By Fraser Turnbull

The recent Canadian election was a bit of a yawner. Even for political junkies who mainline polls like addicts running for their next fix, this one was relatively sedate and lacked fire. Sure, there were moments that caught one’s attention, but there were really no Mulroney/Turner debate knockouts or Stanfield dropped footballs. Only the most disingenuous among us dare to assert that the whole exercise wasn’t a complete waste of time and money. And spare me the “every minority government has an election within the first two years” trope. Simply put, they don’t do it in the middle of a global pandemic. Justin Trudeau and his advisors thought they saw an opportunity to seize a majority. As the young folks say, “they shot their shot.” And they missed, badly.

I am a recovering political junkie. Having worked on more than my fair share of campaigns and having choked off the flow of foot traffic in my home with boxes and boxes of books, I wade carefully through the swampy waters of politics for fear I might descend into that world once again. So I tread very lightly, ever fearing a lapse that sinks me into begging on street corners for spare change so that I might find a book written by the next Alan Fotheringham. Yes, at one time it was that bad.

But before we write this election off as an irrelevant footnote in Canadian political history, I would like to commit to paper that there is a chance that this exercise may very well serve as a touchpoint in our parliamentary history. We did not elect any People’s Party of Canada candidates. But the PPC made inroads, backed by a populist fury of anti-maskers, anti-vaxers and MAGA style rhetoric. Maxime Bernier- the original “take my ball and go home” wayward son of the Conservative Party-has knowingly and cynically created a niche for himself and his ilk. 

I am a centre-left soldier, unafraid to admit a strong progressive streak, but also a passionate supporter of a mixed-market economic approach, where unions act reasonably and elevate a healthy middle class, and where corporate citizens and corporate entities flourish and grow wealth. The two are nowhere near mutually exclusive. I respect and passionately root for the ethical growth of individual wealth. My oft repeated fear around the conservative movement has always been the same. It’s stereotypical and slightly unfair, but the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party have always contained fringe elements. I am not attracted to either. But I have always joked that if given the choice, I’d rather hang out with the Liberal wing-nuts than the MAGA style toxics that drift ever more right on the spectrum. I have voted Progressive Conservative in the past and will likely do so again. But I have also voted NDP, Liberal and Green. I have the royal flush of ballot box decisions. Which brings us back to Bernier and his rogue cast of purple populists. 

I, for one, hope the PPC sticks around. If Erin O’Toole and his party can shed themselves of the common notion that they represent the Republican ethos in Canada, urban centres might soon come around to trusting their collective vision. If they can rid themselves of the reactionary and anti-science, anti-progress wing of their collective, maybe they can raise their ceiling of opportunity. So, in an ironic twist, the rise of the PPC may give birth to a refreshed vision for a more progressive thinking Conservative Party of Canada.  It won’t be without growing pains, but having four distinct choices in the NDP, Liberal, progressive Conservatives and the PPC, might serve to separate the wheat from the chaff. Then, and only then, voters like me can feel more comfortable in a big-tent Conservative party. A tent that includes reason, science, fair immigration and mixed market approaches. 

This election may have been boring. But it may eventually be looked upon as a watershed moment in our political history. I hope so. Otherwise, our GQ Prime Minister just put us through an exercise in hubris and a wasted power grab. Perhaps the PPC has done us all a favour by pulling the fringe out of the Conservative Party. What might remain is a far more palatable Progressive Conservative Party. Only time will tell.