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A forlorn hope for uniting the Right in Canada?

The federal Progressive Conservative party is holding its national meeting and leadership convention in Toronto, on May 29-June 1, 2003. The six declared candidates for leader are Andre Bachand, Scott Brison, Peter MacKay, David Orchard, Jim Prentice, and Heward Grafftey. Scott Brison is a former investment banker, who is now a Nova Scotia MP. Peter MacKay also a Nova Scotia MP, and a high profile member of the P.C. parliamentary caucus. David Orchard is a Saskatchewan farmer and anti-free trade, anti-globalization activist. Jim Prentice is a Calgary lawyer and Heward Grafftey is a low-profile candidate.

Obstructing a coalition

Over the last decade, the federal Progressive Conservatives have carried out a maximum effort towards obstructing the emergence of one, serious, centre-right coalition in Canada, that could only have arisen from some kind of accommodation between the federal P.C.s and the Reform Party (and its successor, the Canadian Reform-Conservative Alliance). As the Alliance's full name indicates, it was specifically conceived to bring the federal P.C.s on board.

Probably one of the smartest suggestions for a coalition was for a geographic division of the two parties, i.e., that the Canadian Alliance would run candidates only in Western Canada, and the Progressive Conservatives in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes. The head of the party that gained the most ridings would become Prime Minister (or leader of the Official Opposition).

The continuation of the federal P.C.s outside of Western Canada would address many of the serious P.C. complaints about the dissolution of their party i.e., that they are part of the traditional fabric of politics in Canada ("the party of Macdonald and Cartier"), and that they do not wish to disappear from the Canadian future. The fact that P.C.s were running in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes would increase the chances that many voters wary of the Canadian Alliance would consider voting for the P.C.s.

It is also fortuitous that, if the coalition could form a majority government, it would almost certainly be headed by the P.C.s, who would have to pick up a minimum of 85 seats (with the approximately 70 Western seats of the Alliance). So their electoral success would be appropriately rewarded. If the P.C.s failed to do well in their section of the country, the P.C. and Alliance coalition would not have a majority. If they together constituted the most numerous grouping in the federal Parliament, but did not have an over-all majority, they could try to establish a minority government, although it would probably be shaky (on account of the other parties in the Parliament possessing the majority of seats).

Liberals

Throughout the twentieth century, the Liberals have been "the natural governing party of Canada"--is that dominance decreed to continue throughout the twenty-first century? Some would argue that because of a variety of viewpoints in the Liberal Party, democratic pluralism is assured. However, despite obvious elements of fiscal and economic conservatism (that is, neoconservatism) in the Liberal Party, virtually all forms of traditionalism and social conservatism have today been written out of Canadian history, society, politics, and culture.

Some Canadians have continued to believe in more traditional notions of nation, family and religion, a real work-ethic, and strict law-and-order--and have been cast out roughly from the political arena. At the same time, the dominance of "small-I liberalism" has meant that, even when Brian Mulroney won two massive majorities in 1984 and 1988, there was not the slightest attempt to enact small-c conservative policies. And that was the central reason for the emergence of the Reform Party in 1987!

It should also be remembered that Free Trade with the U.S. in Canadian history was identified with the Liberal Party, and opposed by traditionalist Conservatives, who looked to Britain. Mulroney intensified multiculturalism, bilingualism, and feminist policies, and raised immigration from the 54,000 persons in Trudeau's last year in office, to about a quarter-million persons a year, where it has remained ever since. Mulroney's enactment of the GST, while interpreted as a "hard-right" move by some, could simply be seen as a conventionally liberal tax-grab- one which has manifestly only benefited the Liberals in balancing the federal budget. Despite his deficit-fighting rhetoric, the federal deficit and debt had in fact monstrously ballooned out of control during Mulroney's years in power. Are persons of small-c conservative outlooks in Canada simply supposed to keep quiet today, and abandon all hope that there will ever be a working centre-right majority government in the federal Parliament? It would seem a tr avesty of democracy to have one party and one outlook forever dominating Canada, with any counter-arguments to the current-day regime--no matter how substantive and reasoned-often vociferously condemned and pejoritized.

It should be pointed out that small-c conservatives are in a much different situation from the NDP and the extraparliamentary left-wing groups that often work with the NDP. The NDP is supported by tens of thousands of college professors, journalists, civil servants, dedicated social activists, and teachers--all of whom wield a far greater amount of influence on politics and social life than the large number of more average people who support the centre-right. Left-wing infrastructures and resources in Canadian society outweigh those available to small-c conservatives by astronomical factors.

So the NDP and the Left can prosper and enjoy huge influence regardless of their degree of electoral success--whereas for the centre-right an occasional dramatic electoral success, the winning of a working majority in the Federal Parliament-may perhaps be the only thing that can stave off its utter banishment from Canadian history, society, politics, and culture.

It is to be hoped that the new federal leader will see the wisdom of entering into a close working coalition with the Canadian Alliance. It is also to be hoped that some sense of proportion could be introduced into current-day Canadian society, politics, and culture. Let's not demonize and condemn the objectively very moderate Canadian Alliance.

Today, there are clearly many potentially highly damaging trends and forces afoot on this planet. It could be argued that some degree of small-c conservatism would greatly help Canada weather many of these coming crises. Despite its continual disparagement today, by Canada's numerous liberal and left-wing social, political, and cultural groupings, small-c conservatism, and the centre-right as a whole, may indeed become a precious and much-needed element in shaping Canada's future.

Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based writer and historical researcher.
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Title Annotation:Progressive Conservative Party
Author:Wegierski, Mark
Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Apr 1, 2003
Words:1077
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