Colby's objections to the Grand Reunion are not without merit. After all, the Reform Party was about Western alienation and not,
"A balance between fiscal accountability, progressive social policy and individual rights and responsibilities."
(And, by the way, what the Hell is the Canadian Coat of Arms doing on an agreement between two political parties? If either were even faintly conservative they would recognize that the Coast of Arms is not a convenient logo to be used to dress up a document.)
The problem, however, is not so much with the merger as with the increasing incoherence of the Right in Canada. It is one thing to propose a broad church, it is another to try and stuff socons, e-cons, plain old bigots, guys wearing tin foil hats - yes David I am talking about you - Bay Streeters, Common Sense Revolutionaries, Western Separatists, disaffected Quebecers, dole dependent Maritimers, chinless wonders from FOOFs, cowboys and Canada's three libertarians into the tabernacle. The old Progressive Conservative slogan, "A better yesterday tomorrow." worked so long as there was some sort of consensus about what that yesterday looked like: now there isn't.
So what has happened is that once again the Right has united against, rather than for, anything. The broad church is united in condemning the devil. Which, in this case, means the Liberal Party. This is not a platform, it's, at best, an attitude. Attitude is not going to beat Paul Martin.
What might beat Martin - and it is a very long shot - is to put forward an fully worked out alternative vision of Canada. Which is not the work of a few hours in a backroom somewhere. The 1987 Western Assembly Colby alludes to was the culmination of years of patient, hard work devoted to formulating a vision which Western Canadians would embrace. Manning was in for the long haul. And it worked. Which is the part of the equation which the PC's never quite forgave.
Reform understood that it was not going to win by taking Liberal policy and spinning it into Reform policy. Instead it developed its own policy which ensured it would not win seats East of the Lakehead for years. All of which the original reformers understood. The lure of government was not what motivated Reform; rather the church basements were filled with people who simply wanted to make their positions known and, with luck, exert a bit of influence. Because the alternative - as Trudeau, Clark and Mulroney demonstrated - was to be ignored. Not just by Ottawa, but by the representatives the West sent to Ottawa.
Now the essential point of Reform has been lost. The Conservative Party will chase Toronto votes for another generation by making over Liberal policy with just hint of fiscal responsibility to distinguish tweedle dum from tweedle dee. The West will elect lots of people whose class, occupations and education ensure a tight fit in the Ottawa establishment. Policy which might have the effect of alienating ethnic voters, urbanites, soft lefties, anti-Americans, the CBC or Indians will be ruthlessly suppressed. English leader will be succeeded by French leader, breakthroughs and beach heads will be made and established and, most importantly, nothing will change
. Which is, after all, the real bedrock of conservative policy in Canada. Always has been, always will be.