January 22, 2004, The Halifax Herald Limited

How much Tory tolerance lost in merger?

THE ALLIANCE and Progressive Conservative merger is now history. However, it poses many questions for small-c conservatives, these two prominent among them: How much Tory tolerance has been lost in the process of creating the Conservative Party of Canada? Will the party be a viable alternative to the Liberal monopoly in a country where the majority live by the motto, "Live and let live"? Many fiscally conservative-minded people, not just high-profile conservatives such as Scott Brison, are asking these questions and are coming up wanting.

The merger was brought about by the fact that the old Tory party had lost much of its conservative way during the 1970s and '80s. Over this period, individuals with socialist views, more in line with the NDP or the far left of the Liberal party, eventually took control. In fact, the Tories, Grits and NDP, for much of that period, were so much alike that it was very difficult to distinguish many differences between them - except names.

Which brings to mind the NDP phrase coined to describe the two major parties during an election a couple of decades ago: "Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum." Another "Tweedle-dee" should have been added to include the NDP itself. After all, its former wise men, Trudeau, Marchand and Pelletier, were then in firm control of the Liberal party.

The net result of this leftist inclination was a political vacuum for financial conservatives with a heart. These are people who believe that a country needs to be financially responsible in order to assure that it has the wherewithal to look after its underprivileged and needy. A broke or near-broke country can't do this fairly and properly. Canada fits into the latter category. To make ends meet, it taxes the blood out of its poor.

In time, the lack of a credible alternative to the left swing of the Tories spurred disaffected conservatives to form a new conservative party, Reform. Its mandate was to offer what the Tories should have been offering all along, financial responsibility. This got me quite excited: at long last, a political party advocating financial responsibility. Wow!

Then its radical right wing began to show its true colours. Many members started spouting words that were very intolerant. In many ways, it resembled the evangelical far right wing in the United States, whose motto seems to be: "Financially and morally, it's our way or the highway."

These events quickly killed any hope in many electors for a political party to identify with.

Personally, I'm a firm believer in the separation of church and state and won't, under any circumstances, bend this to support a political party that even gives a hint of mixing them. The reason for this is simple: It's a mix that generally spells bedlam for a country's citizens. This is easy to affirm; all a person has to do is think of the horrors going on in countries such as Northern Ireland, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and so on. These nations, where religion either causes fighting among sects or gives the state the right to strip its citizens of their human dignity, are places where democratic freedom is often, to satisfy the dictates of extremists, left by the wayside.

So, will the new Conservative party stick to governing or will it, as did Reform and Alliance, go astray and get involved in non-criminal moral and religious issues that no government has any business sticking its nose into? Will it be tolerant?

All this depends on who comes out on top as leader. If Stephen Harper prevails, as it now seems likely, the party will probably be dead in the water before the next election. Too much unfavourable baggage from the past is stuck to him.

For example, I can't, as a First Nations person, forget that one of his chief advisers, Professor Tom Flanagan, advocates the extinction of our peoples through assimilation. The following quotes from an April 17, 2000, CP story in this newspaper announcing the release of Flanagan's book, First Nations, Second Thoughts, are a constant reminder.

"Flanagan rejects the idea that native people constituted nations equivalent to those in Europe during the period of North American exploration and discovery" (ignoring the fact that it had already been discovered and explored). "Rather, natives were 'uncivilized' because they lacked intensive agriculture, permanent settlement, writing, advanced technology and organized states." In other words, the First Nations of North America were not exact copies of the white nations of Europe; therefore, they were inferior and uncivilized. People might be excused if they conclude this to be a white supremacist position!

You know what? That new fiscally responsible, right-of-centre Liberal party, under Paul Martin, is looking better by the minute. I want to live in a country where no one is marginalized because of their religion, race, sex, etc. The new Conservative party has yet to demonstrate that it has the will to work to realize that goal for Canadians. Harper's silence on the tolerance issue has been deafening!

Daniel N. Paul


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