Thursday, March 10, 2005

Taking a stand, Conservative-style

Two related issues to discuss here:

Conservative Abstentions at the Budget Vote:
This was an interesting strategy to take. I'm not sure if it was making the best of a nasty situation. Right now, both the Bloc and the NDP stand to gain more from a snap election than the Conservatives, which meant that it came down to the Conservatives to "support" the budget vote, if the government were to continue operating. How best to do this?

If they followed the "keep the members in the hall" strategy, and voted against the budget, they are immediately accused of not having enough party discipline/organization to properly bring down a budget. The members chosen by the party whip to sit out the vote are also faced with hostile voters back in their ridings who wanted them to vote down the budget, and can't point to their "no" vote. Voting for the budget is perhaps worse from a political standpoint - it leaves them with no convincing response to Liberal (or NDP) accusations that they supported the government's agenda.

I'm not entirely sure that the abstention route will prove to be better, but it does show a) a united party, and b) the willingness to keep Parliament operational, without overtly supporting the budget. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Moral Issues at the Conservative Convention:
First off, the motion to have no official party platform on moral issues was entirely ill-conceived, as so many have pointed out. It does open the party to accusations of a secret social conservative agenda. But will the alternative prove to be better for them. This can go one of two ways, as I see it. Option A is that the convention votes for a socially conservative platform. Then it isn't a "secret" social conservative agenda, it's an overt one, and anyone who might have thought "well, maybe the Liberals are just using scare tactics" and thus voted for the Conservatives, will no longer do so.

Option B, as I see it, is that these motions fail. This doesn't change the inclinations of Conservative MPs to vote a socially conservative line. They continue to do so, despite there being no official party policy to this effect. And thus, the Liberals can continue to claim that the Conservatives are a party of secret social conservatism.

Frankly, the only way that I think the Conservative party can actually divest itself of the vote-killing (well, at least east of Manitoba) social conservative tag, is to vote a binding resolution obligating party members not to support or initiate legislation on abortion, the death penalty, gay marriage, etc. Every other option seems to leave them in the same morass.

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