Merger offers the best future

by Margret Kopala

Published by the Ottawa Citizen, Dec 11, 2000

Those of us Tories on the 'moderate right' who joined the Alliance as a step towards creating one conservative party are encouraged by PC national director Susan Elliott's comments ("How about a reverse takeover of the Alliance by the Tories? Susan Riley, 1st December). Rather than a takeover of the Alliance, however, many of us would prefer formal, institutional merger between the two parties.

Of course a merger would end vote splitting in Ontario; more importantly, and by brokering differences between Atlantic based Tories and Western based Alliance members, one conservative party (that is neither progressive nor reform) will be restored to its nation building role and so find itself on the high road to governance. As Ms.Elliott notes, there's a critical mass of social conservatives in the Alliance who, like Tory progressives, would be reluctant to give up turf - particularly their direct democracy proposals which offer a process by which controversial issues could be placed on the national agenda.

If the Alliance can be persuaded to concentrate instead on its excellent proposals for parliamentary reform, progressive and social conservative elements in a fully merged party could co-exist and even balance each other - leaving fiscal conservatives to occupy the critical centre, mediate between both sides and advance only the best arguments of each into party policy. In addition to a strong history and a strong name, Tories bring to the negotiating table a strong constitution which, among other things, features a leadership selection process that addresses takeover by single issue groups - an area in which the Alliance is unnecessarily exposed.

To explore the merger option, the PC national council and the Alliance national council should ask experienced negotiators to produce an agreement for approval by their leaders and memberships. These negotiators should have no paid or other partisan interests but should be familiar with their respective party's constitution, policies, history and psychology. Hugh Segal and Ray Speaker are two possibilities but both parties have many people capable of doing the job.

Margret Kopala

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