Canadian Commentary: Constitution and Politics

United Alternative Lifestyles

February 1999

So, Preston Manning is trying to unite the right again. It is his noble crusade to reassert the role of the right in Canadian politics and overthrow the Liberals. But hey, wait a minute ...


Preston is the guy who founded the Reform party that basically hived off the radical half of the Conservative Party. If he was really concerned with having the right united, why didn't he just try to take over the Conservative party (like Mike Harris did with the formerly moderate Ontario Conservatives) instead of splitting the right? Why doesn't he just say "oops, I guess I really goofed, let's dissolve Reform and rejoin the Conservatives"? For him to go around pontificating on the need for a united right has to rank among the most astonishing examples of hypocrisy ever displayed by a Canadian politician.

In fact, it would be much more sensible for him to simply accept the consequences of his actions. It should be obvious by now that Reform and the remnants of the Progressive Conservatives don't really belong together, and that neither one's voters would vote for the other. Reform really does represent the opinions of about 15-20% of Canadians, mostly in Alberta and rural British Columbia. Meanwhile, the Progressive Conservatives represent the views of about the same number of voters, mostly concentrated to the east of Manitoba. There really is little overlap.

Although I am happy to see these two parties undermine each other for the rest of history, I feel obliged to point out that the solution to their problems is painfully obvious: an electoral alliance without a merger. Reform's support is concentrated in the west. Reform has no support in Quebec or the East - but the PCs do have a presence there. They overlap in Ontario and maybe Manitoba, but could probably easily split these ridings between them. So, Reform represents the right in the west, the PCs in the east, and if they get enough seats, they can form a coalition government. This is the way the French manage two right-wing parties (the moderate UDF and the radical Gaullists), and it has worked fairly well. Reform and the PCs overlap on plenty of platforms (small government, low taxes, decentralization, pro-business), and they can avoid the issues on which they disagree (social/moral issues, Quebec). Living together without marriage may be a troubling Alternative lifestyle for Reform, but it's becoming clear that the scent of power is able to overwhelm Reform consciences. Although I would fear such an alliance, it would at least stop the incessant, ridiculous whining about the United Alternative.

(Postscript: the United Alternative has really brought out the biases of newspapers and pollsters. In a striking contrast, on Friday Feb. 19, 1999, the Post and the Star each carried polls gauging support for a United Right. The united alternative cheerleader Post had a front-page article that cited a poll showing that this new party would have 50% of the vote. Meanwhile, the liberal Star had a front-page article about a poll showing the new party would have just 18% of the vote. The discrepancy is astonishing, and shows just how untrustworthy and biased polls by supposedly respectable polling companies can be.)

Feb. 20, 1999

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