- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2002

Canada's political weather appears to have been cyclonic these past weeks, but let nobody especially American conservatives be deceived about the real meaning of the arm-waving oratory on all sides. Canadian conservatism, which never had much life to begin with, is kaput for a generation at least. And this, mind you, when public opinion polls show a united right could win the next federal election.

If the usual MEGO (my eyes glaze over) reception greets this opening sentence signaling a report about Canadian politics, it may be jolting to learn that each day of the year trade worth some $1.2 billion that's U.S. dollars crosses our common, 3,000-mile, undefended border in what is the biggest trading relationship in the world. What happens north of the border may well be of importance not only for our economy but also for our foreign policy.

Now back to the storm in Canadian politics:

Prime Minister Jean Chretien, 68, who like his avatar Pierre Trudeau never met a U.S. policy he liked, has announced he will step down in February 2004. This has disappointed the majority of his followers in and out of Parliament. His 18-month "long goodbye" isn't good enough; they want him out now because even a "lame duck" prime minister has lots of power and they want a new leader.

Joe Clark (a k a Joe Who?), leader of the Progressive Conservative party, has announced he will step down by next February. Mr. Clark has successfully prevented a merger with the genuinely conservative Canadian Alliance and thereby prevented a united ticket at the next election against the Liberal incumbents.

The biggest longtime political fraud in Canadian politics is the misnamed Progressive Conservative party. It was this party under the leadership of Brian Mulroney that introduced one of the heaviest tax burdens in Canadian history. Mr. Mulroney left office as one of the most unpopular prime ministers in Canadian history. At the following election in 1993, his party was reduced from a majority in Parliament of 169 seats to two seats. The Liberal Party had promised to repeal some of those taxes if it were returned to power and promptly after its election victory forgot about that promise. Despite that broken pledge, the Liberals, under Mr. Chretien, were elected twice more.

The next national election is due no later than November 2005 with every likelihood that the Liberals, who got 42 percent of the vote in the 2000 election, will win again. The Canadian Alliance, which won 22 percent of the popular vote and with 66 MPs is the official opposition, remains more of a regional party with strong roots in the Western provinces and none at all in the Eastern provinces, most importantly in heavily populated Ontario and Quebec. The Progressive Conservatives, who got a trifling 4 percent of the national vote in 2000 and now have 12 seats, have announced they will nominate candidates in all 301 parliamentary districts (or ridings) in the 2005 election rather than unite with the Canadian Alliance. This dog-in-the-manger strategy ensures a victory for the Liberal Party, which is really a social democratic party.

The split among Canadian conservatives comes on the heels of a public opinion poll showing that a united conservative party the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives could win the next federal election. The poll, conducted by Ipsos-Reid for the Toronto Globe & Mail, found that 44 percent of Canadians would probably vote for a merged conservative party. This is a significant figure when Mr. Chretien in 2000 won a third consecutive majority of MPs with about 41 percent of the popular vote. Ipsos-Reid interpreted the poll results as showing that a large percentage of Canadian voters were seeking an alternative to the ruling Liberals and were hoping for a united right. A surprising finding of the poll showed that more than one-quarter of current Liberal supporters and New Democratic Party supporters would consider voting for a united-right party.

Polls come and go, but what remains immovable is a small group of so-called conservatives who would rather go down to defeat once more than seek some kind of merger agreement with a genuine conservative party like the Canadian Alliance. As I said earlier, the biggest longtime political fraud in Canadian politics is the misnamed Progressive Conservative Party.

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