Though a few of the old progressives or what were referred to as 'Red Tories', remained, Stephen Harper made it his mission to change that.
The state should take a more activist role in policing social norms and values, Harper told the assembled conservatives. To achieve this goal, social and economic conservatives must reunite as they have in the U.S., where evangelical Christians and business rule in an unholy alliance. Red Tories must be jettisoned from the party, he said, and alliances forged with ethnic and immigrant communities who currently vote Liberal but espouse traditional family values. This was the successful strategy counselled by the neocons under Ronald Reagan to pull conservative Democrats into the Republican tent. (1)This was a new conservatism, quite foreign to Canadian politics. And that's because it was and is American.
Stephen Harper did not unite the right, because the PC Party was never really a right-wing party. They were fiscally conservative but socially responsible. And CANADIAN.
With Harper's recent hiring of Nigel Wright as his chief of staff, there is a clear message to former PCers. This is not your party, it is our party. Take it or leave it. You're not in Kansas anymore.
Although, I suppose in fact, we're certainly closer to Kansas than anywhere in this country. Because Wright, who was a former advisor to Neocon Mike Harris, feels the same way about Red Tories, or Progressive Conservatives. They must go.
In May of 2000, Nigel Wright, then working for Stockwell Day and the Alliance Party, told the Vancouver Sun: “Under Joe Clark, the Conservative party has ceased to exist as a right-of-centre alternative. As much as it pains me to say it, our aim now is to drive a stake through the heart of the Tory party.”
Ouch! I felt that stake.
Wright had also worked for Brian Mulroney, but was always considered to be from the far-right.
Pushing for the Alliance to take over the Progressive Conservatives. He attended a private meeting of blue-chip executives in 2001 where Stockwell Day discussed his plans to form “a coalition” with the Progressive Conservative party, with himself as the leader, (Toronto Star, March 7, 2001) and later attended a 14-hour weekend strategy session hosted by Mr. Day to look at the possibility of a coalition or outright takeover of the Tories. (National Post, March 19, 2001) (2)Not a "coalition"? Say it ain't so.
But alas the following year Stephen Harper went after the PCs again. And abused his franking privileges to do it (sound familiar?):
The federal Tories are charging that interim Canadian Alliance leader John Reynolds abused his free-mail privileges to send out a political letter to woo Progressive Conservative members. The letter, signed by new Alliance Leader Stephen Harper, was mailed out to Tories across the country by Mr. Reynolds, who has led the party in Parliament since Stockwell Day stepped down in December to launch a leadership race. But Mr. Reynolds used his so-called "franking" privileges, the free-mail system for MPs, to send the letter.Joe Clark wanted nothing to do with the Reformers. But Mackay would later prove that he could bought. And now a decade later we are being completely snuffed out.
Tory House Leader Peter MacKay charged that the letter was an abuse of the privilege that allows MPs to send mail related to their parliamentary functions for free. He said he and others on the Tory membership list in his Pictou-Antigonish-Guysborough riding received "franked" letters. "This is purely political," Mr. MacKay said. "Not only is it inappropriate, it's against the franking privilege rules. Harper is a former member of Parliament. He should know that's not allowed."
Mr. MacKay said the letter was signed by Mr. Harper and sent out without even a cover letter from Mr. Reynolds before the new Alliance Leader was returned to Parliament in a by-election this week.But Mr. Reynolds insisted the letter, which suggested that Tory Leader Joe Clark had misled his members about Mr. Harper's offer of a parliamentary coalition, fell within the rules, and the Tories' accusation is wrong. (3)
Oh well. We had a good run. 150 years. Besides, what's wrong with the Republicans anyway? I mean besides George Bush, the Tea Parties, Sarah Palin, Fox News, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh? Sigh!
1. Harper, Bush Share Roots in Controversial Philosophy. The Tyee, Donald Gutstein, November 29, 2009
2. Just the Facts: Meet Nigel Wright, September 27, 2010
3. Alliance misused free mail, Tories say, By Campbell Clark, Globe and Mail, May 17, 2002