Most political parties begin as the literal incorporation of an idea, a mission, or an aspiration. The CPC, though, is what remains of the chalk outline Peter MacKay drew around the corpse of a once-proud organism whose “leader” slaughtered it lest it be re-made into something truly worthwhile though the magic of a reanimating spirit. As a David Orchard organiser and 2003 delegate, I had front-row seats to this degrading auto-da-fé.David Orchard was a nuisance to the P.C. Party hierarchy, as it was worm-eaten with fierce Mulroney loyalists whose mission--as they saw it--was to perpetuate the great man's legacy and redeem his shattered reputation among Canadians. They were willing to sacrifice the party in the process since, for them, a party without Mulroney (or one that rejects his ideas) simply was not worth having. This explains much bizarre behaviour. Think of their decision to have Mulroney as the keynote speaker at the 2003 leadership convention. Were they worried about featuring, for the delectation of thousands of Canadians watching from home, Canada’s most universally loathed figure? No, because they had already begun to euthanise their own party.
Their Mulroney-worship explains their FTA-obsession. The FTA is a crucial component of Mulroneyism but is only tangentially related to Conservatism. To say otherwise is to say that all Conservatives must believe that wage and price controls are the solution to inflation, since that was the position of a Conservative party leader in 1974.
Alas, since the FTA was Mulroney's only successful initiative, his loyalists carry the thing around on their shoulders--as if it were the Ark of the Covenant--to ease the pain of their hero's crashing fall and of his party's annihilation. It is a way of saying, "Despite everything, we won".
Thus, Orchard was, indeed, targeted for termination, but his political assassination was but one element of a grander scheme. Nobody can sensibly deny that the collapse of the party was an inside job, perpetrated with the knowledge and collusion of Harper and the Alliance leadership.
Let us cast our minds back to 2002-2003. The P.C. leadership candidates have to beg and scrape for pitifully inadequate donations. They go deeply into debt--all except Peter MacKay, who has thousands, even millions, to throw around. Where does this virtual unknown get this kind of coin, when even the whole P. C. Party fundraising apparatus had been coming up dry for years? Corporate Canada had placed its hopes on the Alliance and had been funding it to the hilt since Stockwell Day's tenure; Stephen Harper obviously gave MacKay access to well-heeled Alliance donors. In exchange for what? One can only guess.
Meanwhile, things go to plan. MacKay monopolises the youth delegates, those voters most susceptible to being bought with free CD's, booze, pizza parties and all the other inducements so freely used in ridings where the MacKay machine is strong. The result? The 2003 convention is awash in MacKay youth delegates, most of whom think that John A. Macdonald is an ex-defenseman for the Maple Leafs and that the P.C. Party is something to which you wear a toga. Imbeciles, all.
Throughout his campaign, MacKay makes speech after speech of excruciating dullness--upon which a real idea never seems to trespass--with all the charisma and passion of over-ripe eggplant. That's fine, though, because the MacKay machine subverts the delegate selection process virtually everywhere, with the tacit support of P.C. Party Headquarters.
Naturally, the Orchard campaign is MacKay's main target: in one riding, the Riding Executive tells known Orchard supporters to vote at an address which turns out to be a derelict pawn shop. MacKay's operatives take no chances and cast a wide net. At a function in Ottawa, leadership candidate Heward Grafftey is brought almost to tears while telling me how MacKay militants had bribed Brome-Missisquoi voters he had known for years, finally saying, "I don't want to be in a party that allows this."
I go away wondering why MacKay would risk having these misdeeds leak to the press and destroy the credibility of the party. I never suspected then what I know now: MacKay knew that there was no longer going to be a party.
Until a journalist decides that this sorry tale is worthy of a full investigation, we may never know how deeply Stephen Harper was involved in MacKay's manoeuvres, but we can reasonably assume that Harper helped bankroll them and that he expected delivery of the P.C. Party in return. He then sat back and watched the “leadership” campaign (probably smirking every time MacKay angrily denounced the very notion of a merger). In short, Harper may well have helped fund and plan one of the most egregious acts of political fraudulence in living memory. The merger was technically an indictable offence, since Harper was literally the receiver of stolen goods.
One may say, "But this isn't like the Sponsorship scandal. Nobody lost any money." No, we just lost our dignity and self-respect. Watergate didn't cost American tax-payers a dime: Nixon simply established a parallel government that operated above the law, yet democracy is a treasure above all price, and, like Nixon, Harper and MacKay debased what is most precious to us; thus, what they did is far more ignoble, far more sinister than anything scoundrels like Chrétien and Guite have done.
The worst is that they got away with it and now serve as exemplars of the dictum that corruption works. I'm sure the 2003 youth delegates were well instructed: I gather that a new generation of disillusioned drop-outs and amoral hacks was birthed that year, and, as a degrading influence upon national morale, that out-reeks the Sponsorship affair…by far.