The Canadian Alliance (French: Alliance canadienne), formally the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance (French: Alliance réformiste-conservatrice canadienne), was a conservative and right-wing populist federal political party in Canada that existed from 2000 to 2003. The party was the successor to the Reform Party of Canada and inherited its position as the Official Opposition in the House of Commons and held it throughout its existence. The party supported policies that were both fiscally and socially conservative, seeking reduced government spending on social programs and reductions in taxation.
The Alliance was created out of the United Alternative initiative launched by the Reform Party of Canada and several provincial Tory parties as a vehicle to merge with the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. The federal Progressive Conservative Party rebuffed the initiative to "unite the right" in the late fall of 1998 when it elected Joe Clark as its leader. In December 2003, the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative parties voted to disband and merge into the Conservative Party of Canada.
The Canadian Alliance's origins were in the Reform Party of Canada, which was founded in 1987 as a populist party supporting Western Canadian interests. However, soon after its formation it moved sharply to the right and became a populist conservative (largely socially conservative) party. Initially, the Reform Party was motivated by the perceived need for democratic reforms and by profound Western Canadian discontent with the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney. Led by its founder Preston Manning, the Reform Party rapidly gained momentum in western Canada and sought to expand its base in the east. Manning, son of longtime Alberta Premier Ernest Manning, gained support partly from the same political constituency as his father's old party, the Alberta Social Credit Party.
With the collapse of a fragile Tory coalition of westerners, Ontarians and Quebec nationalists, the Reform Party's fortunes rose. It first entered Parliament in 1989 when Deborah Grey won a by-election in an Edmonton-area riding. The party achieved major success in the 1993 federal election, when it succeeded in replacing the Progressive Conservative Party as the leading right-wing party in Canada. Its platform and policies emphasized, inter alia, the rights and responsibilities of the individual, Senate and other democratic reforms, and smaller more fiscally responsible government. The party did manage to become Canada's official opposition. The party still failed to present a true challenge to the Liberal government, since its agenda was seen as too extreme for of central and eastern Canada. Reform actually won a seat in Ontario in 1993, but lost it in 1997.
Demand for unity by the right, encouraged Manning to promote a new movement, the "United Alternative", to create a small-"c" conservative alternative to the Liberals. Manning blamed "conservative" vote splitting for keeping the Liberals in power, although some polls showed that the Liberals were the second choice of many PC voters (especially in Ontario). Manning's efforts created a strong debate in the Reform party, and he would even write a letter to the effect that he didn't want to lead Reform anymore, but would only lead the new party. The opposition died down after Manning won a leadership review with 74.6% support at the January 2000 UA convention.
In 2000, following the second of the two United Alternative conventions, the party voted to dissolve in favour of a new party: the "Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance", a declaration of policy and a new constitution. The new party's platform was a mixture of the PC and Reform platforms. However, it was largely seen as merely a renamed and enlarged Reform Party. Former Reform members dominated the new party, and the Reform caucus in the Commons essentially became the Alliance caucus (with a few exceptions). Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney called the party "Reform in pantyhose", and some opponents referred to the party as the "Reform Alliance" to enforce this perception.
Media covering the convention quickly pointed out that if one added the word "Party" to the end of the party's name, the resulting initials were "CCRAP" (humorously pronounced "see-crap" or just "crap") even though it, like the Bloc Québécois, didn't actually have the word party in its name. One day later, the party changed its official name to the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance, but was almost always called simply "the Canadian Alliance" or "the Alliance". However, the "CCRAP" nickname was still used by its opponents. Deborah Grey, the deputy leader of Reform, was chosen as the new party's interim leader, becoming the first female Leader of the Opposition in Canadian history.
The federal Progressive Conservatives under Joe Clark refused to participate in these talks, but there was strong support from many provincial Tories, especially in Ontario and Alberta. Subsequently, at the new party's first leadership convention, Manning was defeated by Stockwell Day, longtime treasurer (finance minister) of Alberta. One Progressive Conservative senator, Gerry St. Germain, joined the new party in October 2000, becoming the Alliance's only member of the Senate.
In the fall of 2000, the Liberals called a snap election that caught the Alliance off-guard. Nonetheless, the party went into the election with great hopes, campaigning on tax cuts, an end to the federal gun registration program, and their vision of "family values". Day was expected to have greater appeal to Ontario voters. At one point, the Alliance was at 30.5% in the polls, and some thought they could win the election, or at least knock the Liberals down to a minority government. However, the Liberals responded by accusing the Alliance of having a "hidden agenda" (introduce two-tier health care, threatening gay rights and abortion rights), which the party denied.
Though disappointed with the election results in Ontario, it increased its presence to 66 MPs, including two MPs from Ontario. Nationally, the party increased its popular vote to 25%. The Alliance remained the Official Opposition in the House of Commons. The Liberals increased their large majority mostly at the expense of the NDP, and the Tories under Joe Clark lost many seats and remained in fifth place, but Clark was elected in Calgary Centre in the middle of Alliance country, so the overall political landscape was not significantly changed.
However, the Alliance failure to win more than the two seats in Ontario, along with residual resentments from the Alliance leadership contest and questions about Stockwell Day's competence, led to caucus infighting. In the spring of 2001, eleven MPs who either voluntarily resigned or were expelled from the party formed the "Independent Alliance Caucus". The group was led by Chuck Strahl and included Grey. Day offered the dissidents an amnesty at the end of the summer, but seven of them, including Grey and Strahl, turned it down and formed their own parliamentary grouping, the Democratic Representative Caucus. The DRC formed a coalition with Clark's Tories in the House, which was widely seen as an attempt by Clark to reunite the Canadian right on his terms. The split forced Day to call a new leadership convention, and, in April 2002, Stephen Harper defeated Day at the subsequent Canadian Alliance leadership election.
Once Harper assumed the leadership, most of the rebellious MPs rejoined the Alliance party. Two MPs did not rejoin, however: Inky Mark chose to remain outside of caucus, and eventually joined the Tories, and the scandal-plagued Jim Pankiw was rejected when he applied for readmission to the Alliance caucus.
During its short history, the Canadian Alliance never seriously entertained the prospect of forming provincial wings, or forging formal links with existing provincial parties. The vast majority of Alliance supporters in most provinces supported, and continued to support their provincial Progressive Conservative parties, while most supporters in Saskatchewan remained loyal to the Saskatchewan Party and in BC supported the conservative BC Liberals.
However, an attempt to form a provincial party with clear, if unofficial links with the Alliance was made in Alberta, where the Alberta Alliance was formed in 2002. Under the leadership of Reform/Alliance activist Randy Thorsteinson, the new party never sought a formal link with the Alliance, and if it had done so the overture would likely have been rebuffed since many Albertan Alliance members continued to support the Alberta Progressive Conservatives. However, the Alberta Alliance copied the colours of the Alliance and many of its logos bear a striking resemblance to those of the federal party. The Alberta Alliance continued to grow following the federal party's merger, and the provincial party fielded a full slate of candidates for the 2004 provincial election, on November 22, 2004, and won one seat in the Legislature.
On October 15, 2003, the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party (under its new leader Peter MacKay) announced that they would merge to form a new party, called the Conservative Party of Canada. The union was ratified on December 5, 2003, with 96% support of the membership of the Canadian Alliance, and on December 6, 90.04% support of elected delegates in the PC Party. On December 8, the party was registered with Elections Canada, and on March 20, 2004, former Alliance leader Stephen Harper was elected as leader of the party. The new party was dubbed "the Alliance Conservatives" by critics who considered the new party a "hostile takeover" of the old Progressive Conservatives by the newer Alliance.
The new Conservative Party formed the Canadian government on February 6, 2006 and won two additional elections (2008 and 2011) under the leadership of Stephen Harper; of these, the 2006 and 2008 votes resulted in the party governing only as a minority; only in 2011 was a majority mandate achieved. The party was defeated in 2015, by the Liberals, and became the official opposition party in the House of Commons.Deborah Grey — March 27, 2000 – July 8, 2000 (interim)
Stockwell Day — July 8, 2000 – December 11, 2001
John Reynolds — December 11, 2001 – March 20, 2002 (interim)
Stephen Harper — March 20, 2002 – December 7, 2003