In 1993, the Reform Party had it's first big electoral success, winning 52 seats, all but one from the West, including the seat of Stephen Harper, with the help of a $50,000.00 campaign against his opponent and former boss, Jim Hawkes, paid for by the National Citizens Coalition.
The Reformers ran on a platform of anti-government, anti-Ottawa.
Having a clear critical dynamic, focused on the corrupt Ottawa establishment, was of the first importance to Reform's recent success. In this, as in so many other ways, this party has a similar focus to the United States Republican Party in its present mood ... Part of its appeal is to anti-Quebecois sentiment "let Quebec either secede", Reform says in effect, "or, preferably, stay in Canada but without any of the special privileges it seeks." Outside Quebec this message is extremely popular. It might be noted that Reform did not bother to run candidates in Quebec. (1)Other policies that appealed to many in the West included:
Throughout the campaign, which became increasingly an attack on Ottawa and the federal government, often making them just one Montana Freeman away from a stand-off, there were several people south of the border who were paying attention, including Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist.
- Giving over to the private sector as many functions as possible (including Petro Canada and Canada Post, for example). Government would manage any remaining publicly-funded enterprises, but not operate them. It would cut at least 25 per cent off subsidies to Crown corporations like the CBC.
- The government should have no role in job-creation apart from clearing obstacles for the private sector.
- "The treatment of every motion in most of our legislatures and Parliaments as confidence motions
- Giving voters the right to recall their MP if the MP fails to represent their views adequately. "So you don't trust politicians?", Manning asked during the campaign. "Here is our money-back guarantee: we'll put the power in your hands to fire your elected MP." Recall is the Party's single most popular policy plank, according to its direct-mail surveys, and certainly its most constitutionally radical, and one may expect it to be implemented should Reform win the next Canadian elections. As the Party says in its advertising literature, "Recall will obligate MPs to listen to their constituents between elections." (This one was soon abandoned when his own party wanted to recall him)
- Cancelling government subsidies for special-interest groups.
- Pulling the government out of unemployment insurance, and letting employers and employees fund it themselves. This policy reflects that same concern shown by the Republicans for making people more responsible for themselves.
- In general, allowing each person to be the major provider of his or her own basic needs, including most social services and medicare. This means, in effect, that more social services should be user-pay, and that relatives and private charities should bear more of the welfare burden.
- Slashing immigration.
- Not giving any government seal of approval to homosexuals, abortion-on-demand, and political correctness generally. "Reform", Manning told one rally, "refuses, and continues to refuse, to be intimidated by the extremists of political correctness".
- Abolish the policy of official bilingualism. (1)
"Indeed, Canadians became exporters of neo-con innovation in the 1990s. 'I would say Margaret Thatcher and Mr. [Preston] Manning are the two non-Americans we learned most from'', said U.S. Republican House Speaker, Newt Gingrich in 1995.'I know him [Preston Manning] because I watched all of his commercials. We developed our platform from watching his campaign.' (2)And using the techniques and talking points honed by Manning and the Reformers, Gingrich's team created their "Contract with America".
It is thus not difficult to understand why the Republicans, in the run-up to the mid-term elections of last November, made such a point of dissociating themselves from Washington and identifying instead with popular sentiment on such issues. The dividends of defining Washington as the source of false values are seen in the results of the elections, which gave the Republicans control of both the House and the Senate.And several of these bills were adopted right from Manning's play book, including: a "Personal Responsibility Act", drastic cuts to social programs and privatization of several services. And two men who helped to draft this "contract" were Grover Norquist and Frank Luntz.
In the months preceding these elections, the House Republican leadership under the direction of Newt Gingrich developed their "Contract with America", a promise to introduce, in the first ninety days of a Republican-dominated House and Senate, a set of ten bills based on their careful reading of what a majority of Americans were signalling they wanted. (1)
Norquist, of course is the anti-tax guru who inspired the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and Luntz is the Republican pollster who told Stephen Harper that the best way to get a majority was to stay on message about tax cuts and accountability, and talk hockey every chance he got.
"By February 1994, many Republicans ... were upbeat about their chances of doing well in the mid-term elections scheduled for November ... An optimistic group of members of the House of Representatives met in Salsbury, Maryland, to discuss their platform ..."Overwhelmingly male, middle-aged and white*, with a large contingent from rural and southern states, they could hardly have claimed to be representative of the American people, but they were certainly indicative of the constituency that elected them." (3)They did win what Newt Gingrich called 'the most shattering one-sided Republican victory since 1946.'
No one disagreed with him. Certainly not Canada's Preston Manning, the leader of the like-minded Reform Party, which a year earlier had taken the fifty odd seats in the federal election. Not only had Manning visited Gingrich for a photo opportunity, but Gingrich now attributed his electoral success to techniques he had learned from Manning and his Reformers. (3)
But the Reform Party also paid attention to something that Gingrich had done:
In this election, the Republicans were closely in tune with prominent conservative media personalities like Rush Limbaugh, a no-holds-barred, technically brilliant and aggressively comic articulator of anti- Washington, anti-elite, pro-mainstream sentiment who appears nightly on national television, and Pat Buchanan, a Congressman and television and radio personality who takes the conservative side on the nightly verbal sparring match, "Crossfire".
More significantly, the Republicans tapped into the nation's religious heartland, gaining the overt support of the powerful Christian groupings which make up the Christian Coalition. The Coalition, while mainly evangelical, embraces a wide spectrum of the devout from Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, to prominent traditionalist Catholics. According to Ralph Reed, Christian Coalition's executive director, "One of every three voters was someone who attends church regularly, who is socially conservative"**. The Democrats, according to Reed, "badly miscalculated how to handle" this important segment of the electorate, and tried to "marginalize and stereotype these voters and their leaders". (1)
"Amoung these organized religion was clearly uppermost in Gingrich's mind. The role of the evangelicals in assuring Gingrich's victory was far greater than it had been for Reagan. As Rosalind Petchesky points out in an article on anti-feminism and the New Right, this heightened emphasis of moral conservatism in the American neo-conservative movement was unprecedented. It was also producing a situation in which the party's platform was being increasingly designed to meet the requirements of these supporters." (3)Enter Jason Kenney, who the following year would attend a major convention of the U.S. Christian Coalition, then headed up by Ralph Reed who was hired by Pat Robertson. (4)
... Even more ominous for democratic rights ... is the recent hatching of the B.C. clone of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition. With 1.7 million active members and a $25 million (US) annual budget, the U.S. organization has become a formidable lobbying force in American politics, installing its anti-choice, anti-gay agenda and candidates at all levels of government, from school boards to Congress. The B.C. chapter is headed up by Operation Rescue activist Don Spratt, and claims among its founding board members former B.C. Premier and ardent anti-choicer Bill Vander Zalm ... "Advisors" to the new CCC reportedly include Ted and Link Byfield (owners of the ultra-conservative B.C. Report and Alberta Report magazines), Jason Kenny (head of the Canadian Taxpayers Association) ... (5)So by the time the next Canadian election rolled around, Jason Kenney and his gang were ready to "become a formidable lobbying force in [Canadian] politics, installing its anti-choice, anti-gay agenda and candidates.
That coming up next.
"... the notion that some Reform members may have strong Anglo-Saxon nativist inclinations is supported by more than merely the background profiles of its leaders, members and supporters. It is supported also by the words of many of its ideological mentors who depict Canada as not only historically an Anglo-Saxon country but also part of a wider Anglo-Saxon culture that is in need of recognizing and re-establishing its heritage." (5)
** Reform is a mass-base party (110,000 active members, 1993, and rapidly rising) of social conservatives led by an evangelical Christian, Preston Manning. (1)
1. Policy from the People:Recent Developments in the USA and Canada, By Philip Ayres, Proceedings of the Fifth Conference of The Samuel Griffith Society, April 2, 1995
2. Slumming it at the Rodeo: The Cultural Roots of Canada's Right-Wing Revolution, Gordon Laird, 1998, Douglas & McIntyre, ISBN: 1-55054 627-9, Pref. xiv-xv
3. Hard Right Turn: The New Face of Neo-Conservatism in Canada, Brooke Jeffrey, Harper-Collins, 1999, ISBN: 0-00 255762-2, Pg. 36-37
4. The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, By: Marci McDonald, Random House Canada, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-307-35646-8 3, Pg. 5
5. The Christian Coalition Comes to Canada, by Kim Goldberg, The Albion Monitor, May 5, 1996
6. Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada, By Trevor Harrison, University of Toronto Press, 1995. ISBN: 0-8020-7204-6, Pg. 170