tradition that would be able to bring a breath of fresh air to a party that is failing to position itself as a real alternative to the Liberals: the famous tory red or Tory Red.

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When we hear the word conservative, a cold image of a balanced-budget businessman quickly comes to mind. For others, the word will evoke rather a reactionary fringe of the population, religious, which opposes abortion and social progress. While these two images may indeed represent certain aspects of conservatism, they are far from circumscribing the whole of the conservative tradition, or even its essence.

Indeed, the essence of conservatism is rather a respect for authority, guarantor of order, and a respect for tradition which leads to the intimate conviction that continuity in human affairs is of the utmost importance. However, this desire for continuity does not mean opposition to change as such.

I believe that it is important to distinguish between an “American” conservatism, which moreover is rather a right-wing liberalism, and the traditional conservatism which arose from the tradition of the British Tories before the development of capitalism.

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This traditional conservatism was nurtured in Canada by Loyalists, French-Canadian Catholics and later immigrants from the British Isles. This “Canadian” conservatism is based on an organic conception of society and the mutual obligations that exist between classes. Arguing that the community has the right to restrict individual liberty in the name of the common good, this conservatism embraces social justice and the welfare state.

Where the tory red clearly distinguishes itself from the liberal, it is in its refusal to embrace the idea that progress is automatically a good thing and that the new is fundamentally superior to the old. Yet conservatives are also compelled to recognize that science and technology have benefited human kind, there is no point in having a mythical image of a golden past and blaming modernity for all of society’s ills. The conservative is not a reactionary.

On the contrary, the “true” conservative is open to any change that appears to serve the common good. However, what he rejects, even what he hates, is progress for progress’s sake. Progress as a religion. He prefers the natural development of society, the fruit of a certain balance between the divergent interests of its members, to the artificial development of social engineering which thinks it can organize society in a purely rational way.

I think this conservative tradition is essential to the well-being of our society. She embraces change, she is not by nature dogmatic and is concerned first and foremost with continuity in human affairs and the common good. Let’s hope that we will find a voice to bring this conservative tradition to the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. Otherwise the poor tory red will still be an orphan in federal politics and will have to reluctantly vote either for an Americanized conservatism or for a progressivism he abhors…

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Elias Massey-Neves Master’s candidate in political science

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