Building Rome in a Day

Adam Daifallah, Arts ’02
Adam Daifallah, Arts ’02

Last Monday, political observers, commentators and everyday Canadians across the country welcomed Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day and Tory poobah Joe Clark into parliament. In what was arguably one of the most historical days in parliamentary history, the leaders of Canada’s two competing right-of-centre parties took their seats in the House of Commons.

The return of Clark and the arrival of Day symbolizes the beginning of a new era in our national politics and the end of another.

The welfare state policies of the past—the very essence of Clark’s Red Toryism—have been soundly rejected by a majority of Canadians in the past ten years. Instead, Canadians have come to embrace the new enterprising spirit of modern conservatism, as epitomized by Day. The sharp contrast between these two philosophies is embodied in the differences between the two men themselves.

Joe Clark is an old guard Tory who represents the conservatism of a bygone era. Although he received an enthusiastic round of applause from parliamentarians of all political stripes when he reappeared in the Commons, the warm welcome was less out of fervour for Clark’s return than out of sheer pity for the dithering former Prime Minister.

Clark has had a lot of bad news to contend with since being re-elected federal Tory leader in 1998. He has lost six MPs in total, excluding MP Scott Brison who resigned his seat so Clark could run in a by-election. To be fair, the net loss has only amounted to four because they won a Newfoundland by-election in May and earlier welcomed Angela Vautour, a former NDP MP, to their caucus. Nevertheless, the PCs remain entrenched in last place in the House of Commons with just 15 MPs.

Ever since Clark spat in the face of small ‘c’ conservatives by refusing to enter into dialogue—let alone co-operation—with the Reform Party and the United Alternative movement, the Tories have lost thousands of grassroots activists, fundraisers and executive members across the country to the Canadian Alliance. Most recently, Clark had to contend with the resignations of both his national president and Ontario campaign chairman.

Instead of making efforts to rebuild his once great party, Clark superciliously writes off defectors as insignificant, regardless of their stature or influence. The PCs are in complete disarray, mired in a sea of debt and experiencing their lowest levels of support in the history of polling.

Beyond the internal party strife, however, Clark faces a far more daunting challenge in his quest for power—the fact that fewer and fewer Canadians are paying attention to him.

Clark is unconditionally wedded to the flawed and discredited dogma of “government knows best.” He firmly believes that increasing social spending and the size and scope of government, classic Red Tory economic positions, are the best ways to solve the most daunting challenges facing our nation. This outdated vision is completely out of sync with contemporary conservative thinking.

In fact, Clark’s inability to accept the changes in the Canadian political landscape since 1988 (with the rise of the Reform Party) have largely contributed to his party’s downfall. Even today, Clark refuses to acknowledge the Canadian Alliance as anything more than a Western protest movement even though the CA enjoys higher levels of support than his own party in almost every region of the country.

Clark constantly attacks the Canadian Alliance as being “extreme” and out of touch with average Canadians. This is a direct insult to conservative-minded voters who formerly supported the Tories and who now support the CA. If Clark’s strategy is to berate these people, how does he expect to ever win back their support?

The irony of Clark’s relentless Alliance bashing is that in the next breath he frequently attempts to pilfer their policies and pass them off as something unique to his party. They have no original policies of their own to promote.

Unlike Clark, Stockwell Day is new, young, and dynamic, just like the policies the Canadian Alliance espouses. His record as treasurer of Alberta is stellar—the lowest taxes in Canada (including no sales tax) and a record $2.7-billion budget surplus last year. Best of all, his province will soon implement a single income tax rate of 10.5 per cent—the first jurisdiction in Canada to do so.

Stockwell Day has promised to bring an Agenda of Respect to Canadian politics—respect for differences of opinion, for parliamentary decorum and, most importantly, respect for taxpayers.

When the next federal election finally arrives (which could be sooner than later) voters looking for change from the arrogant, directionless Liberal government will face an important decision.

They can either choose the Canadian Alliance—a party promising to drastically cut taxes, get tough on crime, increase spending on healthcare and restore democratic accountability to parliament, or they can go with the Tories, who are promising more spending than the Liberals and a potpourri of rehashed ideas from Clark’s failed tenure as Prime Minister in 1979.

The choice is stark and clear: forward into a future of prosperity with Day or regress into the ashes of the failed policies of the past under Clark.

Conservative-minded Canadians must unite behind the Canadian Alliance to oust the Liberals from office and end the senseless vote splitting that has plagued our movement at the federal level for the past two elections. I’m confident they’ll make the right decision.

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Adam Daifallah, ArtSci '02, is a former national executive with the federal PC Youth Association and is helping to found a Canadian Alliance club on campus.

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