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Winnipeg Free Press, 24 October, 2003

Watch for a purge of Red Tories

by Frances Russell

Leadership frontrunner and former Ontario premier Mike Harris believes "nothing is more valuable than our unparalleled relationship with the world's only superpower," and plans "a common sense revolution for Canada", big tax and spending cuts and an immigration policy that discourages refugees because they "want to rely on the state."

Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning hopes the new Conservative Party will build a "conservative political infrastructure" for Canada dedicated to maintaining and expanding "the intellectual foundations of fiscal, social, cultural, democratic and constitutional conservatism."

Tom Long, the guru behind former Ontario premier Mike Harris's Common Sense Revolution, believes there is a small-c conservative majority in Canada. "We're working with 10 years of pent-up (political) energy. What people are really after is lower taxes, (smaller) government, a rebuilt military, and respect for law and order."

One week into the launch of the latest "great right hope" and the portents are perilous for those who seek a "big tent" party capable of unseating the governing Liberals. So far, the proponents of a united right are making it clear they aren't interested in giving a real option to Canadians. They are only interested in fashioning their own little sandbox where they can play their own narrow ideological games.

Mr. Manning was positively giddy in his article in yesterday's Free Press. He thinks he's finally realized the dream he and his father put into book form back in 1967, the dream to create a party of ideologically pure social and economic conservatism to confront "the collectivist welfare state" that disregards "individual liberties and responsibilities" and is an affront to "personal salvation."

Moderates within the Progressive Conservative Party must act quickly to ameliorate the harsh, hard-right image of the new party before it solidifies in the public's mind.

The Harrises, the Mannings, the Longs -- and the Stephen Harpers -- are not living in political reality. They missed the recent Ontario election, where the voters decisively consigned the remaining stragglers from Mr. Harris' common sense revolution to history's dustbin.

They missed last June's election in Manitoba and the summer elections in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island -- all victories for moderate, centrist government.

They ignore this week's Newfoundland and Labrador election. Progressive Conservative premier-elect Danny Williams intends to wrest more resource money for Newfoundland's treasury from the multinational oil companies and expresses concern over the united right. "I am, after all, a Red Tory," he told the CBC Wednesday morning.

They must be unaware of the fury rising in Quebec, where "Liberal" Premier Jean Charest is facing a caucus revolt over his plans to import foreign neo-conservative values into that province.

And they are indifferent to the advice offered by Michael Adams, head of the respected Canadian public opinion firm, Environics, and author of this summer's bestselling Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values. It argues that Canadian and American culture and values are on opposite trajectories.

"There is an appetite in Canada for a Republican-style, pro-U.S. party in Canada -- about 25 per cent -- but that appetite is limited," Mr. Adams warned on Global TV's Sunday political panel. "Half of Canadians are satisfied with this (Liberal) government."

As if to solidify the public perception that this new party is going to be a carbon copy of the American Republicans, its proponents refer to anti-merger and anti-free trade Tory leadership candidate David Orchard and his supporters as "Orchardistas". What could be more American than to label anyone who disagrees with you a communist. (Nicaragua's governing Sandinistas, perceived to be Marxists, were driven from power by a dirty war waged by the U.S. Republican administration of Ronald Reagan.)

The excision of the word "Progressive" from its name is one of the first signs the Conservative Party intends to purge the Red Tories. "(T)o the hardliners who want to create the New Jerusalem, the Red Tories are the money-changers in the Temple," author and journalist Andrew Cohen writes in The Ottawa Citizen. "They are the real threat to a real conservative party. To purify the party, they must go.

"So the Conservative Party of Canada will purge them, as the Republican Party purged its northeastern liberals. ... (B)ut Canadians are a more moderate people uncomfortable with harsh social conservatism, and political power here still rests in the centre, where the Liberals remain dominant. A true conservative party may be ideologically pure, as its zealots insist, but it will condemn itself to perpetual opposition."

The last chapter of Mr. Adams' book makes this important observation: "You cannot speak to Canadians as if they were Americans, not just because it is politically incorrect but because they have different values and priorities and live in a very different context."


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