Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper gives his concession speech after Canada's federal election in Calgary, Alberta, October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch
“Man, you’ve really changed.”
This is a line I’m occasionally greeted with when I’ve written or said something critical about Canadian conservatism. It’s a feeling of disappointment, anger, frustration or even betrayal that I dared to express a contrarian opinion.
Well, guess what? Over the past two decades, I have changed. Not in terms of my small “c” conservative values, but in the way I approach issues, ideas and public discourse.
When my first op-ed was published back in January 1996, my political ideology was far more rigid. I rarely launched into personal attacks, because that’s not my style. Yet I constantly poked holes at opponents, mocked left-wing parties and politicians, and used hardline partisan rhetoric in place of intelligent commentary and analysis.
I would also triumphantly proclaim my political conservatism every few paragraphs (or, in some cases, every few words). Just in case the reader had somehow missed the blindingly obvious fact that I was on the political right.
Fortunately, I got kicked in the butt by a few talented editors who actually gave a damn. They told me to drop the political sideshow I was creating. If I wanted to become a good columnist and political commentator, then I had to start focusing on my craft and improving my skills.
There were moments I fought back. It took me some years to wrap my head around these concepts. But I did, and I appreciate their advice, guidance and wisdom.
I’ve gradually evolved from a Conservative partisan into a conservative intellectual. I prefer discussing issues to making political platitudes. My tone is hardly tepid, but has certainly become more moderate. I still occasionally use partisan rhetoric, but only to make a cheeky point rather than as a lethal weapon.
I also recognize the value in critiquing political and economic policies I disagree with. Not to make people feel uncomfortable, but to give partisans a subtle wake-up call to reality. A true political friend shouldn’t be a constant cheerleader, but rather serve as a guiding light and/or court of sober second thought.
It’s due to this personal experience that I’m worried about the current state of Canadian conservatism.
The Tories suffered a disheartening loss on Oct. 19. The natural impulse of right-leaning activists, columnists and bloggers is therefore to lash out, point fingers, scream bloody murder and eat our young.
Naturally, we’ll have issues with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals. We’ll dislike their programs, policies, and points of view.
But we can’t let rage replace reason. Or frustration replace logic. Or anger replace intelligence.
Use your brains, not your emotions, to fight back. Bitterness and nastiness is part of what led us into opposition, after all. With a balanced program of fiscal and social conservatism, the Tories can - and will - recover, rebuild and regain power.
For years, I’ve tried my best to write, entertain, educate and be thought provoking. The final judge, jury and executioner is, and always will be, the reader. I hope that I’ve succeeded at some level.
As I leave Sun Media for the second time in my career, I wanted to acknowledge a few people. My thanks to Glenn Garnett (who brought me back in February), Jamie Wallace (who kept me on after the sale to Postmedia), Anthony Furey (a good writer and, most importantly, father) and Lorrie Goldstein (a mentor, longtime friend, and one of my early butt-kickers).
All the best, folks.