We end our political party week by discussing Canada’s founding political party. The Conservative Party adopted its values and policies from the British Tories and governed Canada for 29 consecutive years after Confederation.1 Since Confederation the Conservative Party has changed substantially. For the purpose of today’s post we will be focussing on the Conservative Party’s merger after the year 2000 and its upcoming leadership race.
Before unifying in 2003, there were two separate and distinct conservative parties: the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.2 The two merged in December 2003 with overwhelming support from both parties and a hope of creating a stronger and more unified conservative movement.3 A newly formed party required one more thing: a newly elected leader to bring new life to the campaign. On March 20th, 2004, Stephen Harper became the first leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.4 Harper led the Conservatives to success in the 2006 election, and maintained control of the Canadian government until November 2015.
After the loss of the 2015 election, Harper chose to step down from party leadership leaving Rona Ambrose as the current interim party leader.5 This brings us to the current state of the Conservative government. On May 27th, 2017, Conservative Party members will vote to elect the party’s new leader. Fourteen candidates put their names forward almost immediately upon notice of the election, but polls suggest that there are really only three contenders.6
With an early lead over the other candidates, polls suggest that Kevin O’Leary with (22.1%) will be the next Conservative leader.7 Controversial, outspoken, loud, and critical of Canada’s current Liberal government, O’Leary has certainly created a name for himself. Perhaps Conservative Canadians are unhappy with how Justin Trudeau and the Liberals are running the country, or maybe O’Leary’s name is more recognizable due to his fame from “Dragon’s Den.” Regardless of the reason, O’Leary’s election seems likely.
What platform is O’Leary actually running on when you look past the loud media rants and wild antics? The answer is hard to determine. O’Leary’s campaign page suggests that he wants to support small businesses and hardworking Canadians using his investment background.8 He also suggests that it is time for the country to be run by someone who is not a career politician. Sound familiar? I recall a certain Donald Trump making similar suggestions south of the border. While O’Leary may have good intentions of balancing the Canadian budget and providing support to working Canadians he does not make any tangible suggestions as to how he will do this. But he is a businessman so he must know how to deal with the economy, right?
The Conservative Party would head in an interesting direction if O’Leary were elected. If he’s elected I hope O’Leary will make, and keep, tangible promises to Canadians, rather than just rant about Justin Trudeau’s time in office. Who knows though, maybe by May 27th Kellie Leitch or Maxime Bernier will take the vote. All we can do now is stay tuned and leave you with a quote from O’Leary:
"I understand what he is doing with the media, and you can certainly claim I am trying to do the same, but I am not Donald Trump."9
1 Trevor W Harrison, “Conservative Party”, The Canadian Encyclopedia (19 August 2015), online: <www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/conservative-party/>.
2 Conservative Party of Canada, “Our History” (2017), online: <www.conservative.ca/our-party/our-history/>.
5 Conservative Party of Canada, “Leadership” (2017), online: <www.conservative.ca/leadership/en>.
6 “Conservative leadership candidate Kevin O'Leary says he knows where 'rot' is at CBC: 'We could save billions of dollars'”, Toronto Sun (28 March 2017), online: <www.torontosun.com/2017/03/28/conservative-leadership-candidate-kevin-oleary-says-he-knows-where-rot-is-at-cbc-we-could-save-billions-of-dollars>.
8 Kevin O’Leary, “Why I’m Running” (2017), online: <https://olearyforcanada.ca/en/why/#0>.
9 The Canadian Press, “A selection of quotes from Conservative leadership candidate Kevin O'Leary” Times Colonist (18 January 2017), online: <www.timescolonist.com/a-selection-of-quotes-from-conservative-leadership-candidate-kevin-o-leary-1.7857343>.