Opinions

Survival of the merger

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Many do not believe the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance should not unite into a single party. I have to ask, why not? What does the Canadian right have to lose?

Since 1987, the right has been fractured by the formation of the Reform Party. This fracture was made into a complete break after the Conservative annihilation in the 1993 federal election. Since then, the Tories have been in a tailspin, and have never recovered. The Tories are now an Atlantic rump, with scattered support across the rest of the country. Joe Clark's victory in Calgary Centre in 2000 was the result of Liberals defecting to the Tories in order to defeat the Alliance, speaking to the strength of the Tory vote.

As a Tory, even I feel that the time is now. Harper and MacKay have made a great sacrifice of their own political careers, brushing aside all old party hatreds to come together. The reconstruction is ready to go, so why are Tories so intent on chaining themselves to the worksite fence and blocking the bulldozers when this could be the best thing to happen to them since Jean Charest was leader?

I've said this before, and I'll say it again, the right is facing the electoral tsunami known as Paul Martin. The current electoral system does not and cannot accommodate two viable political parties on the right. To stay with the status quo for the 2004 election would finish the Tories, and leave the Alliance with a nasty gash on its Western flank.

The arguments against a union are weak at best.

The opinion polls of October 2003 mean nothing when the writ is dropped in the spring of 2004. The Tories may be standing at 19 per cent right now, but where are the Liberals? How many seats can 19 per cent translate into? As we learned in 1997, not that many.

A second argument is the Alliance is less than progressive on certain issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. While this is true, look at the Liberals. Over 50 of their MPs voted for the second coming of a 1999 Alliance resolution to protect the current definition of marriage. Hardly a united front on such a progressive issue.

Of course, there are factions within parties, I cannot debate this point. However, in a classic liberalist view, I say that they can be ameliorated. Brian Mulroney won on this trategy in 1984 and again in 1988. Although it wasn't the perfect plan (it fell apart in 1993, as mentioned before) it can be resurrected. It won't be easy, but in politics nothing is.

While there are factions which cannot be ameliorated (the religious right, the left-wing Tories), there is still one giant block in the middle boasting the potential for something big. The answer is not to slice it up into two pieces, but combine it as one. Keeping the Tories and the Alliance separate is tantamount to carving this block in two. In this case, two isn't better than one.

No matter how you do the math, it won't add up. A large Liberal block and two split conservative blocks are not equal.

This is no longer a battle over values, it is a battle for survival. The clock is ticking, and if the merger does not go ahead, there won't be much of anything left to merge after the storm has passed and Liberal red fills Parliament's chambers.

We learned this lesson in 1993, let's not repeat it again in 2004.

Like the old saying goes, "those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them." Wise advice, wouldn't you say?

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Comments

John,
Since this is basically a response to the article I wrote last week I figured and put a comment in. As you showed in your article the fusion of factions into political partieshas been used in the past to form governments in Canada. Temporary governments, and temporary parties. It is in the long term interest of the conservative movement to keep competition between them, until one emerges as a stronger party.
Hopefully this will mean a long-term party capable of challenging the Liberal party at every election, not just when conservatives get so tired of Liberals that they finally get their act together.
In the meantime, is a Liberal government so bad? The only reason opposition parties resort to claims of corruption, is because they have very little to argue on the policy side. The opposition parties concern themselves more with internal Liberal party politics, than with the politics of the nation.
Of course, a viable alternative to the government is necessary, but in less it is a stable alternative we will have another long run of Liberal governments. The fact is that the PC party as it exists right now is the only non-regional party in Canada, hence it is the only viable alternative to the Liberals. A merger with the Canadian alliance will probably cut off any chance of winning seats east of Ottawa and any chance of winning alot of seats in Ontario. Faced with this prospect how could one believe that a merger is really a positive step for the Canadian conservative movement?

This was designed to be a response. However, the editors decided to butcher this so that it is not. I originally designed it to be a response.

To be honest, I can't fathom living in a country that is, according to Jeffrey Simpson, a "friendly dictatorship." There is simply no choice. The Liberals get a plurality, and are handsomely rewarded in terms of Parliamentary seats. The losers wallow in nothingness, and get punished for finishing last.

You've heard the whole schtick before: that the combined PC and CA vote could have toppled over 50 Liberals in the last election. And what if we were to bring those votes together under one banner? It may look like a hack job to be cutting so close before a spring election, but it is a positive step nevertheless.

Some might see it as an Alliance takeover of the Tories. Admittedly they do have more members than the Tories, have a larger budget, and have about 4 times more seats in Parliament than the Tories. But MacKay et al. have made sure that they still have some of the PC principles for the new party, such as being socially progressive while fiscally conservative. While socially progressive there is a wide gap, fiscal conservatism is where both Tories and Alliance converge.

I made the analogy from a Chinese folk tale of the clam and the pelican. But this is a case of two parties coverging, finding common ground (which has not been easy, and I commend Messrs. MacKay and Harper for staking their own political careers to pull this off), and try to put the bad blood aside. It might take a while, but nothing is impossible.

So I say long live the Conservative party, and if anyone wants to run under the likes of David Orchard under an already tired banner (face it, the PC banner is a poster child of failure, forever tarnished with the crushing defeat of 1993) then it's fine by me.