Municipal Election 2006

Eisenberger a 'Red Tory', Not a Neocon

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 11, 2006

This municipal election presents a conundrum for progressive voters, many of whom object to Larry Di Ianni's mayoralty but despair of a viable alternative.

As the election approaches, some progressive organizations have thrown their support behind Fred Eisenberger. Others worry about his affiliation with the Conservative Party of Canada, particularly since its merger with the Reform party and the ascendancy of neo-conservative political philosophy as exemplified by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Tom Flanagan, his senior advisor.

However, the Conservative Party is not ideologically monolithic. As in the other parties, several strains of conservatism run through the party. In addition to Harper's neo-conservatism, represented in part by an aggressive foreign policy and moralistic domestic legislation, the party also contains 'paleo-cons' (conservative pragmatists in the tradition of Edmund Burke) and so-called Red Tories, a Canadian conservative tradition with a strong sense of the common good and a positive role of government in promoting social equity.

A former Conservative insider who has worked with Eisenberger contacted Raise the Hammer in response to the discussion in the comments below yesterday's blog entry Eisenberger Responds to RTH. The contact, who is no longer involved in politics and is not part of Eisenberger's mayoral campaign, offers some insight on where Eisenberger fits into the conservative firmament, writing, "If I were to place Fred in the spectrum of politics I would say he's a Red Tory."

The contact, who asked to remain anonymous, continued:

We were hoping to get Fred to represent the progressive part of the party. He had issues with [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper so when we talked to him we stressed the Belinda [Stronach] side of the party, and the old PC [Progressive Conservative] part of the party, and how he could work with them. (His supporters for the nomination were the same as the Belinda supporters). We were hoping to have Fred as one of the few progressive MPs for the conservative party. ...

I doubt he would run for the Conservatives again; it was sad to see a progressive guy getting politically hurt every time one of the extreme voices in the party spoke up. (Instead of helping make the party be more progressive, he got identified with the party as it was.)

As always with politics and politicians, the proof is in the pudding. However, given Eisenberger's previous roles working with the Port Authority and Clean Air Hamilton, it is certainly plausible that he represents the socially progressive strain of conservatism - of those conservatives who actually believe in conserving.

The big question is how well he plays with others. With the Spec endorsing Di Ianni on the laughable pretext that he is better at team building, it's important for Eisenberger to demonstrate that he's bigger than partisanship and ideology.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By Jim Love (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2006 at 07:51:26

Eisenberger can't have it both ways. If he's a Conservative, then he's supporting the neo-Conservative agenda of Steven Harper.

Red Tories would never allow their party to do the things that the Harper governemtn has done without a huge fight. Things like canceling literacy programs, take away the rights of individuals to mount charter challenges, undoing the work of Michael Wilson by dropping the GST and then crushing retirees with their ham handed mishandling of the Income Trust fiasco.

The days when you could be a Red Tory in the Conservative party are gone. You either toe the neo-Conservative line or you are drummed out like Garth Turner and so many others.

No, I'm afraid that Eisenberger is complicit in all of this as a Conservative, and its fair for voters to hold him accountable for what his party has done. If he's truly opposed to Harper he should do the ethical and courageous thing that so many others have done and join Tracy Parsons' Progressive Canadians as a real Red Tory alternative to Harper.

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By love.jim (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2006 at 08:50:38

Hey Jim Love, maybe you missed the part where Eisenberger isn't running for the Conservatives any more.

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