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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The last conservative hope for Canada?

I was saddened to read in this morning’s National Post, John Ivison’s column about the fading away of Preston Manning’s Reform Party. Ivison reminds us that only ten MPs remain of the 52 elected in 1993. That was the fateful election that sounded the death knell of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, which won a shocking two seats in that election.

Of the ten MPs that remain, one—Keith Martin—now sits as a Grit and others, apparently, plan to sit out the next general election. Thus we are witnessing the passing of an interesting time in Canadian politics.

I campaigned and voted for Burlington’s PC candidate in that and the 1997 election—as I always did in those days. He lost both times due to the divided right. I would later switch to the Reform Party after the rump of the PC party (fifth party in the House with 20 MPs) lost its leader and turned once again to Joe Clark, who led Tories to another humiliating defeat in 2000, managing to hang on to only 12 seats, a loss of eight seats and the bare minimum necessary for official party status in the House of Commons. Jean Charest, at least, had led the party to a modest recovery in the 1997 election. The PC party was no longer a national force as virtually all of its sitting members came from east of Quebec.

I never saw Joe Clark as a Leader of anything. He could toss the BS with the best, but lacked the stuff of which statesmen are made. At least, that’s the way I saw it. The day I heard he was running a second time for the party’s leadership and was considered likely to win, I resigned my membership. I never actually joined the Reformers, but voted for their local candidate until the formation of the CPC.

Reform was a bit of a dream really, with little chance of ever governing Canada. I did like its grass roots emphasis though and had hoped more of its conservatism would survive in any party that successfully united the right.

I was wrong, of course, but under Stephen Harper’s leadership we were, at least, able to unseat the entrenched Liberals. And that was a good thing.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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6 comments — This is a moderated blog and comments will appear when approved. Please don’t resubmit if your comment doesn’t appear immediately, and please do not post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable.

  1. If the original Reformers go, does that mean Ralph Goodale can stop screaming about the Tories "radical Reform agenda"? Liberals like to use "Reformers" as a negative buzz word.

    I guess that I may have to scrap my post "where have you gone Preston Manning, Reformers turn their lonely eyes to you". Maybe I'll take a shot at Obamanomics instead. Remember when they said he'd bring down the oil prices? It isn't working out that way.

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  2. Sorry Deborah Grey never ran for Prime Minister.

    I worked for Reform in Quebec when we were considered beyond the pale (we still are really!).

    Too bad the Bloc was given Official Opposition status with all its money, perks and status thanks to the Liberals. We should have boycotted Parliament at that point since the Bloc was never ready to replace the government, which is the bottom line function and definition of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.

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  3. I agree about Clark not being much of a leader, but disagree with you about him not being much of a statesman.

    As leader, he proved the Peter Principle, just as Dion did.

    But as Minister of Foreign Affairs and then as Minister of Constitutional Affairs (whatever you think of the Charlottetown Accord), he was an exemplary statesman.

    In the end he was a great Parliamentarian. He just didn't have what it takes to be PM, but how many of us do?

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  4. Ted, I'll happily concede your point about Clark's tenure at foreign affairs--he did do a good job there.

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  5. Joe Clark is very much the statesman, as evidenced by the fact that he is very much respected by members of other parties.

    Would that we had more like him.

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  6. Joe Clark was a total embarrassment to every Albertan and only became leader because Sinclair Stephens betrayed the party for personal gain.

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