Enter Stage Right hands out its monthly awards...

The November 1998 Earth is Flat Award

A celebration of the inane, insipid and asinine...

Conservative parties have had rather tough going over the past year or so. After a few years of ascendency during the early 1990s, conservatism has taken it on the chin at the ballot box. In Europe, all but a few governments are now headed by liberal or leftist parties, while both the United States and Canada are also governed by liberals.

That has forced many parties to rethink their ideology. Many have responded by moving even further towards the promotion of liberty and free markets, while others move closer to the middle, to ground already successfully staked out by liberals like Britian's Tony Blair and Germany's Gerhard Schroeder.

Canada's Progressive Conservative Party is also facing uncertain times. After being all but obliterated some years ago by the present governing Liberal Party, the PCs have spent the past few months wandering the wilderness in search of their Messiah, culminating in millions of party members voting on October 24 for a new leader to replace the departed Jean Charest.

So who did PCs opt for? As the National Post stated in an October 27 editorial, "They marched smartly into the past."

And it's not a very glorious past. Joe Clark is a man who was barely elected Prime Minister of Canada on June 4, 1979 and who was out on his duff just eight short months later, marking one of the shortest tenures of any nation's leader in North American history. While he is widely respected for a perceived integrity, he is also seen as not standing for very much these days.

Clark is a decent man. He led an unsuccessful battle against the Pierre Trudeau Liberals to govern in a fiscally responsible manner and it was he and his party stood all but alone to denounce any special status for the on-again, off-again separatist province of Quebec.

But that was nearly two decades ago. Since then, Clark's philosophical work in the party has largely been to fight the rise of neo-conservatism, a force which has galvanized parties of the Right across the world. He espouses no grand philosophical vision or plan to dethrone the Liberal Party and is fiercely opposed to working with Canada's most popular conservative and populist party, the Reform Party.

But the blame for the almost assured fading of the Progressive Conservatives does not rest at Clark's feet. He is only a barometer of a party which itself is rudderless. Rather than opt for a true conservative like Brian Pallister, the membership of the party decided to go back into the past and now risk an even greater irrelevance on the Canadian political scene.

Clark's election is of vital importance to the future of Canadian conservatism. As the second most supported conservative party in Canada, Clark can help shape its future course. Based on his and the party's history, however, it isn't likely to be a good one.

The November 1998 Vinegar in Freedom Award

There is an old Serbian proverb that says vinegar in freedom tastes better than honey in slavery. This award is meant for events and people Enter Stage Right considers to be positive.

As you might have read in the Tidbits section, Canadian publisher Ted Byfield was recently awarded the Colin M. Brown Freedom Medal by the National Citizens Coalition.

For those of you unfamiliar with the man, Byfield is founder of Western Report, Alberta Report and B.C. Report, a set of conservative magazines which speak to readers from Western Canada. This year happens to be the 25th anniversary of United Western Communications, Byfield's independent publishing firm.

Byfield joins some pretty heavy company which has received the award -- which celebrates the advancement or defense of political or economic freedom -- such as Ontario premier Mike Harris, Alberta premier Ralph Klein and columnist Barbara Amiel.

Your editor and Byfield do not share the same brand of conservatism. Where mine is secular and primarily economic, Byfield is a member of the old guard conservative movement. There are enough similarities that we can work together on many disparate issues, but a few differences which would liven things up a discussion.

That said, I still consider him to be a vitally important member of the team. Quackgrass Press' Michael Miller once told me that while he doesn't always see eye to eye with him, Byfield does have the gift of seeing something which is important and writing about it before anyone else realizes the gravity of a situation, becoming an early warning indicator for conservatives and freedom lovers across Canada.

The Byfield family, several of which work for UWC, has long been on the vanguard of Canadian conservatism and as head of them, Ted Byfield deserves a salute for all his good work. Congratulations Ted!

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