Dear progressive conservatives,

On the occasion of what would have been Brian Mulroney’s 85th birthday on March 20, I am asking you to honour his legacy and the legacy of the party he devotedly served: the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada (PC).

The party stood for moderate conservatism. Its merger with the Canadian Alliance (the Reform Party’s successor) in 2003 gave birth to the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC). At the time of the merger, many hoped the CPC would become a mainstream centre-right party. That did not happen. The terms of the merger and Stephen Harper’s long leadership tenure (2004-15) ensured the CPC would turn into a version of the populist hard-right Reform Party that Harper helped build. The culture of the CPC today is starkly different from the culture of the PCs that Mulroney led.

For example:

  1. The environment. In 2006, Corporate Knights magazine and its panel of experts honoured Mulroney as the greenest prime minister in Canadian history. He signed the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which aimed to protect the ozone layer. He helped pass the Environmental Protection Act in 1988. He created eight new national parks. He drove negotiations that led to the signing of the Canada-U.S. acid rain treaty in 1991. He signed an agreement to reduce greenhouse gases at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. As for the CPC, it has yet to develop a credible climate policy.
  2. The United Nations. Mulroney and Joe Clark, as secretary of state for external affairs, worked with the UN to mitigate the Ethiopian famine in 1984-85 and to oppose the apartheid regime in South Africa. A CPC shadow cabinet member recently called for Canada to withdraw from the UN.
  3. Public institutions. The governments led by Mulroney treated institutions with respect. They regularly engaged with the media. In spite of some funding cuts, they supported the CBC and the arts. The Harper- and Pierre Poilievre-led CPC often treats the media and other key institutions (for example, Statistics Canada, Elections Canada, the Supreme Court, the Bank of Canada and the CBC) with disdain.
  4. Ukraine. Canada’s PC government was the first western government to recognize an independent Ukraine in 1991. The CPC recently called into question its support for Ukraine by voting against a Ukraine-Canada free trade agreement.
  5. Law and order. Mulroney and Kim Campbell as justice minister introduced effective gun control legislation in 1991. The current CPC is hostile to a lot of sensible gun control legislation.

On the whole, Mulroney was respectful of norms. He was civil toward political opponents. He showed a great deal of humanity and compassion. He often appealed to what is best in us, such as our desire to help, at home and abroad, those who are less fortunate. The CPC, on the other hand, often appeals to negative emotions such as anger, fear and resentment.

The CPC does this in part for electoral reasons, but mainly because these sentiments are in the party’s DNA. In spite of its name, the CPC is actually not a “conservative” party. It is a radical right-wing party willing to bend norms to its advantage, just as Harper did during the 2008-09 prorogation crisis. The support that some CPC MPs gave the “Freedom Convoy” when it illegally occupied Ottawa two years ago fits this pattern. We must see the CPC for what it truly is and not for what we would wish it to be.

The CPC has been guided or led by Reformers such as Preston Manning, Harper, Andrew Scheer, Poilievre and Jenni Byrne. They did their best to damage the old PC Party. Over the last 20 years, they have worked to remove any remnant of moderate conservatism from the CPC. Progressive conservatives do not owe these Reformers any loyalty.

In hindsight, the PC-Alliance merger was not a reuniting of two feuding branches of the same conservative family. In fact, the merger was a takeover of the conservative brand by Reform, whose reactionary leaders had never shared progressive conservatism’s pragmatism or its willingness to adjust to new social trends. At heart, Reform and PC represented opposing views of life.

The defeat and breakup of the hard-right #CPC is the necessary first step in the rebirth of a new progressive conservatism, writes Michael Huenefeld. #cdnpoli

The merger was a defeat of progressive conservatism at the hands of right-wing reactionism. However, this defeat need not be final. Our country desperately needs a moderate conservative party. The defeat and breakup of the hard-right CPC is the necessary first step in the rebirth of a new progressive conservatism that can stand as an alternative to the Liberals and as a bulwark against right-wing extremism.

I am asking you to help this rebirth.

I am asking you to perform one more service for the memory of our Progressive Conservative Party that Mulroney served so long and well.

I am asking you to withdraw your support from the CPC.


A fellow progressive conservative

Michael Huenefeld was an activist in the federal Progressive Conservative Party from 1998 to 2003. In 2002, he received an award from former prime minister Joe Clark for outstanding service to the party. He was active in the Progressive Canadian Party between 2010 and 2017 when it was led by former PC cabinet minister Sinclair Stevens and former PC MP Joe Hueglin. In 2022, he volunteered for former Quebec premier Jean Charest’s Conservative Party leadership campaign.

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Well, without proportional representation that ain't gonna happen. Perhaps a pity, but that's how it is.

Mr. Huenefeld, I wish you the best of luck in your attempt to persuade moderate conservatives to walk away from the so-called “Conservative” Party of Canada. The sad tendency has been for Canadian Conservatives to emulate their more reactionary counterparts in the US. If there are more than a handful of moderate Conservatives left in the Poilievre-led party, I’ll be very surprised.

Starting a new political party seems the only way to counter the Republicanization of Canada’s political right. That’s what the “center-ice” group was exploring, not so long ago. I hear they started an actual political party called “Canadian Future”—as of September 2023. I haven’t seen or heard of them since.

Alberta’s experience may be relevant. (For the sake of the ROC, I hope it isn’t.) The Alberta Party started as a left-of-center grass-roots movement. The group stumbled along for years, trying to get public attention. Eventually, it morphed into a center-right political party, and failed dismally in the election of 2015. After that, the party was ridiculed and dismissed as the last refuge of the Old Tories, and has since more-or-less vanished. Starting a new political party is hard.

Still, I sincerely hope someone will make the effort. Let Pierre Poilievre fight with Max Bernier over the Trumpist, Republican-wannabe Freedumb crowd. It’ll mean cutting loose from large swathes of the Prairies and rural Ontario. (For a preview of why this is a good thing, watch Alberta’s UCP government in action, and wait for the next provincial election. It will be heavily rural-versus-urban.)

Meanwhile, you have some options. If your local candidates include one good person, vote for that person, REGARDLESS of party. If you feel none of the candidates are worth the trouble—spoil your ballot! That gets counted, too. You could even vent some spleen and vote for, say, the Green Party. “Wasted” vote? No, a protest vote. That’s how I, an Alberta citizen, vote in federal elections.

So, to all the moderate Conservatives who are sick and tired of ancient Reform party anger and Republican-style posturing—good luck, it’s gonna get worse for us all before it gets better. If you can drag our country back toward “peace, order and good government” you’ll deserve your time as the governing party.

Sorry Mr. Huenefeld but times haven't just changed as per usual; the right-wing brand as a valid political entity is not only officially toast as we speak, it has actively become the agent for destruction of human civilization as we know it everywhere that it currently has power. Putin can now actually be placed in proximity to the GOP and this is in the most powerful country in the world where democracy is now on a knife edge! What more proof do you need that your "party" has left you for all intents and purposes? Isn't a central feature of being a rational human being that you monitor and question your affiliations and relationships on an ongoing basis, identity and solidarity notwithstanding? Is our most precious, most important human attribute not the ability to think critically and independently? And that is AlWAYS sacrificed on the altar of tribalism or cultism in whatever form it appears.
Here in Canada, Doug and his thugs are still allowing the word "progressive" but in name only; his actions show otherwise, and the Alberta Party has disappeared here as you say because the current polarity was already heavily manifesting with the UCP (a.k.a. United Clown Posse, United Christian Party and Ultimate Chaos Peddlers.)
The Christian part is key it turns out (arguably why the general consensus now is that the right wing has "lost its mind"), just as it was to the original "Reform Party" AND the utterly transformed GOP, and after tossing uber-Catholic Kenney as a "moderate," it's been distilled down to its evangelical dregs. But because Alberta is the bible belt and religion gets even more of a pass here than usual, the UCP is now an utterly perverse combination of both anarchic libertarians AND religious-doctrine-driven evangelicals. The complete contradiction of course disappears when a righteous religious zealot influencer of the party is leader of HIS particular take on a tribe--"Take Back Alberta."
I'd say he means take it back from secularism in provincial governance; he started with taking over the UCP board with his "followers" and is working on the school boards now, with municipal governments on the agenda, which is how the GOP did what it did.
Since religion has always been about power over others, it's no surprise it's crept into the heart of our politics but despite the disastrous effects of the unholy alliance, no one challenges the first, worst big lie at the heart of it, the god myth. Post-truth indeed. So religion has waltzed in the back door in the U.S., already a lot more openly religious, verging on a theocracy actually when you realize how many consider their constitution to be sacred, god-given, and therefore conveniently unassailable.
So if you want a truly restorative political change, (the revolution/movement/cult idea is currently still in use by the conservatives) the only reasonable option now is to take that word "progressive" and talk the still-stupidly-scattered progressive parties as the name for an all-powerful democratic party, a party that can easily defeat what your former party/tribe/cult has more accurately become, the "cons."
Because politics isn't just a game anymore when the right wing insanely denies reality on several fronts, but ESPECIALLY the reality of climate change. It's existential.

Hi Tris. There may be some faint hope of avoiding a second Trump presidency. There's a lot riding on people like Sarah McCammon:

As usual, even if sanity rears its ugly head in the US, Canada will be about five years behind. That's almost enough time for Danielle Smith to either get kicked out by David Parker (precipitating the kind of backlash that cost Trump the election in 2020), or for Albertans (a few more Albertans than last election) to come to something like their senses.

Thanks for the link; it jives with the hope I have that the glaringly unapologetic intolerance of religion has got to be seriously eroding continued tolerance of its cruel and rigid doctrines, particularly in the context of what's happening with this younger generation.
And then there's the context and the ongoing disastrous repercussions of Trump's "big lie" STILL unfolding daily in the States that feels like another case of "only in America" with their odd insularity, their "go big or go home" style and their rampant religiosity that has even spawned ANOTHER religion, "QAnon." But it's widely dismissed as an upstart and a cult by people who belong to ANOTHER cult, albeit an older, more "established" one like Catholicism! What I hope happens in this profoundly irrational and toxic context is a resurgence of TRUTH as both novelty and antidote.
On your voting prescriptions I'd point out that it's no longer just another form of personal expression, an activity that we're currently unduly enamoured with to say the least. Since politics has become so undeniably binary and democracy is seriously threatened, it's become a real responsibility to just vote ABC, anything but cons and using strategy to keep the adults in the room in charge, i.e. the Liberals. The supply and confidence agreement now makes it okay to support NDP candidates, no longer vote-splitters showing some progressive "coming to their senses." All the actual "governing" that has been able to take place stands in such start contrast to the con gong show, but at a time when social media has become its own addictive cult of sorts that routinely supersedes the truth, people seem bent on amusing themselves to death REGARDLESS of ANY context, this is not the "given" that it should be and would have been a few years ago.

Hi Tris. You and I, I’m certain will never—EVER—vote Conservative. Likewise, many moderate Conservatives like Mr. Huenefeld won’t vote NDP or Green (maybe Liberal, if they can hold their noses that long). For those conflicted souls who can’t stomach Pierre Poilievre’s far-right blather, I wanted to point out they can vote for “none of the above.”

This might give the center-right voters in Canada another reason to wonder about Mr. Poilievre. Here’s an article you won’t find in any MSM source. It seems that, away from the TV cameras, PP is doing business as usual with those despised corporate lobbyists:

So much for helping working-class stiffs….