Stephen Harper's former chief of staff says forget about election, think policy
Focus on 'making sure that we understand what we stand for,' Nigel Wright says
Stephen Harper's former chief of staff says his party should focus on getting its policies right before thinking about fighting another federal election.
Nigel Wright made the comments at the annual Manning Centre conference in Ottawa, where people from across the country gather to discuss the future of the conservative movement in Canada
- Recharging the right
- Kevin O'Leary: I'll be a 'nightmare for politicians'
- Mike Duffy Trial: Who is Nigel Wright?
"I'd actually rather not have us focused on the election right now," Wright said. "I'd rather have us focus on making sure that we understand what we stand for, what things we can offer to the public debate."
Wright also said now was the time to refocus the party and make sure the Conservatives are tapped into what is going on in the country.
"For me it would be a mistake if we immediately turn to election tactics or strategy without having made sure that we're still relevant and fresh and have good things to say to people and good ideas to attract people to us," Wright said.
Wright left the private equity firm Onex Corporation in 2010 to work as then prime minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff. Wright left that position in 2014 (Harper maintains Wright was dismissed) after it became public that Wright gave Mike Duffy $90,000 to help the embattled senator repay disputed Senate expenses.
Wright suggested in an interview on Friday that the Conservative Party of Canada should "challenge its approach" in a number of policy areas including: the environment, criminal justice, poverty alleviation, social and family dysfunction and social mobility.
When asked if that meant moving to the left on those issues Wright said it did not.
"I don't think it's a matter of left versus right. It's just making sure that we expand the number of topics in which we need to talk to people about," Wright said.
On the issue of finances, Wright said the Conservatives should stick to their message of fiscal responsibility in the face of a government that appears willing to accommodate far too many spending requests.
"So I think what will be found out is that budgets don't balance themselves, budgets go into deficits themselves," Wright said. "It takes an active force of will, very consistently, to manage all the demands for public spending."
Even while Wright said the Conservatives should stick to their fiscal message, he didn't think that doing so would allow the Tories to gain ground on the Liberals in the short term.
"Not sure about near future, but I do think that a tax and spend and deficit based federal government, just as in some provinces, will remind people of the need the Conservatives always talk about to balance budgets, and to keep size of government in check and tax rates low," he said.