This is not a rebuild. This is a refresh.
A rebuild implies something was destroyed and while we lost the recent election, we were not routed by the Liberals. We earned the vote of 5.6 million Canadians in 2015 while in 2011 we earned 5.8 million votes. That’s a vote difference of roughly 230,000. Conservative voters are committed to the ideas we espouse and we have a strong base to continue building upon.
We have a proud list of accomplishments over the past 9 years and we should not be so quick to abandon or reject it. Following one of the worst recessions in a generation we have returned to balanced budgets ahead of schedule and secured future surpluses at current spending levels. We set conditions for the economy to create over 1.3 million net new jobs. Of which, over 90% are full time and 80% are in the private sector. Nearly 2/3 are in high wage industries. Canada remains one of only 7 countries in the world with a perfect AAA credit rating. We leave government having reduced the tax burden to its lowest level since the 1960s.
It is a conservative government that took Canada from 5 free trade agreements before 2006 to 44 free trade agreements in 2015. And that excludes our two greatest achievements that still require Parliament’s approval, the free trade deal with Europe and the Trans-Pacific Partnership including 12 countries on the Pacific Rim – all together this means Canada will have free trade access to 60% of the world economy. These achievements would not have been possible without Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s leadership and he deserves a great deal of credit for the stewardship of the Canadian economy.
As we go about choosing a new interim leader, we need to define the leadership qualities required in our new conservative leader.
The next Tory leader needs to be more than the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, he or she needs to be the leader of the conservative movement in Canada. They need to be able to advocate, defend and promote conservative values on fiscal and social issues. Balancing budgets, reducing taxes, open and accountable government, expansion of free trade, pro-family tax measures and ending corporate welfare must be non-negotiable points for a future leader to defend. The next leader needs to nurture a culture of informed dissent whereby disagreements on matters of policy outside of our member approved resolutions are dealt with in a manner that respects MP autonomy.
Our next leader must have a proven record of promoting conservative ideas to new voters and attracting new people to our movement. It must go beyond simply winning votes. They must be able to articulate what conservative values mean on fiscal and social issues beyond responding to the issue of the day. I want a leader who can unite the various wings of our party without vilifying the social conservatives who remind us that principle trumps power, or demeaning the Red Tories from whom we draw great respect for our parliamentary traditions and institutions, or sidelining the Libertarians from whom we draw dynamism on fiscal issues. A leader that attacks one wing of the party to win over another does not deserve to lead the Party nor the movement.
Merit should be the deciding factor in choosing our leader. In our search for a new leader, no person should be excluded because of geography, language skills or elected office. From East or West, bilingual or not, elected or unelected, we should go far and wide to have an open competition for the leadership of our party where our members will make the final decision. Leading our movement requires someone who will be an advocate of free markets, promoter of popular capitalism, and defender of the taxpayer. We need a leader who is conservative by conviction, not opportunism.
We do not need a rebuild. We need a refresh.
The sting of losing this election will pass. Canadians have given us a strong mandate as the Official Opposition and we have 4 years to once again earn the vote and confidence of Canadians. We will hold the Trudeau government accountable for its reckless spending plans with a principled, steadfast opposition as needed and we will give Canadians a government-in-waiting they can be proud of.
We have 4 years to earn the vote of Canadians. Let’s do it right.