Ge­off Norquay

Policy - - In This Issue - Ge­off Norquay

From Mac­don­ald to Mul­roney: Trans­for­ma­tive Con­ser­va­tive Lead­er­ship

From the found­ing of Canada un­der Sir John A. Mac­don­ald to free trade un­der Brian Mul­roney, Con­ser­va­tives have pro­vided Canada with trans­for­ma­tive lead­er­ship, in­clud­ing Sir Robert Bor­den in the First World War and John Diefen­baker on his Bill of Rights, fore­run­ner of the Char­ter of Rights. Vet­eran Con­ser­va­tive strate­gist Ge­off on Con­ser­va­tive na­tion-build­ing over 150 years.

Like most po­lit­i­cal move­ments, Cana­dian Con­ser­va­tives in the past 150 years have cel­e­brated the heights of achieve­ment, suf­fered the ig­nominy of de­feat, seized op­por­tu­ni­ties and lost them, been di­vided, re­united and re­de­fined sev­eral times, re­cov­ered to re­gain vic­tory and per­se­vered. As other par­ties, they have cel­e­brated heroic lead­ers and spurned bad ones who left be­hind smouldering ru­ins of re­gret. Cana­dian Con­ser­va­tives have cre­ated na­tional in­sti­tu­tions and in­no­va­tive for­eign and trade poli­cies that have helped de­fine our na­tion and have be­come part of the Cana­dian fab­ric.

The coalitions and com­pro­mises that founded Canada were all about Sir. John A. Mac­don­ald. He was not heroic in the ways of many lead­ers who have founded na­tions—he faced chal­lenges by work­ing through them with prac­ti­cal strate­gies and tac­tics, and of­ten with the help of oth­ers of dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal stripes.

When po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity and dead­lock par­a­lyzed the leg­is­la­ture of the United Prov­ince of Canada in 1864, he reached out to an in­di­vid­ual he dis­liked, the Toronto re­former Ge­orge Brown, to cre­ate a Grand Coali­tion to bridge the French and English-speak­ing el­e­ments of Canada, to seek po­lit­i­cal re­form and pur­sue a con­fed­er­a­tion unit­ing the Bri­tish colonies in North Amer­ica. Be­tween 1864 and 1866, con­fer­ences in Char­lot­te­town, Québec City and Lon­don led to the cre­ation of the Do­min­ion of Canada on July 1, 1867. Shortly af­ter as­sum­ing of­fice, his pur­chase of the Hud­son’s Bay Com­pany lands in the west added an as­tound­ing one-third of the North Amer­i­can con­ti­nent to Canada.

Mac­don­ald’s sec­ond and third ac­com­plish­ments are fused to­gether and were very nearly the end of him as a po­lit­i­cal leader. Fac­ing a se­ri­ous threat from Amer­i­can man­i­fest des­tiny, he needed to add the western ter­ri­to­ries and Bri­tish Columbia to his fledg­ling na­tion and the only way to do that was to build a rail­road across the con­ti­nent. The con­struc­tion of the CPR took many years and ini­tially re­sulted in se­ri­ous cor­rup­tion, with both Mac­don­ald’s gov­ern­ment and the prime min­is­ter him­self tak­ing sig­nif­i­cant bribes. Mac­don­ald lost the gov­ern­ment in 1874, but he re­turned in 1878 and then served as prime min­is­ter un­til his death in 1891, com­plet­ing the ini­tial build­ing of Canada from sea to sea.

Con­ser­va­tives’ re­la­tion­ships with Québec have of­ten been ten­u­ous but they started from a solid base. Schooled in the ne­ces­si­ties of dou­ble ma­jori­ties in the old United Prov­ince, one of Mac­don­ald’s great­est ac­com­plish­ments was the ty­ing to­gether of the Bri­tish and French re­al­i­ties of Canada, with­out which Con­fed­er­a­tion would never have oc­curred. In many ways, he set the pat­tern for suc­cess­ful na­tional po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship in Canada, by bridg­ing the “two soli­tudes” of the two found­ing na­tions that cre­ated the coun­try.

Mac­don­ald lost the gov­ern­ment in 1874, but he re­turned in 1878 and then served as prime pin­is­ter un­til his death in 1891, com­plet­ing the ini­tial build­ing of Canada from sea to sea.

While Mac­don­ald did al­low the hang­ing of Louis Riel, which ou­traged many in Que­bec, a much larger defin­ing mo­ment for the party in that prov­ince came with the con­scrip­tion cri­sis in World War I. In June 1917, the Min­is­ter of Mili­tia told the House that fewer than five per cent of the 432,000 Cana­di­ans who had vol­un­teered had come from Québec, which then com­prised 28 per cent of Canada’s pop­u­la­tion. Québe­cers saw the war as Eu-

rope’s bat­tle, while English Canada was at one with the Bri­tish Em­pire.

With re­sent­ment grow­ing in English Canada and armed with a huge ma­jor­ity for his Union­ist gov­ern­ment, Prime Min­is­ter Robert Bor­den brought in con­scrip­tion through the Mil­i­tary Ser­vice Act, which took ef­fect Jan­uary 1st, 1918. To quell the re­sult­ing Easter week­end dis­tur­bances in Que­bec City, Cana­dian sol­diers fired on the ri­ot­ers, killing five and wound­ing close to 150 peo­ple. Not sur­pris­ingly, the Con­ser­va­tives would be vir­tu­ally shut out of Québec un­til the Diefen­baker sweep of 1958.

As he cam­paigned towards the largest ma­jor­ity of any gov­ern­ment in Cana­dian his­tory in 1984, Brian Mul­roney sought a man­date from Québe­cers for a new vi­sion of fed­er­al­ism and for na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, in light of Québec hav­ing de­clined to sign on to the new con­sti­tu­tion in 1982. In of­fice, Mul­roney led con­sul­ta­tions that re­sulted in the Meech Lake Ac­cord in 1987, which rec­og­nized Québec as a dis­tinct so­ci­ety within Canada, strength­ened pow­ers of the prov­inces in ar­eas of joint ju­ris­dic­tion, lim­ited the fed­eral spend­ing power and slightly changed the con­sti­tu­tional amend­ing for­mula.

When Meech Lake failed in 1990 af­ter all prov­inces had not rat­i­fied it within the three-year time limit, Mul­roney quickly re­turned to the fray, launch­ing a se­ries of na­tional con­sul­ta­tions that led to the Char­lot­te­town Ac­cord in 1992. In ad­di­tion to again rec­og­niz­ing the dis­tinc­tive­ness of Québec, the Ac­cord ad­dressed many of the over­sights of Meech, award­ing cul­ture, forestry, min­ing and nat­u­ral re­sources to the prov­inces, and for­mally in­sti­tu­tion­al­iz­ing the fed­eral/provin­cial/ter­ri­to­rial con­sul­ta­tive process. It pro­vided for a Triple-E Se­nate and rec­og­nized Abo­rig­i­nal gov­ern­ments as a third or­der of gov­ern­ment, en­trenched ex­ist­ing treaty rights in the con­sti­tu­tion and pro­vided con­sti­tu­tional recog­ni­tion of Métis rights.

Notwith­stand­ing sup­port for the ac­cord from the three prin­ci­pal fed­eral par­ties, all pre­miers and many abo­rig­i­nal lead­ers, a va­ri­ety of dis­senters found cause to at­tack it in the sub­se­quent ref­er­en­dum and it was de­feated on Oc­to­ber 26, 1992 by 55 per cent to 45 per cent. In 1993, Mul­roney left of­fice and the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives were re­duced to two seats in that year’s fed­eral elec­tion. It would take 10 years and suc­ces­sive Lib­eral ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ments to con­vince Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay to merge the Al­liance and the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives into the new Con­ser­va­tive Party of Canada in 2003.

Through­out Canada’s his­tory, Con­ser­va­tive prime min­is­ters have con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to the for­eign, de­fence and trade pol­icy of Canada. When the coun­try en­tered World War I, Bor­den in­sisted Cana­dian sol­diers re­main as a sin­gle group and un­der our com­mand, in­stead of be­ing split up and as­signed to Bri­tish di­vi­sions. At the end of the war, Bor­den suc­cess­fully ar­gued that Canada must have a sep­a­rate seat at the Paris Peace Con­fer­ence as an in­de­pen­dent coun­try, which en­abled Canada to sign the Treaty of Ver­sailles in its own right and to gain sep­a­rate mem­ber­ship in the League of Na­tions.

By the early 1960s, the Bri­tish Com­mon­wealth was rapidly be­com­ing a multi-racial or­ga­ni­za­tion as the for­mer colonies of Asia, Africa and the Caribbean gained in­de­pen­dence. At the 1961 Com­mon­wealth Con­fer­ence in Lon­don, Prime Min­is­ter John Diefen­baker led the Com­mon­wealth in re­ject­ing the read­mit­tance of South Africa to the or­ga­ni­za­tion over apartheid. As the Lon­don Ob­server noted at the time, “Mr. Diefen­baker’s role was of de­ci­sive im­por­tance. Not only did he pro­vide a bridge be­tween the old white do­min­ions and the new non­white mem­bers, he also demon­strated the im­por­tance of some­one giv­ing a lead.” Diefen­baker’s stand be­gan the cam­paign of in­ter­na­tional pres­sure on South Africa to aban­don its racist ap­proach to defin­ing cit­i­zen­ship.

Bor­den suc­cess­fully ar­gued that Canada must have a sep­a­rate seat at the Paris Peace Con­fer­ence as an in­de­pen­dent coun­try, which en­abled Canada to sign the Treaty of Ver­sailles in its own right and to gain sep­a­rate mem­ber­ship in the League of Na­tions.

Ay­oung law stu­dent named Brian Mul­roney was so im­pressed by Diefen­baker’s lead­er­ship on South Africa that he went to Ot­tawa to help wel­come him

back to Canada fol­low­ing the Com­mon­wealth Con­fer­ence. As prime min­is­ter in the 1980s, that same Brian Mul­roney would re­new Diefen­baker’s fight against apartheid, per­son­ally tak­ing on both Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Mar­garet Thatcher and U.S. Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan, and see­ing it through to a suc­cess­ful con­clu­sion as the cham­pion of Nel­son Man­dela and im­pla­ca­ble foe of what he termed “the scourge of apartheid.”

Con­ser­va­tives have been on both sides of free trade with the United States, 100 years apart and with the right re­sponse in both cases. Sir John A. Mac­don­ald had al­ways feared free trade with the U. S., be­liev­ing that Canada’s nascent in­dus­tries needed pro­tec­tion through his Na­tional Pol­icy. By the time Mul­roney be­came prime min­is­ter in 1984, Canada was still ex­port­ing much of its nat­u­ral re­source pro­duc­tion to the U.S. but was also grow­ing as an in­dus­trial mid­dle power. Hav­ing op­posed free trade as a can­di­date for leader, in of­fice, he con­cluded that the time was right to pur­sue a deal with the Amer­i­cans. The Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agree­ment (FTA), ve­he­mently op­posed by John Turner’s Lib­er­als, be­came the dom­i­nant is­sue of the 1988 elec­tion cam­paign, which Mul­roney won. By any mea­sure the FTA, which quickly mor­phed into the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment, cre­ated bil­lions of dol­lars in trade for Canada and re­sulted in mil­lions of ad­di­tional Cana­dian jobs. It is Mul­roney’s crown­ing achieve­ment. In 2006, he was also named Canada’s Green­est Prime Min­is­ter by the en­vi­ron­men­tal move­ment for his cham­pi­oning of the 1991 Acid Rain Ac­cord with the U.S. and the 1987 UN Mon­treal Pro­to­col on the ozone layer. Both acid rain and ozone de­ple­tion, the lead­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues of the day, are no longer pub­lic pol­icy con­cerns.

Un­der the gov­ern­ment of Stephen Harper, Canada stepped back from mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism, at least as it in­volved the United Na­tions, and made Is­rael the cen­tre­piece of its for­eign pol­icy in the Mid­dle East. The Harper gov­ern­ment in­her­ited the Afghanistan as­sign­ment in Kan­da­har Prov­ince, where Canada ul­ti­mately lost 158 sol­diers, a diplo­mat and sev­eral civil­ians over the course of the mis­sion. Cre­at­ing a more mus­cu­lar and less nu­anced for­eign pol­icy, Canada also spent some $18 bil­lion in Afghanistan be­fore with­draw­ing its troops at the end of 2014. Harper also suc­cess­fully ne­go­ti­ated the break­through Com­pre­hen­sive Eco­nomic and Trade Agree­ment (CETA) with Europe, and took a t ough stand against Rus­sia fol­low­ing its ag­gres­sive in­ter­ven­tion in Ukraine.

All gov­ern­ments re­gard­less of party make con­tri­bu­tions to the build­ing of na­tional in­sti­tu­tions and pro­grams, and Con­ser­va­tives have been no ex­cep­tion. Bor­den ex­tended suf­frage to women and cre­ated the Na­tional Re­search Coun­cil. De­spite a dis­as­trous term as PM from 1930-1935, R. B. Ben­nett launched the Cana­dian Ra­dio Broad­cast­ing Com­mis­sion, which be­came the CBC. He also founded the Bank of Canada, cre­ated the Cana­dian Wheat Board and laid the ground­work for a na­tional air trans­port sys­tem.

The gov­ern­ment of John Diefen­baker ap­pointed Saskatchewan Judge Em­mett Hall as chair of the royal com­mis­sion on health ser­vices, which led to the cre­ation of Medi­care. Diefen­baker also brought in the 1960 Cana­dian Bill of Rights, the fore­run­ner of the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms a gen­er­a­tion later, and ap­pointed the first woman to cab­i­net, Ellen Fair­clough, and the first abo­rig­i­nal sen­a­tor, James Glad­stone. Brian Mul­roney laid the ground­work for the cre­ation of La Fran­co­phonie, ad­vo­cated for the re­u­ni­fi­ca­tion of Ger­many at the end of the Cold War, ap­pointed the first western am­bas­sador to Ukraine and cre­ated the third Cana­dian ter­ri­to­rial gov­ern­ment, Nu­navut. His gov­ern­ment also brought in the goods and ser­vices tax, which, while it an­gered vot­ers, made em­i­nent eco­nomic sense. Stephen Harper ex­tended a much-lauded apol­ogy on be­half of Cana­di­ans to Abo­rig­i­nals for res­i­den­tial schools, and ap­pointed the land­mark Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion.

As Canada turns 150, Canada’s Con­ser­va­tives have a new leader, An­drew Scheer. He has youth, ex­pe­ri­ence, a happy dis­po­si­tion and has come through the fire of an ex­haust­ing and com­pet­i­tive lead­er­ship cam­paign. Those of us who know him are con­fi­dent that when his time comes, he will be ready to join the ranks of Con­ser­va­tive lead­ers who have de­fined once again Canada’s fu­ture, and re­newed its prom­ise.

Li­brary and Archives Canada photo

R.B. Ben­nett, who had the mis­for­tune to gov­ern dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion, but also cre­ated the CBC and the Bank of Canada.

Archives Canada photo Li­brary and

Sir John A. Mac­don­ald, the first Con­ser­va­tive PM, and found­ing fa­ther of Canada.

Wikipedia photo

John Diefen­baker, fa­ther of the 1960 Bill of Rights, op­po­nent of apartheid, pro­poser of a North­ern Vi­sion for Canada’s Arc­tic.

Li­brary and Archives Canada photo

Brian Mul­roney, fa­ther of free trade and ne­go­tia­tor of the Acid Rain Ac­cord with the U.S.

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