Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's time we took back the Right from the extremists and the ideologues.

The Right Wing in Canada no longer represents me.

For that matter, neither does the Left. Our Left Wing parties spend their time chasing each other’s tails as they jockey for position to see who can be top dog on that very tiny hill. It used to be a much bigger hill on the Left, and it was predominantly Liberal- Red in colour. But the Left is so fractured now, and the presence of the Bloc Quebecois usurps many of the red-federalist seats in Quebec.

But the Right is a formidable unified block now that incorporates Red Tories, Blue Tories and every shade of Tory in between. Or does it?

In 2003, Peter Mackay (our current Minister or National Defense) was elected Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada (PC). During the leadership convention, MacKay made a deal with fellow leadership candidate David Orchard. The deal was that Orchard would throw his support behind MacKay on the condition that MacKay would not unite the struggling Progressive Conservative Party with the extreme Right Wing Alliance Party (Formerly the Reform Party of Canada). The deal worked and MacKay won the leadership. He then promptly entered into negotiations with the Alliance Party for unification of the Right. Later that year, Stephen Harper, one of the founding fathers of the Reform Party, was elected leader of the new unified party of the Right, a party born of deceit and betrayal.

From the beginning, the Reform Party of Canada was created as an alternative to the Progressive Conservative Party which was seen to be drifting dangerously close to the ideological centre line. But as it was firmly rooted in the grasslands of Alberta, the Reformists were viewed as more of a territorial party, much like the Bloc Quebecois. In addition, insidious shadows that insinuated racial and religious intolerance, regional biases, and religious extremism emanated from the Reform Parties back rooms. So while they were gaining strength in western Canada, the Reform was never viewed as a viable national party, certainly not one representative of Canadian values.

So the Reform Party tried to reinvent itself. It gathered in a few of the Blue Tories from the struggling P.C.s and redubbed itself “The Alliance Party” and billed itself as THE party of the Right. They elected the stumbling bumbling Stockwell Day (Our current President of the Treasury Board) as leader. But most Canadians were still not buying it. They knew that The Alliance was just the extremist Reform Party under a different name and with a less credible leader. So even as they continued to gain strength in the west, the Reform/Alliance Party could not gain credibility or make  inroads west of Manitoba. But what they did succeed in doing was splitting the vote on the Right, allowing the Liberal Party to continue its run of successive majority governments.

So thanks to the treachery of Peter MacKay, the Reform/Alliance Party succeeded in gobbling up the few remaining P.C.s. To the new party strategists’, this gave them instant credibility. The P.C.s were always strong in the east, being one of the traditional parties of a unified Canada. In addition, Former P.C. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was from Quebec which gave the P.C.s inroads there. So in the most masterfully strategic stroke in the history of the Reform/Alliance Party, they reinvented themselves yet again, this time taking on the name of the newly annexed party, calling themselves “The Conservative Party of Canada”. The “Progressive” part of the name was instantly dropped, meaning they no longer had to trouble themselves about dancing too close to the “Red” zone. This was a very deep Right Wing group, and now they had credibility, and they were hungry.

Leading up the federal election of 2006, circumstances were reversed from what they were during the Reform/Alliance days. Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien had retired from political life, leaving the Liberal party deeply divided. Not only that, The New Democratic Party was taking on steam and the Bloc Quebecois was poised to pounce on seats vacated by the old Progressive Conservative Party. The Left was deeply divided and the Right was, for all intents and purposes, unified. At the very least, there was only one Party, the newly minted Conservative Party occupying the land to the Right of Centre.

But even though it’s new name gave it credibility, the Reform/Conservatives had still not completely united the right. Joe Clark, the 16th Prime Minister of Canada and the last leader of the federal Progressive Conservative Party of Canada prior to MacKay  would have nothing to do with what he considered to be a sham of a party. He finished out his Last term as a Member of Parliament sitting as a Progressive Conservative, not a New Conservative. During the 2006 federal election, Clark threw his weight behind the Liberal’s Paul Martin, claiming that he was at least, “The Devil we know”. He continued to characterize the new Conservative party as the “Alliance Take Over”.

But even with such favorable conditions, The Reform/Conservatives were only able to win the 2006 federal election with a minority. While they had gained seats in the East for the first time, not all Social Conservatives would join the new party. Scott Brison, one of the few remaining sitting P.C.s at the time of the annex had thrown in his lot with the Liberals. And just as Joe Clark had said, Paul Martin was at least the devil the voters knew.

And with Stephen Harper’s victory, Peter MacKay was rewarded for betraying the Progressive Conservatives. He was made Minister of Foreign Affairs, a plumb position. The bumbling Stockwell Day was made Minister of Public Safety. While not a high profile position, it was reward enough for stepping aside as leader of the Reform/Alliance Party, allowing Stephen Harper to take the reins and eventually, become the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada.

So this so-called Conservative Party of Canada, the one currently serving out its second consecutive minority government, is but a very pale shadow of the former Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. This party’s roots are very firmly implanted in the ideology of the old Reform Party.  It has had to temper itself somewhat, compared to the old extremist days. It has been forced through gritted teeth to be somewhat conciliatory regarding the agenda’s of other parties, due to its perpetual state as minority government.  But make no mistake about it, if this bunch of divisive ideologues, representing a party that resulted from betrayal were ever given a majority mandate, there would be no collaboration what so ever.  Harper’s style of autocratic leadership has proven the truth of that. There would be no return to fiscally responsible Government. There would be no governance based on the collective values and social conscience that makes Canada unique.

We will have a country governed according to the far right intolerant narrow minded ideals of an elitist few. And these few are vicious, un relenting, brutal and have an extraordinary survival instinct. They fight dirty and they fight to win. And these my friends are not the tenants of the Conservative Party of our fathers.

Many disagreed with his politics, being a Progressive Conservative, but Brian Mulroney, to the best of his ability practiced responsible government. He managed to clean up the federal deficit left by his predecessor, the late Pierre Trudeau.  He attempted to bring the country together by bringing Quebec into the constitutional fold.  He succeeded in creating free trade in an effort to level the trade playing field with the United State. While it was and is much hated, Mulroney implemented the GST as a way of bringing in more federal revenue while reducing personal income tax. Mr. Mulroney took into consideration, the needs of the country and acted accordingly.

One of Mulroney’s predecessors as leader of the P.C.s, Robert Stanfield, while never actually achieving the status, was called the Greatest Prime Minister Canada never had. He was granted the honorary title of “Right Honorable”, usually reserved for Prime Ministers and he earned the nickname “Honest Bob”.

While his tenure as Prime Minister was short lived, P.C. Prime Minister Joe Clark is today regarded as a great statesman and a scholar.

These are all the perfect example of what it is to be a “Progressive” Conservative. These are people who put the needs of the country ahead of their own agenda, practiced responsible government and were honorable, fair and respected. None of these terms can be applied to the new Conservatives, the Reform Conservatives.  As such, the far ideological right does not represent me. It does not represent a great many Conservative Canadians who believe in tradition, honour, and pragmatism, maintenance of our social safety net, collaboration and responsible government. And being God fearing does not mean being exclusionary. 

It's time we took back the Right from the extremists and the ideologues. 

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