What society will be built?
Published in the Calgary Herald, April
3, 2002 in a slightly edited version as "Alliance-PC cooperation
doomed: deep roots of the Conservative party make it the only national
alternative, David Orchard claims." Also published in the Montreal
Gazette, PEI Guardian and Saskatoon Star-Phoenix in
the original version under different headlines, the Star-Phoenix's,
"Trying to 'unite the right' electoral dead end."
The Canadian Reform Alliance has chosen a new leader and
once again assorted pundits, politicians and commentators are beating
the drum for "union" between the Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives.
Giving notice that he intends to "negotiate from strength," Mr.
Harper has instructed the PC party that its first step should be
to change its constitution -- which requires the party to field
a candidate in every riding in each election. He has let it be known
that there are some PC members of whom he does not approve: "Joe
Clark is not a leader who seems able or willing to face realities"
and "You can't build a party around the David Orchards and Dalton
Camps of this world."
All of which ignores a fundamental question. Why would the PCs
move towards policies and a party that the majority of Canadians
won't vote for? The last election found the CA with a new telegenic
leader, full coffers, a wave of favourable publicity, and yet no
breakthrough with the electorate which did not accept the policies
For the PC party to join, merge or "cooperate with" the Alliance
would require an abandonment of the roots and national reach of
the party that created Canada and put in place many of the institutions
which have enabled the country to survive and grow.
The entire notion of "uniting the right" in Canada is an electoral
dead end. Only two parties have formed government in Canada, the
Liberals and Conservatives and neither has ever done so on a right
wing platform. In fact, the PCs have more often been successful
running to the left, or progressive, side of the Liberals, as John
Diefenbaker proved so effectively when he achieved a sweeping victory
attacking the Liberals for selling out the trans-Canada pipeline
to U.S. interests.
On key issues the positions of Mr. Harper and the CA are diametrically
opposed to the traditions of the PC party.
When Alliance MP Jim Pankiw launched his attack on official bilingualism
in the House of Commons, Stephen Harper immediately offered his
support. Writing under the National Citizen's Coalition motto, "More
freedom through less government," Mr. Harper declared: "bilingualism
is the god that failed. It has led to no fairness, produced no unity
and cost Canadian taxpayers untold millions."
As a national party forged in the alliance between George Étienne
Cartier and John A. Macdonald extending through to Brian Mulroney
and Joe Clark, the PC party knows in its bones that bilingualism
is a fundamental cornerstone of Canada upon which any successful
national party must stand, and stand without equivocation.
On first nations issues the Alliance calls for the privatization
of reserves and an end to what it calls "race based" policies --
in other words, it advocates assimilation of Natives. Stephen Harper's
right hand man, Tom Flanagan, has made a career attacking Metis
and aboriginal rights. The Tory party, going back to the roots of
Canada and the pact between the Crown and first nations right up
through John Diefenbaker's Bill of Rights and the extension, finally,
of the franchise to Native Canadians, has stood on very different
grounds regarding aboriginal people, a fact that is well understood
in Native and non-Native communities across Canada.
On these two issues alone cooperation or union with the CA would
doom the PC party, but there are more.
The decision facing our generation involves our relationship with
the U.S. Is Canada going to allow itself to be assimilated economically,
culturally, monetarily, militarily and finally politically, by our
powerful neighbour? In spite of campaign promises to the contrary,
the Liberals are moving the country quickly down that path. The
Alliance and Mr. Harper have no problem with this approach; they
would proceed even more rapidly towards removing the border between
Canada and the U.S.
Shortly after the last election, Stephen Harper attacked Canada
as a "second-tier socialistic country," and called upon Canada's
richest province to "begin building another home." Albertans have
opted for "American enterprise and individualism," he informed us,
culminating his article with an exhortation: "Let us build a society
on Alberta values." Moving towards this view of Canada would remove
the PCs from the national stage.
Only a moderate, mainstream PC party can offer a viable alternative
to the Liberals, with a solid chance of forming a government.
In an election between Stephen Harper and, say, Paul Martin, there
is no room for a right wing PC party to try to insert itself between
those two men. The opening which presents itself is to the progressive
side of the Liberals, saying no to the abandonment of Canada's sovereignty,
no to adopting the U.S. dollar, no to the ongoing destruction of
our environment and yes to a vision of Canada as a powerful nation,
standing on its own two feet.
These are issues the Alliance can not and will not touch. They
are issues that could remove the Liberals from power and replace
them with a revitalized PC party reconnected to its historical roots.
I say to Mr. Harper, "Let us build a society on Canadian values."
David Orchard is the author of The Fight
for Canada -- Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism
and was runner-up to Joe Clark in the last federal Progressive Conservative
leadership contest. He farms in Borden, SK and can be reached at
tel (306) 664-8443 or by e-mail at email@example.com