Canada Cover

The Alliance’s unlikely peacekeeper

John Geddes June 19 2000
Canada Cover

The Alliance’s unlikely peacekeeper

John Geddes June 19 2000

The Alliance’s unlikely peacekeeper

Rick Anderson, peacekeeper. To many Canadian Alliance members, the title might well sound absurd. After all, as Preston Manning’s top strategist, Anderson was long seen as the most divisive figure in the old Reform party. Only a year ago, the Reform caucus was roiling over a memo he wrote suggesting that up to 17 of the party’s 59 MPs might not run in the next election—and that losing some of them would be a blessing. But that was then. These days, Anderson is co-chairing an “election readiness committee” for the Alliance, a group that brings together top organizers from the leadership camps. It was created largely as a forum for making sure any sniping in the heat of the campaign doesn’t turn into the sort of lingering rancour that a new political coalition just can’t afford. “The Alliance,” Anderson says, “is clearly at a more fragile stage than an established party.”

That the Alliance has reached this stage at all is as much Anderson’s doing as anyone’s—with the exception of Man-

ning himself. Back in 1990, he met the then-Reform leader at an Ottawa dinner party and was won over. At the time, Anderson was a disenchanted Trudeauera Liberal; his last flirtation with the Natural Governing Party was to support Paul Martin’s losing leadership bid in 1990 against Jean Chrétien. Anderson was also a top Ottawa consultant —unique in those circles in his willingness to join what was still a western protest movement. Over the next decade, with Manning, he pushed the party to accept expanding into Ontario as its main goal, earning the deep distrust of Reform diehards who feared he was tearing their organization from its regional roots. “Rick was prepared to do what had to be done when other people

weren’t,” says Edmonton Southwest Alliance MP Ian McClelland. “Prepared to say goodbye to Reform, to morph into the Alliance.”

While Anderson backs Manning for the leadership, he vows to remain loyal to the Alliance no matter who wins. His cochairman on the election committee, Rod Love, a Stockwell Day supporter and key adviser to Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, says he and Anderson share a pride in all the behindthe-scenes work that has gone into creating the Alliance. And these two backroom boys are determined not to let the men in front of the cameras spoil their handiwork. “We’ve gone through so much together getting it to where it is,” Love says, “were not going to let something as silly as a leadership race get in the way of it now.”

John Geddes