Let me say from the start that I don’t believe in the old Progressive Conservative-Reform divide within the current Conservative Party of Canada. Are there divisions? Sure there are, just as there are divisions within the Liberal caucus, the NDP caucus and I am sure there are days when even Elizabeth May doesn’t agree with herself.
So in reading David McLaughlin’s “thoughtful” piece in the Globe and Mail on Jason Kenney’s departure for Alberta politics I have to say I was a little surprised.
One of McLaughlin’s big complaints about Kenney is that he only used the word “progressive” once during his entire speech announcing his candidacy and that was when he said the name of the party, the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. Well, heavens to Betsy, what is an old PCer to do?
There are many reasons that Jason Kenney should be wary of playing up the “progressive” side of the PC party name the least of which is, to quote Margaret Thatcher speaking of McLaughlin’s old boss Brian Mulroney, there is too much of the former and not enough of the latter.
The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada is no more and I couldn’t be happier. In reality having a Progressive Conservative Party is like having a Push Me Pull Me Party or an Up Is Down Party. Progressivism and conservatism are competing ideologies that do not belong together and the fact that they came together under one banner in Canada is nothing more than a historical anomaly.
Despite what many people claim in their party folk history the Progressive Conservative Party was not the result of a merger of two parties but rather the result of failure breeding more failure.
After failing to defeat the Liberals and William Lyon McKenzie King in the 1935 and 1940 elections the Conservative Party was desperate for someone to take over the reigns and looked to Manitoba Premier John Bracken. Bracken was an academic who had agreed to become party leader and premier in Manitoba after the United Farmers of Manitoba surprised everyone, including themselves, in winning the 1922 Manitoba election.
Conservatives at the time saw Bracken as a successful figure that could take on McKenzie King. A condition on him taking leadership was to call the party the Progressive Conservative Party.
Yet at their cores progressivism and conservatism are competing ideologies. When someone like McLaughlin laments Kenney not being progressive enough he wants Kenney to be less conservative.
Having spoken to people who were there, inside the caucus rooms of the old PC Party under Brian Mulroney, McLaughlin and his ilk may be pining for a time that never existed.
Senator Marjory LeBreton, a close confidant of Mulroney’s over years, not months, told me on radio a little while back that the PC caucus that came about after Mulroney’s last electoral win in 1988 was likely more conservative than the Conservative Party caucus under Stephen Harper after the 2011 majority win.
She called this ongoing claim of a PC-Reform divide baloney and I believe her. Except for people that call themselves conservative and yet act as if conservatives are the last people they want to be around.
Whether at the provincial level in Alberta where the conservative movement is literally split in two or at the federal level where it is unified, conservatives need to stop attacking each other – especially for being “too conservative.” It’s time for the conservative movement and it’s affiliated political parties to take a page from the Liberal playbook and end the public attacks on each other.