Oh, Canada! Why Republicans Should Look to Canada to Solve Branding Problem
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Any successful entity has a clear sense of who they are and what they stand for, while working tirelessly to clearly deliver that message through words and actions. For too long, the Republican Party has allowed the creation of their “mission statement” to be outsourced.
On one side there is the Mainstream Media outposts doing a fantastic job of defining the Republican Party and its candidates as “out-of-touch, greedy, racist/sexist, homophobic, religious radicals.” On the other side, there are extreme members of the Republican Party who fulfill this stereotype. So how can the “Grand Old Party” begin to control its image and effectively exhibit the values of Conservatism? One must look no further than Canada for direction.
Look to Canada?
On the surface, looking to a nation that is considered “Socialist” may seem to be a bit odd. If one were to dig a little deeper they would discover that Canada is exactly where Republicans should be looking. For years, Canada has had a deeply rooted social program platform to provide for its citizens, much like we have had since FDR’s New Deal. Outside of universal healthcare, our social “safety net” is strikingly similar. Now that Obamacare is going to be rolled out in its entirety, it is about time that Republicans start to find a way through this to reassert itself. The Conservative Party of Canada offers a successful blueprint.
How has the Conservative Party of Canada been successful?
After experiencing nearly a decade and a half of Liberal Party rule, the Conservatives decided to take ownership of “who they are” and “what they represent”. Through clarity and unison of message and an ingrained ability to formulate and carry-out a plan, they have been able to not only regain the majority and seat of Prime Minister, but also consolidate power to the level that Democrats did here in 2008.
The first step was to dispel the notion that they were not in touch with societal needs and issues, many of which the U.S. must deal with regularly: immigration, minorities, universal healthcare and other social programs. In the U.S., Republicans hide from or seem ill-prepared to discuss, let alone manage the social issues that are the actually drivers behind many people’s decision making.
Conservatives have dismissed this notion by embracing these issues and showing how they are worthwhile issues deserving of compassion as they impact many, while they remain open to improvement. This is something they have clearly been able to articulate and display since the mid-2000s. If you speak to Canadians now, they actually see the Conservative Party as the one best able to efficiently address these needs, not the Liberals.
In the U.S., Democrats hold a monopoly on compassion, thanks largely to the way Republicans are portrayed in the media. Republicans must begin to articulate their platform around social issues with more clarity and regularity. Once the general public knows that they are no longer going to experience a dismissive or passive tone from Republicans around social issues, the considerable merit that they carry regarding fiscal issues will be heard more clearly.
The other, potentially more significant, issue that the Republican Party must be acutely aware of is how they address the fringe elements that lay within. One of the biggest steps the Conservatives in Canada took towards effectively re-branding their image was to publicly address the link that was made between their party and those on the extreme right. The Conservative Party’s willingness to distance themselves publicly from freelancing extreme elements allowed for a more approachable and inclusive party. By distancing themselves from rogue individuals and organizations publicly, Conservatives were able to reassure the public that while the extreme element does exist, they are not the ones in control and in turn not the ones that would control policy that would impact the public.
What proving themselves ‘Socially Responsible” has allowed Conservatives to do?
It is only when someone feels as if they are heard and are comfortable with a party that they are willing to listen. When you view their entire platform issue by issue, you witness a level of caring and understanding of the social landscape within which the Conservatives must operate.
Along with some help from the mismanagement by Liberal leadership, the Conservatives have been able to show that free markets, not socialism, have enabled the Canadian government to support its responsibilities to its citizens, even during the difficult Financial Crisis period. This is something that Republicans have been expounding to do; however have yet to be effective in doing so. Why? They have not yet earned the right.
Due to a very organized approach, the Conservatives have been able to connect the concept of fiscal discipline with the social issues. This is best illustrated through Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s belief that “economic growth and fiscal discipline go ‘hand in hand’” (Investors, 2012), which is why Canada’s debt to GDP sits at around 35%. This has allowed for them to better adjust to the liabilities of social programs, even in times of economic hardship.
Developing a reputation for level-headed fairness.
With small government being at the heart of Conservative Party platforms worldwide, the obvious counterweight is a large private sector. This is the area that Canada is miles ahead of us. Ranked by Forbes as the #1 place in the world for businesses to grow and create jobs, due in large part to the fairness of Canadian personal and corporate tax codes (Business tax in Canada sits at 15%). Their main belief around taxes is that “low taxes and leaving more money where it belongs – in the pockets of hard-working Canadian families and job-creating businesses” (Conservative, 2012) is what allows the economy to thrive, which in turn provides the government with more overall revenue. Harper and his party have done a tremendous job conveying and acting upon these Hayekian economic principles.
Beyond domestic economic principles, Canada is now beginning to garner more and more attention overseas for their financial “know how”. A couple of years ago it was Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner who was brought in to discuss what Europe should be doing to emerge from their crisis. How quickly things change. Now, the Bank of England (BoE) has recognized the errors in the ways of extreme quantitative easing and has turned to Canadian banking power Mark Carney for a different, more creative approach (Kennedy, 2012). This is a major coup for Canada, as this is the first time in the BoE’s storied history that they have turned to a foreigner. This speaks volumes to the brand that Canada has recently developed as a fiscally sound vanguard, thanks in large part to Conservative leadership.
This new business savvy and international respect has allowed Canada to be seen less as a former stunted socialist state, similar to those in Europe. There are many other examples of how Canada has evolved into an economic power thanks to recent Conservative initiatives; however none of it would have been possible without one thing: effective branding.
What should Republicans take away from Canada’s Conservatives?
The Republican Party can learn a lot from Canada’s Conservatives as they both operate within a similar landscape. From a policy standpoint, both parties follow similar values. From a fiscal standpoint, they are near identical. The only difference? One is approachable, whereas the other is not.
The Conservative platform outlines a form of Socially Responsive Conservatism that is admirable, not only in economic “know how” and compassion for fellow-man, but because it acknowledges the reality of the landscape in which it must work and is inclusive. This resonates with Canadian citizens and has allowed them to embrace the Conservatives much more freely than in the U.S.
The Conservative Party offers Republicans a framework in which to adapt and flourish. Yet it is up to Republicans to take action. Until the GOP unites under a series of core beliefs that recognizes certain realities about America, they will not be as successful as they could be in delivering their message. It is time for the GOP to become the authors of their narrative, rather than allow others to control perception.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Erol Senel has been plying his trade in the world of finance and personal investing. Through this real world experience, he has found his true professional passion in economics and financial history.
Conservative (2012). Where We Stand. Conservative Party of Canada. Retrieved from http://www.conservative.ca/
Investors (2012, July 18). Free Markets, Not Socialism, Has Enabled Canada to Surpass the U.S. in Wealth. Investor’s Business Daily. http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/071812-618699-free-markets-not-socialism-is-why-canada-is-soaring.htm
Kennedy, S. (2012, Nov, 2012). Carney at BOE Reveals Canadian Need to Rescue U.K.. Bloomberg. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-27/carney-at-boe-reveals-canadian-needed-to-rescue-u-k-.html