From Macdonald to Machiavellian: A Swing at The Right Wing
Canadian politics can be hard to understand. A case could be easily made that most Canadians are woefully ignorant of the political system in their own country. I want to offer a crash course in the history and workings of our Canadian political system to help people understand how we got to where we are and how the system in Canada is both similar and different to other systems in modern Western democracies. The views I express here are my own and should be interpreted as such, all historical facts are correct to the best of my knowledge.
My first couple of posts will deal with the political parties and a brief overview of their history and policies. I wish to start today with the “right-wing” side of the spectrum.
What It Means To Be Right: A brief History
The Conservatives in Canada were one of the founding parties of our nation. They were modeled on the Whigs, or Tories, the Conservative party of our overseas overlords in Britain.
Our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald was a Tory, as well as a drunk, and his Victorian dislike of minorities and homosexuals is one of the few major policies that have remained unchanged in the party to this very day. Although the Conservatives can brag that they have had more sitting Prime Ministers than any other political party, 13 0f 22, they have only ruled over the House of Commons for 43% of our nation’s history, many years of which in minority governments, a testament to their general incompetence.
The Conservative Party, in all fairness, can also brag about having the two largest majorities in Canadian history, under the Diefenbaker and Mulroney Administrations.
The Conservative Party as we know it today has only the faintest pedigree of the traditional Conservative Party of yesteryear, as much as they claim otherwise. They essentially hi-jacked the name in the hopes of “tying roses to the cow’s tail”, re-branding their neo-conservative, xenophobic, and theocratic roots under the guise of historical relevance. Like buying Keds with a Nike logo on them, they hope to hide the fact that they have less quality control in their sweatshop of ideas.
So how did we get to this new brand of Conservatism? Here is a brief history of the Conservative movement in Canada.
Liberal-Conservatives- This is the “Grand Old Party” of Sir John A.. The liberal part is probably referring to his use of alcohol more than the policies of the party, and is also historical proof that Canadians don’t believe that Liberal=Communist. Macdonald is tied for the most electoral mandates in Canadian History (6) and is the second longest sitting Prime Minister of Canada. His Liberal-Conservatives are responsible for the Canadian National Railway, which linked the country from coast to coast as well as serving as population control for cows and Asian-Canadians. Macdonald died in office, leading to a string of four unelected replacements.
Conservative Party- At some point, the party decided to drop the Liberal preamble and thus show that politicians can in fact spot an oxymoron. The party would remain as such until vote splitting with a bunch of disgruntled western farmers forced them to form a coalition government with these new “Progressives”. This is also a good lesson in both forshadowing and in how to successfully form a coalition. Lessons that would not be heeded by future Tory Leaders. This period of the parties history is defined by the reciprocity debate (now known as Free Trade, this was 100 years ago, they liked big words back then), the Manitoba Schools Question (known by me as the F@*# the French debate), and the Conscription Crisis (where the French apparently didn’t want to get involved in some war in France). Good times.
Unionists- This was a brief stint of blatant racism during the Conscription Crisis of the First World War. Basically the predominantly French Liberal Party was against going to war in France only because the Queen said so. Never mind that they were fighting in FRANCE where FRENCH PEOPLE come from. No, the Queen is a Limey control freak, and you can’t force us to go. French people are so unpatriotic, we should just create an anti-French party to tell them to shove it up their ass. Thus the Unionists were born.
Progressive Conservatives- As noted above, a bunch of disgruntled farmers from Western Canada start a new party called the Progressives, because none of the major parties pay attention to them and instead are obsessed with urban affairs. None of this at all mirrors what is going to happen 70 or so years later with the Reform Party. Nope. The only thing Conservatives and Progressives apparently have in common is a hatred of Frenchy Liberals, thus the Progressive Conservatives are born; as future policy would indicate, they also have a penchant for ironic party names.
This coalition serves to temper somewhat the strong right leanings of the Conservatives, creating a two party, center right- center left political system. This is not to be confused with the American center right- never right political system to our south.
Reform Party- Out of the ashes of Brian Mulroney’s disastrous tenure of leadership of the PC party rose a “grassroots” party of Western dissent known as the Reform Party. The good side to this movement was the fact that it made the PC party the only political party in the history of the world with only 2 insane supporters, as every other one of them joined the Reform Party, the bad side is that it also left the PC party with an equal amount of insane supporters and seats in the House of Commons. For our American readers, picture the Republican party without a verbal filter and that pretty much gives you an idea of their style. The Reform party was the third largest party at the end of the 1993 Election, and helped with vote-splitting to thrust the separatist Bloc Quebecois to Official Opposition status.
After picking up only a handful more seats in the election of 1997, the Reform party realized that it was ultimately too bat-shit insane to ever be more than a Western regional fringe party as sanity in Canada tends to increase the farther you get from the province of Alberta; thus the rebranding begun and so I introduce…….
The Canadian Alliance- This party had the distinction of being neither ideologically Canadian nor an alliance- thus making the name of the party as laughable as Stockwell Day in a wetsuit, and also equally balls-y. Heh. Early stumbling blocks included interim leader Deborah Gray’s raging lunatic charm and and elected leader Stokwell Day’s belief that people rode on dinosaurs. In other words……monumental branding FAIL. The Alliance was set to follow the Reform Party’s lead into the easy joke pile for Royal Canadian Air Farce and This Hour Has 22 Minutes when along came a charismatically vapid but strategically gifted Neo-Con Jesus known as Stephen Harper. And 1200 words into this tl;dr post on right wing politics in Canada we are finally introduced to the proof that Canadians need not feel intellectually smug when looking down at our cousins to the south; the pathetic bit of subterfuge and fecal cosmetics known as our present day Conservative Party.
How Little Stevie Committed Identity Theft
The official union of the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservatives occurred on Dec. 7, 2003 following ratification votes from the membership of both parties. Yet the seeds of this “Alliance of Equals” came long before this date. Stephen Harper, leader of the Canadian Alliance had a nefarious plan. One so good it almost deserved him wearing a top hat and curly mustache while committing it. Reform members actually began buying memberships in the PC party, preparing for an eventual merger vote. They joined riding associations, sat on the association boards, and went to work convincing PC’s that the merger was the only way the party could ever survive. Little Stevie promised Peter McKay, then leader of the PC party that he would have a very important place in the new party, and possibly get the chance to bang Condoleeza Rice. The Reform party had no interest in becoming more progressive, they just wanted that one little word, Conservative…and all the history and stature that comes with it. The words Reform and Alliance had been firmly conflated with bat-shit and insane respectively in the Canadian Zeitgeist. Any party that didn’t seem to include the relatively sane PC membership was doomed to failure.
The new Conservative party was born, and Little Stevie needed to make sure that it was viewed as neither bat-shit nor insane. So began the birth of a unique style of leadership in Canada. Former Tories were recruited to spew memorized talking points while former Reform MPs were required to feign sanity. Canadians, tired of years of Liberal scandal and arrogance, bought the act and elected the new Conservatives to two consecutive minority Parliaments. Little Stevie became our 22nd Prime Minister, where he continues to feast on cute cuddly kittens and plot a quest to Majority status.