Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Do the bells toll for the PC brand in Canada?

How far the Progressive Conservative brand has fallen. This once proud brand was carried by the ruling party of our most populous province continuously from 1943 to 1985 and for 80 of the 142 years since Confederation. For many years the PCs were known as Ontario’s natural governing party.

The federal party has roots that go back to our first prime minister, Sir John A. MacDonald. That party governed Canada for over forty of the country’s first seventy years of existence, and formed the federal government five times from 1911 through 1993—from 1911 to 1921, from 1930 to 1935, from 1957 to 1963, from 1979 to 1980 and from 1984 to 1993.

The PCs have ruled in Alberta, uninterrupted, since 1971. Other parties carrying the PC brand have ruled at one time or another throughout Canada for a significant portion of the Twentieth Century giving voice to right-of-centre political policies and principles—a shining beacon in a land where left-wing views are force-fed to us by every form of media.

But, as we have learned to expect, nothing is forever. In 1985 the Liberals and New Democrats wrestled the reins of power in Ontario from the 42-year grip of the PCs leaving the latter party in tatters—by 1987 the party held only 16 seats, won less than 25 per cent of the popular vote and sat in the legislature as the third party. Yes, they rebounded in 1995 through 2003, but once again found themselves with only 24 seats and have only improved marginally to their current 25 out of 107 seats in the legislature.

Even with a youthful new leader at the helm, I don’t see the Ontario PCs rebounding to regain power in 2011. They would have to more than double the 25 seats they currently hold, and I just do not see their message resonating with voters. Try as they might, they have not been successful in getting the voters’ attention. The lost years under John Tory may be too hard to overcome, and, frankly, I fear for the survival of the brand in this province. A sad outlook indeed and with no Wildrose Alliance of Ontario anywhere in sight.

The brand’s federal fortunes were even worse. In 1993 the PCs went from being the majority party to holding only two seats in the House of Commons, having garnered a mere 16 per cent of the popular vote. It was the worst defeat ever suffered by a governing party at the federal level, and the PC brand never recovered—never again winning more than 20 seats. Finally, in 2003, the party membership voted to dissolve the party entirely and be absorbed by the Canadian Alliance under the newly formed Conservative Party of Canada. The federal brand is now represented only by three sitting senators who declined to join the new party and continue to sit as Progressive Conservatives in the Upper House.

This brings us to Alberta, since 1971 an unassailable bastion of the PC brand. On Monday, however, two elected members of the PCs crossed the floor of the provincial legislature to join the ranks of Alberta’s Wildrose Alliance party. Rob Anderson, who represents the riding of Airdrie-Chestermere, and Heather Forsyth, the representative for Calgary-Fish Creek and a former cabinet minister joined the new conservative party.

An Angus Reid opinion poll taken in early December 2009 had the Alberta PCs at 25 per cent and tied with the Liberals. Many see more defections to the Wildrose Alliance and believe we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the PC brand in Alberta.

At least with the passing of this once-illustrious brand, there is the immergence of the Conservative Party of Canada and the Wildrose Alliance in Alberta, providing a new political home for conservatives.

Time will tell, however, whether in Ontario we can rebuild our party or whether we will have to wait until a new conservative movement takes hold here—perhaps something like a Trillium Alliance Party. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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  1. I hope the PC party in Ontario drops "progressive" from their name and becomes the Conservative Party of Ontario. As for 2011, I'd say that Hudak and the Tories are still very much in the hunt. According to the last several polls, the Liberals and Tories are both in the 30s in that Province.

  2. We came dangerously close to getting into a "Trillium Alliance"-like situation, and if John Tory was still leader, there is a good chance that Bill Murdoch, Randy Hillier and others would have moved out to the new party (and that would result in a massive Liberal majority in 2011 with a vote split, and the PC's would be practically wiped off the political map). With a more conservative Tim Hudak, this is probably the last chance for the PC's. If they were smart, they would dump "progressive" from the name.

    The PC's are currently leading polls by between 10 and 15 points though.

  3. I've voted Tory in the few elections that I was able to vote in, but I have to admit that two of the three worst administrations we have had in the last 50 years were Tory. IE Dief's term in the late 50's, early 60's, and lieing Brian in the 80's, early 90's.

    This may be blasphamy to some here, but I would praise God (or whoever) were we to be given a leader such as Louis St. Laurent, he was a liberal, but worked for the greater good of Cansda.

  4. The problem with the PC party in Ontario and in Alberta IMO is other than the first yrs of Klein in Alberta all they ever did was give voice to Conservative views socially or financially then acted in a tax and spend fashion and created policy through lobbyists and special interests just like their opposition, only it was a letdown for their base, not so the opposition's base as they were lefty wackos already who believe destroying the economy is best for the country.
    Had the internet not come along Alberta would still have it's head in the sand and believe these clowns were conservatives, Klein was a Liberal himself FGS.

  5. One of two outcomes to your query. One, conservatives change in order to better suit the times, not necessarily move to the centre either. Two, they continue on and we see real right wing political parties formed in this country thus, coalition governments will be the future. (real conservative)