The Agony of Defeat: Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party and the Fear of Irrelevance

The Agony of Defeat: Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party and the Fear of Irrelevance

One of the reasons I like sports and politics is to witness the methods players use to meet the challenges to inherited habits when faced with irrelevance if they continue with losing ways. I like to see how they cope with the challenges of change; for, if they do not evolve in their endeavors they devolve into irrelevance-history passes them by. Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party is facing just such an encounter with irrelevance or political death.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party (OPCP) is in deep reflection after its defeat at the June 12th, 2014 provincial election, won by the Liberals; it is fighting over its future policy direction since its “hard right-wing” policies have failed to grant it victory at the polls for over 15 years and several elections. The PC is asking the eternal question of all defeated political parties and that is, “What is to be done?”

Self-doubt has redemptive qualities, it is both a moment of doom (“woe is me”) and, a moment of liberation, (“the correct path is revealed”). The PC’s in this moment of doubt however are in danger of ignoring the signs that deep reflection is necessary since 15 years in the political wilderness means the PC are functionally irrelevant to the political evolution of the Province. The province has changed and the PC has remained the same. They are so out of touch, their name should be changed to the Ontario Regressive Conservative Party.

Central to the regression of the PC is the failure of its policy makers to understand the historical after-effects of the Mike Harris era on the popular psychology of the province’s populace. Politics is perception and the PC are perceived as a heartless, cold-blooded, anti-worker, pro-business political party, this in an era of frozen wages, redundancies, unemployment, higher living costs and lowered standards of living for the vast majority of working people, the majority of voters. They are perceived as the Devil’s Party and the refusal of its policy makers to acknowledge this fact is a block on their understanding of their electoral demise and incapacity to embrace policies consistent with preserving the social good in the widest possible sense which the Liberals have done.

Now, the Liberals have to deliver and avoid the charge they are political parasites that campaign left and govern right, which suggests they are masters of deception and artists of insincerity. However, irregardless of their perception, and this is important for the PC, as a party it is believed they have the social good at heart. They are not going to destroy the infrastructure of society and make fear an ingredient of politics to create a smokescreen for attacks against the popular good, what Naomi Klein calls “The Shock Doctrine.”

What provincial politics has declared and the PC policy makers have to accept is that the tide has turned, both globally and locally, against right-wing shock and awe austerity politics and if the PC wish to reinvigorate themselves at the polls they have to abandon their commitments to this political formula and resurrect their “progressive” heritage, last upheld by the Bill Davis’ Progressive Conservative administration of the 1970’s and 1980’s which upheld the common good of workers and business.

Taking detours into cosmetic multiculturalism by placing politicians from communities of new Canadians in polling areas where their communities are located simply avoids an engagement with the absence of policies consistent with the common good-the winning politics. Only abandonment by the PC of right-wing austerity shock and awe politics and adoption of common good policies will enable the PC to successfully contest future provincial elections.

June 26th, 2014

Charles Simon-Aaron



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