The Globe and Mail , Monday, May 10, 2004
Undo Conservative merger, stalwarts to ask court
by Kirk Makin
The former Progressive Conservative ministers, led by Sinclair Stevens,
plan to argue in Federal Court tomorrow that the registration of the new
party was rushed through with unjustifiable haste on a Sunday last
December. The litigants -- long-time members of the now defunct
Progressive Conservative Party of Canada -- also take issue with the
Chief Electoral Officer for registering the new party before anyone
could try to challenge it.
"There is evidence that the reason the application to register the new
party was made so quickly was to preclude legal action by the Applicant
and others," states a legal brief by the group, which describes itself
as "PC Loyalists."
"To allow the decision to stand would threaten our fundamental
democratic processes by putting every political party at great risk of
being taken over in a similar manner."
The applicants are seeking an order that would undo the merger, return
almost $8.5-million to the PC Party and leave candidates of the new
party to fight the coming federal election as members of an officially
"Ensuring that political parties are not wiped out undemocratically is
more important than the effects on any one election," said Peter
Rosenthal, a lawyer for the PC Loyalists. "Even if the Conservative
Party is quashed as a result of this application, its candidates can run
as individuals in the upcoming, or any other, election."
Mr. Rosenthal said in an interview that the PC Loyalists include such
former PC party stalwarts as ex-Newfoundland Premier Brian Peckford and
former federal cabinet ministers Heward Grafftey and Flora MacDonald.
The group is led by Mr. Stevens, who was industry minister under Brian
Mulroney before losing his job to a scandal.
The new Conservative Party of Canada was registered on Sunday, Dec. 7,
2003, one day after the PC Party had voted in favour of an agreement to
merge with the Canadian Alliance. The PC Loyalists claim that their
so-called resolution to merger was bogus and that key supporting
documentation fails to refer to the move as a merger.
"The leader of the PC Party and others urging ratification of the
agreement-in-principle refrained from using the word 'merger' in
describing its effect, as did the news release issued by the PC Party
after the ratification vote," the PC Loyalists brief says. "The
agreement-in-principle is an agreement to create a new party, rather
than to merge two existing parties."
Had the merger process been done properly and honourably, the Loyalists
claim, those behind it would have first created a new party. Instead,
they said, the Chief Elections Officer quickly approved the deal and
then said he was powerless to revisit his decision.
Mr. Sinclair said in an interview that his group greatly resents the way
the new party was "orchestrated" after two successive PC conventions had
specifically voted against combining.
Mr. Rosenthal added: "If the process was as flawed as we allege in our
Notice of Application, it must be reversed -- not only to restore the
Progressive Conservative Party, but also to protect other parties from
similar takeovers in future."
The case differs in several ways from an Ontario Court of Appeal
challenge by former Conservative Party MP David Orchard that was heard
last week. That challenge alleges that since the PC Party's constitution
contains no provision for a merger, one could be carried out only with
the unanimous consent of its members.
Mr. Rosenthal said the trial judge in the Orchard challenge instructed
that any future judicial review of the merger should focus on whether
the Chief Electoral Officer had properly considered whether the merger
resolution met the requirements of the Canada Elections Act. That is
what the PC Loyalists have done.