The Toronto Star, 23 October 2003
A blatant swindle
created by John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne
Cartier in 1854, that founded Canada, is being asked
to vote to extinguish itself
by David Orchard
On or before Dec. 12, 2003, the Progressive Conservative
Party of Canada will vote on whether to cease to exist.
The party created by John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne
Cartier in 1854, that founded Canada, flung a railroad
across it, negotiated the entry of the west into Confederation,
gave us the second national railway, gave women the
vote, bequeathed us the Bank of Canada, the CBC and
the Canadian Wheat Board, that gave aboriginal Canadians
the right to vote, the only party that has ever defeated
the Liberals, is being asked to vote to extinguish
itself, to scrap its constitution and wait shivering
by the altar.
Uniting the right, we are told, is the key to effectively
challenge the Liberals. But is it?
One of the reasons for the Liberal party's success
is its ability to straddle the centre of the political
spectrum. The Progressive Conservative party has been
most successful when it has done the same.
In the early 1950s, the party adopted a business orientation,
moved right and was unsuccessful until John Diefenbaker
took the party back to the centre.
Some called Diefenbaker "a prairie Bolshevik"
and protested loudly that he was "too left wing"
to lead the PC party. In reply, he won a massive victory
Now we are told the key to victory is to drop the word
"Progressive" from our name and merge with
the Canadian Alliance.
In 2003, one might have thought that the time was past
that a quiet chat in a corporate boardroom and the
wave of a chequebook could erase the country's oldest
But those who thought that policies and constitutions
were hammered out through the arduous process of debate,
of voting and finding common ground among members,
are in for a rude shock.
After a vote to dissolve the PC party, the new "Conservative
party" is to be run for an indefinite period
of time by an Interim Joint Council consisting of
a dozen hand-picked individuals, referred to stingingly
by a senior Tory as "an Iraqi Governing Council."
Even the name, the "Conservative Party of Canada,"
has been chosen from on high.
There may be no time to consult the membership about
a constitution or about policy, according to the "agreement
in principle," signed by Stephen Harper and Peter
MacKay. But Harper has told us not to worry. The Alliance
has some good policies and 60-odd MPs capable of articulating
them for the new party in the next election!
And if Paul Martin should call an election on or before
the new Conservative party can choose a leader, well,
that also is something we are told not to worry about.
It is for this future that we are asked to liquidate
the party with 150 years of history. And how is this
termination of the PC party to be completed?
Well, we are informed that anyone, including members
of the Alliance with a vested interest in the outcome,
can join the PC party now and vote in the most important
decision in our party's history. They are invited
to "come home," as part of a wrecking crew
to demolish that very home.
Even a segment of the 100,000 members of the Alliance
can easily outvote the 40,000 PC party members who
are entitled to vote.
Alliance MP Brian Pallister announces proudly that
he has taken a membership in both parties and intends
to vote twice, i.e. in the ratification vote of both
parties. He is urging all Alliance members to do the
In its Oct. 18 editorial, the National Post advises:
"Every possible measure must be taken to defeat
Joe Clark, David Orchard and the other merger obstructionists.
Indeed, Alliance members should consider joining the
Tories just so they can help push this deal through
from the PC side."
No wonder Harper thought Christmas had come early.
The Alliance needed the Progressive Conservatives off
the ballot in Western Canada to avoid facing oblivion.
The leader of the PC party has obligingly offered up
his party to save the Alliance. In fact, MacKay has
taken to speaking for "the conservative movement
in Canada." But he was not elected to lead "the
conservative movement," he was elected to lead
the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada which
has a constitution that states:
"The Leader is the chief public Officer of the
Party and shall promote the Party and its Aims and
How does putting an end to the party square with the
constitutional obligation to promote it?
And when this new vehicle is crushed by the Liberals,
what excuse will the unite-the-righters use to explain
away yet another failure?
And what solace will there be for those left holding
the ashes of the legacy of Cartier and Macdonald sacrificed
in a transparent reach for power?
There is no shortcut to power for our party. We must
do the work necessary to rebuild our riding associations
and develop and articulate policies that reflect Canadians'
hopes and dreams for the country. This goal cannot
be achieved through an unmandated deal behind closed
doors, executed in haste and ratified in a blatant
Normally, after leadership conventions, membership
numbers drop sharply. The thousands joining our party
since June 1 are clearly part of an organized effort
to vote for the demise of the party that in 1999 and
again in 2002 voted overwhelmingly not to merge with
A fair vote of the bona fide membership held today
would do so once again. Nothing has changed materially
since May 31, when 99 per cent of PC delegates voted
for leadership candidates pledged to maintain the
party. (The one pro-merger candidate received under
1 per cent support.) MacKay gained power on the basis
of an explicit, signed commitment to maintain the
party's constitutional clause prohibiting merger with
This Saturday in Ottawa the management committee of
the party, those charged with, and responsible for,
the promotion of the Progressive Conservative Party
of Canada, will decide whether to give their stamp
of approval to the fraud of an open membership vote
to determine our party's future.
If you as a party member and Canadian voter care about
extinguishing the only viable national alternative
to the governing Liberals, let these 36 individuals
know that in their hands rests the responsibility
for the fate of Canada's founding party and its democracy.
Their names and e-mail addresses and contact numbers
are available on the party web site at http://www.pcparty.ca.
David Orchard twice ran for the leadership of the Progressive
Conservative Party of Canada. He is the author of
The Fight For Canada. http://www.davidorchard.com