Is the Conservative Party that is currently battling to form another government, the same party as the Progressive Conservative party which existed only 10 years ago? Are Conservatives who voted for Joe Clark, Kim Campbell or Brian Mulroney, voting for the same politics when voting for Stephen Harper?
Previous to 2003, the right wing of political thought in Canada was dominated by the Progressive Conservative party. Within this party was a range of belief which spanned from moderate conservatism (believing in prudent government, limiting expenditures and balancing the interests of business and public needs). The far right end of the spectrum was held by a fringe party called the Libertarians, who believed in minimalistic government with little or no regulation of business. They were/are, I venture to say, just a tad left of Anarchists, tolerating the existence of government as long as its hands were tied.
A lot of the Libertarians were situated in the western part of Canada, where they developed a particular distrust and resentment of the federal government. When the western provinces achieved more economic independence and success, they immediately began to resent being dictated to by eastern interests. (Like Newfoundland, after years of being on the winning end of federal transfer payments designed to balance economic stability throughout the country, new found wealth from oil put them in a situation to return that favour to the rest of the country, and that didn’t meet with much enthusiasm.) That, combined with a western state of mind that seems (both in Canada and the United States) to embrace a sense of frontier independence and machismo, makes the west an ideal place for the fermentation of conservatism. As a result, some of the Libertarians and the more right wing extremists of the PC party evolved into the Reform Party, which became an immediate threat to the federal conservatives. By fracturing conservative support in the west, the federal conservatives knew that they would be dooming their chances of ever gaining power.
As a result, members of both parties put together what was an uneasy alliance. On the Reform side, you had such names as Stockwell Day, Preston Manning and Stephen Harper. In the beginning, Day and Manning were viewed with a lot of suspicion because of their well known extreme right wing and fundamentalist religions leanings. Many conservatives questioned whether Canadians were ready to embrace a party which included the far right influences that were being seen the U.S.
To his credit, Stephen Harper proved to be an instrumental force in fusing these two parties. The question is, where do his loyalties lie? To what degree is his ideology rooted in that Reform and Libertarian camp? Does Stephen Harper fairly represent all conservatives, including the moderates, or does he more embody the kind of ideas that we see associated with the Tea Party in the United States?
These are questions which I hope to address in the posts of the next few days. These are questions which are of great importance to Canadians, as need to be aware of exactly what is behind each door in this electoral choice.