Frankly, it shouldn't be this surprising that a large group of people can differ in their political opinions, but this is the Conservative Party of Canada, and for the last 10 years they've been a nearly homogeneous force that speaks across Canada with one voice. That's why a pair of events lately have highlighted why a Conservative dynasty continuing through 2015 and beyond may be difficult to achieve, and may speak to larger divisions brewing under the surface of the Party's united front. We're seeing a fracturing on the right becoming increasing apparent in the United States, but will Canada's right-wing soon be following suit?
Warning light number one happened over the weekend at the nomination meeting for Calgary-Signal Hill when veteran Conservative MP Rob Anders was defeated in a tense nomination battle with Ron Liepert. Anders, who's served in Parliament for 17 years under both the Canadian Alliance and the CPC, was endorsed by both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and cabinet minister Jason Kenney, but ultimately failed to secure the representation for the new riding, which instead went to Liepert, a so -called "Red Tory."
Although 2,400 people voted in the nomination election, with Liepert winning "a solid majority," the race was marred with dirty politics, including Anders accusation that Liepert was being assisted by Liberal and NDP members who wanted to oust him. Kenney even recorded a robocall to support Anders, which prompted a stern response by Liepert. "He should go into his own riding and try and get reelected in his own riding and quit monkeying around in, other nominations anywhere in this province," said Liepert Sunday. Reporters then pointed out that such smack talk might land him in hot water, especially considering that Kenney's name is frequently touted as a potential successor for Harper. "I don’t care," he said. "It might and I’m quite prepared to deal with it if it does."
As for Anders political future, he's free to run in another riding if he chooses, the question is, will he? Is he too damaged to be electable? Keep in mind that he's the one guy to vote against giving Nelson Mandela receiving honorary citizenship in 2001 because he was a "communist" and a "terrorist," and he won re-election in 2003,2006, and 2008 and 2011. Meanwhile, another contentious nomination fight began in Oakville North-Burlington last week, the one involving Eve Adams and that cost her finance, Dimitri Soudas, his job as executive director of the national party. Adams won't be running, but it will be interesting to see where else some in-fighting will erupt, or if the party leaders might start to clamp down on the local circuses to prevent the tarnishing of the Conservatives' united front image.
Of course, the senate is going to be an albatross around the Harper government's neck come election time, and to prove that they can be a pain beyond the still sore spending scandal, the senate committee hearing evidence in regards to the controversial Fair Elections Act has voted unanimously to endorse several changes to the proposed law.
The committee, the majority of which is made up of Conservative senators appointed by Harper, is recommending to repeal certain aspects of the legislation. Amongst their proposed changes to Bill C-23 include the maintaining of the Chief Electoral Officer's current role and powers, stopping the exemption of fundraising calls from campaign spending, maintaining Elections Canada's current get out the vote efforts, requiring robocall firms to keep their records for three years, and expanding the types of items, including certain electronic communications, that can be used as IDs. As well, a requirement to have retirement homes and homeless shelters issue letters that count as voter ID was proposed.
In other words, the senate committee has rejected most of the central changes proposed by C-23, especially the tightening of voter ID provisions, restricting how Elections Canada does its job and who they can communicate to, and loosing many of the fundraising rules. Pierre Poilievre, the minister of democratic reform, and the minister in charge of shepherding Bill C-23 through Parliament, has said he's open to changes, but what does that mean? One might look at it as a conciliatory reach to both his senate colleagues and to the mounting number of Canadian who are against the Fair Elections Act, but after weeks of defending the written bill and trying to secure a quick passage, how willing is the Conservative caucus to go in for re-writes? The government is hoping to pass C-23 by June in order for the new rules to come into effect before the 2015 election.
In summery, these are far from sunny days for the Conservative government, and politics are probably the last thing on their minds this week, but looking forward to spring and the start of a one year countdown to election time, this party has to start getting itself together. The super-professional Conservative machine that from the outside looks like it speaks with one voice, and moves with one thought, needs to get itself tuned, or others may be looking for work next year with Rob Anders.