Columns and Letters

Column: Conservative Party of Canada trying hard to keep PCs out of leadership

July 27, 2022 

-by Frank Macdonald
    When Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay cooperated in the destruction of the federal Progressive Conservative Party, it was replaced by the Conservative Party of Canada, a merger of the PCs and the Canadian Alliance. Predictably, Stephen Harper became the new party’s leader, and shortly after, Canada’s prime minister.
    Harper’s strategy of ridding Canada of the Progressive Conservatives worked well for him. He was now the most powerful person in a country he could barely tolerate.
    A decade earlier, in 1997, speaking to the American right-wing think tank, Council for National Policy, he told that audience of foreigners, among other things: “First, facts about Canada. Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it. Canadians make no connection between the fact that they are a Northern European welfare state and the fact that we have very low economic growth, a standard of living substantially lower than yours, a massive brain drain of young professionals to your country, and double the unemployment rate of the United States.”
    Later, as leader of the Canadian Alliance and leader of the opposition in Parliament, Harper co-wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal in which he apologized to Americans because then Prime Minister Jean Chretien has followed the will of more than 80 per cent of Canadians and refused to join the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ in their search for Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
    “This,” Harper wrote along with Stockwell Day, “is a serious mistake. For the first time in history, the Canadian government has not stood beside its key British and American allies in their time of need. The Canadian Alliance – the official opposition in parliament – supports the American and British position because we share their concerns, their worries about the future if Iraq is left unattended to, and their fundamental vision of civilization and human values. Disarming Iraq is necessary.”
    Still, as leader of the new Conservative Party of Canada, Harper managed to win a minority election, followed by a majority when the Liberals and NDP split the left-leaning vote, then pulled off another minority election with a strategic vote by his followers.
    Harper was finally swept from power in the election of 2015.
    While the Conservative Party of Canada continues to be a powerful presence in Canadian politics, I think it should more rightly be called the Republican Party of Canada. The mean-spirited conservatism we watch south of the border bears a scary resemblance to what at least one sector of the Conservative Party of Canada seem to want from their party.
    Since Harper’s much celebrated defeat, being the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada has been an iffy and short term job.
    Andrew Scheer was chosen to replace Harper. He lost his first election. He wasn’t granted a second. The task of winning that next election fell to Erin O'Toole, who, too, was soon out of a job after losing the next election.
    The flaw in both leaders is that while campaigning for the leadership they made all the right-wing noises the party’s powerbrokers wanted to hear. During each of the election campaigns, however, both Scheer and O’Toole couldn’t completely abandon their Progressive Conservative influences. Both men appeared to be tinged with traces of compassion for the needs of all Canadians, and this weakness in their characters doomed each of them.
    Now the Conservative Party of Canada is looking towards September and choosing of a new leader, one that won’t betray Harper’s dream party the way the Sheer and O’Toole did, by drifting towards the political centre, acting more like Progressive Conservative leaders. From that position, both former leaders were able to speak a ‘conservative’ language most Canadians understood.
    The political guillotine was rolled out early in this current leadership contest.
    One candidate, Patrick Brown, has been thrown out of the race for a grocery list of accusations, none yet proven. Woven among those accusations was probably the fear that Brown, not a hardcore Republican, posed a threat to the coronation of another candidate, Pierre Poilievre. Poilievre is a person unlikely to veer from the hardline politics taught him by his guru, Stephen Harper.
    Party investigators could quite possibly expose Brown as a Red Tory in drag, passing as a member of the Conservative Party of Canada. Poilievre’s credentials appear to be chillingly conservative, a candidate the powerbrokers can embrace.
    What the Conservative (i.e. Republican) Party of Canada has yet to learn is that the merging the Progressive Conservatives with the Canadian Alliance did not mean there was a mass conversion of Progressive Conservatives eager to genuflect before Harper any more than they wish to do before Poilievre.
    The bottom line remains that across the spectrum of Canadian conservatism, be it fiscal, social, or Red Tory, the majority of Conservatives in Canada continue to be (and would probably prefer to be) Progressive Conservative. While the party’s power and money may rest with the Republicanesque Conservatives of Harper’s ilk, not all Conservatives are comfortable voting for a south-of-the-border Conservative ruthlessness.














































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