The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Monday, August 19, 2002

United Right? Not likely.

This is a very interesting piece by Environics' Chris Baker about the social value differences between Progressive Conservative and Canadian Alliance supporters. It originally appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press.

Baker's article is timely; there is a Tory convention in Edmonton this weekend, and the question of "uniting the Right" by merging with the Alliance will be on the minds of delegates. The question is: Are these parties compatible?

Perhaps the most striking difference between Conservative and Alliance supporters is that the Tories are not overly concerned with changing society in their own image. The Alliance, on the other hand, believe that change is a must, especially if it is the change disctated by them. Alliance supporters are fearful of the cuurent direction that society is headed, and see it as not just their right, but their duty to change social mores.

Baker writes:
Alliance angst about the future is only matched by an optimism that, if the correct steps are taken, the challenges of the future can be successfully met. CA supporters feel that they are racing against the clock in their daily lives and tend to be more activist and outgoing in their attitudes.

which explains some things about why Alliance suppoirters are so fanatically loyal to their party. It also explains just why many of their policies call for a very different kind of "social engineering."

My problem with Baker's article is that it treats Alliance supporters as a unified bloc. There are two distinct flavours of the Alliance, as I see things. The Alliance has a social conservative wing interested in reforming behaviour and governmetns, and libertarian wing that is very much uninterested in social consequences, except for the consequences of government intervention in the economy..

Traditionally, Tories were the party worried about excessive social change, and the one that stood for "traditional" values. While they are concerned with how they live their own lives, modern Progressive Conservatives are more inclined to take a "live and let live" approach to others. Alliance types who can be descibed as "social conservative" are more than willing to show others that they're wrong, and need "reforming."

This goes back to the influence of the likes of Alberta Report founder Ted Byfield and his followers in the Reform and Alliance, who are most distressed by social trendcs. They see Canada as going to hell in a handbaskert due to moral decay, permissiveness, a lack of work ethic, and so forth. These Reform/Alliance players want not just to reform government, but society itself.

On the other hand, you also have the "libertarian" wing of the Alliance, who are more interested in unfettered capitalism, and less in controlling behavious. That said, they are often of a "law and order" bent that emphasizes a certain degree of social conformity, and harsh punishments for some deviant behaviours. In their own way, the "libertarian" wing of the party wants to reform people -- through the elimination of government services to persons, and through a radically different tax and economic system than we have now.

It is interesting to note that the Alliance supporters see themselves as the most adaptable to changing times. Might I suggest that they are most comfortable with the changes that they want to create? After all if you're makiing the new rules, you will design them in your own self-interest.

Both sides of the Canadian Alliance do want a great deal of social change, however.

Progressive Conservatives, as they now stand, are resistant to this kind of change. They always have been opposed to radical change, preferring an incremental approach. In this respect, the Tories of today are no different than they were fifty years or more ago. Now, they would like some change from the Liberals' way of doing things, but to do so in a careful, considered way.

This is at the crux of the issue: can these groups unite?

I agree with Chris Baker on this question: No, not for now. The Tories have different goals, interests, and values than either of the Alliance wings. Most of the Progressive Conservatives whose values and udeas closely match those of the Alliance have already left for the Alliance. The Tories that are left are uncomfortable with the vision of either wing of the Alliance, and not for reasons of personal animosity.

While partisans from both sides can work together in spite of old history, as evidenced by the PC-DRC experimnet, there is no sign that either is willing to compromise its values enough for a stable merger of the parties to take place.

In a related matter...

You could already say that the "right" has been united under the Alliance banner. Unfortunately for Alliance loyalists, the party's growth prospects are limited. Much of the Liberal vote is against that of the Alliance, and what they stand for. Of the Tories, the 2000 Canadian Election Survey found that 51% of their 2000 voters would pick the Liberals as their second choice, while just 17% of 2000 Tory voters would pick the Alliance. This should put paid to the myth of "vote-splitting" being the Alliance's problem... their real problem is that the Alliance's appeal is not broad enough to form a majoity government.

If you were to combine the 2000 Alliance support with one-quarter of the 2000 Tories, you would have just 28.5% of the popular vote, which is about 10 points short of the support needed for a majority government. Even if the Conservatives not run in the 2000 election, and half their former supporters voted Alliance, the Alliance would get less than 32% of the popular vote, and the Liberals, if they were to get the other half of the Tory vote, would win 48% of the vote.

The Alliance has decent support, but little potential for growth beyond its 2000 supprt, even if the Tories collapsed. The Progressive Conservatives have little chance to grow in the near future, and they can only grow if the Alliance collapses, or agrees to form a moderate, conservative-oriented party by merging with the Tories. I see no signs of either happeneng, because Alliance partisans are very protective of their party, do not want to see its principles diluted, and believe it to be Canada's last, best hope.

Liberals in 2004, 2008, 2012...? Please, we do need a viable alternative to the present government.
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