When the Reform Party had their great electoral success in 1993, their leader Preston Manning was ready. He knew what he had to do.
Stephen Harper explains:
Manning had read every word ever written about Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican President of the United States, and just as old Abe had to deal with the secessionists, so too did Manning. He donned his top hat, grabbed his cane, and with his trusty lieutenant Stephen Harper by his side, he marched up Parliament Hill.
The Progressive Conservative party is very much comparable to the Whigs of the 1850s and 1860s. What is happening to them is very similar to the Whigs. A moderate conservative party, increasingly under stress because of the secession [Bloc] movement, on the one hand, and the reaction to that movement from harder line English Canadians on the other hand.
... But I don't use this comparison of the pre-Civil War lightly. Preston Manning, the leader of the Reform party has spent a lot of time reading about pre-Civil War politics. He compares the Reform Party himself to the Republican party of that period. He is very well-read on Abraham Lincoln and a keen follower and admirer of Lincoln. The Reform party is much closer to what you would call conservative Republican ... The Reform party is very much a modern manifestation of the Republican movement in Western Canada; the U.S. Republicans started in the western United States. The Reform Party is very resistant to the agenda and the demands of the secessionists, and on a very deep philosophical level. (1)
Those secessionists wouldn't stand a chance and if it meant Civil War, so be it.
Some of the Reformers were even demanding that the Bloc members sign oaths of allegiance. They weren't fooling around. But alas Manning never got to deliver his Ottawasberg address. Most Canadians thought he was nuts.
Preston Manning is not averse to raising the spectre of violence when he discusses the Quebec issue. He does not raise the possibility of violence often, but when he does, he does not elaborate on what he means — another use of deliberate ambiguity. He has, however, planted the seed, evoking the image of violence often enough to establish it in the public mind.
... "Such terms will be judged satisfactory if they are fair and advantageous to Canada [and] if the new relationship can be established and maintained without violence ... " No one in Canada was anticipating violence over Quebec at this time, and there was little evidence that the Meech Lake impasse was about to dominate the politics of the country. Preston Manning was already positioning himself as the man who would, in his own words, "call Quebec's bluff." (2)
Changing of the Guard: Next up Stockwell Day
With Manning not getting the job done, there was a new commander of the troops, now calling themselves the Alliance Party, with Stockwell Day leading the charge. Conrad Black had hand picked him as a charismatic saviour of Canada who would unite the Right-Wing flank and do battle against the evil left and everyone else who got in their way.
Before long Black was traipsing him around to $1,000.00 a plate fund raisers and allowing Ezra Levant to host parties at his house.
But what Black may not have known was that Stockwell Day had a past, and when that past was brought to light, it looked like sure defeat. But Stocky really wanted to be prime minister, so he came up with a new battle plan. He would fraternize with the enemy. If he could form a coalition with the secessionists together they could take down the Liberals.
But then the New York Times got wind of this plan and ran with the story: Rightist Shocks Canadians By Flirting With Separatists. Boy was Conrad Black ever ticked!
''The Canadian Alliance leader needs to stop playing footsie with Quebec separatist leaders right now,'' thundered the The National Post, which has more commonly been a cheerleader for Mr. Day.Jason Kenney was Stocky's campaign manager and once he crawled out from under the bed, he had to come up with another plan. Not that the original one had a chance. The Bloc wanted no part of them.
In an interview on Tuesday, Conrad Black, chairman of The National Post, said the strategy would not work. ''It makes it too easy for the Liberals to represent him as a separatist fellow traveler, ambiguous about the future of the country.''
"Day repeatedly journeyed to Quebec ... During August and September, Day stepped up these efforts, going even further to suggest the Alliance party welcome Quebec separatists and might even consider forming a national coalition government with the Bloc Quebecois .... But Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe said he wanted nothing to do with Day whose values (re: gay rights, abortion, youth justice) Duceppe described as "inspired by the United States..." (3)
When the story came to light in 2008, Stockwell Day denied it, suggesting that his DNA would not allow him to enter into a coalition with separatists. Another little white one because Stock's father was a member of the Western Canada Concept party, a group who wanted the Western provinces to separate from Canada. Maybe Stock just forgot.
He didn't stand a chance anyway. Most Canadians thought he was nuts.
Next Up Stephen Harper
So far Canada's Republican Party (aka: Reform, Alliance, Conservative Party of Canada) was not doing so well with the secessionists. Not for lack of trying. When the same-sex marriage bill was passed the new commander Harper cried foul, claiming that it wasn't legitimate because it was supported by separatists.
Where do they keep getting these guys, we asked?
But in 2004 Stephen Harper now had his chance to be Prime Minster, but he lost the darned election. Simply because most Canadians thought he was nuts.
Where Did I put those secessionists?
Poor Stephen Harper was devastated. But while at home licking his wounds he came up with a plan. So he called together Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc and Jack Layton of the NDP, and together they fired off a letter to the Governor General. They were going to form a coalition government and Harper was going to be an "unelected prime minister". He could hardly wait.
However, this time it was the left flank that deserted the battleground, as their leader Jack Layton had a change of heart (or came to his senses). And when Harper's coalition attempt came to light, he denied it and went on a rant about "separatists" and "socialists".
So to recap. Preston Manning ready to do battle with secessionists, force a civil war, and become the first Republican prime minister. Stockwell Day prepared to join forces with secessionists to take down the Liberals. Stephen Harper wanted same sex marriage bill defeated so plays secessionist card, but then pulls it back when he wants to play footsie with "separatists" and "socialists".
Whew! But at least after all of that, the Conservatives are finally ready to admit that the Bloc are a legitimate Canadian Party. Or at least I thought so.
Apparently they are now once again squawking, suggesting that the Bloc should not be allowed to see the documents relating to the alleged torture of Afghan Detainees, because they are separatists. AAAAARG!!!!
And they wonder why most Canadians think they're NUTS!!!!
1. Full text of Stephen Harper's 1997 speech, Canadian Press, December 14, 2005
2. Preston Manning and the Reform Party. By: Murray Dobbin Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing 1992 ISBN: 0-88780-161-7, pg. 218-219
3. "Bloc leader denounces Day's ideas", Edmonton Journal, August 14, 2000.