Canadian Alliance

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Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance
Alliance réformiste-conservatrice canadienne
Former federal party
FoundedMarch 27, 2000 (2000-03-27)
DissolvedDecember 7, 2003 (2003-12-07)
Preceded by Reform Party of Canada
Merged into Conservative Party of Canada
Political position Centre-right to right-wing [1] [2]
Colours  Teal

The Canadian Alliance (French : Alliance canadienne), formally the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance (French : Alliance réformiste-conservatrice canadienne), was a centre-right to right-wing federal political party in Canada that existed under that name from 2000 to 2003. The Canadian Alliance was the new name of the Reform Party of Canada and inherited many of its populist policies, as well as its position as the Official Opposition in the House of Commons of Canada. The party supported policies that were both fiscally and socially conservative, seeking reduced government spending on social programs and reductions in taxation.


The Alliance resulted from the United Alternative initiative launched by the Reform Party of Canada and several provincial Tory parties as a vehicle to merge with the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. The federal Progressive Conservative Party led by Joe Clark in the late fall of 1998 rejected the initiative to "unite the right." [3] After the Alliance led by Stockwell Day was defeated and a third consecutive Liberal majority government was won in the 2000 federal election, talks reopened and in December 2003, the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative parties finally voted to merge into the Conservative Party of Canada.


The Canadian Alliance's origins were in the Reform Party of Canada, which was founded in 1987 as a populist party supporting Western Canadian interests. However, soon after its formation it was taken over by fiscal and social conservatives and became a right-wing populist party. Initially, the Reform Party was motivated by the perceived need for democratic reforms and by growing Western discontent with the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney. Led by its founder Preston Manning, the Reform Party rapidly gained momentum in western Canada and sought to expand its base in the east. Manning, son of longtime Alberta Premier Ernest Manning, gained support partly from the same political constituency as his father's old party, the Alberta Social Credit Party. Its platform and policies emphasized, inter alia, the rights and responsibilities of the individual, Senate and other democratic reforms, and smaller more fiscally responsible government.

With the unraveling of Mulroney's fragile coalition of westerners, Red Tories from Ontario and Quebec nationalists, the Reform Party's fortunes rose. It first entered Parliament in 1989 when Deborah Grey won a by-election in an Edmonton-area riding. The party achieved major success in the 1993 federal election. Almost all of the Tories' western support bled to Reform, allowing it to replace the Tories as Canada's major centre-right party. However, the party was virtually nonexistent east of Manitoba. Notably, despite finishing second in the popular vote, it was nosed out by the Bloc Québécois for official opposition status due to being completely shut out of Quebec and winning only one seat in Ontario. While the party did manage to become Canada's official opposition, inadequate support in eastern Canada prevented it from posing a true challenge to the Liberal government. Ontario and Quebec are guaranteed 59 percent of seats in the Commons under both Constitution Acts, making it politically impossible to form even a minority government without a significant base of support in either province.

Demand for unity by the right encouraged Manning to promote a new movement, the "United Alternative", to create a small-c conservative alternative to the Liberals. Manning blamed "conservative" vote-splitting for keeping the Liberals in power, although some polls showed that the Liberals were the second choice of many PC voters (especially in Ontario). Manning's efforts created a strong debate in the Reform party, and he would even write a letter to the effect that he didn't want to lead Reform anymore, but would only lead the new party. The opposition died down after Manning won a leadership review with 74.6 per cent support at the January 2000 UA convention. [4]

In 2000, following the second of the two United Alternative conventions, the party voted to dissolve in favour of a new party:[ citation needed ] the "Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance." After the convention, the Reform Party applied to change its name, short name, and logo; this application was granted by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, retroactive to March 27, 2000. As of that date, what used to be the Reform Party of Canada was registered as the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance. [5] [6] The newly-named party's platform was a mixture of the PC and Reform platforms. However, it was in fact a renamed and enlarged Reform Party. Former Reform members dominated the new party; with few exceptions, the Reform caucus in the Commons essentially became the Alliance caucus. Mulroney called the party "Reform in pantyhose", and some opponents referred to the party as the "Reform Alliance" to enforce this perception.

Media covering the convention quickly pointed out that if one added the word "Party" to the end of the party's name, the resulting initials were "CCRAP" [7] [8] (humorously pronounced "see-crap" or just "crap") even though it, like the Bloc, didn't actually have the word party in its name. One day later, the party changed its official name to the "Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance". [7] However, it was almost always called simply "the Canadian Alliance" (which was accepted on first reference in most media outlets) or "the Alliance". However, the "CCRAP" nickname was still used by its opponents. Deborah Grey, the deputy leader of Reform, was chosen as the new party's interim leader, becoming the first female Leader of the Opposition in Canadian history.

The federal Progressive Conservatives under Joe Clark refused to participate in these talks, but there was strong support from many provincial Tories, especially in Ontario and Alberta. Subsequently, at the new party's first leadership convention, Manning was defeated by Stockwell Day, longtime Treasurer (finance minister) of Alberta. One Progressive Conservative senator, Gerry St. Germain, joined the new party in October 2000, becoming the Alliance's only member of the Senate.

2000 federal election

In the fall of 2000, the Liberals called a snap election that caught the Alliance off-guard. Nonetheless, the party went into the election with great hopes, campaigning on tax cuts, an end to the federal gun registration program, and their vision of "family values". Day was expected to have greater appeal to Ontario voters. At one point, the Alliance was at 30.5 per cent in the polls, and some thought they could win the election, or at least knock the Liberals down to a minority government. However, the Liberals responded by accusing the Alliance of having a "hidden agenda" (e.g., to introduce two-tier health care, and threatening gay rights and abortion rights), which the party denied.

Though disappointed with the election results in Ontario, the Alliance increased its presence to 66 MPs, including two MPs from Ontario. Nationally, the party increased its popular vote to 25 per cent. The Alliance remained the Official Opposition in the House of Commons. The Liberals increased their large majority mostly at the expense of the NDP, and the Tories under Joe Clark lost many seats and remained in fifth place, but Clark was elected in Calgary Centre in the middle of Alliance country, so the overall political landscape was not significantly changed. Like Reform, the Alliance was perceived mostly as a Western protest party.


However, the Alliance's failure to win more seats east of Manitoba, along with residual resentments from the Alliance leadership contest and questions about Day's competence, led to caucus infighting. In the spring of 2001, eleven MPs who either voluntarily resigned or were expelled from the party formed the "Independent Alliance Caucus". The group was led by Chuck Strahl and included Grey. Day offered the dissidents an amnesty at the end of the summer, but seven of them, including Grey and Strahl, turned it down and formed their own parliamentary grouping, the Democratic Representative Caucus. The DRC formed a coalition with Clark's Tories in the House, which was widely seen as an attempt by Clark to reunite the Canadian right on his terms. The split forced Day to call a new leadership convention, and, in April 2002, former Reform MP Stephen Harper defeated Day at the subsequent leadership election.

Once Harper assumed the leadership, most of the rebellious MPs rejoined the Alliance. Two MPs did not rejoin, however: Inky Mark chose to remain outside of caucus, and eventually joined the Tories, and the scandal-plagued Jim Pankiw was rejected when he applied for readmission to the Alliance caucus.

Provincial wings

During its short history, the Canadian Alliance never seriously entertained the prospect of forming provincial wings or forging formal links with existing provincial parties. The vast majority of Alliance supporters in most provinces supported, and continued to support, their provincial Progressive Conservative parties, while most supporters in Saskatchewan remained loyal to the Saskatchewan Party and in BC supported the conservative BC Liberals.

However, an attempt to form a provincial party with clear, if unofficial links with the Alliance was made in Alberta, where the Alberta Alliance was formed in 2002. Under the leadership of Reform/Alliance activist Randy Thorsteinson, the new party never sought a formal link with the Alliance, and if it had done so the overture would likely have been rebuffed since many Albertan Alliance members continued to support the Alberta Progressive Conservatives. However, the Alberta Alliance copied the colours of the Alliance and many of its logos bear a striking resemblance to those of the federal party. The Alberta Alliance continued to grow following the federal party's merger, and the provincial party fielded a full slate of candidates for the 2004 provincial election, on November 22, 2004, and won one seat in the Legislature.

Conservative Party of Canada

On October 15, 2003, the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party (under its new leader Peter MacKay) announced that they would merge to form a new party, called the Conservative Party of Canada. The union was ratified on December 5, 2003, with 96 per cent support of the membership of the Canadian Alliance, and on December 6, 90.04 per cent support of elected delegates in the PC Party. On December 8, the party was registered with Elections Canada, and on March 20, 2004, former Alliance leader Stephen Harper was elected as leader of the party with MacKay serving as deputy leader. The new party was dubbed "the Alliance Conservatives" by critics who considered the new party a "hostile takeover" of the old Progressive Conservatives by the newer Alliance. However, some grassroots Alliance supporters who had adhered to the old populist ideas of the Reform Party feared that the merger would signal a return to what they saw as indifference to Western Canadian interests. The Alliance also subsequently shed some of its populist and socially conservative policies during the merger.

The new Conservative Party formed the Canadian government on February 6, 2006, and won two additional elections (2008 and 2011) under the leadership of Stephen Harper; of these, the 2006 and 2008 votes resulted in the party governing only as a minority; only in 2011 was a majority mandate achieved. The party was defeated in 2015, by the Liberals, and became the official opposition party in the House of Commons.

Party leaders

Federal election results 2000

2000 Stockwell Day 298
66 / 301

See also

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  1. Paikin, Steve (August 30, 2016). "What I wish I could have asked Stephen Harper". TVOntario . TVOntario . Retrieved November 2, 2019. the centre-right forces in the country were split among the Canadian Alliance, the Progressive Conservative Party, and the Bloc Quebecois
  2. Harrison, Trevor W. (February 7, 2006). "Canadian Alliance". The Canadian Encyclopedia . The Canadian Encyclopedia . Retrieved November 2, 2019. Clark's resignation as leader in August 2002 provided the opportunity for a conciliation between Canada's two right-of-centre parties.
  3. ed. John H. Pammett and Christopher Dorman (2001). The Canadian General Election of 2000. Dundrun Press. p.  93. ISBN   978-1-55002-356-5.{{cite book}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  4. ed. John H. Pammett and Christopher Dornan (2001). The Canadian General Election of 2000. Dundrun Press. p.  69. ISBN   978-1-55002-356-5.{{cite book}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  5. "Reform Party Application". Elections Canada. April 2, 2000. Retrieved December 10, 2021.
  6. Jill Mahoney (April 3, 2000). "Tories vow court action over new party's title". The Globe and Mail. p. A4. ProQuest   1124995129. Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley decided in favour of a request by former Reform leader Preston Manning to change the Reform Party's name to Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance.
  7. 1 2 In Depth: Conservative Party Archived July 30, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  8. "New party changes embarrassing acronym". February 2, 2000. Retrieved April 28, 2017.