My grandparents lived in the Interlake region of Manitoba many years ago. At the time, the community in which they made their home was mostly agricultural. Exposed to the harsh seasonal elements, with all the crude chores necessitated by rural life, the individual who was rendered unable to work as a result of injury or disability faced a very difficult path.
One such individual in their town was named Yash Kroeker. He had a significant speech impediment and lived with a cognitive impairment. Life was tough for him, and he needed support. Seeing this, my grandparents decided to lend him a helping hand. They got together with some neighbours and divided up the responsibilities of making him a warm place to stay, feeding him, and giving him odd jobs around their farm to keep him occupied. My grandparents and their neighbours didn’t have it easy. Money was tight and work was hard. Yet here was a group of conservative people who were moved by conscience to open their hearts and their homes to someone in need.
To me, this simple story embodies the spirit of the Conservative Party. The substance of conservative philosophy is not to horde what one has earned, but to be generous. My conservative friends are among the most generous people I know. When I visit with their families their parents give me refreshments without even asking if I want them. They are among those who organize the outreach events to beautify and serve the community. Many run charitable non-profit organizations benefiting those in need.
So, why all the criticism of conservative policies? What is the essence of the conflict between the left and the right?
At times, the left characterizes people on the right like Ebenezer Scrooge and the right pigeonholes people on the left as controlling despots who punish the talented and successful by imposing massive taxes. Of course, neither extreme is true. This brings to mind a conversation where I mentioned to someone that I enjoyed studying politics and they responded: “It’s interesting but a little too scary for my taste.” I couldn’t help but sympathize with them, what with the crude exchanges that generally dominate debates on public finance and other political issues. It got me asking, what’s the real reason we send representatives halfway across the country to represent us? What are they arguing about?
The answer—like many things I believe when it comes to social justice—is simple. Both sides are fighting for the public good. They both want to see Canada become the best country it can be. What they are essentially disagreeing about is how to realize this vision.
For me, the essential element of the conservative vision of how to create a better country is to provide as much freedom as possible while maintaining a secure society.
I realized this reason had been behind my inclination towards a conservative mentality for some time. The freedom to excel, the freedom to pursue opportunity and education, and freedom from violence – these were the things I wanted to see in my country and in the world. Because the people of my grandparent’s community that I mentioned earlier were free, they were able to respond quickly and effectively to the needs of Yash Kroeker. They did not have to send a letter to a magistrate to secure the funding for this man’s food and shelter. They acted immediately. This can be a reminder that while government can do some important things, government interference in many ways inhibits as much as it helps.
One such self-identified Conservative who embodies the spirit of freedom and charity, recognized by Scotiabank as a finalist for the National Game Changer competition, is Ian Rabb. Rabb has changed the lives of countless Winnipeggers who struggle with addiction. When he realized that there was a shortage of housing for people coming out of substance abuse he founded Two-Ten Recovery Inc. to help them become free of addiction. Rabb overcame substance abuse in his life, became a successful property manager and now makes strides to work within the community to make peoples’ lives better.
I think that this is what public discourse should concern itself with. Imagine if Government focused on creating freedom and improving the community, not the senseless bickering over whose jurisdiction a problem falls under, whose fault it is, or how long it can be put off. Simply put, the question when there is a problem must be: “What is going to be done about it, and how soon can it be done?”
Myself, and the millions of Canadians who elected the Conservative Party to a majority government, believe that the principles of freedom and compassion go hand in hand, and help to strengthen and reinforce each other. We believe the Conservative Party has shown that these principles of freedom combined with a commitment to social justice, are making this country a better place. This is why the conservative philosophy is shared among many people, from many diverse cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds, and why I am proud to embrace it as my own.