In February of 2013, Tom Flanagan, Stephen Harper’s mentor and the man who we had been led to believe was the Canadian Conservative intellectual heavyweight, disgraced himself by defending people’s right to look at child porn, or saying that putting people in jail for looking at pictures of naked children is an overreaction because according to him nobody is harmed in the process, or some similarly idiotic thing that no person should say, ever.
What he actually said, or meant, does not matter as much as the fact that by saying it he proved that the entire Canadian conservative movement is a house built on sand. This fact was demonstrated just a couple of weeks before the child porn comments when Flanagan caused a slightly less damaging backlash by appearing on the CBC wearing a fuzzy wuzzy fur coat like it wasn’t even a thing. It was demonstrated every time Flanagan wrote his typical vapid and reality-adjacent Globe and Mail op-ed, the kind that isn’t actually controversial or “heterodox” but looks that way because it’s a degree or two removed from official received progressive wisdom. It was demonstrated when Conservatives with intellectual pretensions spoke of the mystical “Calgary School” of which Flanagan was a charter member (because of course we had to have a Calgary School if the Americans had their Chicago School) despite not being able to name another member of this all-important School if their lives depended on it.
It does not matter that Flanagan may or may not have been speaking “as an academic.” It does not matter that by being repudiated by Stephen Harper Flanagan automatically got the sympathy vote from some and got held up as another example of political correctness “gone mad” — and hadn’t Flanagan just been talking about overreactions to harmless things?? It does not matter that he was being recorded without his knowledge, or that the comments being released may have been payback for something. These are the kind of weak-tea, shame-filled defences that are always offered up whenever a member of the Conservative firmament does something utterly boneheaded. Yet they were still offered up, because there is a script that has developed around these things:
- The conservative movement in Canada fails to meet its most basic requirements.
- A range of lame excuses or justifications are offered up in lieu of an actual defence, proving that the so-called “movement” isn’t actually one.
- A parallel debate breaks out that utterly misses the point of how we got here in the first place.
- Everyone shuns the person(s) that ruined it for everybody, thus proving that they know that person(s) done goofed despite offering up the aforementioned lame excuses in their defence.
- Rinse and repeat.
And so here we are, with the official voices of the PC Party of Ontario acting like those conniving activists from Parents As First Educators (PAFE) totally snuck one under the noses of them this past weekend (actually, it was early in the morning and everyone else was drunk, sleeping, or both) and they’re a bunch of total innocents. The parallel debate over whether what happened was reported accurately (“The PC Party as a whole didn’t vote for the resolution, only a bunch of SoCon wackjobs did! honest!”) has become the main attraction. Instead of actually defending her resolution, Tanya Granic Allen has retreated to what she thinks is the safe ground of “It’s science, fam!” And now we have to wait a year while the Ontario NDP, who just got done trying to say we should believe Patrick Brown of all people when he says Vic Fedeli should be Kavanaughed, blasts away at the PCs until this resolution can be voted on and (hopefully!) defeated.
Before you try to defend the resolution, let me offer the following:
IF A GROUP OF PEOPLE SAY THAT THEY ARE SOMETHING, YOU, AS A POLITICAL PARTY THAT MIGHT (OR ACTUALLY DOES) GOVERN THOSE PEOPLE, CANNOT, CANNOT, CANNOT, CANNOT, AND CANNOT TELL THEM THAT YOU DO NOT RECOGNIZE THAT THEY ARE THAT THING.
Just like any defence of what Flanagan said or meant does not matter, so too any defence of the resolution does not matter. You know it and I know it. So just stop. Please.
Now, why does this keep happening? It is because there is no conservative movement in this country. If there was, it would do other things besides saying “Duh, obviously there are only two genders”, or not running away as fast as they can from an actual white nationalist for Mayor of Toronto, or publishing conspiracy theories about immigrants slaughtering goats in Canadian hotels, or sending Harper to sit and chat with Ben Shapiro to reminisce about his supposed populist government and acting like it’s some kind of watershed moment.
A conservative movement, and indeed any movement, MOVES towards actual GOALS. It INNOVATES from time to time instead of just “taking pages from the playbook” of other, more successful movements. It is a group of like-minded people, and not just a bunch of disaffected semi-outsiders who gripe about the CBC and how those darn Liberals always get away with everything and it’s not fair! It does not admit such crankish notions as “Trudeau is a secret Muslim!/Castro’s love child!/the Antichrist!” and “We’re being replaced by mass immigration (which isn’t actually happening)!” and “End supply management (even though we don’t have the political will to do so)!” It does not scramble frantically to capture the ephemeral “energy” generated by Faith Goldy and Max Bernier because it has a solid base in — get ready for this — reality and evidence. It does not suffer from “issue envy” — it identifies issues that are affecting actual people, such as “The price of stuff is way too damn high, what do we do about it?” and “We’ve got a shortage of skilled workers and companies that want to come here, what can we do to help them?” And most importantly, it does not rely on highly-paid lobbyists to literally create alternate realities in which people are buying into stupid and wasteful ideas like an Olympic bid when they actually are doing nothing of the sort.
Until Conservatives in this country do the hard work of accomplishing the tasks set out above, instead of waiting for someone else to do it for them, stuff like the Gender Identity Resolution Fiasco will continue to happen endlessly.