Michael Chong is the only choice for leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. The Harper decade did not end well for the Conservatives, and if given the chance as party leader, Michael Chong can revitalize his party. Moreover, Canadian politics will improve as a whole with his presence as a check to the Trudeau Liberals.
Justin Trudeau’s campaign presented itself as a progressive government. Its promise to give youth a voice played no small role in a nearly 20% uptick in youth turnout at the polls, leading that demographic just over the 50% hump. But the bag that we’ve gotten since 2015 has been mixed. Legislature like Bill C-16, which enshrined transgender rights, were met with a thumbs up among youth. So was a large sum of federal money for companies to hire students. Approving pipelines on indigenous land was less universally celebrated.
Youth must remember that they were not the only ones who elected the current government; despite our newfound vim and vigor for the electoral process, old people still exist and vote. It is unrealistic to expect a government to run on a platform that only takes our voice into account. This doesn’t mean that we should shut up and wait our turn. We are vocal about the issues we care about and are not letting the Trudeau government off the hook for it, and neither should the Conservatives.
A candidate like Michael Chong, MP for Wellington-Halton Hills, has the potential to inspire a range of age-groups as well, but he’s no JT. Michael Chong acknowledges climate change as a real thing and supports a carbon tax. Chong has stood up to Stephen Harper and is untainted by perceptions of deep ties to the Conservative establishment. Michael Chong is the answer to all of the questions following an election that saw the Conservatives hemorrhage seats in the House of Commons, which has the party and its supporters concerned about what shape the Progressive Conservatives will take under a new leader.
Voter turnout increased in the age groups of 18-24, 25-34, and 35-44 by 18%, 12%, and 7%, respectively, in an election that saw the Tories lose almost half of their seats in Parliament, despite only a 50,000 vote deficit compared to their 2011 results. This thumping is in part explained by the massive surge in Liberal votes, which saw them earn over 4 million more votes than in 2011. Conservatives lost ground particularly in the thirty ridings in which immigrants constituted the biggest majority, winning just three in 2015 while being victorious in sixteen in 2011.
A notion that candidates like Kellie Leitch are basing their campaign on is that the Conservatives lost because they pandered to the left, and must double down on being the party of “old stock Canadians”. Whether the Conservative rout is better explained as a result of such “progressive” policies as the niqab ban and the barbaric practices hotline bling, or simply better campaigning by the Liberals, Leitch’s platform is a misguided response either way. Michael Chong rejects such dog whistle politics, and is proud multiculturalist.
Whereas the rest of the world seems to be clamouring toward the fringes—whether it’s the spaghetti sauce Communist red five star movement in Italy, or Marine Le Pen with her neo-Nazi-ass father’s party in France, Canada has an opportunity to take a calculated step to the center. Building consensus in a post-pick-your-cliché world is out of style. Whether Castro is remembered as a dictator or liberator is determined by the news people choose to follow. But building consensus is what Michael Chong does.
In 2013 he tabled the Reform Act that would strip party leaders of their monopoly over who has the privilege of representing their flag. What this bill represented cuts right to the heart of party discipline, a big part of what is wrong with Canadian politics.
Party leaders having the final say on who can run in elections results in rigid, predetermined voting. There is no rule prohibiting voting against a party leader’s bill on the floor, but you can be sure as shrimp that people who have clawed their way to the top of Canadian politics didn’t make it because they were forgetful. The Reform Act would have given freedom to members of parliament to vote with their conscience, or more perhaps more importantly, with their constituency.
The bill passed, but this brave new world of Canadian politics would not come to fruition. Instead, what we have is a watered-down version of the bill which allows parties to decide their own mechanisms for approving campaigns, and maintains the party leader as “the decider”. The upside of this bill passing is that at caucuses, Members of Parliament could vote to remove a party leader midterm, which gives which gives MPs more power than they previously had.
That doesn’t make Michael Chong any less qualified. The fact that he pushed a bill for so long that would take a major executive power out of the hands of the Prime Minister makes him an even better candidate for the position. Justin Trudeau was relatively new to the Liberal party when he took it by storm. By all accounts, Michael Chong is an insider that kept himself out.
If he becomes the Progressive Conservative leader, he will have the opportunity to assign approval of candidates to the MPs, or even the caucus itself. Whether he found victory in the 2019 election or not, Canadians would get to see what happens when the proverbial gun of party discipline isn’t held to the head of MPs to predetermine how they vote. This would be much more anti-establishment than defending Canadian values, and potentially just as revolutionary for Canadian democracy as electoral reform had the potential to be.
Elected in 2004, Michael Chong has been in these mean streets for a hot minute. He’s also no one’s bitch. When Harper took over in 2006 he was given a cabinet position for Intergovernmental Affairs. But when he and Harper had a public disagreement over whether it was expedient to recognize Quebec as its own distinct society, he voted against it, and promptly resigned.
In this post-pos-po world that some if not all of us inhabit, we seem to have forgotten what it is like to actually respect your enemy. Every Ron Burgundy needs a Wes Mantooth. I would support Michael Chong to be the Conservative leader because better competition makes for a better competitor. Justin Trudeau needs to know that he’s not going to waltz into a second term just because Kellie Leitch can’t stop saying racist shit, or Chris Alexander can’t stop getting shrekt by the CBC. A real opponent in 2019 would force Justin Trudeau to evolve from his increasingly fraudulent progressive rhetoric, and start offering genuine progressive policies to keep the youth vote that helped usher him in.
My love letter notwithstanding, I would not vote for Michael Chong. Justin Trudeau taught me that employing progressive language does necessarily translate into progressive policies. While I give mad props to Chong for not putting up with Kellie Leitch and her intolerable dog whistle, that’s not enough.
To begin with, his carbon tax is weaksauce. Yes, he’s down for the cause, but the whole point of taxes is to take a bit of money out of someone’s pocket and redistribute collective resources for the greater good of society. His plan to just take all the tax and give it back to the people in the form of tax credits, etc… Well what the flying fish is the point of having a tax if it going to fund nothing but the people your government just took money from. That’s until you realize how hard in the paint this man is willing to go. Trudeau wants to hit carbon with that $50/ton price tag by 2025. Chong wants to put up hall of fame numbers and reach $130/ton by 2030.
Don’t worry though, he is still a Conservative. In lockstep with his carbon tax comes the old classic Conservative credential. Tax. Cuts. Everywhere. He plans to collapse the total number of income brackets from 5 to 2. He’s going to slash the current $22B in various tax credits in half, while doubling the Working Income Tax Benefit, oriented towards low income families to $2.3B annually. My issue with this wildly proactive tax plan is that there’s not a single stipulation about the money from a carbon tax being put into investing into new forms of energy.
What this amounts to is Michael Chong hoping to tax fossil fuels out of existence, while declaring war on the Canadian tax base. If his plan works and Canadians move on from fossil fuels, the government tax base will take a major hit without the extravagant $130/ton carbon tax to make up the difference in lost revenue. So on the carbon tax, Chong is as Conservative as they come, with a thick layer of green paint.
Of course, there’s also his campaign to privatize the crown corporation Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), which is also a red flag bearing the phrase “2008 market crash” painted in dark gothic letters. The CMHC serves to assist Canadians in the impossible quest to find affordable housing, as well providing insurance for mortgages.
Michael Chong believes that this backing up of people’s mortgages is the reason for radically high prices of homes, which on average are 5.5 times larger than household incomes. To be fair, housing prices in cities like Toronto or Vancouver are absolutely ludicrous. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that there is a dangerously wobbly bubble in the housing market that is going to burst at some point or another. When that does end up happening, there needs to be a non-profit company to soften the blow to Canadians.
For these reasons, I would not vote for Michael Chong. Slashing the tax base in the long term while privatizing public assets that help the poor sounds like a cup of tea (blech). That being said, all Canadians should be interested in the outcome of the Conservative Party leadership race. Without a federal leader, the NDP seems on the path to being delegated to becoming a provincial party, catering their platform to provincial needs as opposed to a country-wide plan. This would lead to a two-party system in practice at the federal level.
If this path for the NDP plays out, then it will mean political dialogue at the federal level will be boiled down to left versus right. In that environment, it behooves those on the left to fight polarization by finding the best in the those they disagree with. And right now, Michael Chong is the best that the Conservative Party has to offer.