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A people-less party

By J. L. Jackson
web posted August 6, 2001

Although it was a few weeks ago, it seems only yesterday I was at a barbecue with 250 concerned Canadian Alliance supporters in Medicine Hat. To outsiders, it might seem surprising that there are 250 concerned Canadian Alliance supporters left in Alberta, let alone the party.

Being a concerned Canadian Alliance member myself, I was, however, not surprised. As I drove from Medicine Hat to Calgary's caucus meeting the next morning in my dirty black Neon, I passed farmers fixing fences in their fields, and I reflected on the fact that life will continue whether this party survives or not. In the two hours that it took me to get to Calgary, I also paused to remember what this party was supposed to be and what it has become.

The Canadian Alliance is a dream for many. Coming from a Reform background, and being an overall grassy sort of a grassroots member, I considered the United Alternative process, merely a name change. Continuing to use the Reform name - often, others constantly reminded me that, "we're not called that any more".

Having grown up in the Reform party and naturally tending to distrust change anyway, it would be easy to blame the ongoing chaos on a seemingly failed United Alternative attempt. Many 'old' Reformers like myself would like to throw up our hands or maybe even wag a finger saying, "See, I told you so."

Being an 'old' Reformer of just barely thirty years, I would describe the history of the Reform party as being based on populist philosophy and a legitimate need for parliamentary reform in Ottawa. For us, the Reform party was a beacon of light on a dark horizon, beaming forth, new ideas and philosophies.

However, in talking to people and members across this country, I am surprised to have found that the perception of the Reform party to a new and younger generation was actually more like, "a party of grumpy old men." I do not know who or what to blame for what I consider a misconception: past leadership, a biased media, or a well-orchestrated Liberal campaign of regional mistrust.

Canadian Alliance Party leader Stockwell Day is mobbed by the media as he attends a private meeting with the Wildrose Riding Party executive in Airdrie last month
Canadian Alliance Party leader Stockwell Day is mobbed by the media as he attends a private meeting with the Wildrose Riding Party executive in Airdrie last month

The ultimate irony is that the United Alternative process and Stockwell Day's victorious leadership bid, may have failed in uniting two very different parties, but it opened up what for many was perceived as being an equally ironic "closed Reform" process. Cathy Smith, Medicine Hat CA board member, and her husband Dan have always been very active in politics, but neither of them ever joined the Reform party. Cathy explains the viewpoint of many new Canadian Alliance members, "Finally the people had a party that they really believed in and could get behind. A leader they liked and had voted for."

In a Survivor style race for Bay Street megabucks between the dissidents as well as the Day camp, with the spoils going to whomever gets there first; the urge to merge may be strong but everyone is forgetting two things.

Firstly, foisting ourselves onto a reluctant Progressive Conservative party that disagrees with our founding principles will continue to be a futile exercise. We are the prodigal, rebellious child who left home in a huff - but has now become a pioneer. Yet, we're telling mom she must join us on our itinerant journey? Mom may in fact join us in time, but not while we're living on the street.

Secondly, now that the membership of both the PC party and the CA party have been forgotten in this seemingly mad dash for cash, the question not only remains of who will want to lead this aberration, but who will want to belong to it as well.

Canadian Alliance dissidents announce the creation of a new parliamentary caucus known as the Democratic Representative caucus in Ottawa on July 19. They are (L-R) Art Hanger Val Meredith, Monte Solberg, Gary Lunn, Jim Pankiw, Andy Burton, Chuck Strahl, Jim Gouk, Deborah Grey, and Grant McNally
Canadian Alliance dissidents announce the creation of a new parliamentary caucus known as the Democratic Representative caucus in Ottawa on July 19. They are (L-R) Art Hanger Val Meredith, Monte Solberg, Gary Lunn, Jim Pankiw, Andy Burton, Chuck Strahl, Jim Gouk, Deborah Grey, and Grant McNally

Every day on the news and in the papers we read what Canadian Alliance party elites are saying. Heck all of Canada is on a first name basis with the Reform party's former fearless founders: Chuck, Deb, Art, Monte, Rick, Ken, Nancy and Cliff, as well as our current Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day.

They've become national celebrities at our expense. From a Canadian context, their infamy is as great as Britain's Royal family's scandals of the not so distant past. The dissidents/sore loser's society/rebel alliance/democratic representative caucus and many of their appointed colleagues who sit on the CA governing body called the National Council dominate our daily dosage of news consumption

The dissidents and their supporters have blatantly disregarded the will of the people and our one member, one vote decision in their "dump Day" campaign. At the taxpayer's expense, they continue on their merry romp through Canada attempting to also hijack the merger process from the people of the party. From their press conference in Ottawa announcing the formation of a new party that isn't party, to their Progressive Conservative Halifax meetings. They go and we are left behind.

According to CBC's on-line News, Monte Solberg, part of the newly formed Democratic Representative Caucus as well as Canadian Alliance MP for Medicine Hat views the leadership of our party as a sidetracking issue and from his latest foray with the Tories in Halifax he said, "This is bigger than the leadership issue and worth pursuing.

"We can't get sidetracked by that [the leadership]."

Many of our Canadian Alliance elites, our party's greatest "grassroots" defense team, are not only hijacking the merger process, they are now also attempting to stall the leadership race. Their goal has been achieved, but their greatest fear remains - Stockwell Day could win again. Especially, considering the remaining membership's feelings, way down deep in the trenches. The supposedly 'inept' Stockwell Day has outmaneuvered all of them. As they attempt to manipulate a later leadership race, they are 'stuck' with Day - that is, until they allow the leadership race to proceed.

In relentlessly focusing on the never ending blunders coming from one camp and then the other, main-stream media's downward spiraling pursuit of personality-cult-journalism, has missed a much more dramatic and interesting political story - US.

As a truly grassy kind of a grassroots member who would attend an occasional barbecue if dragged persuasively enough, I was apparently under the mistaken assumption that our party was progressing nicely. I lived my life...and voted.

Nowadays, I cringe before I pick up a paper or turn on the news. I do a little dance of joy if a day goes by and our party has not made the front-page headlines. How did we come so far and land so flat on our face?

Indeed it is a slippery slope. I feel like we're back in kindergarten: standing on top of the slide are our party elites yelling names at each other. At the same time, we, the members, have been given the royal heave-ho down the same slide. As members, we are now sitting in mud up to our noses, at the very bottom; disheartened, disheveled and disgusted. We are looking up for common sense and instead all we see is an eyesore on the Canadian political landscape. Our dream has become our worst nightmare.

As we continue to lie in the muck licking our wounds, the media and people within our own party continue to deride our choice of leader, as well as everything we believe in. Day was apparently the wrong guy for the job and we're told that we are fools if we still like him.

What has taken place over the last three months is a shameful disgrace and has made our core principles a mockery for the masses. And now that the long knives are turning from our leader towards our core populist principles and democratic change - who is left to defend us?

If merger talks continue to proceed strictly for the purpose of opening Bay Streets coffers and not with the consultation of the people, the last remaining die-hard constitutionalists and hard-working volunteers will also fall away.

Forget the big brouhaha about a leaderless party. Top-down manipulation didn't work for Mulroney and it will certainly not work for a "grassroots" party like the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance. If the political backroom dealers ignore the remaining members, as it seems is the case, all the money in the world won't save what remains. It may take as long as the next election to make the powers that be understand that if not now, they will very soon be left, with a people-less party. ESR

J.L. Jackson is a member of the Canadian Alliance and a first-time contributor to Enter Stage Right.

Other related articles: (open in a new window)

  • Requiem for a political party by Jackson Murphy (July 23, 2001)
    Jackson Murphy writes the obituary for the Canadian Alliance, Canada's populist right-wing political party. It was a nice ride while it lasted
  • God bless Stockwell Day by Michael Moriarty (July 18, 2001)
    Michael Moriarty puts on his armour and defends Stockwell Day, a man he considers to have the true virtues of a conservative
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