Before the push for a United Alternative, the Reform Party was imploding. They had been steadily losing their moderates, like Ray Heard and Jan Brown, and Preston Manning was losing control.
Ever since Preston Manning moved into Stornoway Mansion* in 1997 as leader of the official opposition, the party has been troubled by in-fighting and expulsions that have alienated a growing number of supporters - and have created a roster of purged dissidents who now lobby for a return to the party's founding grassroots principles. (1)Despite his best efforts, he was never able to garner support outside of Western Canada, so the idea of the United Alternative was to combine the forces of the three neoconservative parties: Mike Harris's Tories in Ontario, Ralph Klein's in Alberta and Manning's Reformers, with the ultimate goal of creating a single federal entity to challenge the Liberals.
A referendum was held, the Reform party dissolved and a new party created, with the dubious name: Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party. CCRAP!!! The jokes wrote themselves.
Several people threw their hat in the ring to lead the new group (that eventually just became known as the Alliance Party), including of course Preston Manning. But two others created a bit of a stir. One was Tom Long, considered by many to be too right-wing even for the right-wing. He was a former Mike Harris operative, who had also worked closely with Brian Mulroney, and had even helped with the campaign of Ronald Reagan.
Canada may yet be saved from Tom Long, the slick operative turned pretender to the Prime Minister's office. And it's an unlikely constituency that can do it - they're the very soul of the party he wants to lead. Sadly for the man who more than anyone made Mike Harris what he is today, Long is less loved among the ranks of the Alliance party than he is in the pages of the National Post. Indeed, for many of the voters who will decide next month if Preston Manning will stay or go, he's Satan with a briefcase and polling data. Long is running in a party whose members would, until recently, have hog-tied him and run him out of town on a rail.But the other unlikely candidate came from Ralph Klein's caucus, a virtual unknown despite having spent fourteen years in Alberta politics. Stockwell Day.
... "Tom Long is not playing at all, especially in rural Alberta," says Ken Chapman, a sought-after political adviser among Alberta's provincial Tories. "He's got way too many Bay Street ties. People say that after you shake his hand, you want to count your fingers." (1)
Many also disagreed with his strong religious beliefs. In the end Ralph Klein backed his nomination, it is said that it may have been that he never really knew what to do with him. Ralph Klein was a neoconservative, but never a social conservative.
Over the years he had kept his own counsel relying heavily on his family or a few close advisers and friends for support. Few MLAs really "knew" him. (2)
I think Day's almost anonymity in the Klein government, is reflected in the three books I've read on the subject. Only two mention him at all and then only once. In one book he is referred to as the "controversial" finance minister and in the other his name is brought up during a celebration when he was teased for not drinking.
But he was very well known in religious circles, and it was from them that he drew his support.
From the Canada Family Action: Emboldened by Stockwell Day, Social conservatives are on the march:
All of the candidates in the race professed strong Christian beliefs, while both Manning and Day are devout evangelicals. There is no reason on the surface, therefore, to expect that evangelical or fundamentalist Christians should have supported Day any more vigorously than they did Manning. But Day cultivated this community's support more aggressively than Manning. Journalist Lorne Gunter, a well-known Day supporter, writes that during the previous decade Day "attended 100 or more events a year speaking in church basements, attending prayer breakfasts and serving as celebrity auctioneer at church fundraisers, at least in part to construct a springboard among the religious right."' When the leadership campaign began, Day's religious supporters delivered.
Within the religious community, Families for Day was no doubt his strongest supporter. Created by Ron Beyer (head of the Calgary-based Canadian Family Action Coalition) and Garry Rohr .. Families for Day organized an E-mail campaign to sign up new members. Beyer claimed the organization signed up at least 6,000 new party members who voted for Day on the first ballot—approximately the margin of Day's lead over Manning, if correct. (2)
Day is also a rock-ribbed social conservative, a born-again Christian and onetime preacher. He argues that those who believe in the fiscal conservatism of frugal government and lower taxes but think they can peacefully co-exist with liberal social views are fooling themselves. "While many politicians have at last grasped fiscal reality, they have not yet awakened to our disintegrating social reality -- but they will," Day said in a major speech on his brand of conservatism during the leadership contest. "The day they do, many of those fiscal-conservatives-but-social-liberals will become unhyphenated. And when they do, they will find a ready home in the Canadian Alliance." (3)But the social conservative faction proved to be lacking in good old "Christian values".
If you had to count your fingers after shaking hands with Tom Long, I guess you had to count your blessings that you din't become the target of the so-called Religious Right, that was clearly already a force by 2000. Jason Kenney's vision was getting closer.
In early May, the Campaign Life Coalition's Website described a Tom Long win as a "disaster," identifying two prominent members of his inner circle as "self-proclaimed homosexuals. Long condemned the Coalition's comments, as did the other candidates ... Then, on 3 June, Families for Day similarly attacked Long's organization for employing homosexuals. Stung by the viciousness of Day's social conservative supporters, Long gave his support to Manning.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, a game of hard ball politics was going on. Days before the final vote, MPs Deborah Grey and Eric Lowther accused Day's team of using threats and intimidation to win the nomination. They pointed particularly to a letter written by Dr. Ted Morton, a Day supporter and political scientist at the University of Calgary, sent to Lowther. In the letter, Morton urged Lowther not to criticize Day or to let himself be "used by Preston and his advisers as a tool for their surrogate negative attacks on Stock" as it would not be in his [Lowther's] interests: It's no secret that there are more than a few ex-Tories/now Alliance who want to take a run at you for the Calgary Centre nomination. If Stock wins—which he will—he (and Jason [Kenney]) will be in a position to protect you against a nomination challenge.
Alliance MPs Diane Ablonczy, Peter Goldrick, Bob Mills , and others similarly suggested members of the Day camp had threatened them. MP Deborah Grey said she was "heartsick." (4)
*He had always stated that if he became leader of the opposition he would never move into the official residence
1. How the West wasn't Won: They started Reform to stop slick, opportunistic pols like Tom Long - and they won't make him their leader, By: Gordon Laird, June 5, 2000
2. Requiem for a Lightweight: Stockwell Day and Image Politics, By Trevor Harrison, Black Rose Books, 2002, ISBN: 1-55164-206-9, Pg. 52-53
3. Emboldened by Stockwell Day, Social conservatives are on the march, By John Geddes and Rima Kar, Canada Family Action, September 11, 2000
4. Harrison, 2002, Pg. 63