Probably—but unless they can regain their appeal for city voters, a calamitous loss of seats is certain
DOES CANADA NEED THE TORIES?
Probably—but unless they can regain their appeal for city voters, a calamitous loss of seats is certain
MORE THAN EVER BEFORE, more even than in 1957 when he led the way to unexpected victory, the Progressive Conservative Party’s future is now in the hands of John George Diefenbaker.
At least four different courses are open to him at the party convention in September, and he might, of course, reveal his choice at any time. But one of the few points of agreement among all Conservatives, pro-Dief and anti-Dief, is that The Chief will make no early disclosure. For dramatic suspense if for no other reason, they think, he will announce his decision to the delegates at the convention and not before.
The four options are plain enough:
He could enter the contest for the post he already holds,run for re-election, and lose. This would be the ultimate in self-martyrdom.
He could run for re-election and win, by no means an unlikely alternative. But it would perpetuate and further embitter the internal hostilities that have riven the party since 1962 and especially since last November, and make the immediate future dark indeed for urban and eastern Tories.
He could retire in anger, pronouncing an elder’s curse upon his ungrateful flock — “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless party.” If any such withering words are spoken, many a rural and western delegate will echo them, and no doubt make them a reason for never casting another Conservative vote.
Finally, he could accept the opportunity for a graceful and honorable retirement. At 72, Diefenbaker is the oldest MP in his party and one of the oldest active politicians in all Canada. If he were to bow out and anoint his successor, bequeathing his mantle to the convention’s choice as the prophet Elijah did to Elisha, he would not only get unanimous cheers from friend and foe, but he would also mend the party’s inner splits and set it off on its new tack with every sail drawing.
Diefenbaker’s loyal followers, still a majority of the parliamentary caucus if not of the party convention, hope as strongly as his enemies that this is the course he will choose. They cringe, as indeed his enemies do, too, at the thought of the Old Man being humiliated by the party for which he has done so much. And some humiliation would be an almost certain effect of any of the other three options.
Enemies have an added reason for their hope. In each of the other courses they see disaster for the Conservative Party.
Even at best, the Conservatives’ task of rehabilitation will not be easy. Three consecutive elections have shown that the party’s strength is limited at the present time to the prairies, the Maritimes and rural Ontario. If there were no change whatever in voters’ opinions, if everyone voted exactly as in 1965, the Conservative strength in parliament would still drop by at least 10 seats, perhaps by as many as 20, in a general election. Redistribution is the reason. Unless the Conservative Party can somehow regain its appeal for the urban voter, a calamitous loss of seats is a certainty. To that general proposition, all Conservatives agree. The question is what can be done about this problem.
continued on page 87
TORIES — FRASER continued from pace 22
Both the older parties are resigned to a considerable gain by the NewDemocratic Party in the new ly created urban ridings. In York-Scarborough. a suburb of Toronto and the largest constituency in Canada, the NDP candidate ran third in 1965. But he got 33,815 votes, almost twice as many as the entire electoral roll in Ontario's Conservative Bruce riding.
Image more than philosophy divides Tory Right and Tory Left
Obviously, the NDP has an excellent chance of winning at least one of three or four ridings that now comprise the former YorkScarborough electorate.
This is a pattern common to all metropolitan areas.
Conservatives are not seriously afraid, despite recent Gallup Polls, of being replaced by the NDP as official Opposition. To do this the NDP would need a net gain of ail least 38 seats, all at Conservative expense. No Conservative and only the most euphoric of New Democrats would think such an upset possible.
But what is quite possible, and much feared, is such a combination of Tory losses with NDP gains that the socialists would win a morale-boosting moral victory and still escape the burden of responsibility that attaches to the alternative government.
This is the threat against which Conservatives are arming themselves, both at their think-session in August and at their leadership convention in September.
Some think the best strategy is to come out four-square against socialism and in favor of free enterprise. They argue that the tide of public opinion has turned and is now flowing, if not quite against welfare legislation, at least for a pause in its further extension. Voters are feeling the pinch of high taxation and counting the cost of more government hand.mts — so runs the thinking of the Conservative Right.
At the other extreme are the agrarian radicals w'ho call themselves Conservatives with a capital C only, and who have dominated the party and its policies throughout the Diefenbaker era. They too are opposed to socialism, which they have been fighting on the prairies for 20 years with varying success, but they say the way to fight it is by doing more for the common man. not less, and then finding the money somehow, somewhere. They see no sign that this approach, w'hich has served them well in the past, has lost any of its effectiveness. If the party’s fortunes have waned it is only, they say, because of misrepresentations in the servile eastern press, and black treason by eastern Right-wingers in the party itself.
This Right-to-Left spectrum is represented not only in the August arguments about policy, but also in the array of candidates for leadership in September. Donald Fleming, the former minister of finance and later of
justice, probably occupies the outside Right position (unless Senator Wallace McCutcheon is considered to be a serious candidate). Alvin Hamilton, former minister ol agriculture, is the unchallenged occupant of outside Left. In between, the declared and the possible candidates would range themselves roughly as follows, Right to Left: Premier Robert Stanfield of
Nova Scotia: Davie Fulton, former minister of justice: Premier Duff
Roblin of Manitoba; George Hees, former minister of trade; and Michael Starr, former minister of labor.
In practice this Right-to-Left spread is not as wide as it looks. The four MPs among the candidates and the ex-MP. Donald Fleming, were all members of the Diefenbaker cabinet, bound by the convention of solidarity to support the same policies, and in spite of their differences of temperament and emphasis they all did so
with a clear conscience most of the time. Donald Fleming, that symbol of the Right, was the finance minister who authorized massive credits for the sale of wheat to Red China. “Leftist” Alvin Hamilton has fought the socialists on more and bloodier battlefields than anyone else in the party. Such a Right-winger as Hugh John Flemming, the former premier of New Brunswick and later minister of forestry, is nevertheless a Diefenbaker loyalist—who is quite sure, incidentally, that no matter what candidate is chosen in September, he’ll be acceptable to Maritimes Tories.
The difference is not so much of philosophy as of image. Donald Fleming looks like a real Ontario trueblue Tory. Born and brought up in small Ontario towns, a teetotaler who used to teach Sunday school in the United Church, a 33rd-degrce Mason in the Scottish Rile, a former Toronto alderman (in the days when Toronto really was “The Good") — all these things typecast Fleming as a man of the old-fashioned Right. Hamilton is just as indelibly branded a Leftist by his record as minister of agriculture, his carefully cultivated rustic humor and rhetorical style, and the deliberately radical language in which he argues his quite conservative ideas. Fulton seems a cool, even icy. intellectual, though in fact he is a good companion who enjoys a drink and a party as much as anyone does. Perhaps only George Hees looks exactly what he is, a jovial back-slapper who radiates warmth and cordiality like a red-hot Franklin stove. These personal factors, the apparent as well as the real, will weigh heavily with the delegates when the time comes to mark the ballots.
Even more important w ill be a factor even more personal — the man-toman relationships of the candidates with each other and with other power figures in the Conservative Party.
Stanfield and Roblin both intimated that they would not run against each other, but when Stanfield announced in July that he would be a candidate. Roblin did not immediately declare himself out. It was an open secret that even had Roblin been the first to run. Stanfield’s backers would have kept on urging him to go too. Roblin's backers evidently did the same. Each premier has certain advantages, geographical and personal, that the other lacks.
One of Roblin’s important advantages is the support of Premier Daniel Johnson of Quebec. Nominally, Johnson is not a Conservative — his Union Nationale is a solely provincial party. But all Quebec Conservatives have Union Nationale connections of some sort, and Johnson's federal friends are Tories. He likes Roblin not only because the Manitoba premier speaks acceptable French (so do Fleming and Fulton, and Stanfield has been studying hard for several years), but more particularly because Roblin’s policies in Manitoba have shown his acceptance of. or sympathy with, the French-C'anadian viewpoint.
Johnson’s support is not an unqualifieri asset among Conservative delegates, especially since he was too busy to accept the Queen's invitation to dinner, but Johnson is astute enough to know this. His advice, however quietly given, will have great influence with the 524 delegates from Quebec.
TORIES — FRASER continued
“Suppose The Chief ignores the convention. What then?"
Hugh John Flemming, the expremier and ex-minister of New Brunswick, is such a loyal Diefenbaker man that if The Chief should decide to run, Flemming might still support him. Left to himself, though, Flemming would try to lead New Brunswick to back his fellow-Maritimer Stanfield, or failing that, his fellow-conservative Donald Fleming. But the new provincial leader in New Brunswick, Charlie Van Horne, is committed to George Hees because Hees was the only federal Conservative who came down to help Van Horne win the provincial by-election in Restigouche last winter.
Saskatchewan, if Diefenbaker does not run, will be solid for Alvin Hamilton, but Manitoba will be split. So will Ontario and probably Alberta. In all provinces, therefore, candidates are trying almost as hard for second-ballot as for first-ballot commitments — but without knowing whether regional leaders will in fact be able to deliver the votes they think they control.
All these calculations leave out of account the influence of Premier Ernest Manning of Alberta. Manning has denied early reports that he was about to join the Conservative Party formally, and speak at the September convention, but his new book, Political Realignment, confirms the prediction made in this magazine last May that he would be moving toward a unification of the Right in Canadian politics. Manning's friends think he would support Roblin over the other visible candidates; whether he would transfer that support to Stanfield is less certain, though by no means unlikely. He has more in common with Stanfield than with, say, George Hees or Alvin Hamilton.
These differences of opinion make it hard to guess who will be the new Conservative leader, but they do not mean serious divisions in the party. Most of the candidates, declared or potential, are friends and colleagues who could work together harmoniously enough no matter which one wins. Only two have a bitterness between them that would leave irremediable wounds behind. Those two are Dalton Camp and John Diefenbaker.
Few Conservatives think Dalton Camp would have any chance of winning the party leadership. Even those who backed his rebel movement at the meeting last November, when the leadership convention was called over the fierce protests of Diefenbaker’s supporters, would not necessarily vote for him. No doubt Camp knows this as well as anyone else. But his friends say there is one situation in which he would enter the contest anyway: that is, if the other candidates should chicken out and offer Diefenbaker an acclamation.
Thus the party's problem returns to the initial question: what will Diefenbaker do?
Jack McIntosh, a Diefenbaker loyalist who is MP for Swift Current, Saskatchewan, tossed out a fascinating hypothesis just before leaving Ottawa for home:
“What do you think will happen if The Chief doesn’t come to the convention at all? Suppose he just ignores it — goes off on a trip, or keeps on speaking to party meetings here and there while the big one is going on in Toronto. What then? Could the socalled new leader take his seat in the House away from him?”
McIntosh did not. I think, intend to be taken quite seriously. Still, it's a good question. ★
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