July 20, 2009


What was the Reform Party based on?

Mark Dyrholm, a candidate for the leadership of the Wildrose Alliance, was interviewed on the Adler show last week. As part of his response to a question on how he would "label" himself, Dyrholm said:
"If we look at what Albertans and western Canada supported for in the Reform Party days, that came out of a strong background of social conservatism."
The idea that Reform's founding was based on social conservatism is a common misconception about the party, which I have heard frequently from Eastern media types (which makes it rather odd that Dyrholm would fall for it). In fact, the issues and motivations that led to the Reform Party's founding were all about democratic reform (hence the name) and fiscal conservatism (balanced budgets, etc).

In his book, Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada, William Johnson describes Reform's initial policies as follows:
To Harper's relief, the new party had taken a stand against the Meech Lake Accord and for a Triple-E Senate, for free trade with the United States, and for entrenching property rights in the Constitution of Canada.


[quoting John Weissenberger] And the reaction from the outside was just so vitriolic. There was a really vicious cartoon in the Free Press of Manning with bad pointy teeth and he carried one of those big marching drums, and the quote underneath was: 'Join Preston's thump for Jesus.' I was shocked, because religion wasn't even discussed at this meeting, it had nothing to do with what was discussed. I remember saying to Stephen, Were these guys even at the same meeting?
The social conservative element didn't develop until later, and even then, it was usually approached from a democratic reform angle. For example, Reform's policy on abortion was to have a national referendum to settle the issue.


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