You can’t have a conservative government that is dependent on Quebec. Oh, you can have a large-C Conservative government that has a strong base of support in Quebec - Mulroney proved that. But you can’t have an ideological conservative/libertarian federal government with deep roots in Quebec.
Simple arithmetic tells us that the loss of seats in Quebec is what cost Harper his majority, at a time when he was expecting major gains there. What caused the collapse in votes? – a promise to crack down on young offenders and cut arts funding. In the pantheon of conservative ideas, these are about as innocuous as you can get. If that’s all it takes to create a stampede in Quebec away from conservatism, then no meaningful small-c conservative government is possible with Quebec as part of your base.
It may be countered that Canada’s electoral math does not allow a majority government without Quebec, but I disagree. Its just harder. You have to scrounge up every potentially winnable seat you can. Take Tuesday’s result. 143 seats – only 12 more seats to go to reach majority status. And that is with an ongoing public feud with Newfoundland that effectively shut the Conservatives out of Newfoundland. If you count all the close races that the Conservatives almost won outside Quebec, 12 potential Conservative seats can be found. Take for instance Rahim Jaffer’s loss to the NDP in Alberta. Tell me the Conservatives can’t regain that Alberta riding. And tell me Ralph Goodale’s riding in Saskatchewan isn’t ripe for the taking as soon as he retires.
A real conservative government is only possible in Canada when the majority of its support comes from two places - the West, and Ontario (outside of the Liberal fortress of Metro Toronto). It may be politically incorrect to say this, but that’s the way it is. It is just unfortunate that real small-government conservatism doesn’t attract Quebecers.
Let me know if you disagree. I would love to be proven wrong on this score.
Perhaps a charismatic small-government conservative like Andre Arthur is a data point for the opposing argument.