A Guide to Political Reform

Letter From Canada

In May 1987 a meeting of about two hundred delegates from the four Western provinces met in Vancouver to discuss a common concern: alienation of Western Canada that resulted from the concentration of political power in an Ottawa largely controlled by Ontario and Quebec. Most of the delegates were small "c" conservatives who believed in individual freedom, free enterprise, and traditional values. Five months later at a founding convention in Winnipeg, the Reform Party of Canada committed itself to developing policies within three main themes: more effective representation of the West; more accountability by members of Parliament; and a small "c" conservative economic agenda.

The intervening years have seen the fledgling party grow from three thousand members to more than ninety thousand, and from a Western regional base to a federal party active in all provinces except Quebec. (Although many of its policies might appeal to Quebecers' innate conservatism, the party sees little point in pursuing this while the province persists in its flirtation with sovereignty. By the same token it notes the contradiction facing a prime minister from Quebec, who like any prime minister is dependent upon Quebec votes for electoral victory, in presuming to negotiate for Canada.)

Reform's elected leader is 49-year-old Preston Manning, a successful management consultant who took no active part in politics from 1967,...

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