October 20, 2003


Alliance MPs vote 51-1 for Tory union: Harper gets standing ovation for deal, but MPs admit they still have concerns (Joe Paraskevas, October 20, 2003, The Ottawa Citizen)

Canadian Alliance Members of Parliament gave party leader Stephen Harper a standing ovation before a special meeting yesterday, then voted strongly in favour of a plan to create a new conservative party out of the Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives. [...]

"After 16 years we continue to move forward," Mr. Harper told the MPs at the outset of the meeting, a comment aimed at showing the Alliance, and its predecessor the Reform party, formed in 1987, would be alive and well in the proposed Conservative Party of Canada.

Mr. Harper also joked that the plan for the new party he and Tory leader Peter MacKay signed last week did not violate Alliance MPs' position against same-sex marriage. It was rather "a civil union," he said.

But the remark hinted at a problem: a fear the Alliance's social conservatism won't appeal to moderate Tories -- that could thwart ratification of the merger.

Alberta MP Myron Thompson, one of the Alliance's staunchest social conservatives, voted for the plan, but he also warned that some voters in his riding feared the new entity would abandon the original goals of Reform : to give Western Canada a strong voice and make fundamental changes to the way government operates.

"A lot of them are the old diehard Reformers who are afraid they're going to lose what the intention was like from the very beginning," said Mr. Thompson, who was then asked what place there would be for moderate -- or red -- Tories in the proposed new party.

It's great if they unite and move the Tories to the Right, offering a genuine and unified conservative alternative, but we'll see.

Raining on the euphoria of the merger (Jackson Murphy, October 20, 2003, Enter Stage Right)

Loveable losers though the two parties are two questions remain. Will the new Conservative Party snatch victory from the jaw of defeat, or rather defeat from the jaws of victory?

"The notion that the Liberals have been maintained in power only by the splitting of the right-of-center vote has been a source of immense solace to conservatives," writes Andrew Coyne in The National Post. "[R]ather as the ‘Curse of the Bambino' has been to Boston Red Sox fans over the years: It's a happier explanation than mere incompetence." [...]

On one hand the new party must be on some sort of right track to begin with. It has angered the progressive part of the PC Party as David "Kingmaker" Orchard and "Jurassic" Joe Clark have already condemned the proposal. If you want to galvanize the right there is no better way than trotting out the reddest of Red Tories.

Perhaps the betrayal of Clark, and David Orchard, especially old Joe is the political equivalent of digging up Babe Ruth's body from the cemetery in New York, apologizing for trading him, and reburying him under the pitcher's mound at Fenway Park. It is a curse breaker, or at least in this case a good start.

On the other hand it is still dangerous and wishful thinking to think that a merge alone will mean instant victory. More important is finding someone to lead this rag tag group of anyone but the Liberals out of the wilderness and back into power. Getting someone like Red Sox manager Grady Little, or that Cub fan with the wandering arms, will get front row seats only to the next Liberal Throne Speech not a Conservative victory party.

-The different styles of conservatism in Canada (Mark Wegierski October 20, 2003, Enter Stage Right)
There are many different, broadly right-wing factions in Canada, however most of them have a comparatively minor influence on the public scene. The perennially ruling Liberal Party has a 'right-wing' which has embraced a degree of fiscal sense, but remains thoroughly socially-liberal. The federal Progressive Conservative party, which currently has 15 MPs, has often had 'ultra-moderates' or 'Red Tories' exerting the most influence on it. The Progressive Conservative parties in the various provinces are of varying ideological complexions. Mike Harris, the former Premier of Ontario (elected in 1995 and 1999) was able to drag the provincial Progressive Conservative party in a right-wing direction, although his activism was mostly confined to economic and fiscal issues. The Canadian Alliance (which elected 66 MPs in the November 2000 federal election, mostly from Western Canada) (and which exists solely at the federal level) is probably the main home for so-called small-c conservatives today. (The term 'small-c conservative' arose in Canada as a result of the fact that the Progressive Conservative party -- or 'big-C' Conservatives -- had almost entirely abandoned conservatism.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 20, 2003 9:26 AM

News out of Canada for the last couple of years has been pretty dismal.

There may be something positive for the Canadian people - and the watching world - if some major changes in Canadian government and domestic policy occur.

We can't live only on Canadian beer, Eh?

Posted by: John J. Coupal at October 20, 2003 2:14 PM