Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/1/2012 (3491 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
BRANDON -- "This past election had nothing to do with a rural-urban split. A lot of Winnipeggers who voted for the NDP provincially in October voted for federal Tory candidates just a few months earlier. We lost our way as a party and we lost touch with our cultural base."
Those refreshingly frank comments come from former two-time Progressive Conservative candidate Mike Waddell, as he reflected upon the results in last October's provincial election and the fact no candidate has yet stepped forward to replace Hugh McFadyen as PC party leader.
The Tory candidate in Brandon East in the past two provincial elections, Waddell has twice taken the spear for his party in a yellow-dog NDP riding. He has plenty to say about his experience and the state of the Manitoba Tory party.
"Winning by four or five thousand votes in a rural riding does us no good if we can't figure out why we're losing by almost as much in other ridings. All it does is allow us to deceive ourselves into thinking things really aren't that bad," he says.
"We need to confront uncomfortable truths and be honest with ourselves about the problems facing this party. We need to form a clear understanding of why Manitobans voted for PC party candidates before we can even attempt to understand why so many Manitobans didn't. Until we do that, we're stuck where we are."
Waddell is saying things publicly that many Tories are saying privately. He's part of a minority within the party bucking the official spin.
Despite having managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory this past October -- and the fact that the party has now lost four elections in a row -- there is a mind-boggling consensus among Tory elders that all is well.
They argue that the party's popular vote has increased significantly, and it is only a matter of time before Manitobans wake up and decide they have had enough of the NDP. All they need is a new face in the leader's office and everything will be just fine.
That sounds a lot like the stuff they were saying when they anointed Stuart Murray as leader, and then McFadyen. It is exactly like the kind of hooey the federal Liberals were spreading for the past five years.
The comparison between the federal Liberals and the provincial Tories is entirely appropriate. Having each been spoiled by a long period of electoral success, they arrogantly viewed defeat as an aberration that would soon be corrected. When that didn't happen, they each repatriated quick-fix, flash-in-the-pan saviours from abroad, who they assumed would catapult them to victory. Wrong again.
The federal Liberals are finally coming to terms with the fact that their party needs a complete rebuild. They learned, the hard way, that they can't defeat the Harper Conservatives by impersonating conservatives. They need to return to their centrist roots.
On the heels of a disastrous election campaign, in which they tried to out-NDP the NDP on several policies, Manitoba's Tories need to return to their conservative roots. They learned, the hard way that, when given a choice between the real NDP and a fake NDP, Manitobans will vote for the genuine article.
A problem cannot be solved until its existence is acknowledged. The Tories' problem is they think they got it right in the last election, but that it was Manitobans -- Winnipeggers, in particular -- who got it wrong. They're in denial, so deep that they are unable to grasp the strange irony of their situation.
A provincial Tory is almost always a federal Tory. Given that fact, how can the same people hold deep-blue conservative positions on federal issues, but abandon those values when it comes to provincial issues?
It's easy. In a triumph of pragmatism over principle, the Tories' provincial campaign strategists papered over many of their members' core beliefs in a misguided attempt to appeal to centrist, urban voters. The decision cost them the election and has ignited an identity crisis within the party.
If the Manitoba PC Party has any hope of returning to power in 2015, it needs to follow Waddell's advice. Tories need to be honest with themselves and each other. They must reconnect with what they believe in and begin the task of convincing Manitobans that policies founded on those beliefs are best for this province.
Deveryn Ross is a Brandon