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Five reasons why there has to be a merger between Canada's opposition parties, now

By Jackson Murphy
web posted August 27, 2001

The possibility of a brand new National Energy Policy suggested by the Prime Minister last week is more than enough reason to create a merger capable of defeating the Liberals. Nevertheless, I have been getting some feedback letters regarding my articles about Stockwell Day and the Canadian Alliance.

They have asked me questions such as, "What earthly reason would the Canadian Alliance, that is principled conservatism, want to merge with the Progressive Conservatives who are just liberals in disguise?"

They have stated that they "believe in the principles and policies of the Canadian Alliance" which in their view is, "more than what some members of the [rebels] could say."

Or they lament that, "maybe more Canadians will wake up to who really is more interested in their welfare" the Liberal and Progressive Conservative Party or the wonderful and "principled" conservatism of the Canadian Alliance.

I want to reiterate that Reform-Alliance has made incredible contributions to the political landscape in Canada. But principles have only gotten the right wing so far. So I offer 5 reasons why there needs to be a merger between opposition parties, now-not tomorrow, not later, not when the Alliance has a better leader-but now.

1. The Alliance cannot do it alone.

There have only been four non-Liberal governments this century that lasted for any length of time. These have two similar characteristics. First the Conservative Party has won them all. Second, as Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson pointed out in a keynote address entitled "Canada as a One Party State" he gave at the Morris J. Wosk Center for Dialogue, they, "put together a coalition, which is what parties must do in a geographically sprawling, regionally sensitive, linguistically divided, ethnically diverse country."

The lesson? That the Alliance as it is now will never earn enough support to give the Liberals any reason to take them seriously. Think back to Day challenging Chrétien's to an election in 2000. It reminds me of Sean Connery in the movie The Untouchables when he advises Eliot Ness to, "never bring a knife to a gun fight." Challenging the Liberals to a fight was in hind sight just plain dumb.

2. Contrary to rumors the Conservatives are not the enemy

Ever since the commentators began dancing on the grave of the Alliance, just as they did with the Conservatives in 1993, there has been a constant defense from hard-core conservatives. Namely that the Conservatives are in fact Liberals in disguise-that they are the enemy, red-Tories, not to be trusted.

Did the Conservatives become arrogant? Is Joe a little 'red'? Sure, you bet. I suppose if that were the qualifier the Alliance would be tainted by moderates like Keith Martin-but I digress.

The truth of the matter is that the Conservatives won back to back elections in 1984 and 1988 on conservative principles-most importantly free trade. Did they screw it up? Yes. Get over it.

3. The four scariest words in Canada: Jean Chrétien's forth term.

These four words are reason enough. Think about it.

4. What's better than one incompetent opposition party? Three of them.

Democratic Representative Caucus leader Chuck Strahl (L) and Conservative leader Joe Clark (R) leave a news conference after their meeting in Mont Tremblant, Quebec on August 18
Democratic Representative Caucus leader Chuck Strahl (L) and Conservative leader Joe Clark (R) leave a news conference after their meeting in Mont Tremblant, Quebec on August 18

Separately the Alliance, Bloc, and Conservatives have been unable to take the Liberals to task for anything-from the billions wasted at Human Resources Development Canada, political meddling at APEC in 1997, Shawinigate, to the dismantling of our armed forces.

Joe Clark and Chuck Strahl get it. In a National Post Op-ed they wrote that, "The electoral successes of both the Bloc and Alliance-Reform have inadvertently given the Liberals more comfort, not more grief."

The Liberals have used the smoke screen provided by the bickering opposition to perpetuate the flaws in our system. As Simpson told it there is, "concentration of power in only several places within the system, notably the Prime Minister's Office and the cabinet, with few, if any, checks-and-balances to this power." The check on that power has to be a strong opposition.

5. Ever read Machiavelli's The Prince?

In 1993 the people woke up and destroyed the Conservative party. In 1997 and 2000 they slept through the elections and re-elected the Liberals not because they are stupid, but because there was no other choice. With one western party, one French separatist party, and one wounded conservative party Canadians gave the Liberals a pass.

The sooner the Alliance and Conservatives alike realize that this is less about principles and more about power the more ready they will be. That means quickly building one party. What could be more principled than a party capable of defeating the Liberals? The Liberal Party is a political power-craving machine and if the right wing wants to fight this, they better learn to play the game.

Recently the BC Liberal Party, a coalition of Liberals, Alliance, and Conservatives, won a huge election by creating a 'big tent' party. Contrary to what the Alliance says, Canadians are not waiting for Miss Right-we're looking for Miss Right Now. ESR

Jackson Murphy is a young independent commentator from Vancouver, Canada writing on domestic and international political issues. He is a frequent contributor to Enter Stage Right and writes weekly at suite101.com. You can reach him at jacksonmurphy@telus.net.

Other related articles: (open in a new window)

  • The bard continues to shape the Canadian Alliance plot by Jackson Murphy (August 20, 2001)
    The collapse of the Canadian Alliance reminds Jackson Murphy of The Taming of the Shrew with Stockwell Day playing the part of Kate
  • A people-less party by J. L. Jackson (August 6, 2001)
    Janet Jackson says the Canadian Alliance started as a dream for her. These days it's anything but that as the party slowly chokes itself to death
  • Take heart, Mr. Day by Michael Moriarty (July 23, 2001)
    Michael Moriarty tells Stockwell Day that while he may have lost the battle, the conservative movement will ultimately win the war
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