Progressive Conservative Party of CanadaThe Progressive Conservative Party of Canada is a Canadian political party, active in federal politics and in several provinces. Originally called the Liberal-Conservative Party, it was known as the Conservative Party by the time of Sir Charles Tupper in 1896. In 1942 the party added the name Progressive, in an attempt to win support from the supporters of the defunct Progressive Party, a western protest party. Like their British Conservative Party counterparts, the party's supporters are called "Tories" in slang.
While the party was historically a powerful force in Canadian federal politics (Canada's first prime minister, John A. MacDonald, was a Tory), today the party is a shell of its former self, holding only 14 of 301 federal seats. At the provincial level, however, the Progressive Conservatives continue to enjoy strong support, with active organizations in 7 of Canada's 10 provinces (they no longer exist in Quebec, British Columbia and Saskatchewan).
In the early days of the Canadian confederation, the party supported a mercantilist approach to economic development: export-led growth with high import barriers to protect local industry. On the foreign relations front, the party was pro-monarchy, pro-empire, and, following World War II, increasingly pro-US. Although it was seen by some French Canadians as supporting a policy of assimilation, it nonetheless dominated Canadian politics for the nation's first 30 years of existence. In general, Canada's political history has consisted of Tories alternating power with their arch-rivals, the Liberals, albeit often in minority governments supported by smaller parties. During the early years the divide was often religious with the Conservative party being the party of Protestantism while the Liberals represented the Catholics.
After a long period of Liberal dominance John Diefenbaker won a shocking electoral victory for the Tories in 1958. Capturing most of the West and much of Ontario Diefenbaker attempted to pursue a policy of distancing Canada from the United States and asserting traditional values. With the collapse of the Diefenbaker government the party split between those who wanted to adopt a more neoliberal platform.
By the late 1960s, with Quebec's Quiet Revolution in full swing, Canada's main political parties attempted to lure more support from Canada's Francophone population. At the same time, the Tories finally began their move away from mercantilism towards a neoliberal platform of free trade. Both movements culminated with the election of Brian Mulroney as prime minister in 1984.
During Mulroney's tenure as Canadian prime minister, a number of elements together contributed to the fall of the Progressive Conservative party at the federal level. First, economic issues dogged the party toward the end of Mulroney's term as prime minister: Canada suffered its worst post–Second World War recession, unemployment rose to the highest levels since the Great Depression, the federal government faced high and persistent deficits, and a much-hated new tax, the GST, was introduced. Second, under Mulroney, the party's base in Quebec came from Francophone nationalists, who withdrew their support after the failure of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords forming the Bloc Québécois (later Jean Charest went to head the Québec Liberals). Finally, attempts from both Tories and Liberals to woo Quebec drew the ire of western Canadians, who turned their support to the Reform Party of Canada and its successor, the Canadian Alliance. These two factors and the first past the post system used in Canada led to the disastrous election of 1993 when the Conservatives went from being the majority party to a party with only two seats, losing not only the government but also official parliamentary party status.
The rise of the Canadian Alliance has been particularly damaging to the Tories. The result is that the conservative vote is split between the two parties, often allowing Liberal candidates to win ridings formerly considered to be Tory strongholds. While there have been attempts to join the two parties, many so-called "Red Tories," or moderate conservatives, balk at the prospect of joining forces with the Canadian Alliance, which is seen as being more radical. Ironically, this radicalism is shared by some of the provincial Progressive Conservative parties, who are sometimes called "Blue Tories," or, more colloquially, "reformatories."
On October 15, 2003, it was announced that the Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party would unite to form a new party called the Conservative Party of Canada. The union must be ratified by December 12.
Tory Leaders since Confederation:
- Sir John A. Macdonald (1867-1891)
- Sir John Abbott (1891-1892)
- Sir John Thompson (1892-1894)
- Sir Mackenzie Bowell (1894-1896)
- Sir Charles Tupper (1896-1901)
- Sir Robert Laird Borden (1901-1920)
- Arthur Meighen (1920-1926)
- Hugh Guthrie (1926-1927)
- R. B. Bennett (1927-1938)
- Robert Manion (1938-1940)
- Richard Hanson (1940-1943)
- John Bracken (1943-1948)
- George Drew (1948-1956)
- John George Diefenbaker (1956-1967)
- Robert Stanfield (1967-1976)
- Joe Clark (1976-1983)
- Erik Nielsen (1983)
- Brian Mulroney (1983-1993)
- Kim Campbell (1993)
- Jean Charest (1993-1998)
- Elsie Wayne (1998)
- Joe Clark (1998-2003)
- Peter MacKay (2003-)