By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Feb 02, 2017
The numbers are not very encouraging for the Conservative Party of Canada. A decade ago, the Tories could boast of 285,000 members across the country while that number is now down to only 90,000 members. And to the question, would you consider voting for the Conservative Party of Canada, fewer than four in 10 said yes when half would have nodded their head ten years ago.
The Conservative Party needs to rebuild itself, said Michael Chong, one among the 13 candidates vying to be the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. He spoke to a group of Conservative party members and supporters at the West Vancouver home of former MP John Weston. He shared his personal and policy vision and the challenges his party faces as it gears up to elect a leader this May, one who could steer the party towards a victory in the 2019 elections. The dwindling numbers suggest the party needs to be rebuild itself to attract youth and immigrants, Chong said. He sees himself as the change the party needs.
“We need to build a much bigger conservative party that includes people from all races, religions and creeds, and we need to recruit youth and a new generation of party candidates in ridings that are more diverse. I represent that new diverse generation of Conservatives,” he said.
The eldest son of a Dutch immigrant mother and a Chinese immigrant father, the 46-year-old Chong has been the MP for Wellington-Halton Hills in Ontario since 2004. His parents’ families were defended and liberated by Canadian troops in the Second World War—his father during the Battle of Hong Kong and his mother’s family during liberation of the Netherland. “I literally won’t be here if it wasn’t for Canada and my family has never forgotten that,” he said.
Chong has worked as a senior tech consultant before joining politics and is a founding member of The Dominion Institute, an organization whose purpose is to strengthen knowledge of Canada’s history and culture. Chong has been with the Conservative Party since the 80s. In his high school, he volunteered for the local Tory candidate in the 1988 election because he believed in the Mulroney government’s agenda of free trade and economic growth.
Chong says the Conservative party needs to win over people under 40, immigrants who may have been driven away divisive social rhetoric such as barbaric practices tip line. The party also needs to attract new members who believe in a robust national economy along with protecting the environment. “We need to win over people who have left the party and we need to work on building a much bigger party,” he says.
Chong said his aim is to increase the party membership to a million members, and he is taking a cue from social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter. Chong said he plans to offer party membership for free, rather than charge for it. He also plans to extend the BC model of revenue neutral carbon tax to all across Canada, using the revenue to enable deep cut in income and corporate taxes.
He would not only introduce massive income and corporate tax cuts but also increase the GST credit to low income households and double the working income tax benefit, and make for all the lost revenue with a gradual increased in carbon tax. “It’s the most credible, conservative, market based solution for greenhouse gas emissions and get the economy moving. BC has shown that you can reduce emissions and have a strong economic growth,” he said.
Chong said he would also introduce democratic reforms that would give more power to MPs rather a hierarchical decision making that comes from the PMO. Chong said he supports an evidence based plan on immigration, supporting immigration based on three specific measures such as unemployment levels, specific labour market shortages, and long-term demographic challenges. Chong said he rejects candidates or parties that play politics on immigration.
“We have some candidate playing to anti-immigrant fears, and I see Liberal party is playing games with immigration in order to get favour with what they believe will be successful in getting votes. I reject both of those approaches,” he said. He also plans to privatize Canadian Housing Mortgage Corporation, which he believes will help make housing more affordable. “By privatizing CHMC, we can ensure that the banks properly price risk and don’t take undue risk when it comes to residential mortgages. We can sustain more sustainable levels of credit growth and this can moderate housing prices in the long run,” he said.