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March 2, 2001 Halifax Herald

P.C.s must look to future, not live in past

Years ago, I read about a stubborn, elderly man who died because he refused medicine that would have cured him, on the grounds that he was basically healthy and would recover without it. It appears that the federal Progressive Conservative Party harbours the same mind set. Its status-quo stance since Kim Campbell's defeat indicates strongly that death seems preferable than re-inventing itself as a revitalized modern Party.

This apparent aversion to change seems to be tied to the attitude: "We're the heirs to the legacy of the Grand Old Party. Thus, nothing more is needed to cause the electors to admire and elect us." I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it won't happen. To appreciate why it won't, the Party's members must take their heads out of the sand and look around. Perhaps seeing that we now live in a modern world where attitudes have changed dramatically will move them to action. If not, the Party will go the way of the Dodo bird and wind up a footnote in history.

If members decide they want the Party to live, they must accept that the country's archaic governance laws are largely responsible for its present decline. Then the Party must become a champion for making major democratic changes. (The Alliance has made such a commitment, but has failed to gain politically because people are scared off by the intolerant views of some of its members.) Adopting a philosophy of compassionate conservatism and ditching condescending paternalism would also help tremendously. And party leaders urgently need to rid themselves of insufferable arrogance.

In doing so, they must accept that the days of blind, clone-like allegiance to their king-like dictates and unquestioning obedience to their wishes are over. No Tory MP or Party official should ever again be turfed out of the Party because they dared to speak their mind. How in the name of all that is holy can constructive changes be found when everyone is terrorized into silence? It can't. Such only breeds a perception of dictatorial intolerance.

Past Tory leadership attempts to silence dialogue and debate were directly responsible for creating the Alliance and a mass defection of members. Incidents that generate headlines such as the following one, in the February 15 issue of this newspaper, are unbecoming to a democratic political Party: "Tory youth president says suspension due to talk of Alliance links." In response the Party's national director, Susan Elliott, said Patrick Brown's suspension had nothing to do with the Alliance, but rather concerned derogatory remarks heís made about Joe Clark.

One of Brown's big sins was that during a T.V. appearance, he dared to suggest that Clark made a big mistake by not seeking an accommodation with the Alliance before the last election. Elliott said of Brown, "He has a pattern of apologizing after each inappropriate behaviour occurs, but the inappropriate behaviour continues...and simply asking for apologies was not having the desired effect." Lord help us. What next? Public spankings!

Such public disclosure of silencing attempts leads to voter disdain. A recent survey I read revealed that only 8% of voters think MPs are relevant, 1% above Senators. The Prime Minister's office and cabinet were viewed as the biggies by the vast majority. This is democracy? Not in my estimation. In a democracy, all elected officials must be viewed as relevant, not just the "elite."

Tied to their perception of the irrelevance of most MPs electors have become so turned off that just a little over fifty percent vote. The present archaic electoral process and mode of governance is the cause of this erosion of confidence, and it will continue to erode it if corrective action isn't taken. This unacceptable state of affairs offers a golden opportunity for the Tories. If they opt to elect a new, dynamic, young, visionary leader and adopt a platform with a goal of democratic reform, geared to assure that the elector and the elected all become relevant again, it most likely will attract many of the turned off.

Tie this in with generating policies that recognize the diversity of the population of Canada and tolerance for differences, compassion for the unemployable and downtrodden, encourage individual responsibility, etc., and they would be s shoo-in for office. Providing, of course, they can effectively counter a hidden agenda charge that will probably be leveled by a prominent wily Liberal politician.

Our country is in dire need of a credible, viable alternative to the Liberal government. At present, there isn't any and because of that, its beginning to seem as if the Liberal's will be in power forever. Such isn't good for the country, or for the Liberal Party either.

Wake up, Tories; modernize, renew and revitalize. Stop looking back, hoping to reclaim the past. Itís dead! The future lies in opting to create an inclusive democracy. Have plans to create it in place for consideration by the electors by the next election, and party fortunes will rise dramatically. Fail and embrace extinction.

In the past, I've dared to constructively criticize the Tories openly. For my efforts, most of my contacts have dried up. In view of the transgressions I've publicly committed today, I hope they don't try to have me exiled to a desolate island in the middle of nowhere. In case they try, and succeed, adieu!

Daniel N. Paul

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