Politics & Policy

Has The Canadian Right’S Merger Got The Right Stuff?

 

Recently, I

wrote on NRO about the decision of Canada’s two

right-of-center parties, the Progressive

Conservatives and the Canadian

Alliance, to merge into one entity, to be called

the Conservative Party of Canada.

At the time of the announcement more than two weeks

ago, I was quite bullish about the prospects of this

new party. I still am today. I’ve seen political activists

who have sat on the sidelines for years express a

willingness to get involved again (many have already

done so) because of the merger announcement. Polls

have been released showing that the party would have

considerable support in each region of the country

minus Quebec, which traditionally only votes for a

political party if it’s led by a politician from their

own province.

In order for this merger to be ratified, members

of both existing parties must separately approve the

deal through a plebiscite. The Progressive Conservatives

(known as the Tories) need a two-thirds majority to

get the deal through, while the Canadian Alliance

needs only 50 percent. I have little worry that the

CA will push the deal through; its members are overwhelmingly

support creating a single conservative party.

The Tories, on the other hand, are more divided.

Joe Clark, a former prime minister and twice leader

of the Tories, is opposing the deal, and an anti-free-trade

zealot named David Orchard is organizing against the

merger agreement. Orchard finished second in the recent

Tory party leadership race, and he has considerable

support inside that party–some say as much as 25

percent. Nevertheless, if I were a betting man I’d

say this deal will go through.

The new party will have its hands full getting ready

in time for the next federal election, expected in

the spring. Remember, the right in Canada has been

divided for more than a decade; we’re talking about

melding together two entities that have warred bitterly

for three or four elections. The task of getting everyone

united in this new amalgam will be formidable, especially

given the policy issues that divide conservatives

across Canada’s diverse regions.

While the job ahead will be challenging, I am confident

that the new party will work for several reasons:

1) Canadian conservatives understand the need to

find common ground and try to put their differences

aside. Despite some differences (namely on social

policies) they understand the need to work together

inside one big tent like the U.S. Republicans. Members

of both parties understand that half a loaf is better

than no loaf at all.

2) After languishing in the electoral wilderness

since 1993, conservatives are craving a return to

power. They are willing to do this for the sake of

gaining power, and they understand they simply must

work together to win. It may take two or more elections

for this to happen, but best to start the drive toward

forming a government now.

3) Canadians want this. They want to see that conservatives

are capable of running the country. By feuding for

the past ten years, conservatives have shown that

they can’t get their act together. As a result, they

have (deservedly) failed to gain the respect of voters.

The new party will show the electorate that conservatives

are ready to earn their trust.

For the sake of Canada and conservatism, this merger

must and will work.

Adam Daifallah

is a member of the editorial board at Canada’s

National Post.

The proposed merger of the Canadian Alliance (CA)

and Progressive Conservatives (PC) has rejuvenated

the spirits of frustrated Canadian conservatives.

Finally, they say, after 16 years of separation, all

conservatives will be under one roof, supporting one

leader and one policy agenda.

If it were only that simple. The CA-PC merger, while

well meaning, will unite two political parties with

surprisingly little in common. I think the optimistic

position of conservatives like Adam Daifallah should

be replaced with a more realistic vision–the parties’

differences far outweigh the similarities, meaning

the merger could quickly become a failed experiment.

Here are some problems with the merger:

1) The CA mostly combines classical liberal ideology

with doses of libertarianism and social conservatism.

It challenges many motherhood issues, and calls for

lower taxes, smaller government, free speech, electoral

reform, and a more extensive free-market economy,

among other things.

Some PC politicians and supporters espouse the CA’s

viewpoints. But many don’t. The PC party also includes

Disraelian thinkers with nationalist streaks, who

oppose free trade with the U.S. They want a stronger

role for government and the bureaucracy. They waver

on issues of property rights and individual freedom.

And they have an apprehension towards social conservatism.

While neither party approach is perfect, both are

certainly different.

2) A CA vote is not the same as a PC vote. At one

time, when the CA was still known as the Reform party,

votes with the PCs were interchangeable. That’s no

longer the case. Opinion polls have shown that the

second choice for CA and PC voters are not the opposite

factions, but rather the governing Liberals.

There is a belief among voters that the two parties

are different, and it’s a valid belief.

3) In 1999-2000, two United Alternative conferences

(initiated by Reform) were held for the purpose of

creating one conservative party under one tent. Reform/CA

members were active participants, as were Blue Tories,

or right-leaning conservatives, from the PCs. The

conferences succeeded in bringing together like-minded

Canadian conservatives, and established solid political

and economic policy positions.

The CA-PC merger attempts to bring together conservatives

who didn’t want to join the first time around. I fail

to understand the benefits of going to the well a

second time.

4) The merger will include two problematic factions–the

Red Tories (left-leaning conservatives who have largely

controlled the PCs for a century) and Reformers (a

significant group within the CA with roots in western

populism).

Some have argued that Canada’s new Conservative Party

will minimize the influence of both factions. I disagree–both

are entrenched in each respective party, and both

have enough influence to cause dissention and internal

strife.

For years, I supported efforts to unite Canada’s right.

With the creation of the Canadian Alliance, I felt

that goal was finally accomplished. A merger with

the PCs will bring some good people to the table,

but also a lot of excess and unnecessary baggage.

To me, the risk of merger is far greater than the

reward of unification.

–Michael Taube is an editorial writer for the

Windsor Star.

 
 

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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