Sunday, 29 May 2016

It’s easy to appear progressive when you’re competing with the contents of your own ass

Rona Ambrose: and the “new” face of the conservative party 

The 2016 conservative party convention is currently going on in Vancouver, and from the half assed monikers being coined (call Kevin O’leary “Canada’s Donald trump” again I dare you) to Rona Ambrose making one of the more unintelligible insults i’ve ever heard - all in all it has been a doozy. Ms. Ambrose Implying, in a rant that single handedly set her gender back a couple years, made some comments about the current PM, and prior conservatives PMs. She said that Justin Trudeau was who Canadian’s thought of as the first female PM, pointing out this was ironic as the conservatives were the real feminists. Well lets see what her evidence is.

Rona bragged about the Conservative party fielding the first female interim PM, and the first female Acting PM... in 1958.

Wait a second, first interim PM... 1958?

We’ll get to that, but first, I must point out how ridiculous it is to brag about the first acting PM who most will know was Progressive Conservative Kim Campbell.

(How could you loose with political cartoons like this)
Most know the name, and anyone familiar to Canadian politics  knows the tragedy Kim Campbell. A promising rising star in the party, a conservative from the west coast, a true blue feminist and activist - these were all the qualities of someone with a long tenure in Federal politics. Except, in the stunning defeat of Brian Mulroney following a disastrous campaign, the sitting PM lost his own seat. Thrown for a loop, the PCs elected Kim Campbell their party leader and therefore PM of Canada as they still held government (although not a majority). Now while seemingly progressive, this was one of the most lame duck attempts at perseveration through the tokenization of Ms. Campbell’s role as a female. The progressive conservatives (who by the way are not the same as the current conservative party, but more on that shortly) hung Ms. Campbell out to dry - its no secret. To brag about electing Kim Campbell is just plain stupid, it shows the conservatives have no idea how the tale of Ms. Campbell plays in the media. Well i’ll give you a hint, the PCs electing a token female leader, knowing a losing vote of non confidence is imminent, then bragging about it plays pretty poorly. Good thing there isn’t a stone pyramid on hill or else it would have been an even messier ordeal, either way though, Kim Campbell was a sacrifice to the gods of politics and there’s not really much debate over that.

Now, during Rona’s set (i’m using stand up terminology as her speech was laughable) she also riffed about the conservatives having the first female acting Prime Minister of Canada. Huh? Didn’t they already mention Kim ?
(Ms. Fairclough being shown a table by PM Diefenbaker)
Enter Ellen Fairclough. Now the only news article one can find referring to Ms. Fairclough as PM was one that came out after Ms. Ambrose gave her speech. However, Ellen Fairclough was the first female MP, a very accomplished  parliamentarian and she is well deserving of respect. Why then did Ms. Ambrose laude arguably her least shining contribution, after all Ellen Faircloguh was PM for a grand total of 24 hours. Not only that but if you look at how her own government treated her, it wasn’t stellar. For instance, lauded as a cabinet minster, Ms. Fairclough was the Canadian Secretary of State- a position that prior to the repatriation of the Canadian constitution was the office that controlled communication between the Government and the British crown. Now although we still technically needed royal ascent directly from the queen at this time, by no means was this office a particularly important one. Precedent had been long set that it would be highly unorthodox for the UK to oppose a Canadian law, and after the statue of westminster in 1931 this became entirely non salient. The office also acted as a dumping ground for portfolio’s that didn’t have a ministership. Pretty prestigious eh? This did not deter the tenacious Fairclough as she continued to fight in the commons for equal pay for women in the workforce. Wanting, to make it clear the conservatives at the time supported women, this is when they allowed Ms.Faircloguh to sit as PM… for 24 hours… probably on a slow Tuesday when nothing was going on (I made that last bit up). Knowing her skills as an accountant (her pre-political profession) and with her “tenure” as leader behind her, the conservatives gave her the ministership of Citizenship and Immigration for one term, followed by appointing her Postmaster General till the culmination of her political career. To say that the PCs at the time treated our first female MP unfairly is a bit of an understatement. Much like Ms. Campbell 20 years later, although she was a talented accountant, a tenacious politician and a pioneering feminist, she did not have her party to thank

(Former Canadian Alliance leader - and fan of showing up
to press conferences on jet skis - Stockwell Day)
As we’ve entered the subject of party, this brings me to one of my other points of contention. The MP’s Ms. Ambrose referred to were not members of the Conservative party of Canada. They were Progressive Conservatives. While many in the modern Canadian Conservative party would like you to think this, it is not the case. While many of the roots of Canadian conservatism come from original Conservative party of Canada, this is not where the modern party stems from. First the conservatives had to go through their progressive period. Admittedly the name change came in 1942, but this was more cosmetic than anything else. As the PCs developed and began to elect governments started with John Diefenbaker. Difenbaker held on till 1963 giving the new PCs a serious branding. When pushed by domestic and international new neoliberal sentiments the party began to move right. Joe Clark followed by Brian Mulroney are the successive examples of this move right. New neoliberal tenants like economic liberalization, free trade, and privatization became the rhetoric de jour. After the defeat of the last PC government with the fall of Kim Campbell as mentioned above, the PC party was in a interesting spot. A new party had formed on the right, the Canadian Alliance, and as opposed to being interested in the neoliberal policies of free market and economic liberalization, they were more focused on hardline conservative views such a marriage equality, drug prohibition  and the likes. Faced with increasingly poorer election results by splitting the conservative base, the parties needed a new plan. What they decided to do was merge and amalgamate the conservative support in Canada. What happened when the Conservative party of Canada formed in 2003? Well they had already shifted right on economic policy with the neoliberal rhetoric, and now the merger with the neoconservative Canadian Alliance they had to shift right on social policy as well. All one has to do is look back upon the policy (and embarrassing gaffs) of Stockwell day, former Canadian Alliance leader to get an idea of where the conservatives were planning to go. Day a proponent of “traditional” marriage, young earth creationism, and direct democracy for almost every political decision, brought with him this level of hardline social conservatism.

So why is this all relevant to Ms. Ambrose speech ? Well She seems to think that Kim Campbell and Ellen Fairclough were members of her party. As I've outlined the shifts in social policy from when Ms. Campbell was the PC PM, and the even more extreme shifts from the ideology of Ellen Fairclough’s conservatives, it seems obvious that neither of these politicians take their social policy cues from neoconservative sources.  This is why its odd to take credit for them as conservatives Ms. Ambrose. They never joined your party, and frankly once the party that was created showed it was willing to incorporate neoconservative Canaidan Alliance policy (e.g their stalwart opposition to same sex marriage until last week) its a bit presumptuous to assume. If we ignore this however and pretend that todays Conservative party is the same as all the conservative parties before it, the parties themselves didn’t really treat either politician very well. Both were only given the highest office when it was certain they would not hold it, among the other reasons i already detailed.

I will (but likely not) write another article going in to greater depth of what I think the problems were with this convention, but for now, Ms. Ambrose, stop trying to be the new progressive voice of your party if your only going to pick examples that contradict your statements. Oh and if you are going to act like a feminist don’t insult a man by saying he is really a woman. By using being a woman as an insult you imply that you think men are better. As I said in the title, its easy to look progressive when your comparing yourself to the contents of your own ass, Ms. Ambrose, pull your head out of there, before you suffocate.

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