The Conservative Party of Canada desperately needs a “Value Proposition” that distinguishes itself. Contenders in the imminent leadership race will otherwise doom the Party to continuing decay as a refuge for backward-looking traditionalists with nothing to offer new generations.
Let me offer a new, clear purpose and definition of who we are as Canadian Conservatives:
“We promote the strength of the individual and the right of equal opportunity for all to achieve our objectives in life.
We recognize that we all bear responsibility to give back to our community more than we receive.
We believe that individual excellence and community responsibility together foster a sustainable society.”
Our commitment in fostering the current Conservative Caucus and recruiting new members should reflect our new Party definition. Our elected members and candidates must be committed to the purpose of the party and be known for advocacy and expertise in areas of the Economy, the Environment, Health Care, Community, Security, and International Affairs.
On the Economy, we will assess the impact of reducing personal income tax to 1% for the first $100,000 of income while doubling the GST from 5% to 10%. This would shift the tax burden to wealthier Canadians who consume more non-essential goods and services. Housing and other daily costs would be more affordable for young people, the middle-class, and low-income earners.
On the Environment, Conservatives must be known for a well-informed commitment emphasizing the “conservation” essence of our very name. As I said in the House of Commons, “The Environment IS the Economy.” We should accept a diminished carbon tax but acknowledge that environmental improvement requires us to do more than contain CO2 emissions. Environmental regulations should focus on the nexus of water, food, and energy, significantly reducing the resources required to produce all three while reducing CO2 emissions.
We should highlight the worldwide benefits of Canadian petroleum products, especially natural gas. Our policies should encourage “micro-distribution systems”, which rely on generating electricity, water, and food within the community. We believe our assessment of using natural gas in combination with solar power and micro-distribution systems will result in Canada meeting its CO2 commitments under the Paris Accord and simultaneously lowering the cost of electricity and heating costs. As we develop world-leading expertise in these technologies, we will export such expertise as a major economic driver.
On Health Care, we are crashing due to well-acknowledged waves of sedentary behaviour, overweightness, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and mental illness. 90% of youth fail to get the recommended levels of weekly physical activity. We struggle with the crippling economic consequences of a system that focuses on reaction to sickness rather than the promotion of physical, mental, and spiritual health. We ought to commit to Make Canada the Fittest Nation on Earth by 2030, marking that commitment with the creation of a National Health and Fitness Institute and a National Cycling Strategy.
On Community, the redefined balance between individual excellence and community responsibility should steer us away from preferred employment and benefit policies. In Indigenous Affairs, we must aim to finalize outstanding claims and over the long term promote a Canada governed by equal rights and responsibilities for all Canadians. We must vigorously pursue Reconciliation in a manner that ultimately fosters a Canada subject to one law for all.
On Security, a government’s highest priority is to ensure the safety of its citizens. In this fast-changing world, we need a strong military to protect our people and to meet international obligations that reflect Canadian national interests. This means heightening the appeal of military service. To do so we need to look after our veterans. Having homeless veterans is a disgrace. We need to strengthen our naval force, with special emphasis on protecting the Arctic. Reversing past patterns of naiveté and bad policy, we need a new department dedicated to cybersecurity. We need to enhance the safety of Canadian Citizens abroad against foreign threats and unlawful detentions. We need to step up measures to combat Trans-National Organized Crime, particularly to quell the scourge of the opioid crisis.
On International Affairs, we need to reset the relationship with China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. As a Mandarin-speaker who lived and worked for a decade in Asia, I would encourage steps that bolster Canada’s national security and economic prosperity, while promoting democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
Canadian Conservatives, let us together dedicate ourselves to a redefined Party. This leadership contest should not be about personalities and name recognition. Instead, I challenge my fellow Conservatives who want to be the leader of this Party also to define their vision and definition of “Conservative in Canada”. It is time for us to become the government that fosters the needs and aspirations of all Canadians!
John Weston served as Conservative Member of Parliament for West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast – Sea to Sky Country, 2008-2015. He practises law at Pan Pacific Law Corporation.