Conservative Party of Canada

Alternative meaning: Conservative Party of Canada (pre-1942)

Template:Infobox Canada Political Party

The Conservative Party of Canada (French: Parti conservateur du Canada) is a right wing political party in Canada, formed by the merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in December 2003. The party currently forms the official Opposition in the House of Commons.



The merger to form the new Conservative Party of Canada was announced on October 16, 2003, by the two party leaders (Stephen Harper of the Canadian Alliance and Peter MacKay of the Progressive Conservatives), and was ratified by the membership of the Alliance on December 5 by a margin of 96% to 4%, and by delegates of the PC Party on December 6 by a margin of 90% to 10%. On December 8, 2003, the new party was officially registered with Elections Canada. On March 20, 2004, Stephen Harper was elected leader.

The merger was the culmination of the Canadian "Unite the Right" movement, driven by the desire to present an effective right-wing opposition to the Liberal Party of Canada, to create a new party that would draw support from all parts of Canada and would not split the right-wing vote. The splitting of the right-wing vote contributed, at least in part, to Liberal victories in the 1997 federal election and the 2000 election.

The party is still referred to as "Tory" by the media and retains the tie to the historical Conservative Party of Canada founded in 1854 by Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George-Étienne Cartier by virtue of the fact that the merged entity assumed all assets and liabilities of the Progressive Conservative Party. Peter MacKay and many other high-profile former PCs, including Brian Mulroney see the CPC as a natural evolution of the conservative political movement in Canada. MacKay has suggested that the CPC is a reflection of the reunification of conservative ideologies under a "big tent." MacKay has often said that fractures have been a natural part of the Canadian conservative movement's history since the 1890s and that the merger was really a reconstitution of the movement.

The party is often considered to be Canada's version of the United States Republican Party and the United Kingdom's Conservative Party due to their conservative positions. In reality, differences exist on various policies and the parties are only aligned through mutual membership in the international group of conservative parties, the International Democrat Union. Some advisors have worked for both the CPC and for the Republican Party of the United States.

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Leadership election

Stephen Harper was chosen as leader of the new party on March 20, 2004, defeating former Ontario provincial Tory Cabinet minister Tony Clement and former Magna International CEO Belinda Stronach on the first ballot.

Some Conservative activists had hoped to recruit former Ontario Premier Mike Harris for the leadership but he declined, as did New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord and Alberta Premier Ralph Klein. Outgoing Progressive Conservative leader Peter MacKay also announced he would not seek the leadership of the new party as did former Democratic Representative Caucus leader and Canadian Alliance Member of Parliament (MP) Chuck Strahl. 2003 PC leadership contest runner-up Jim Prentice, who entered the new race in mid-December, dropped out in mid-January due to an inability to raise funds so soon after his first unsuccessful leadership bid.

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Party leaders

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Provincial parties

The Conservative Party, while officially having no provincial wings, works formally with the executives of several provincial conservative parties.

The federal Conservatives have the support of many provincial Tory members. Several Tory premiers, such as Ralph Klein of Alberta, Pat Binns of Prince Edward Island, Danny Williams of Newfoundland and Labrador, former Premier Ernie Eves of Ontario, John Hamm of Nova Scotia and Bernard Lord of New Brunswick have expressed general support for the new party. In Ontario, provincial PC Party leader of the opposition John Tory and former interim opposition leader Bob Runciman have also expressed open support for Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada, as has Stuart Murray, opposition and Tory leader in Manitoba.

While officially separate, federal Conservative Party documents, such as membership applications, can be picked up from most provincial Progressive Conservative Party offices. Several of the provincial parties also contain open links to the federal Conservative website on their respective websites.

CPC leader Stephen Harper has attended multiple provincial PC party conventions as a keynote speaker and he has encouraged all federal party members to purchase memberships in their provincial conservative counterparts:

Provincial Party Alignment Province
Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario Former Provincial wing, PC Party Ontario
British Columbia Conservative Party Former Provincial wing, PC Party British Columbia
Alberta Progressive Conservatives Former Provincial wing, PC Party Alberta
Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba Former Provincial wing, PC Party Manitoba
Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan Former Provincial wing, PC Party Saskatchewan
Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia Former Provincial wing, PC Party Nova Scotia
Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick Former Provincial wing, PC Party New Brunswick
Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador Former Provincial wing, PC Party Newfoundland and Labrador
Prince Edward Island Progressive Conservative Party Former Provincial wing, PC Party P.E.I.
Yukon Party No official alignment Yukon Territory

The Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) and Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) have no relation to any federal party, although the Liberals are led by former federal Tory leader Jean Charest. Since becoming Liberal leader, Charest has brought many former supporters of the Mulroney Tories into leadership positions in the PLQ. He has remained silent on the question of federal politics since becoming Premier of Quebec and will almost certainly remain neutral in order not to alienate federal Liberal supporters within the PLQ.

The ADQ, in turn, is the most conservative of the three provincial parties in Quebec, and although ADQ policies on health care are close to those of the Conservatives, ADQ leader Mario Dumont has rejected any formal alignment with any federal party.

The Saskatchewan Party was an unofficial merger of the members of the Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan and members of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party and now contains supporters of the federal Conservatives and federal Liberals in its ranks. The provincial Liberals still run candidates. After the collapse of the Progressive Conservatives following the scandal-plagued government of Grant Devine in the 1980s, the Progressive Conservatives have officially withdrawn from politics, although they retain a nominal organization and run paper candidates to maintain the party's treasury. The Saskatchewan Party is officially neutral when it comes to federal politics though its first leader Elwin Hermanson had direct ties to the Reform Party and Canadian Alliance.

The British Columbia Liberal Party was once a provincial wing of the federal Liberal Party of Canada, but under Gordon Campbell has moved to the right and now contains supporters of the federal Conservatives and federal Liberals in its ranks. The BC Liberal Party is officially neutral when it comes to federal politics.

The British Columbia Conservative Party still exists and runs candidates, but it is a marginal force. In the past, the Progressive Conservatives have also maintained close relations with the British Columbia Social Credit Party. An attempt to "unite the right" at the provincial level in BC produced the British Columbia Unity Party, which ultimately failed.

The Yukon Party (formerly the "Yukon Progressive Conservative Party") changed its name and cut off all ties to the federal Progressive Conservatives during the Mulroney years. Its current leader, Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie, a former New Democrat who crossed the floor to become leader of the Yukon Party, has continued to remain relatively ambiguous in regards to who the territorial party supports federally.

Some of the above parties may affiliate or endorse the new federal Conservative Party or its regional candidates. Relations have been strained, however, between the Conservative Party and Ralph Klein, the Progressive Conservative Premier of Alberta over the latter's public musings on healthcare during the federal election and his call for a referendum on same-sex marriage. Adding to the situation in Alberta, support in the Conservative Party is divided between the hard-right Alberta Alliance Party and the centre-right Progressive Conservatives.

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The merger process was controversial. David Orchard had a written agreement from Peter MacKay at the 2003 Progressive Conservative Leadership convention excluding any such merger and led an unsuccessful legal challenge to it. As Canadians appear to be heading into an election in the spring or fall of 2005, Orchard (under the PC party leadership election rules) is still owed at least $70,000 by the newly merged Conservative Party. This debt has been recognized as legitimate by the Conservative Party lawyers; however, its reimbursement is on hold pending the outcome of legal matters between the party and Orchard.

Four sitting Progressive Conservative Members of Parliament -- André Bachand, John Herron, former Tory leadership candidate Scott Brison, and former Prime Minister Joe Clark -- decided not to join the new Conservative Party caucus. Brison crossed the floor to the Liberals. Soon afterward, he was made a parliamentary secretary in Paul Martin's government, and he became a full cabinet minister after the 2004 federal election. Herron also ran as a Liberal candidate in the election but did not join the Liberal caucus prior to the election, and he lost his seat to the new Conservative Party's candidate. Bachand and Clark both left Parliament at the end of the session. Considerable controversy erupted when during the 2004 election, Joe Clark gave a lukewarm endorsement to Paul Martin over Stephen Harper, saying that Canadians should "trust the devil we know". Clark also endorsed many candidates of different political stripes such as Ed Broadbent, Anne McLellan and Jim Prentice

One former Alliance MP, Keith Martin, also left the party on January 14. He ran as a Liberal in the election and retained his seat for the Liberals. Martin is now parliamentary secretary to Bill Graham, Canada's minister of defence.

Additionally, three Senators, William Doody, Norman Atkins, and Lowell Murray, declined to join the new party and continue to sit in the upper house as Progressive Conservatives.

In the early months of the CPC's existence two Conservative MPs also became publicly disgruntled with the leadership, policy, and procedures of the new party. Former Progressive Conservative MP Rick Borotsik became openly critical of the new party's leadership during its initial months of existence and officially retired from politics at the end of the parliamentary session of spring 2004. Additionally, after the 2004 federal election, Tory Senator Jean-Claude Rivest left the CPC to sit as an independent member of Senate because he perceived that the new party was too right-wing and insensitive to Quebec needs and interests.

Former Canadian Alliance MP Chuck Cadman rejected the new party's riding nomination procedures in March after losing his local riding's CPC nomination to an outside challenger. His membership in the Conservative party was revoked in late May. Cadman ran as a non-affiliated candidate in the federal election of June 2004. He was re-elected as the only independent in the current minority parliament, until Carolyn Parrish was ejected from the Liberal caucus in November 2004.


Two months after Harper's election as national Tory leader, Liberal Party of Canada leader and Prime Minister Paul Martin called a general election for June 28, 2004. However, in the interim between the formation of the new party and the selection of its new leader, factional infighting and investigations into the Sponsorship Scandal reduced the popularity of the governing Liberal Party. This allowed the Conservatives to be more prepared for the race, unlike the 2000 federal election where few predicted the early October election call. For the first time since the 1993 federal election, a Liberal government would have to deal with a united conservative front.

The Conservatives did better than expected during the election campaign with polls showing a rise in support for the new Conservative Party leading some pollsters to predict the election of a minority Conservative government. But even at their peak of support, the new party still had less support than the total that its two pedecessor parties had in the last election. Off the cuff comments from influential social conservative elements in the new CPC also hindered Harper's efforts at portraying the new party as a reasonable, responsible and moderate alternative to the governing Liberals.

Several particularly notable controversial comments were made by several CPC MPs during the campaign. Early on in the campaign, Ontario MP Scott Reid indicated his feelings as Tory language critic that the policy of official bilingualism was unrealistic and needed to be reformed. Alberta MP Rob Merrifield suggested as Tory health critic, that women ought to have mandatory family counselling before they choose to have an abortion. BC MP Randy White indicated his willingness near the end of the campaign to use the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Constitution to override the Charter of Rights on the issue of same-sex marriage, and Cheryl Gallant, another Ontario MP compared abortion to terrorism.

Harper's new Conservatives emerged from the election with a larger parliamentary caucus of 99 MPs while the Liberals were reduced to a minority government of 133 MPs requiring the Liberals to obtain support from at least twenty-three opposition MPs in order to guarantee the passage of legislation. Their popular vote, however, was actually lower than the combined Alliance and PC popular vote in the previous federal election. Some political analysts such as former Progressive Conservative pollster Allan Gregg and Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hébert have suggested that the next election could result in a Conservative government if the public perceives that the Conservatives have emerged from their March 2005 convention as a moderate and responsible alternative to the Liberals. After the convention, many in the media have already suggested that the conservatives were successful in moving their party closer towards the center.

In May 2005, Conservative MP Belinda Stronach, a moderate on social issues, surprised many when she crossed the floor to join the Liberal Party. Many believe Stronach's departure could damage the Conservative Party's efforts to present a moderate image, particularly in Ontario. Others have raised suspicions about the timing of Stronach's decision, noting that she became a cabinet minister immediately after crossing the floor.

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Federal Political Parties of Canada
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Bloc Québécois
Not represented in the House of Commons
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PC Party
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Election - List of election results - List of political parties in the Americas - Political parties

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fr:Parti conservateur du Canada

pl:Konserwatywna Partia Kanady pt:Partido Conservador do Canadá


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