Conservative thinker and activist Tasha Kheiriddin cautioned that if a strong Conservative support base is not built, future victories might be few and far between.
Coincidently, on the same day, the Globe and Mail’s Oct. 18 headline announced, “Liberals, Tories, in dead heat.”
The poll, taken for The Globe and Mail and CTV News, suggested an election today would have Liberals and Conservatives tied with 32 per cent of the votes each.
Since the January election, Conservative support has dropped nationally by four percentage points, while the Liberals have inched up two points, despite the fact the Liberal Party still has no leader.
(The Strategic Counsel poll was taken between Oct. 12 to 15, surveyed 1,000 people and is accurate to within 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20.)
During her lecture, Kheiriddin acknowledged these findings and said the Conservatives must win “the battle of ideas” in order to win at the polls.
From Montreal, Kheiriddin is a graduate of McGill’s Faculty of Law and was president of the Progressive Conservative Youth Federation of Canada from 1995 to 1998. She co-authored Rescuing Canada’s Right: Blueprint for a Conservative Revolution with journalist Adam Daifallah, published in November 2005. The book examines ways the Conservative Party can succeed in government and how the party can maintain a right wing ideology in Canada.
Kheiriddin noted at the lecture that phrases like “Prime Minister Stephen Harper” and “Conservative minority government” would have seemed unlikely only a year ago, but the fact that such statements are a reality is encouraging for the party.
She pointed to political models in Britain and the United States as good examples the Conservative Party should look at to build up support.
The U.S. Republicans built “a conservative infrastructure,” said Kheiriddin, and this infrastructure contributed to their success. Funding for groups such as The Heritage Foundation and the Hudson Institute has helped promote conservative ideas in the country. With outlets such as Fox News conveying a conservative point of view, “right-wing ideology has been maintained in America’s mainstream media.”
Conversely, in Canada, Kheiriddin said “a leftist infrastructure, begun by former prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, has been maintained through interest groups that advocate government interference.”
According to Kheiriddin, Canada’s media generally lean “left to centre,” and regulations such as the Broadcasting Act stops Conservatives from forming their own media.
Kheiriddin suggested in order to combat the leftist infrastructure private interests “need to fund and create organizations to promote right wing ideology.” To reach the public, Conservatives should not fear the media, but encourage supporters to go into journalism.”
Kheiriddin suggested the Conservative Party has a “disproportionate voice” representing right wing ideology in the legal system and needs to use The Charter of Rights and Freedoms to advance its point of view.
She noted the party has been unsuccessful in attracting young minds and suggested the Conservatives reach youth through non-traditional means such as the internet. She pointed to the huge success of movies such as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth with young audiences.
In the education system, Kheiriddin said most universities do not endorse conservative thought in their courses. If the ideology cannot get into classrooms, she suggested spending more money on the creation of prizes and scholarships for young conservatives with potential in order to promote conservatism in academic fields.
“Conservatives are seen as anti-immigrant,” said Kheiriddin. She recommended the party “prove to immigrants that Conservatives will represent their values of hard work and family.” Although she said there is an opportunity for the Conservative Party to make it in Quebec, their current foreign policies hinder their chances.
Kheiriddin concluded by saying it was up to the public to improve matters and to show the willingness to win the battle of ideas for the right.
Conservative Concordia President Sofia Parusheva said that to ensure an exchange of ideas, it was important for the club to have diverse speakers give lectures at the school. “Kheiriddin provides an academic point of view on the Conservative perspective,” she said.
Kheiriddin is currently writing her second book and will begin working in January at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, teaching a course on Canadian conservatism.