Alliance downfall is talk of the Day

Greg Hughes, Arts ’02
Greg Hughes, Arts ’02
Adam Daifallah, Arts ’02
Adam Daifallah, Arts ’02

Stockwell has seen better days.

One year ago, Mr. Day was on top of the world. He had just been elected leader of the re-born Canadian Reform/ Alliance party, was riding high in the polls, and things looked bright for the future of the Alliance.

What a difference a year makes.

At a staggering six per cent in the polls, the Alliance has turned into the laughing stock of Canadian politics. Their policies of openness and grassroots decision-making have backfired miserably and caused their own demise. With the suspended Alliance MP’s forming a separate caucus, there are now three right-wing parties in the House of Commons—all of whom are incapable of acting as an effective official opposition.

Mr. Day’s opponents have a justifiable gripe with their beleaguered leader: he is simply not up to the job. He’s been bitter, confrontational, and handed most of the dirty work off to MP John Reynolds, who acts more like the leader than Day does. Day looks weak and unprepared every time he makes decisions, and faces mounting opposition from both inside and outside his inner circle.

Yet I implore, for all that is good in Canadian politics, Stockwell Day should stay on as leader of the Canadian Alliance.

By keeping Day as leader, the powers-that-be in the Alliance camp are slowly helping to destroy the party they’ve worked over five years to build. Rebuilding a credible profile with Day as leader seems an impossible task. His image is virtually unsalvageable. The Liberals ultimately benefit from a divided opposition.

Chretien’s government has ruled well for nine years, but a legitimate opposition party must keep them politically accountable. The Alliance has failed. Enter Canada’s most mistreated and unfairly judged character—Joe Clark. He and the Tories, now almost 10 years removed from the horrors of the Mulroney era, deserve a second chance to be an effective opposition force. As disgruntled Alliance MP’s rebel against Day they will defect either to their ideological brethren, the Tories, or to the Liberals. Either way, the two real political parties in Canada will win out in the end.

A real political party is one that cultivates a national profile and attempts to branch out beyond its regional origins. The Alliance is not a national political party by any means. Instead of looking past the confines of the Alberta-Saskatchewan border when electing their leader, the Alliance’s core membership—regional malcontents, social conservatives and anti-Liberals—got what they deserved by picking Day, a white knight from Red Deer.

Yet that white knight turned out to be a dark Day.

The ultimate result of keeping Stockwell Day in charge is simple—the disintegration of the Canadian Alliance. The Alliance’s amateur display of politicking, due to Chuck Strahl and Co.’s bruised egos, has been bad enough for the party. Day’s less-than-stellar performance as leader has been much worse.

The Canadian Alliance is now facing a political worst case scenario. Their leader is weak, the party is divided, the riding associations are restless and the media is out for the blood of Mr. Day and his ilk.

They have nobody to blame but themselves.

--Greg Hughes, Arts '02

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Greg Hughes is the Editor-in-Chief of Diatribe magazine and a member of the Federal Liberal Association.

John Kenneth Galbraith, the famed Canadian-born economist, once said politics was: “not the art of the impossible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.” Disastrous or unpalatable—such was the choice Canadians faced during the last election.

Though there were four or five parties on the ballot, citizens had few options. They could choose to either endorse the status quo by voting for Jean Chretien’s Liberals or vote for one of the regional opposition parties, none of which had a reasonable chance of forming the government: the western-based Canadian Alliance, the Atlantic-based PC Party, the socialist, barely relevant NDP and in la Belle Province, the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

It’s no wonder the Liberals—do nothing and strictly managerial—were swept to another majority. Why would anyone vote for a party incapable of replacing them? The election barely changed a thing on the political landscape.

Heading into the election the Canadian Alliance was in good shape to make some headway and perhaps reduce the Liberals to a minority government. Stockwell Day was a new and dynamic leader who appeared able to mount a charge and expand the party’s base. Well, we all know what happened.

Since the election, the Canadian Alliance has all but self-destructed and for all intents and purposes, we are now living in a one-party state.

Stockwell Day announced he will step down as leader when the governing body of the Alliance calls a leadership race. Members of the political chatter class are buzzing with talk of which prospective candidates, if any, will jump into the race. Will Stockwell Day run again? Will Preston Manning come back? Will Stephen Harper, the former MP who heads the National Citizen’s Coalition, re-enter electoral politics?

For many conservative activists, the candidates who put their names forward are inconsequential; the Canadian Alliance shouldn’t even be holding a leadership race. The next leadership race should be one to choose the leader of a new united conservative party, with the Canadian Alliance and PC Party forming a powerful amalgam.

It is time to stop pussyfooting around. Canadians are sick of hearing about this issue and want conservatives to get their acts together. There is near-unanimous agreement that the two conservative parties must unite to have a chance at ousting the Liberals from office.

The situation has now gotten to the point where it is about much more than replacing the Grits—it is about restoring a credible, functioning parliamentary democracy. The conservative movement today is in tatters, arguably in its worst shape since the 1993 election. We can cite all the factors we like for the current troubles: the destruction of the Mulroney coalition with the birth of the Reform Party, the failure of the United Alternative campaign to bring a critical mass of PCs on board or Joe Clark’s relentless intransigence. The point is that this has gone on long enough. The two conservative parties have an historic opportunity. If they are willing to show real leadership and put the good of the country ahead of egos and narrow self-interest, then we would have a truly pan-national alternative to the Liberals.

For the sake of the country, this must happen now, before it’s too late. It may be unpalatable for some, but the alternative is disastrous.

--Adam Daifallah, Arts ’02

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Adam Daifallah, is co-authoring a book with Peter G. White, “Gritlock: Are the Liberals in Forever?” out in October.

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