Stockwell Day’s proposal to hold a leadership vote is clever but not very smart. It’s clever because Day has caught his opponents off guard. It’s not very smart because he has permanently driven a wedge between the dissidents and the Canadian Alliance party.
It’s clever because Day will benefit regardless of when the leadership vote is held. If it’s held early, Day gets a head start because his backers are organized. And if the election held later, Day has nothing to loose because his leadership would have been up for review anyway at the scheduled party convention in April, 2002.
Day’s appeal to the “grassroots” is wearing thin and not very smart. When you look closely at who he is appealing to, such as the “grassroots for Day”, you find that they are just a bunch of people with specific interests.
The hypocrisy of claiming support of the grassroots while rejecting “special interest groups” is that they are the same. The “grassroots” are simply Alliance special interest groups. But the Day can’t speak plainly because he would have to call environmentalists, socialists, feminists, anti free traders, and every other ideological group “grassroots”.
It’s not very smart that Day still fantasizes that he will “unite the right wing” by forming an union with the Conservatives. The Progressive Conservatives are not a right wing party — they are a party of the centre of Canadian politics. But everything is relative in politics. Compared to the Liberals, they are centre-left.
The federal Liberals are not liberal. True Liberals favour “a significant role for the state in matters of economics and social justice (Canadian Oxford Dictionary)”. The Trudeau Liberals were liberal in that sense. But the Chretien/Martin neo-Liberals favour “justice” for only of the rich and powerful.
If you are what you eat, then the Liberals are right-wing. They have swallowed Alliance policies whole — cuts to public health, education and the CBC, tax breaks for the rich and cuts to programs to the poor. Paul Martin has inflicted some of the worst damage to ordinary Canadians in recent history.
“The right is more likely to be united by Liberal Paul Martin, than it is by the Conservatives” quips David Orchard, runner-up to Joe Clark as leader of the Progressive Conservatives. Orchard brought many moderate Canadians into the Conservative “big tent” by attracting 12,000 members. In B.C., he was first choice for leader.
When I talked to David Orchard from his organic farm at Borden, Saskatchewan, he had just finished a tour of western Canada where he spoke to overflow crowds. He found that Canadians are increasingly concerned with the loss of sovereignty caused free trade and globalization, and loss of control of their food supply though genetic modification.
“The environmental movement, based upon the impulse to preserve, is a conservative idea,” said Orchard. The Alliance party mimics the liberal free-market model, “slashing national institutions, escalating the clear cutting of our forests, the genetic manipulation of our agriculture and food supply, recklessly revolutionizing without regard for the consequences.”
Orchard’s study of history shows that parties of the left are more likely to overthrow out-of-touch federal governments than parties of the right. For example, when John Diefenbaker swept the Conservatives to power in 1957, defeating the Liberals, he was considered left of centre. Some called him a “prairie bolshevik”.
The Conservatives are, after all, party that supports public ownership of Canadian institutions; the party that brought us the CBC through the Broadcast Act of 1923 and the Canadian Wheat Board. They are the party that traditionally opposes free trade.
In 1983, Brian Mulroney strongly opposed free trade with the United States. Once he was swept to power, he reversed his views, broke the Conservative Party’s historic position and ushered in the North American free-trade agreement. In 1993, his party was dealt the most dramatic repudiation in a western democracy, and was reduced to two seats.
Conservative leader Joe Clarke has been labelled a “red” Tory for parading in support of gay pride in downtown Calgary — an act that won praise from NDP Svend Robinson.
The Conservatives are not a right-wing party and they have a better chance of forming government than the Alliance does. The PC – Alliance union has about as much chance of happening as a same sex marriage at the next Alliance convention.