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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