Justin Trudeau stole the word "progressive" during the federal election campaign and cruised with it to a comfortable minority government. He'll have little problem governing for most - if not all - of the next four years. There is no chance the Conservatives, the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP would ever band together to force another election.
The party that should take "progressive" back are the federal Conservatives. For most of its history, that party called itself the Progressive Conservatives Party of Canada because slow and steady progress, modernity and evolving sensibilities were core beliefs.
That progressive side of small-c conservatism was abandoned under Stephen Harper. His political heir, Andrew Scheer, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory Monday against the weakened Trudeau Liberals by staying true to the Harper base and offering anger and resentment instead of hope and change. Harper's time as prime minister was a fluke, caused by the implosion of the federal Liberals, not by his political brilliance or a party platform embraced by a majority of Canadians. The Harper Conservatives won because there was nobody else to choose from (and Canadians were giving a serious look at Jack Layton's NDP before his untimely death).
Conservatives have to return to their progressive roots to have any chance of winning a future federal election. They have to be centre-right on the political spectrum, with centre first and right second. They need look no further than their Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty, who embodies the brand of upbeat, hopeful progressive small-c conservatism Harper abandoned but the federal Conservatives need more than ever.
On the surface, Scheer had the tools to lead the Conservatives past Harper but when the election test came, he couldn't turn the page. Instead, he fell back to calling Trudeau a fraud and a liar on national television. That's not how elections are won in a modern, urban Canada.
Doherty stressed during his campaign that Canada needs to face climate change head on, to do more to protect the environment, to keep working towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and to do a better job welcoming and including immigrants in the Canadian fabric. While doing so, he also stressed the importance of law and order, fiscal responsibility, economic growth and natural resource development.
That is 2019 progressive conservatism in a nutshell.
Conservatives were progressive before and they can be again. Hopefully, Doherty can nudge his colleagues in that direction. If he can't, Conservatives are doomed to be no better than the Bloc Quebecois, a regional party without a national vision.
- Editor-in-chief Neil Godbout