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article imageOp-Ed: Uniting the Canadian right seemed like a good idea at the time

By Mark Alexander     Jan 26, 2016 in Politics
The political right in Canada celebrated when Peter MacKay sold out his Progressive Conservative Party and folded it into the upstart Canadian Alliance Party to end the vote splitting that kept handing electoral victory to the left-leaning Liberals.
Were their celebrations premature? Did they really know what they were celebrating? The right end of the political spectrum is a complicated beast. Just take a look at The Tea Party Movement south of the border, in the U.S. They have fragmented the Republican Party and have indirectly caused the election and re-election of Democrat president, Barack Obama. Not exactly the result that they were looking for. Why are we talking about U.S. politics? Because they can be an indication of how politics will play out here in Canada and provide a sort of crystal ball into what could unfold up here in the Great White North.
The U.S. for the most part has 2 political parties: The Democrats to the left and The Republicans to the right. Canada was very similar with the Liberal Party of Canada to the center-left, The Progressive Conservatives to the center-right with the NDP to the far left often holding the balance of power. This is how Canada's modern political landscape operated until about 1987 when decidedly right-winged and populist Reform Party began making inroads, mostly in Western Canada. By 1993, they had some electoral success and Canada now had two right-leaning parties (with one leaning further than the other). Between 1993 and 2004, Canada had successive Liberal governments after eight years of Progressive Conservative rule, under leader, Brian Mulroney. They were reduced to dust in the 1993 Federal election and the right seemed to crumble.
The issue seemed clear for Canada's right. It needed to unite and stop the vote-splitting that was handing the Liberals victory after victory. In 2000, The Canadian Alliance Party overtook the Reform Party. By 2004, The Canadian Alliance under Stephen Harper merged with the Peter MacKay led Progressive Conservatives to form the Conservative Party of Canada that went on to run the country for the nine years from 2006 to 2015.
Everything seemed rosy in Rightland until Justin Trudeau's Liberals handily beat the incumbent Conservatives late in 2015.
Here is where the long term problems start. Just as the Tea Party has infiltrated the Republican Party in the U.S., The evangelical, socially conservative, populist far right has infiltrated the Conservative Party of Canada. This is a direct result of their merger in 2004. The Canadian Alliance had a large contingent of the far right. The Progressive Conservatives were more center-right.
The Tea Party claims a base of anywhere from 10 percent-15 percent of the voting public. I would make an educated guess that the far right in Canada clocks in at around the same. How is this a problem? Well, when you have such a sizable faction within a single party, you need to appease them in order to retain their vote. By appeasing them, you often alienate those voters closer to the center of the political spectrum. You know, the ones you need in order to actually win an election and form a government.
What happened in the 2015 Canadian election campaign was unprecedented. In a desperate move to cling to his base, Conservative leader, Stephen Harper employed politics of fear, division and pulled out his dog whistle an several occasions.
His base loved it. The Ford Brothers loved it. But as I alluded to earlier, the 20 percent-25 percent or so of the voters who eat it up will never win you power. Adding to that, those tactics scare off more moderate supporters.
In its current incarnation, The Conservative Party is doomed to languish in the benches of opposition for the foreseeable future. Their party leadership race slated for 2016-2017 may go a long way to solving that problem. However, with electoral reform on the current Liberal government's agenda, the party may just be toast. The center is the way to win here. A large majority Canadians self identify as center or center-left. If Canada gets a new electoral system that includes anything resembling proportional representation, The Conservatives will languish in opposition for years to come.
Let this be a a warning to all you right wingers out there in Alberta who are pining out there to "unite the right" and prevent another socialist NDP government. The Wildrose populist teapartiers will never gel well with the provincial Progressive Conservatives.
On a side note, for these same reasons, Donald Trump will never become president.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about conservative party of canada, Peter mackay, Stephen Harper, Alberta Canada, wildrose party
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