Toronto Star, Nov. 14, 2003
No future for PC party
Proposed right-wing alliance would
violate the progressive and moderate traditions of
its former leaders
by Flora MacDonald
On my return to Canada from Afghanistan where I work
with groups of war widows, I was surprised to receive
a call from a CBC reporter asking for my views on
the merger. Thinking she was inquiring about some
amalgamation of business interests, I explained that
since I had just returned to Ottawa, I wasn't up to
date on the latest business ventures.
I was, to put it mildly, appalled to be told that she
was talking about the merger between the Progressive
Conservative party and the Canadian Alliance. In fact,
I protested that this just couldn't be since Peter
MacKay had clearly indicated on many platforms during
his leadership campaign that this was not a process
he would endorse.
MacKay was not my first choice at the June leadership
convention — I supported Scott Brison on the
first two ballots but after that I gave my vote to
MacKay because I took him at his word. He said he
would support the strongly endorsed decision of the
party at its national convention in Edmonton in the
summer of 2002 that there would be 301 Progressive
Conservative candidates in the next federal election
My reaction to the agreement in principle, signed secretly
by MacKay and Stephen Harper in October, 2003, was
first of all one of incredulity, then anger that the
party decisions so strongly expressed in Edmonton
and endorsed by MacKay during the leadership campaign
could be so easily jettisoned. Further, the fact that
he would willingly preside over the demolition of
a historic 150-year-old institution that has done
so much to build this country leaves me asking how
he defines integrity and principle.
In speaking at a fundraising dinner in Toronto recently,
MacKay quoted an earlier leader:
“I believe time is the ally of leaders who placed
the defence of principle ahead of the pursuit of popularity.
“And history has little time for the marginal
roles played by the carpers and complainers and less
for their opinions.”
Where and how has he defended principle? And are the
carpers and complainers he refers to all those who
disagree with his actions? Those who have played only
“marginal” roles within the party?
I speak only for myself (but I know there are many
others who feel the same way) when I reject the qualification
of having played only a “marginal role”
in the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.
Prior to 1959, national conventions of the Progressive
Conservative party consisted of a gathering of some
300 souls who came together to effect their own re-election
to that select group. The then-leader and prime minister,
John Diefenbaker, made it clear such a process did
not support his populist views about the way in which
a modern Canadian national party should operate.
I was closely involved in the drafting of a new constitution
ensuring that the basic attendance at future national
conventions would comprise representatives from all
constituencies and that there would be ample time
at these conventions for free and open discussion
of the policies of the day. And even though that initial
constitution has been amended on a number of occasions
since 1959, it has always been done by members of
the PC party at a properly constituted national meeting.
I have never considered that my involvement in the
Progressive Conservative party has been marginal,
nor that I fall under the rubric of “carper or
complainer.” From the days of my initial involvement
with the party as an employee in the early months
of 1957, I have taken part in every general election
up to the most recent one, as well as in provincial
elections in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick,
Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and
Alberta, and numerous by-elections at both the federal
and provincial levels.
At the request of the party and its candidates, I have
spoken on behalf of the Progressive Conservative party
in most of Canada's 301 constituencies. I have run
for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative
party (the first woman to do so) and proudly represented
the historic constituency of Kingston and the Islands,
the riding of the founder of the party, Sir John A.
Macdonald, in the House of Commons for 16 years.
I do not consider that I have played a marginal role,
nor am I a carper or complainer when it comes to the
place of the Progressive Conservative party in the
history and development of Canada. I have earned the
right to speak out when the future of the Progressive
Conservative party is being threatened by betrayal
at its current highest levels.
The party's future lies not in some right-wing alliance
that would violate the progressive and moderate traditions
of its former leaders, but with a renewed emphasis
on the values that the great majority of Canadians
feel represent their views.
Flora MacDonald is a former minister
of foreign affairs now involved with a number of international