Albertan Government

Conservative Party of Canada

The Conservative Party of Canada (Parti conservateur du Canada), colloquially known as the "Tories", is a conservative political party in Canada, formed by the merger of the Canadian Alliance (formerly Reform Party) and the Progressive Conservative Party in December 2003. The party currently forms the Government of Canada (since February 6, 2006), and is led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

History

Predecessors

The Conservative Party is political heir to a series of conservative parties that have existed in Canada, beginning with the Liberal-Conservative Party founded in 1854 by Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George-Étienne Cartier. The party later became known simply as the Conservative Party after 1873. Like its historical predecessors and conservative parties in some other commonwealth nations (such as the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom), members of the present-day Conservative Party of Canada are sometimes referred to as "Tories". The modern Conservative Party of Canada is also legal heir to the heritage of the historical conservative parties by virtue of assuming the assets and liabilities of the former Progressive Conservative Party upon the merger of 2003.

The first incarnations of the Conservative Party in Canada were much different than the Conservative Party of today, especially on economic issues. The early Conservatives were known to espouse economic protectionism and British imperialism, by emphasizing Canada's ties to the United Kingdom while vigorously opposing free trade with the United States of America, free trade being a policy which, at the time, had strong support from the ranks of the Liberal Party of Canada. The Conservatives also sparred with the Liberal Party due to its connections with French Canadian nationalists including Henri Bourassa who wanted Canada to distance itself from the Britain, and demanded that Canada recognize that it had two nations, English Canada and French Canada connected together through a common history. The Conservatives would go on with a popular slogan "one nation, one flag, one leader" and supported policies such as the assimilation of French Canadians, aboriginals, and immigrants.

The Conservative Party's popular support waned (particularly in western Canada) during difficult economic times from the 1920s to 1940s, as it was seen by many in the west as an eastern establishment party which ignored the needs of the citizens of Western Canada. Westerners of multiple political convictions including small-"c" conservatives saw the party as being disinterested in the economically-unstable Prairie regions of the west at the time and instead holding close ties with the business elite of Ontario and Quebec. As a result of western alienation both the dominant Conservative and Liberal parties were challenged in the west by the rise of a number of protest parties including the Progressive Party of Canada, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), and the Social Credit Party of Canada. The Progressives once outpaced the Conservatives, and, in 1920, became Official Opposition, though soon after, the Progressive Party folded. Former Progressive leader John Bracken became leader of the Conservative Party in 1942 subject to several conditions, one of which was that the party be renamed the Progressive Conservative Party. Meanwhile, many former supporters of the Progressive Party shifted their support to either the federal CCF or to the federal Liberals. The advancement of the provincially-popular western-based conservative Social Credit Party in federal politics was stalled, in part by the strategic selection of leaders from the west by the Progressive Conservative Party. Conservative leaders such as John Diefenbaker and Joe Clark were seen by many westerners as viable challengers to the Liberals who traditionally had relied on the electorate in Quebec and Ontario for their power base. While none of the various protest parties ever succeeded in gaining significant power federally, was damaging to the Conservative Party throughout its history, and allowed the federal Liberals to win election after election with strong urban support bases in Ontario and Quebec. This historical tendency earned the Liberals the unofficial title often given by some political pundits of being Canada's "natural governing party". Prior to 1984, Canada was seen as having a dominant-party system led by the Liberal Party while Conservative governments therefore were considered by many of these pundits as caretaker governments, doomed to fall once the collective mood of the electorate shifted and the federal Liberal Party eventually came back to power.

In 1984, the Progressive Conservative Party's electoral fortunes made a massive upturn under its new leader, Brian Mulroney, an anglophone Quebecker and former President of the Iron Ore Company of Canada, who mustered a large coalition of westerners aggravated over the National Energy Program of the Liberal government and Quebeckers who were angered over Quebec not having distinct status in the Constitution of Canada signed in 1982. This led to a huge landslide victory for the Progressive Conservative Party. Progressive Conservatives abandoned protectionism which the party had held strongly to in the past which had aggravated westerners and businesses in the past and fully espoused free trade with the United States and integrating Canada into a globalized economy, which was initiated with the signing of the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement (FTA) of 1989 and oversaw much of the key implementation process of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which added Mexico to the Canada-U.S. free trade zone.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, federal conservative politics became split by the creation of a new western-based protest party, the populist and social conservative Reform Party of Canada created by Preston Manning, son of Alberta Social Credit Premier Ernest Manning. The party was very controversial in Canadian politics, it advocated deep decentralization of government power, abolishment of official bilingualism and multiculturalism, democratization of the Canadian Senate, opposed abortion, opposed extending rights to homosexuals and suggested a potential return to capital punishment, and advocating significant privatization of public services. Despite controversial aspects of Reform, Westerners felt betrayed by the federal Conservative Party, seeing it as catering to Quebec and urban Ontario interests over theirs. In 1989, Reform made headlines in the political scene when its first MP, Deborah Grey, was elected in a by-election in Alberta, which was a shock to the PCs which had almost complete electoral dominance over the province for years. Another defining event for western conservatives was when Mulroney accepted the results of an unofficial Senate "election" held in Alberta, which resulted in the appointment of a Reformer, Stanley Waters, to the Senate.

By the 1990s, Mulroney had failed to bring about Senate reform as he had promised (appointing a number of unelected Senators in 1990). As well, social conservatives were dissatisfied with Mulroney's social progressivism. Canadians in general were furious with high unemployment, high debt and deficit, unpopular implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 1991, and the failed constitutional reforms of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords. In 1993, support for the Progressive Conservative Party collapsed, and the party's representation in the House of Commons dropped from an absolute majority of seats to only two seats. The 1993 results were the worst electoral disaster in Canadian history, and the Progressive Conservatives never fully recovered.

In 1993, federal politics became divided regionally, the Liberal Party took Ontario, the Maritimes and the territories, the separatist Bloc Québécois took Quebec, while the Reform Party took Western Canada and became the dominant conservative party in Canada. The problem of the split on the right was accentuated by Canada's single member plurality electoral system, which resulted in numerous seats being lost to the Liberal Party, even when the total number of votes cast for P.C. and Reform Party candidates was substantially in excess of the total number of votes cast for the Liberal candidate.

With the right-wing vote split, the Liberal Party won three successive majority governments which led the Reform Party and elements of the Progressive Conservative Party to advocate "uniting the right" which was completed in 2003, when the Canadian Alliance (formerly the Reform Party) and Progressive Conservative parties agreed to merge into the present-day Conservative Party, with the Alliance faction conceding its populist ideals and some social conservative elements.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay and many other high-profile former Progressive Conservatives, including the former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney see the Conservative Party today as a natural evolution of the conservative political movement in Canada. MacKay has suggested that the Conservative Party is a reflection of the reunification of conservative ideologies under a "big tent." MacKay has often said that fractures have been a natural part of the Canadian conservative movement's history since the 1890s and that the merger was a reconstitution of a movement that has existed since the Union of Upper and Lower Canada.

Merger

On October 15, 2003, after closed-door meetings were held by the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative Party, Stephen Harper (then the leader of the Canadian Alliance) and Peter MacKay (then the leader of the Progressive Conservatives) announced the "'Conservative Party Agreement-in-Principle", thereby merging their parties to create the new Conservative Party of Canada. After several months of talks between two teams of "emissaries", consisting of Don Mazankowski, Bill Davis and Loyola Hearn on behalf of the PCs and Ray Speaker Senator Gerry St. Germain and Scott Reid on behalf of the Alliance, the deal came to be.

On December 5, the Agreement-in-Principle was ratified by the membership of the Alliance by a margin of 96% to 4% in a national referendum conducted by postal ballot. On December 6 the PC Party held a series of regional conventions, at which delegates ratified the Agreement-in-Principle by a margin of 90% to 10%. On December 7, 2003, the new party was officially registered with Elections Canada. On March 20, 2004, Stephen Harper was elected leader.

The merger was the culmination of the Canadian "Unite the Right" movement, driven by the desire to present an effective right-wing opposition to the Liberal Party of Canada, to create a new party that would draw support from all parts of Canada and would not split the right-wing vote. The splitting of the right-wing vote contributed to Liberal victories in the 1993 federal election, 1997 federal election and the 2000 election.

The merger process was controversial. David Orchard had a written agreement from Peter MacKay at the 2003 Progressive Conservative Leadership convention excluding any such merger and led an unsuccessful legal challenge to it. Orchard (under the Progressive Conservative party leadership election rules) is still owed at least $70,000 by the newly merged Conservative Party. This debt has been recognized as legitimate by the Conservative Party lawyers; however, its reimbursement is on hold pending the outcome of legal matters between the party and Orchard.

At the time of the merger four sitting Progressive Conservative Members of Parliament — André Bachand, John Herron, former Tory leadership candidate Scott Brison, and former Prime Minister Joe Clark — decided not to join the new Conservative Party caucus, as did retiring PC Party president Bruck Easton. Clark and Brison argued that the party's merger with the Canadian Alliance drove it too far to the right, and away from its historical position in Canadian politics. Brison, at first, voted for and supported the ratification of the Alliance-Tory merger, then crossed the floor to the Liberals Soon afterward, he was made a parliamentary secretary in Paul Martin's Liberal government, and became a full cabinet minister after the 2004 federal election. Herron also ran as a Liberal candidate in the election, but did not join the Liberal caucus prior to the election. He lost his seat to the new Conservative Party's candidate Rob Moore. Bachand and Clark both retired from Parliament at the end of the session.

One former Alliance MP, former Alliance leadership candidate Keith Martin, also left the party on January 14. He retained his seat in the 2004 election, running under the Liberal banner. In the 38th Parliament (2004-2005), Martin served as parliamentary secretary to Bill Graham, Canada's minister of defence. He was reelected a second time in the 2006 general election.

Additionally, three senators, the late William Doody, Norman Atkins, and Lowell Murray, declined to join the new party and continue to sit in the upper house as a rump caucus of Progressive Conservatives. The Martin Liberals exacerbated the Tory split in the Senate by appointing, in February 2005, provincial Progressive Conservatives Nancy Ruth and Elaine McCoy as senators and additional members of the rump PC Senate caucus. Ms. Ruth, however, later did join the new Conservative party in March 2006.

In the early months of the Conservatives' existence two Conservative MPs also became publicly disgruntled with the leadership, policy, and procedures of the new party. Former Progressive Conservative MP Rick Borotsik became openly critical of the new party's leadership during its initial months of existence and officially retired from politics at the end of the parliamentary session of spring 2004.

Former Canadian Alliance MP Chuck Cadman rejected the new party's riding nomination procedures in March after losing his local riding's Conservative nomination to an outside challenger. His membership in the Conservative party was revoked in late May. Cadman ran as an independent candidate in the federal election of June 2004. He was re-elected as the only independent in the new parliament but died of cancer in July 2005.

Additionally, after the 2004 federal election, Tory Senator Jean-Claude Rivest left the Conservatives to sit as an independent member of the Senate, citing his concerns that the new party was too right-wing and insensitive to Quebec needs and interests.

Leadership convention

With 17,296 votes and 56.23% party support, Stephen Harper was chosen as leader of the new party on March 20, 2004, defeating former Ontario provincial PC Cabinet minister Tony Clement (2,887 votes, 9.4%) and former Magna International CEO Belinda Stronach (10,613 votes, 34.54%) on the first ballot.

Some Conservative activists had hoped to recruit former Ontario Premier Mike Harris for the leadership but he declined, as did New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord and Alberta Premier Ralph Klein. Outgoing Progressive Conservative leader Peter MacKay also announced he would not seek the leadership of the new party as did former Democratic Representative Caucus leader and Canadian Alliance Member of Parliament (MP) Chuck Strahl. Jim Prentice, who had been a candidate in the 2003 PC leadership contest, entered the Conservative leadership race in mid-December but dropped out in mid-January due to an inability to raise funds so soon after his earlier leadership bid.

General election of 2004

Two months after Harper's election as national Tory leader, Liberal Party of Canada leader and Prime Minister Paul Martin called a general election for June 28, 2004. However, in the interim between the formation of the new party and the selection of its new leader, factional infighting and investigations into the Sponsorship Scandal significantly reduced the popularity of the governing Liberal Party. This allowed the Conservatives to be more prepared for the race, unlike the 2000 federal election when few predicted the early election call. For the first time since the 1993 federal election, a Liberal government would have to deal with a united conservative front. The Liberals attempted to counter this with an early election call, as this would give the Conservatives less time to consolidate their merger.

During the first half of the campaign, polls showed a rise in support for the new party, leading some pollsters to predict the election of a minority Conservative government. An unpopular provincial budget by Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty hurt the federal Liberals' numbers in Ontario, as did a weak performance from Martin in the leaders' debates. The Liberals managed to narrow the gap and eventually regain momentum by targeting the Conservatives' credibility and motives, hurting their efforts to present a reasonable, responsible and moderate alternative to the governing Liberals.

Several controversial comments were made by Conservative MPs during the campaign. Early on in the campaign, Ontario MP Scott Reid indicated his feelings as Tory language critic that the policy of official bilingualism was unrealistic and needed to be reformed. Alberta MP Rob Merrifield suggested as Tory health critic that women ought to have mandatory family counseling before they choose to have an abortion. BC MP Randy White indicated his willingness near the end of the campaign to use the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Constitution to override the Charter of Rights on the issue of same-sex marriage, and Cheryl Gallant, another Ontario MP, compared abortion to terrorism. The party was also criticized for issuing press releases accusing both Paul Martin and Jack Layton of supporting child pornography, although both releases were recalled within a few hours.

Harper's new Conservatives emerged from the election with a larger parliamentary caucus of 99 MPs while the Liberals were reduced to a minority government of 135 MPs, requiring the Liberals to obtain support from at least twenty-three opposition MPs in order to guarantee the passage of Liberal government legislation. The Conservatives' popular vote, however, was actually lower than the combined Alliance and PC popular vote in the 2000 federal election.

Founding convention: March 2005

In 2005, some political analysts such as former Progressive Conservative pollster Allan Gregg and Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hébert suggested that the then-subsequent election could result in a Conservative government if the public were to perceive the Tories as emerging from the party's founding convention (then scheduled for March 2005) with clearly defined, moderate policies with which to challenge the Liberals.

The convention provided the public with an opportunity to see the Conservative Party in a new light, appearing to have reduced the focus on its controversial social conservative agenda (although most Conservatives continue to oppose same-sex marriage). It retained its populist appeal by espousing tax cuts, smaller government, a grassroots-oriented democratic reform, and more decentralization by giving the provinces more taxing powers and decision-making authority in joint federal-provincial programs. The party's law and order package was an effort to address the perception of rising homicide rates, which had gone up 12% in 2004. Statistics Canada

On May 17, 2005, MP Belinda Stronach surprised many when she crossed the floor from the Conservative Party to join the Liberal Party.

In late August and early September 2005, the Tories released ads through Ontario's major television broadcasters that highlighted their policies towards health care, education and child support. The ads each featured Stephen Harper discussing policy with prominent members of his Shadow Cabinet. Some analysts suggested at the time that the Tories would use similar ads in the expected 2006 federal election, instead of focusing their attacks on allegations of corruption in the Liberal government as they did earlier on.

An Ipsos-Reid Poll conducted after the fallout from the first report of the Gomery Commission on the sponsorship scandal showed the Tories practically tied for public support with the governing Liberal Party , and a poll from the Strategic Counsel suggested that the Conservatives were actually in the lead. However, polling two days later showed the Liberals had regained an 8-point lead

General election of 2006

On November 24, 2005, Opposition leader Stephen Harper introduced a motion of no confidence which was passed on November 28, 2005. With the confirmed backing of the other two opposition parties, this resulted in an election on January 23, 2006, following a campaign spanning the Christmas season.

The Conservatives started off the first month of the campaign by making a series of policy-per-day announcements, which included a Goods and Services Tax reduction and a child-care allowance. This strategy was a surprise to many in the news media, as they believed the party would focus on the sponsorship scandal; instead, the Conservative strategy was to let that issue ruminate with voters. The Liberals opted to hold their major announcements after the Christmas holidays; as a result, Harper dominated media coverage for the first few weeks of the campaign and was able "to define himself, rather than to let the Liberals define him". The Conservatives' announcements played to Harper's strengths as a policy wonk , as opposed to in the 2004 election and summer 2005 where he tried to overcome the perception that he was cool and aloof. Though his party showed only modest movement in the polls, Harper's personal approval numbers, which had always trailed his party's significantly, began to rise relatively rapidly.

On December 27, 2005, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced it was investigating Liberal Finance Minister Ralph Goodale's office for potentially engaging in insider trading before making an important announcement on the taxation of income trusts. The revelation of the criminal investigation and Goodale's refusal to step aside dominated news coverage for the following week, and it gained further attention when the United States Securities and Exchange Commission announced they would also launch a probe. The income trust scandal distracted public attention from the Liberals' key policy announcements and allowed the Conservatives to refocus on their previous attacks on corruption within the Liberal party. The Tories were leading in the polls by early January 2006, and made a major breakthrough in Quebec where they displaced the Liberals as the second place party (after the Bloc Québécois).

In response to the growing Conservative lead, the Liberals launched negative ads suggesting that Harper had a "hidden agenda", similar to the attacks made in the 2004 election. The Liberal ads did not have the same effect this time as the Conservatives had much more momentum, at one stage holding a ten-point lead. Harper's personal numbers continued to rise and polls found he was considered not only more trustworthy, but also a better potential Prime Minister than Paul Martin. In addition to the Conservatives being more disciplined, media coverage of the Conservatives was also more positive than in 2004. By contrast, the Liberals found themselves increasingly criticized for running a poor campaign and making numerous gaffes.

On January 23, 2006, the Conservatives won 124 seats, compared to 103 for the Liberals. The results made the Conservatives the largest party in the 308-member House of Commons, enabling them to form a minority government. On February 6, Stephen Harper was sworn in as the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada, along with his Cabinet.

The Harper Government (2006-2008)

The Federal Accountability Act in response to the sponsorship scandal, President of the Treasury Board, the Honourable John Baird introduced the bill to the Canadian House of Commons on April 11, 2006. The bill was passed in the House of Commons on June 22, 2006, and was granted royal assent on December 13, 2006.

The 2006 Canadian federal budget was presented to the House of Commons by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on May 2, 2006. The government announced that the Goods and Services Tax would be lowered from 7% to 6% (and eventually to 5%); income tax cuts for middle-income earners, and $1,200-per-child childcare payment (the "Universal Child Care Benefit") for Canadian parents. On June 6, 2006, the budget was introduced for third reading in the House of Commons and was declared passed by unanimous consent as the result of procedural confusion. (The Bloc Québécois had previously indicated that it would support the budget, and its passage was never in doubt.)

On October 31, 2006, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced that the government would begin taxing income trusts in 2011, which backtracked on one of their campaign promises. There had been an increasing number of corporations converting to income trusts which would result in them paying lowered taxes; Flaherty argued that income trusts would cost the government hundreds of millions in lost revenue and shift the burden onto ordinary people. Subsequent to the October 31 announcement by Flaherty, the TSX Capped Energy Trust Index lost 21.8% in market value and the TSX Capped Income Trust Index lost 17.6% in market value by mid November 2006. In contrast, the TSX Capped REIT Index, which is exempt from the 'Tax Fairness Plan', gained 3.2% in market value. According to the Canadian Association of Income Trust Investors, this translates into a permanent loss in savings of $35 billion to Canadian income trust investors. The Conservatives are supported on the matter by the NDP.

On November 22, 2006, Harper introduced his own motion to recognize the Québécois as forming a "nation within a united Canada". Five days later, Harper's motion passed, with a margin of 266–16; all federalist parties, as well as the Bloc Québécois, were formally behind it.

During three by-elections held on September 17, 2007, mayor Denis Lebel captured the seat of Roberval for the Conservatives, taking it from the Bloc, while Bernard Barre ran a close second in Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot. This raised the Conservative total in the House of Commons to 126 members. Some believe these results indicate that the Conservatives have consolidated their position as the main federalist option in Quebec, outside of Montreal.

Conservative Industry Minister Jim Prentice introduced Bill C-61 - a copyright reform bill which was widely criticized for lack of consultations before the bill was introduced. Prentice has stated that he believes C-61 is the right way to go with respect to copyright reform..

On February 27, 2008 allegations surfaced that two Conservative Party officials offered Independent MP Chuck Cadman a million-dollar life insurance policy in exchange for his vote to bring down the Liberal government in a May 2005 budget vote. If the elements of the story are true, the Conservatives' actions may amount to a criminal offence. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, it is illegal to bribe an MP. An audio tape suggests then-opposition leader Stephen Harper was not only aware of a financial offer to Chuck Cadman but gave it his personal approval.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has been asked to investigate, and confirmed late February 28, 2008 that it is examining a claim from the Liberal Party that the incident violates the Criminal Code's Section 119 provisions on bribery and corruption.

The RCMP searched Conservative party headquarters in Ottawa on April 15, 2008 at the request of Elections Canada. Elections commissioner William Corbett requested the assistance of the Mounties. Elections Canada is probing Conservative party spending for advertisements during the 2006 parliamentary election campaign.

The Conservative Party of Canada, having reached the $18.3-million advertising spending limit set out under the Canada Elections Act, transferred cash to 66 local campaign offices. The local campaigns sent the money back to national party headquarters to buy local television and radio advertisements for their candidates.

Financial agents for at least 35 of those Conservative candidates later asked to be reimbursed for those expenses. Candidates who get 10 per cent of the votes in their riding get a portion of their election expenses returned from Elections Canada. Elections Canada refused, saying the party paid for the ads, not the candidates. The Conservatives maintain they didn't break any rules.

On May 26, 2008, the Conservative Party of Canada recognized in a private-members bill the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine as an act of genocide. The famine, orchestrated by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, has been recognized as genocide by a dozen countries -- although some historians disagree.

In August 2008, Conservative MP's mailed out flyers using their franking privileges which critics claim are "campaign materials." The ads feature a smiling picture of Conservative leader Stephen Harper along with a leading question as to who is performing the best on a given political issue. CBC reports that flyers have been sent by MPs who do not represent the areas to which they are sent to.

General Election of 2008

On September 7, 2008 Stephen Harper asked the Governor General of Canada to dissolve parliament. An election has been called and will take place on October 14, 2008. As of September 24th, the Conservative Party of Canada is currently leading opinion polls. The Conservatives also chose to start their campaign before announcing that an election would be called. Conservative TV ads started appearing almost 2 weeks before they conservative party announced an election date.

The Conservative Party released its' platform on October 7th. The platform states that it will re-introduce a bill similar to C-61.

An audio recording containing an interview by a journalist with Stephen Harper on the Cadman bribe issue was under scrutiny of being doctored. The tape was analyzed by an audio expert hired by the Conservative Party of Canada and was found to be unaltered for the "critical" moments of the interview.

Ideology, principles, and policies

The new Conservative Party is an amalgam of two contrasting views about conservatism in Canada. Historically, the Progressive Conservatives touted traditional Red Tory ideals like state funded social programs, rejected closer ties with the United States and attempted to model Canada after centuries-old British institutions. Western Canadian conservatism, embodied in the Canadian Alliance party, was more inspired by U.S.-based conservatism; it espoused closer ties with the United States, Blue Tory conservatism, privatization, smaller government as well as reform and overhaul of political institutions (on the American/Australian model) and a decentralized federalism (a limited government in Ottawa with stronger provinces, as also advocated by Brian Mulroney). The new party generally supports a market economy approach to the economic sphere. The Conservative Party also provides a home for a multitude of other conservatives, such as libertarian conservatives, environmental conservatives, Canadian republicans, monarchists, and many others.

Since most of the MPs for the new party as well as the grassroots supporters come from the western provinces, its policy has significant influence from Reform Party of Canada philosophy, even though the new party has shed much of Reform's social conservative image, and is more focused on economic, military, "law and order" and democratic reform/ethics-in-government issues. Unlike the old Progressive Conservatives, it more reflects a strong Blue Tory ideology. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is known as an avid fiscal conservative and a strong supporter for a strong military within the context of a joint command for the Canadian Forces co-operating and co-planning with the U.S. under the umbrella of a central command, modelled after NORAD. He has embraced some social conservative positions, such as opposition to same-sex marriage, though not to same-sex civil unions.

The merger symbolizes the latest chapter in the evolution of conservatism in Canada, as the historical Conservative Party, which was founded by United Empire Loyalists, was vehemently opposed to free trade and further integration with the United States, aiming instead to model Canadian political institutions after British ones. Then under the leadership of Brian Mulroney, the party emphasized market forces in the economy and reached a landmark free-trade deal with the United States. Some critics argue that the current incarnation of conservatism espouses pro-American views, aspires to emulate American capitalism, less government involvement in the economy and more grassroots-oriented Jeffersonian democratic reform.

Being conservative both fiscally and socially, the Conservative Party generally favours lower taxes, smaller government, more decentralization of federal government powers to the provinces modelled after the Meech Lake Accord, a tougher stand on "law and order" issues and more spending on the military, and harmonizing standards and regulations with those of the United States. It is also opposed to the legalization of cannabis and has had a free vote on whether the House wanted to reopen the issue of same-sex marriage, which was defeated. As the successor of the western-based Canadian Alliance, the party also supports reform of the Senate to make it "elected, equal, and effective" (the "Triple-E Senate"), as well as several other substantial reforms to reduce the present power of the Prime Minister's Office, such as establishing fixed election dates every four years and giving individual MPs more leeway in representing their constituents. In addition, in the wake of the sponsorship scandal and the resulting high-profile Gomery Inquiry the Conservative Party advocated government accountability and transparency reforms.

"Conscientious objectors" to "wars not sanctioned by the United Nations" should not be given a "program" to "remain in Canada", according to all of the 110 Conservative Party Members of Parliament who voted on this issue in the Parliament of Canada on June 3, 2008. On Sept. 13, 2008 this refusal to set up a “special program” was reiterated by a Conservative party spokeswoman even after the first such conscientious objector (Robin Long) had been deported and sentenced to 15 months in jail, against the June 3, 2008 recommendation of a majority of elected representatives in Parliament. NDP Member of Parliament Olivia Chow, who originally brought in the motion, then stated:

If we truly believe in democracy, we must not allow Stephen Harper to ignore the will of Parliament …Because if he continues to ignore the House of Commons and Parliament, he's ignoring the will of the people.

Party leaders

Electoral results (2004-2006)

Election # of candidates nominated # of seats won # of total votes % of popular vote result
2004
308
99
3,994,682
29.62%
Liberal minority government
2006
308
124
5,374,071
36.34%
Conservative minority government

Provincial parties

The Conservative Party, while officially having no current provincial wings, largely works with the former federal Progressive Conservative Party's provincial affiliates. There have been calls to change the names of the provincial parties from "Progressive Conservative" to "Conservative". However, there are other small "c" conservative parties which the federal Conservative Party has close ties with, such as the Saskatchewan Party, the Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ), and to some degree, the right-wing BC Liberals (even though there is an active British Columbia Conservative Party).

The federal Conservative party has the support of many of the provincial Conservative leaders. In Ontario, provincial PC Party leader John Tory and interim provincial opposition leader Bob Runciman have expressed open support for Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada, with former Mike Harris cabinet members Jim Flaherty, Tony Clement, and John Baird now ministers in Harper's government.

Support between federal and provincial Conservatives is more tenuous in some other provinces. In Alberta, relations have been strained between the federal Conservative Party and the Progressive Conservative. Part of the federal Tories' loss in the 2004 election was often blamed on then Premier Klein's public musings on health care late in the campaign. Klein had also called for a referendum on same-sex marriage. With the impending 2006 election, Klein predicted another Liberal minority, though this time the federal Conservatives won a minority government Klein's successor Ed Stelmach has generally tried to avoid causing similar controversies, however Harper's surprise pledge to restrict bitumen exports drew a sharp rebuke from the Albertan government, who warned such restrictions would violate both the Constitution of Canada and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

After the 2007 budget was announced the two conservative governments in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland accused the federal Conservatives of breaching the terms of the Atlantic Accord. As a result relations have worsened between the two provincial governments, leading Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams to publicly denounce the federal Conservatives, which has given rise to his ABC (Anything But Conservative) campaign in the 2008 election.

While officially separate, federal Conservative Party documents, such as membership applications, can be picked up from most provincial Progressive Conservative Party offices. Several of the provincial parties also contain open links to the federal Conservative website on their respective websites.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper has attended multiple provincial Progressive Conservative party conventions as a keynote speaker and he has encouraged all federal party members to purchase memberships in their provincial conservative counterparts.

See also

References

External links



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