Andrew Coyne’s presentation to the Manning Centre conference in Ottawa:
What I believe in are a set of principles having to do with the freedom of the individual, the usefulness but not infallibility of markets, and the legitimate but limited role of the state. There are, in brief, a few things we need government to do, based on well-established criteria on which there is a high degree of expert consensus. The task is simply to get government to stick to those things, rather than waste scarce resources on things that could be done as well or better by other means: that is, government should only do what only government can do.
As I say, these ideas are not novel, or controversial. Indeed, you would find support for them, to a greater or lesser degree, across the political spectrum.
Nevertheless, there was a party, once, that believed in these things, to a somewhat greater extent than the other parties. That party called itself conservative, whether with a small or a large C, so I suppose you could call the things it believed conservatism. But you are no longer that party.
For example, that party favoured balanced budgets. But you are not that party. In fact, you boast of how your decision to add $150-billion to the national debt saved the economy.
That party favoured cutting or at least controlling spending, after the massive spree of the Liberals’ last years. But you are not that party. In fact, you boast of how you have increased spending by 7% per year — $37-billion in one year!
That party favoured a simpler, flatter tax system, that left people free to decide how to spend, save or invest their money for themselves. But you are not that party. In fact, you boast of the many gimmicks and gew-gaws with which you have festooned the tax code.
That party favoured abolishing corporate welfare. But you are not that party. In fact you boast of the handouts you make, often accompanied by ministers or indeed MPs bearing outsized novelty cheques. In some cases, you even put the Conservative logo on them.
The story of the last decade is how the rock-ribbed small-c conservatives of the old Reform Party were tamed, neutered, and blinkered into becoming a blue-painted Liberal Party. It worked, in the sense of getting their hands on the levers of power, but their souls were tainted, corrupted, and eventually disposed of in the process.