Definition is the same

Ian Tribes, in his letter concerning conservatism and liberalism, presents some interesting but confusing arguments.

Ian Tribes, in his letter concerning conservatism and liberalism, presents some interesting but confusing arguments.

He attempts to show how the definitions have changed over the decades of Canadian politics. The problem with his argument is confusing small ‘l’ liberal with people who label themselves Liberal for their party alignment, and small ‘c’ conservative with people who label themselves Conservative in their party alignment.

The definition of liberal has not changed: generous, open-handed. The definition of conservative has not changed: to conserve, averse to change. One person may carry both these qualities depending on the situation or context within their lives.

On the other hand, capital ‘L’ Liberals and capital ‘C’ Conservatives are like any other political party able and willing to change definitions as it suits their electoral chances. During any given epoch, both Conservatives and Liberals have chosen free trade – or not. The current B.C. Liberal party is far from liberal and is actually made up of a coalition of former Socreds (conservatives all) and Conservative Party members, with many of the latter now jumping ship.

In any country, once elected, the prime focus of capital ‘L’ or ‘C’ parties is to remain in power. Both sides use platitudes and catchy phrases to work the voters. As Brian Mulroney once said, “In politics…you need two things: friends, but above all an enemy.”

An enemy is needed to focus the fear and anger of the voter towards an outside source, to create unity within. Friends in the political sense usually refers to corporations supplying money to the party, be it Liberal or Conservative.

The comparison to the U.S. Republican Party is fair. Whether they are liberal or conservative, it is the methodology of power being used that makes the comparison valid. This includes the fear factor (terror, race – in the form of immigration, crime), the platitudes and homilies that sound good but mean little (family values – well sure we all have them, what exactly does it mean, how is it put into practice?) and the cozying up to large corporations for money and power.

Some of Tribes’ modern ‘conservative’ ideals are interesting. Equality before the law is a great idea and a nice platitude, but how is it applied. How do the native people see this process working? How do women see this process working? How do the unemployed, poor and homeless see this working?

Lower taxes and tariffs sound nice, but what does it mean? In application it means that corporations get a free ride for harvesting wealth (not creating it as they would have you believe) and the rest of us, although we have lower taxes, have rising user fees as services are sourced out or privatized, in reality increasing the relative amounts we pay for services (just wait until Vernon privatizes its water utilities and see what will happen to rates, bad enough as they are now for the quality delivered).

Tribes indicates conservatives want non-interference in the lives of citizenry. Yes, women should be able to choose whether they want birth control or not, or have access to abortions if required, and not have men decide that. People should be allowed to marry their significant others, male or female, and be left alone by the politicians – and others – to live together in peace.

The argument for zero-tolerance of misconduct is fine but consider: Bev Odas’ recurring over-budget extras; Peter Mackay’s helicopter rides; the robo-calling scandal; the in-and-out party financing where party funds were transferred around; the $1 billion for the G-20 summit……..

All of these make zero-tolerance an ironically laughable non-starter for Conservatives.

As always, liberal and conservative are not one and the same with Liberal and Conservative.

The latter two are political labels, the former two indicate a characteristic of human nature regardless of labels.

Jim Miles