The current Conservative Party of Canada is a relatively recent creation: an amalgamation of the majority of the Progressive Conservative Party, and the Conservative Alliance. Conservative oriented parties in Canada have a history of fracture amongst the Anglophone community and generally have trouble penetrating Francophone Quebec. The parties have often further fractured along provincial lines too.
The Progressive Conservative Party’s was founded in 1867, contemporary with Dominion status, and was in existence continuously until 2003, when it merged with the Canadian Alliance Party. The Party had changed its name several times over the course of its existence and settled on Progressive Conservative in 1942. At various times Provincial parties would break away from or return to the national party. The Progressive Conservative Party often, was referred to in the news as the Tories.
Brian Mulroney became PCP leader in 1984, he was fluently bilingual and from French speaking Quebec province. He led the party to a huge victory in 1984. The victory of 1984 returned 211 PC Members of Parliament, in the 1988 general election their majority was reduced to 169, and in 1993 under new leader Kim Campbell the party disintegrated in the general elections and returned only two members of Parliament: from the Maritime Provinces. Nearly extinct, the PCP could not even serve as the loyal opposition, a place taken by the Bloc Quebec, a regional separatist party, which was not organizationally or philosophically prepared to run the loyal opposition. The PCP had 12 MP’s when amalgamated into the new Conservative Party.
Though Campbell was party leader during the election, and made her share of mistakes, the destruction of the party was more due to the failed policies of the Mulroney government, which were soundly rejected by the voters. Mulroney resigned 6 months prior to the election in a vain hope that his departure would allow a new leader to rejuvenate the party. Mulroney’s progress form sky high popularity to abject odium was due largely to his two major attempts to solve the Anglophone/Francophone issue through Constitutional change. His proposals were rejected by all parties. Both sides saw his proposals as significantly inadequate and developed a deep distrust and loathing for him and his policies.
The Reform Party of Canada was formed in 1987; in part this was an Anglophone rejection of Mulroney’s policies. The party was supposed to be both conservative and populist, yet one may say it seemed simply another regional party supported in the western provinces by English speakers. There is a long history of protest parties in the western provinces and the Reform party seemed to be yet another. However with the disintegration of the PCP in 1993, Reform began its rise. In 1997 the Reform party won 60 seats and became the official opposition, no doubt to the relief of Bloc Quebec.
In 2000, the party became part of a movement to “Unite the Right” and with some other fringe elements formed the Canadian Alliance. The Conservative Alliance was itself the amalgamation of the conservative Reform Party with smaller conservative parties. They had at first renamed the party the Canadian Conservative Reform; people mentally added the word party, though that wasn’t official. The Canadian Conservative Reform Party became the name the public knew, but the party leadership was soon dismayed and chagrined at the humorous take on the resulting party acronym CCRP. The name Conservative Alliance was quickly substituted. And in 2003 the Canadian Alliance united with the PCP, and excepting some PCP splitters who were mainly Senators with lifetime tenure.
The Canadian House of Commons has 301 members, elected by districts, called Ridings, and currently has members elected from five parties. The Liberal Party forms the loyal opposition, having lost the national election; led by an arrogant, highly unpleasant fellow named Paul Martin. His tenure contrasts unfavorably with the previous Liberal leader Jean Chrétien who thoroughly trounced all opposition in 1993 and 1997.
Stephen Harper would seem to be less traditionally Canadian in his ideology of conservatism: the low tax mantra has hit Canada, despite its failure to deliver as advertised in the U.S.. Harper was a staffer for a PCP MP in the 1980’s and elected to Parliament as a Reform MP in the 1990’s. One can wonder whether this newly elected conservative government and Conservative Party led by Harper can escape the legacy of conservative parties overreach, in-fighting and self destruction.