|Posted on September 8, 2016 at 8:35 PM|
During a radio interview earlier today, CPC leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch said she wanted to start a discussion on the topic of Canadian values. Accepting her invitation, I would like to explain that a party based on conservative ideals should avoid this issue altogether, as we have done with other divisive issues in the past.
Although we often talk about a "big blue tent" within the Canadian conservative movement, there are many occasions when the various factions disagree on fundamental issues. This is healthy in political parties and promotes debate.
The Canadian conservative movement is a mixed bag of Atlantic Canada red Tories, Quebec nationalists, Upper Canada elites, Ford Nation, prairie populists, Reformers, progressives, social conservatives, green conservatives, and libertarians. (My apologies if I missed anyone).
Even within this group, there are some issues that conservatives will not discuss in polite company. For example, Stephen Harper's CPC made the discussion of reproductive rights and access to abortion verboten. The abortion issue creates strong divisions between conservatives and risks rendering the very fabric of the conservative alliance.
That's why for years, the official position of the Conservative Party of Canada on abortion is, "We have no official position."
Although this non-position seems very practical, I raise this in connection to Kellie Leitch's intentions to make "Canadian values" a key plank in her leadership campaign.
Canadian values are the set of inherent principles and ethics that we have adopted that govern our behaviour. We may not recognize our behaviour while at home, but these values definitely shine through when we travel abroad. I have travelled to enough places in the world to know that Canadians are unique. As Canadians we often get teased when visiting the U.S. for being so polite, but I interpret our politeness as our ingrained personal respect for the people we interact with. We Canadians, for example, are famous for saying "I'm sorry" for everything from accidentally bumping someone on the sidewalk to interrupting conversations.
There is no government-published handbook at the departures lounge at the airport that instructs Canadians to be polite when travelling in foreign countries. It's just a behaviour that we abide by because we value respect of others.
The key point to understanding Canadian values is that they are adopted organically. Canadian values cannot be indoctrinated into our national character by any government institution.
As a daughter of immigrants, I know that my parents' values line up with their adopted Canada. No amount of testing or screening was required to complete this transformation. Like most people, they valued the same freedom and democracy we cherish in Canada. I would even argue that most immigrants coming from places whose governments don't value democracy value it immensely here - and is one of the reasons they seek to create a life this great country.
My parents' Canadian experience is not unlike many thousands of immigrants who arrive in Canada each year.
It's too easy for politicians to stir up divisive rhetoric in hopes of election successes. Opponents of Leitch's Canadian values question are claiming she's bringing in offensive "Trumpism" into politics. But the truth is that nobody in politics today played the group identity card as well as Barack Obama. That's why race relations in the United States is likely at its lowest point in more than 50 years: Obama's successes at getting re-elected may have translated into votes, but he has done nothing for the betterment of American society.
As conservatives, we need to decide if we want to focus on dividing us into different camps or focus instead on the principles that unite us as a nation.
I prefer the latter.