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Pander, pander here. Pander, pander there.

November 5, 2010

Stephen Taylor has an interesting article about the decision to block the potash buyout today in the National Post. The gist is that fiscal conservatives are being betrayed by this protectionist action.  I’m actually not sure which way I would go on the question of letting a foreign company own the potash resource.  There are strong arguments on both sides but the decision is pretty hypocritical, not just for the Conservatives but for Canada as a whole.  Our resource companies own huge swaths of resource wealth around the world already. Its hard to understand this as anything but as pandering to core Conservative voters in Saskatchewan.

It seems to be causing some soul searching amongst fiscal conservatives.  Taylor pines:

More votes were saved in Saskatchewan this week than were lost on Bay street. Yet as with the stimulus, for Conservatives both in name and in principle, it gave us great pause as to what we’re doing in Ottawa if not acting to advance rational objectives and liberal free-market principles.

He’s right, probably even more than he realizes.  Even if more votes were lost on Bay Street it wouldn’t matter, because zero seats were lost. That’s because Conservative voters in Toronto, or other big cities, have no elected seats in the Conservative party and thus no  influence.  Toronto’s recent election of Rob Ford has many different implications for politics in Toronto but one of them is clear evidence that there is a strong minority of fiscally conservative voters there.  When combined with ‘throw the bums out’ anger and a weak and divided alternative, a conservative actually won.

Now I don’t really want Conservatives to win elections, or even conservatives for that matter.  But I do want people to have the representation in all levels of government that they deserve based on their level of support in the population.  As I argued recently, part of the reason Rob Ford won in Toronto and Naheed Nenshi won in Calgary was that a cohesive minority that usually doesn’t have power finally coalesced around one candidate and defeated a divided pro-status-quo majority.  Stephen Taylor’s frustration with the current Conservative Party is that they focus too much on populist, social conservatism and too little on pure fiscal conservatism.   As you would expect given that all their seats are from regions that respond to populism so strongly.

So to put words in Mr. Taylor’s mouth, what he’s really saying is we need to change the system somehow so that the Conservative party would have to pander to fiscally, urban conservative voters as well.  Well, if that’s what he’s saying, then for once, I would heartily agree with him.


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