Sunday, May 22, 2005


I would remiss if I let this one pass. I will make two points:

1. The affair is symptomatic of what is perhaps the Conservatives’ biggest problem: the widely accepted belief that the merger of the two parties was an Alliance/Reform takeover that alienated a huge number of centrist, Red Tory, socially progressive-fiscally conservative (call them what you will) traditional Progressive Conservatives despite the support of some like Bill Davis and Hugh Segal traditionally associated with the Red Tories. However, many in this group perceived the merger as a hostile takeover by Reform, and both key individuals and en masse they defected to Paul Martin Liberals. Ms. Stronach’s defection is merely the latest chapter in a crossing the floor story that featured earlier moves by Scott Brison and Keith Martin.

It can be seen statistically by examining a specific example: the combined Alliance-PC vote in Ontario in 2000 was 38% but the merged Conservative Party could only obtain 31.5% in 2004 – an election in which Liberal support in Ontario actually dropped by 6.8%.

Mr. Harper made a number of key strategic errors in the lead-up to the loss of the confidence vote but his role in the loss of Belinda Stronach was the greatest. It is an enormous symbolic blow that undermines completely the efforts the Conservatives have been making to moderate their image.

2. Stronach is now a Liberal and a cabinet minister with a significant portfolio. She has puzzled me right from the moment she entered politics to run for the Conservative leadership. She did not appear to have natural political abilities. With her millions she had some of the best advice money can buy, but it is far from clear whether, apart from her vote on May 19, she will be an asset to the Liberals. See, for example, this commentary by veteran Hill watcher Doug Fisher, a one time CCF-NDP MP, although now a political columnist for the Sun news papers who leans strongly to the right. He comments, in comparing her to other women:

"... she isn't cut out for the game of politics. She's just not a "natural" -- unlike women such as the late Judy LaMarsh, or Deborah Grey and Sheila Copps. More than a year of generous exposure by the news media demonstrate that she is barely an adequate speaker, let alone a good one. She cannot think on her feet and has a relentless devotion to cliches and chamber of commerce platitudes."

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