The Canadian Alliance (in full, the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance) was a Canadian right-of-centre conservative political party that existed from 2000 to 2003. It served as the Official Opposition in the House of Commons throughout its entire existence. The party supported policies that were both fiscally and socially conservative. Seeking reduced government spending on social programs and reductions in taxation.
The Alliance was created out of the United Alternative initiative launched by the Reform Party and several provincial Tory parties as a vehicle to merge with the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. The federal PC Party under Joe Clark rebuffed the initiative to "unite the right", however. In December 2003, the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative parties voted to disband and integrate into a new party called the Conservative Party of Canada.
The Canadian Alliance's origins were in the Reform Party of Canada, which was founded in 1987 as a populist party but which moved to the right and became a conservative party shortly thereafter. Initially, the Reform Party was motivated by the need for democratic reforms and by profound Western Canadian discontent with the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney. Led by its founder Preston Manning, the Reform Party rapidly gained momentum in western Canada and sought to expand its base in the east. Manning, son of Ernest Manning premier of Alberta gained support partly from the same political constituency as his father's old party, the Social Credit Party of Canada
With the collapse of a fragile Tory coalition composed of westerners, Ontarians and Quebec nationalists, the Reform Party's fortunes rose. The party achieved major successes in the 1993 federal election, when it succeeded in replacing the Progressive Conservative Party as the leading voice in western Canada. Its platform and policies emphasized, inter alia, the rights and responsibilities of the individual, Senate and other democratic reforms, and smaller more fiscally responsible government. In the 1997 election, the Reform Party was even more successful, becoming Canada's official opposition. The party still failed to present a true challenge to the Liberal government, mostly due to inadequate support in central and eastern Canada.
Manning, many other members of the Reform Party, and many Progressive Conservatives, began to try to form a new, united party of the right. In 2000, following the second of two United Alternative conventions, the party voted to adopt a new name - the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance, a declaration of policy and a new constitution.
However, media covering the convention quickly pointed out that if one added the word "Party" to the end of the party's name, the resulting initials were "CCRAP" even though it, like the Bloc, didn't actually have the word Party in its name. When it became clear after a few days that the joke was not going to subside, the party's official name was quickly changed to the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance.
The federal PC party under Joe Clark refused to participate in these talks, but there was strong support from many neo-conservative provincial Tories, especially in Ontario and Alberta. Subsequently, a leadership convention rejected Preston Manning, the founding head of the Reform Party, in favour of the younger, more charismatic Alberta treasurer Stockwell Day.
In 2000, the governing Liberals called a snap election that caught the Canadian Alliance off-guard. Though disappointed with the election results in Ontario, the CA increased its presence to 66 MPs, including two MPs from Ontario. Nationally, the Party increased its popular vote to 25%. The Canadian Alliance remained the Official Opposition in the House of Commons. The Liberals retained their large majority, and the Tories under Joe Clark remained in fifth place, but the leader held his seat of Calgary Centre in the middle of Alliance country, so the overall political landscape was not significantly changed.
However, the Alliance failure to win more that the two seats in Ontario, along with residual resentments from the Alliance leadership contest and questions about Day's competence, led to caucus infighting. In the summer of 2001, a group of dissident MPs, led by Deborah Grey and Chuck Strahl, quit the party and formed their own parliamentary grouping, the Democratic Representative Caucus, and joined Clark's Tories in the House. The split forced Day's resignation, and, in April 2002, Stephen Harper defeated Day at the subsequent Canadian Alliance leadership election.
Once Harper assumed the leadership, most of the rebellious MPs rejoined the Alliance party. Two MPs did not rejoin, however: Inky Mark chose to remain outside of caucus, and eventually joined the PC Party, and the scandal-plagued Jim Pankiw was rejected when he applied for readmission to the Alliance caucus.
During its short history, the Canadian Alliance never seriously entertained the prospect of forming provincial wings, or forging formal links with existing provincial parties. The vast majority of CA supporters in most provinces supported, and continued to support their provincial Progressive Conservative parties, while most supporters in Saskatchewan and British Columbia remained loyal to the Saskatchewan Party and BC Liberal Party respectively.
However, an attempt to form a provincial party with clear, if unofficial links with the CA was made in Alberta, where the Alberta Alliance was formed in 2002. Under the leadership of Reform/CA activist Randy Thorsteinson, the new party never sought a formal link with the CA, and had it done so the overture would likely have been rebuffed since many Albertan CA members continued to support the Alberta Progressive Conservatives. However, the Alberta Alliance copied the colours of the CA and many of its logos bear a striking resemblance to those of the federal party. The Alberta Alliance continued to grow following the federal party's merger, and the provincial party fielded a full slate of candidates for the 26th Alberta general election, on November 22, 2004, and elected one MLA.
Conservative Party of Canada
On October 15, 2003, the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party announced that they would unite to form a new party, called the Conservative Party of Canada. The union was ratified on December 5, 2003, with 96% support of the membership of the Canadian Alliance, and on December 6, 90.04% support of the membership of the PC Party. On December 8, the party was officially registered with Elections Canada, and on March 20, 2004, former Alliance leader Stephen Harper was elected as leader of the new party.
It is not clear yet whether the new party will retain key elements of the Alliance's platform. It will not be known until the founding constitution and policy convention, which was planned for Fall 2004, has been slated for Spring 2005, will be held. The 2004 Canadian election saw the party retain its social conservatism on matters such as same-sex marriage, but largely jettisoned were grassroots initiatives such as referendums and Senate reform.
Last updated: 10-24-2005 06:01:19