Conservative Party of Canada
| How the sausage is made|
History of the party
The Conservative party, known by their nickname the "Tories," has its roots in Canada's early political history. The Liberal-Conservative Party was formed in 1854 by Canada's future first Prime Minister John A. Macdonald and a coalition of other parties from across the political spectrum in order to achieve confederation for Canada. Once this was accomplished in 1867, Macdonald pretty much dumped the liberals and they renamed themselves the 'Conservative Party'. Living up to the conservative ideology, the party was filled with monarchists and was supportive of the British Empire, and was resistant to more open relations with the United States or the idea that the Quebecois may have a unique identity within Canada.
They pretty much dominated Canada's early political history by championing Canada's cultural and political history with the British Empire. They were able to win elections by promoting protectionist economic policies, especially against the United States, and opposing any form of free trade agreement with the Americans. After Macdonald died though the different factions of the party couldn't hold it together. The Catholic French Canadians and the Protestant British found it hard to share a party.
During World War I, Robert Borden created a grand 'Unionist' coalition government from all political parties to support the country during the war. Afterwards he tried to keep the coalition alive to impose conservative hegemony on the Canadian political landscape, but not surprisingly, the liberals returned to their old party.
After that things started going down hill for the Conservatives. Canadian attitudes on their relationship with Britain was changing. The British-appointed Governor General created a constitutional crisis when he waded too far into Canadian politics, creating a backlash against the conservatives who were swept out of power. Luckily (for the conservatives) the Liberal Party got stuck holding the reins when the Great Depression hit. Their leader, R.B. Bennett, promised to solve it all in three days when elected. Unsurprisingly, he became a national joke. Motorists who could no longer buy gasoline and had to use horses titled their vehicles "Bennett buggies." He ended up sending the waves of unemployed to relief camps, out of the cities, to avoid disorder. You can imagine how well that went.
At the last minute before an upcoming election Bennett's party implemented all sorts of reforms modeled after FDR's New Deal, but it was too late and the Conservatives were decimated in the election of 1935.
Progressive Conservative Party
The Tories tried to revive the Unionist Party idea again during World War II, but failed miserably. They had to compete with a number of third parties now that were draining seats from them in Parliament, securing liberal victory after victory. In a desperate move they made liberal and Former Progressive Party leader of Manitoba John Bracken their national leader in an attempt to create a bigger base, and adopted several policies that made conservatives within the party shudder. Probably just to rub it in, Bracken made them add Progressive to their name.
Only in 1957, 22 years after being destroyed by the Liberal Party, did the Conservatives managed to win a national election under John Diefenbaker, mainly because people were just sick of over two decades of liberal rule. Diefenbaker was actually quite reasonable, granting First Nations and Inuit people suffrage, enacting the Canadian Bill of Rights, appointing the first female member of a cabinet and the first aboriginal member of the senate. He played a large role in expelling apartheid South Africa from the Commonwealth of Nations. His party was still largely consumed by factionalism, and it eventually flared up when he refused to accept Bomarc nuclear missiles from the United States in the midst of the Cold War. His own cabinet turned on him and his government was brought down in a confidence motion, once more sweeping the liberals into power, who supported placing the missiles in Canada, in 1963. (The program was eventually cancelled in the 70s.)
Then there were another two decades of Liberal rule (except for one year when Joe Clark somehow became PM for a few months) until voters once again got tired of the Liberals and elected Brian Mulroney against the pretty bland John Turner in 1984. The Progressive Conservative Party got over 200 seats in Parliament and won the majority of seats in every province. After two terms of Mulroney's cronyism, toadying to Saint Reagan, introduction of the Goods and Services Tax, and attempts to implement NAFTA, the Progressive Conservative Party self-destructed, keeping only two seats in the 1993 federal election, and only going up to 20 seats in 1997.
Death of the progressives
As the Conservative Party tried to rebuild itself, the Reform Party of Canada began to attract many of the Tories' former supporters, especially in the western provinces. A plan to "unite the right" came to fruition in year 2004, as the Reform Party--renamed the Canadian Alliance Party--merged with the Progressive Conservatives, adopted the name of the Conservative Party (no more "Progressive," both in name and ideology) and eventually gained control of Parliament.
Despite creating the largest deficit and debt in Canadian history, years of attacking and silencing their critics, and being the only party to ever be found in contempt of Parliament (see below), the Conservatives were re-elected to a majority government in 2011, with some assistance from a voter suppression scandal for which one staffer was eventually convicted.
Criticism of the party
The party has been criticized by the Liberals on their plan to reform gun control laws and make firearms more easily accessible. They are also criticized for increasing taxes on the middle class, during a recession (a recession that Harper claimed was not happening, despite being trained as an economist), while cutting taxes on corporations and the rich.
Other examples of incompetence are the Conservative Party's plan to build "superjails," despite Canada's crime rate having fallen for many years, and the plan to spend many times the sticker price on F-35s that are so poorly designed that even the United States Air Force doesn't want them. Harper personally has built up a reputation for despotic behaviour and currently holds the distinction of being found in breach of Parliament, more than any government in Canadian history, because he refused to give MPs much of any information about things like the cost of jails, the cost of fighter jets, and whether or not the Prime Minister knew about war prisoners being tortured.
The Conservatives have also been subject to criticism due to their atrocious environmental record, having many MPs openly deny climate change, and giving Canada the distinction of having the worst climate policy in the developed world.
Due to repeatedly lying to Parliament about how much their ill-advised programs cost -- and being caught forging a funding document -- they are also the first government in not just Canada, but the whole British Commonwealth, to be found in contempt of Parliament. The Conservatives responded to this by whining about "the tyranny of (the opposition's) majority," and threatening that the opposition "will pay for this." They were, nevertheless, reelected with a majority government in the ensuing election, thereby proving, once and for all, that there is no God. Either that, or that using "robocalls" to fraudulently direct Liberal voters to the wrong polling station on election day works really well.
Perhaps the biggest summary of the Conservative Party's issues is the stain of Stephen Harper, which is literally all of the above and then some. Harper ruled the party with an iron fist, and set the bar real low, and it remains clear that the scar permeates the entire CPC. Well, it did, until the point where it just didn't...
Collapse of the far right
Justin Trudeau's biggest achievement was completely and utterly unintentional, and that was obliterating the far-right in the CPC. Thanks to Harper, the party was inevitably on the slide towards full on Tea Party levels of demagoguery, as seen with Maxime Bernier, and it took another man named Trudeau to finally defeat Harper. Trudeau brought the Liberals back to a more centre-left leaning as they originally found themselves, reformed the partisan senate, rebranded the Liberal Party's... well, liberalism, and worked frequently with Jagmeet Singh, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. All these factors and more pretty much broke the back of wingnut branding in Canada, and the Conservatives pivoted sharply back to the center-right thereby. It was a genuinely relieving sign in a decade where the right-wing were becoming more extreme.
Part of this is due to Harper himself: he ruled with such an iron fist, he never let any of his deputies last in their jobs for too long, always finding ways to shuffle his cabinet and keep his ministers subservient to Harper and Harper alone. Now with no true heir apparent, Harper's conservatives were now a paper tiger standing on a sinking ship. Harper's loss was emphatic: Trudeau took his Liberals from a distant third place to first with a supermajority, the greatest election comeback by any Canadian party ever. The ripple effect would not be truly felt until years later. By 2021, Canada declared the Proud Boys a terrorist organisation, pretty much completing the murder of the far right in Canada.
Indeed, Canada seems have once more become the force of moderation it once was, as we saw during the reign of Apartheid in South Africa, when it played a big role in outsing SA from the Commonwealth. It's a relieving sign to not only know that far right populism can be defeated, but how it can be defeated too. In the wake of an insurrection attempt in the USA, the far right have been severely discredited and weakened. Moderates on both center-right and center-left should act upon what we have seen in Canada and the USA and stamp out extreme-right populism before it gets too many chances at power.
The wingnuttery failed twice to resurge in the party, by each of the Conservative leadership elections in '17 and '20. Bernier failed to win in 2017, and, while it was by a slim margin, he undermined any favour he had by acting like a crybaby, showing his true colours by transforming his libertarianism into nationalist populism, and started his own party. His party got crushed in 2019, and he lost his own seat, ensuring he would never be coming back to the CPC ranks anytime soon. When Scheer resigned after said Federal election, they had another leadership election, when Mackay (the other force that made the CPC along with Harper) was defeated by Erin O'Toole, a pro-environmentalist, pro-LGBT politician that totally displaced the far right a second time, and they could pretty much be said to be dead by this point. O'Toole instead has to play an unenviable long game of balancing the crazies with moderate-sounding rhetoric and otherwise whitewashing extreme policies as centrist; they're still conservatives after all.
- Conservative government still opposes the legalization of marijuana The Cascade. Romund, Grace, February 1, 2012.
- The closest one was Jim Prentice, who became Premier of Alberta instead... and immediately ignited multiple corruption scandals before shockingly losing to Rachel Notley's NDP, an unprecedented loss that broke a forty year conservative reign (albeit only for one term). That debacle was the best Harper had to a potential successor for a time.