Byfield: Can Alberta heal the deadly malady that threatens all conservatism?
The most irksome problem facing the conservative movement in both United States and Canada is the conflict between what are often referred to as the “Fiscal Conservatives” and the “Social Conservatives.” It is at present particularly acute in my own province of Alberta where the controversy has split the political Right severely enough to break it in two, resulting in the unthinkable phenomenon of a socialist government in a terrain renowned for its conservative traditions.
VIDEO: Revealing clip by David Menzies and Rebel Media on the blackballing of a social conservative candidate for Scarborough Center by Ontario PC leadership last November.
Since then the split has been at least superficially healed with the creation of what is calling itself the “United Conservative Party.” The man who united it and became its first leader is an individual with a distinguished record as a senior cabinet minister in the federal government. He is Jason Kenney, a Catholic, well known as an unremitting Social Conservative.1
The leftist New Democratic Party [NDP] government, which he must now oust from office, is given in the early polls very little likelihood of surviving. But it has one chance. If it can somehow paint Kenney as a dangerous religious bigot, anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-everything, and secretly intent on making Alberta into a sort of theocracy, then it just might narrowly win. But this is not easily accomplished. Kenney has held political office for more than 20 years and has never lost an election. Moreover, the NDP stalwart designated to bring him down is the education minister David Eggen. His clumsy efforts to bait Kenney by ever more preposterous pronouncements against Catholics, parents, chastity and all forms of sexual propriety are far more likely to bring down his own government instead.
Kenney’s strategy so far has been to let the province’s four super-active and skilfully led parents’ organizations answer for him. Meanwhile, he speaks boldly on behalf of parental rights and depicts the NDP as running the first government in history to actually oppose parenthood. Which, of course, is unfair. The government is wholly prepared to tolerate parents, provided they do not interfere with the state’s responsibility to raise and indoctrinate their children.
However, the Fiscal vs. Social is far from settled and simmers on within the “united” party. If you examine the issue carefully it seems to come down to a conflict over the meaning of a single word. That word is “morality.” It has a dictionary meaning and a popular meaning. The Fiscals tend to give it the popular meaning, the Socials the other one.
To the Fiscals, what matters in a government is its fulfilling obligations to govern within the funds available, without going into debt to meet current expenses. If the funds are not there, you cut back on the expenses. This is simple prudence. If you borrow to meet current expenses, you are in fact using the money of future generations to pay for your expenses. This is an injustice, akin to theft. Moral issues, like the sexual proclivities of the citizenry, should be none of the government’s business, say the Fiscals.
Morality, in other words, has to do with sex and nothing else in the eyes of the Fiscals. That is certainly the popular meaning of the word. I’ve heard this parodied: “It’s true that Smith tells lies. And yes, he cheats, and fails to keep promises. He’s admittedly arrogant at times, and has very little respect for anyone else. But he’s always been sexually faithful to his wife, I’m told. So you could hardly call him immoral.” Similarly, the Christian apologist Dorothy L. Sayers titled one of her essays: “The Other Six Deadly Sins.” She felt no need to discuss “Lust.” It was being discussed everywhere. So she’d deal with Gluttony, Wrath, Greed, Envy, Sloth and Pride.
This article continues at [Ted Byfield Blog] Can Alberta heal the deadly malady that threatens all conservatism?