Canada's Only National Alternative and Other Tory Stories

Edmonton - Tuesday, September 16, 2003 - by: Ron Thornton


For some time we have heard the familiar refrain of how the Canadian Alliance is the party of western regionalism, while the Progressive Conservatives are the "only national alternative." It sounds nice, and it even has history on its side if you ignore events since 1993. Yet, according to the 2000 election figures, if the PC's are the national alternative to Liberal dominance, then this nation comes to a screeching halt where New Brunswick's Madawaska County meets up with Maine.




Only in Atlantic Canada does the Progressive Conservative Party find greater favour than the Canadian Alliance. Three times as much favour as the last election pointed out, though that equated into only nine seats out of the 301 in Parliament, compared to the nineteen seats the Liberals managed to fill with east coasters.


As a party that has been labeled by those who don't know better, as a bunch of hate mongering red neck western isolationists, it must have come as a shock for some to see the Alliance outpoll the more gentile and civil PC's in Quebec by 10%. While the Progressive Conservatives, not to be confused with real conservatives, managed to add one more seat to their measly total, it was the Canadian Alliance that finished a distant third among Quebec voters in 2000. That can't bode well for Canada's "only national alternative to the Liberals."




If the rubes from the prairies could leave the Tories in the dust in Quebec, imagine how embarrassed they must have felt when the hillbillies managed to claim 50% more of the voters in all mighty Ontario. Over a million of the fine folk in Canada's most populous province voted for the Alliance, compared to less than 650,000 traditionalists who followed the PC banner. Then again, with just two Canadian Alliance seats and another for the Tories, neither could exactly claim national alternative status to a Liberal juggernaut that waltzed away with 2.2-million votes and 100 seats to put the election away.




You would expect the Alliance to find support in the west but, as the self-proclaimed "national alternative to the Liberals", the Progressive Conservatives were outpolled 5-to-1 in those four provinces, trailing in elected Members of Parliament 64-to-2. In fact, while the Liberals managed to claim a majority of seats in four provinces and all three of the Territories, the best of the rest included the Alliance with three provinces while the Bloc won a majority in Quebec. The "only real national alternative" failed to win a majority in any, though they did claim four of eleven in Nova Scotia and four of Manitoba's fourteen seats. Simply put, to be the national alternative one must offer more than a willingness to take a beating in every corner of the nation. Even the Alliance has done that, and with greater success.
  You could say the PC's have some work to do. They picked up less than half of the votes claimed by the Canadian Alliance and, from among the 13-million cast nationally, they attracted just 190,000 more votes than what the Bloc received in Quebec alone. If there is a recognized national alternative to the Liberals, it would appear that the Progressive Conservatives are not it; not yet.


Now we have NDP leader Jack Layton touting that the current government has taken a number of issues, including Kyoto, same sex marriage, and marijuana laws, straight out of the NDP policy book. According to Layton, things began to improve when a certain former Finance Minister quit cabinet after he had helped run "the most conservative government Canada has ever seen." Conservative? Well, if the public is silly enough to buy into that, and they just might, then the national alternative to Jean Chretien's Liberals, as determined by the electorate, just might prove to be a group of supposedly conservative Liberals under Paul Martin next spring. If there is nothing else that might provide incentive for the PC's, as well as the Canadian Alliance, to search out something by which they might excite the voters, then the prospect of a record Martin landslide should. It is critical for both parties to do so, for the alternative might result in them looking back on this Parliament nostalgically as the "good ole days."


Ron Thornton




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