Throughout the history of Canada there have been countless political parties though most were small and unrecognizable to the common Canadian. On December 7th, 2003 a new Federal political party emerged and quickly became a viable option for the governing party of Canada: the Conservative Party of Canada. Two federal parties, each with their own extensive histories, came together in the "Unite the Right" movement to present "an effective right-wing opposition to the Liberal Party of Canada"(Wikipedia, Conservative): the Progressive Conservative party and the Canadian Alliance. This right-wing opposition follows the standard conservative policies seen in other countries, such as the United States of America and Great Britain. The Conservative economic policy follows the laisez-faire policy of limited government involvement in the economy, with lower taxation and lower federal spending. In contrast to their economic policy, the Conservative foreign policy acts to increase foreign spending with increases to military activity and foreign aid. Finally, the Conservative Party's social views are what define the party as "conservative" in the eyes of most Canadians, with their specific views on issues such as abortion and marriage. With its strong history and political views, the Conservative Party of Canada has leapt onto the federal scene to form the Official Opposition with hopes to form the government in the near future.
Progressive Conservative PartyThe first of the two forming parties of the Conservative Party of Canada was the Progressive Conservative Party, which was originally known as the Liberal-Conservative Party and was one of the oldest parties in Canada. This party was founded at Confederation on July 1st, 1867, forming the country's first government with "Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald."(C & WB) The party continued to "[dominate] Canadian politics for the nation's first 30 years of existence" (Wikipedia, Progressive). During this time, the party developed and built the Canadian Pacific Railway with "Donald A. Smith [driving] the "Last Spike" at Craigellachie, B.C., completing the transcontinental railway"(CPR) in 1885. At the turn of the century, the Liberal-Conservative Party decided to drop the Liberal portion of their name to become the Conservative Party. Over the next 50 odd years, the Conservative Party swapped leadership roles back and forth with the Liberal Party of Canada. The Conservative Party "saw Canada through the First World War, created the CBC and [created] the Bank of Canada during the Great Depression" (CBC NEWS, Conservative). Then, in 1942, the party changed its name again to include the word progressive "when Manitoba Premier John Braken, a long time leader of the province's Progressive Party, agreed to become leader of the Conservatives on condition that the party add Progressive to its name"(Wikipedia, Progressive). The newly renamed Progressive Conservative Party of Canada still could not gain the support it needed to form government until 1957 when John George Diefenbaker won with a 111 seat minority government, and again in 1958 when Diefenbaker called a snap election that "transformed Prime Minister John Diefenbaker's minority into the largest ever majority government in Canadian history"(Wikipedia, Elections). During this time, Diefenbaker took the controversial stance of refusing to allow American nuclear weapons into Canada. Upon Diefenbaker's defeat in 1963, the Progressive Conservatives remained in opposition until 1984. There was, however, a brief nine month stint by Joe Clark as Prime Minister of a minority Progressive Conservative government in 1979.
Brian Mulroney, "a fluently bilingual Quebecer,"(Wikipedia, Elections) and his Progressive Conservatives, came into power in 1984 after campaigning against a Liberal government that had lost touch with Quebec and the West. During his two terms in office, Mulroney campaigned for and won approval for the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, opening the borders to substantial trade opportunities. Unfortunately, the Progressive Conservative Party experienced a number of economic issues that led to its downfall and last term in office. Such issues inlcuded the highest unemployment levels since the Great Depression, the worst recession since World War II, high deficits and growing debt, and the introduction of the "much-hated new tax, the GST"(Wikipedia, Progressive). Mulroney then stepped down in 1993, and left the still in office Progressive Conservative Party to elect a new leader and Prime Minister. Their decision was that of Kim Campbell, making her the first woman Prime Minister ever in Canada. Her reign was short-lived as the Progressive Conservative Party won only two seats in the 1993 election, not even enough to garner official party status. However, the party regained official party status in the 1997 election with 20 seats, but it could not regain the popularity it once had. It was finally dissolved by merging with the Canadian Alliance into the Conservative Party of Canada.
Canadian AllianceThe Canadian Alliance, second of the two forming parties of the Conservative Party of Canada, was founded on March 27th, 2000. However, its roots actually stretch back to the Reform Party of Canada, founded on October 31st, 1987, on the platform of bringing a voice to the west. The Progressive Conservative government at that time had been focusing its attention on the Province of Quebec by trying to unite the province with the rest of the country through the Meech Lake Accord, but ultimately failed. Many of the citizens of the Western Provinces felt alienated by this action and thus the Reform Party was formed. Preston Manning, elected as the party's first leader, campaigned for its first election in 1988, but failed to win even one seat, although "the party ran second to the governing [Progressive Conservatives] in many western ridings"(Wikipedia, Reform). In 1989, after the unfortunate death of MP John Dahmer, the Reform party captured its first seat in the House of Commons, when Deborah Grey won the by-election. In 1992, the Progressive Conservative government made another attempt at appeasing
Quebec with the Charlottetown Accord. This further alienated westerners and allowed Preston Manning and the Reform Party to gain support by speaking out against the accord. By the time the federal election was called in 1993, the Reform party had gained significant support in the West, "[winning] 52 seats, the third most in Parliament"(Wikipedia, Reform). Over the next few years the party ran into a few problems as it found itself being "controversially endorsed by extremist groups such as the Heritage Front and the Alliance for Preservation of English in Canada" (Wikipedia, Reform). While the party had never authorized these endorsements, these extremist groups managed to cause a significant blow to the Reform Party's image in many areas of Canada. The Reform party managed to keep its base in Alberta, BC, Manitoba and Saskatchewan and in the 1997 election gained 8 more seats to bring its total to 60 in the House of Commons, enough to form the Official Opposition. It was at this stage that the Reform seemed to stall out, seeing that it was based upon the Western disillusionment of the federal scene, it was thought that the party would require a "major rebranding effort"(Wikipedia, Reform) to become a viable option to the rest of the country.
The rebranding of the Reform Party of Canada brought together Reformers and Conservatives into a party that would, hopefully, convince people from Ontario and Atlantic Canada that there was a conservative political alternative to the Liberal Party. This new party, formed in 2000, would take half its policies from the Reform Party and the other half from the Progressive Conservative Party. It would eventually be called the "Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance", or, for short, the Canadian Alliance. Just as the new party was getting its footing, a snap election was called by the Liberal Party that caught the Alliance off guard. Disappointed with the results in Ontario, the Alliance only won 66 seats in the House, but did manage to increase its percentage of the popular vote from 19% to 25%. This poor election result added to doubts of the Canadian Alliance leader, Stockwell Day, and led to party infighting. This forced the Alliance to call a party leadership election, in which Stephen Harper took the lead. Harper then led the Canadian Alliance toward its merger with the Progressive Conservative Party on December 7, 2003, and eventually took the helm of the newly formed Conservative Party of Canada.
PolicyThe Conservative Party of Canada has distinct economic views and policies from its main political opponent, the Liberal Party of Canada. The Conservative Party believes in a laisez-faire style of economics that limits government involvement it the lives of Canadians. The Party's main focus is in lowering taxes. It believes that by lowering taxes across the board it will increase spending by Canadians and foreigners alike. By lowering personal taxes, there will be a "hike in take home pay and raise the living standard of all Canadians"(Policy Declaration, 8). By lowering corporate taxes, the party believes that it "would encourage both foreign and domestic businesses to invest in Canada"(8). Finally by reducing the capital gains tax, the party would "encourage saving and investment"(8), meaning a higher level of capital (cash) for businesses to reinvest in their Canadian operations. Altogether, lower taxes means to the Conservative Party a faster moving, better economy.
To offset a lower tax income for the government, conservative economics and the Conservative Party state that they will reduce public spending. The Conservative Party will do this by "reducing [and eventually eliminating] subsidies to for-profit businesses"(10). The Party will also cut spending by "[privatizing] crown corporations that compete directly with comparable services from private sector institutions"(10). Another area that a Conservative Government would work to reduce spending is in the Health Care sector. The Party would do this by opening the Canadian Health Care system to "include a balance of public and private delivery options"(19). Finally, to reduce spending, The Conservative Party proposes a dramatic reduction in government staff, [streamlining] government services and [eliminating] waste, unecessary overlap and duplication between the levels of government"(4). Together, these cuts should offset the lower taxes a Conservative Party government would collect and help the party to operate a balanced budget.
The foreign policy of the Conservative Party policy seems to operate in extreme contrast to the previously discussed economic policy. The Conservative Party "supports a combat ready [Navy], [Army] and [Air Force]"(40) and will achieve this by substantially increasing the budget spending on the military, with an "[immediate injection of significant funds" and "annual increasesthroughout the mandate"(40). More inline with conservative economic policy, the Conservative Party also proposes increasing the efficiency of the Armed Forces through removal of much of the structure overhead and administration. The party intends to "increase Parliamentary oversight"(40) to deal with this reduction of staff. The newly equipped Canadian Armed Forces will be put to task in "sovereignty protection, domestic defence and North American shared defence" as well as supporting "international peace and security missions"(40). While militarily securing Canadian borders, the Conservative Party plans to attempt to reduce trade restrictions between Canada and other nations. The Conservative party will "pursue reduction of international trade barriers and tariffs"(14) in order diversify and build security in the foreign trade market.
While conservatism and the Conservative Party incorporate many policies into their platform, it is their social views that most Canadians identify them with. The Conservative Party "will not support any legislation to regulate abortion"(20) and will. in fact. institute a mandatory psychiatric consultation before a woman is allowed to receive an abortion. The Conservative Party has also made its stand on the definition of marriage. A Conservative government would "support legislation defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman"(22). The Conservative Party does support legislation that "[adopts] a regime of civil unions for gays and lesbiansthat from this form of union, would flow all of the rights that attach to marriage under our laws, federal or provincial"(Grits and Red Herrings, 38). The Conservative Party promotes a social platform that focuses on the family. The Party would give parents who choose to care for their preschool children "the recognition and financial support they need"(Policy Declaration, 22). A Conservative Government would also make amendments to the Divorce Act to ensure "both parents and all grandparents to maintain a meaningful relationship with their children"(22).
Tying it's social policy in with its economic policy, the Conservative Party of Canada proposes dramatic changes to the Employment Insurance program. A Conservative Government would work towards establishing "an independent employment insurance system, with a self-accounting fund administered by employees and employers"(21). This new employment insurance program would take the responsibility of managing the fund from the government's hands and turn it over to the people that it affects, thereby ensuring that any surplus remains in the fund and does not get transferred into other federal programs, as is the case under the current system. Social policy for the Conservative Party is amongst its highest priorities and, as such, the Party focuses a large amount of its effort towards achieving its social goals.