Celebrating Sir John A. Macdonald's birthday - and his legacy

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Guest Opinion:

By Sinclair Stevens,
Leader The Progressive Canadian Party
Sir John A’s 199th anniversary birthday is today, Jan. 11.

Sinclair Stevens

Stephen Harper’s frequent claim that his ‘new’ Conservative Party (aka Reform III) is continuing in the legacy of Sir John A. will likely be repeated. That claim is at best a misreading of history … and at worst an outright lie.

The word ‘lie’ is ubiquitous in present day headlines. For example, in the fall of 2003 thousands of card-carrying Reformers (then calling their party the Canadian Alliance) signed PC membership applications pledging allegiances to the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. That was done with the express purpose of voting the PC party of Sir John A. Macdonald out of existence. Those thousands of signatures can only be viewed as thousands of lies.

On ‘Black Sunday’, Dec. 7, 2003, a new political party was born of an illicit liaison between Stephen Harper for the Canadian Alliance and Peter MacKay, who was president of the P.C. Party of Canada.

Exactly 150 years previous to these ‘sorry events’, and in stark contrast to their secret nature, the not-yet-Sir John A. Macdonald was very publicly wrestling with the faults and fissures in the policy platform of the ‘olde conservative party’.

In a Feb. 9, 1854, letter to a colleague, he stated his conclusion that the future growth and development of Canada required that, “… our aim should be to enlarge the bounds of our party so as to embrace every person desirous of being counted as a ‘progressive Conservative,’ and who will join in a series of measures to put an end to the corruption which has ruined the present government and debauches all its followers.”

Some nine months later Macdonald, although not yet leader, was able to pull together a coalition of the less-radical liberals and the more-progressive conservatives into the MacNab-Morin government. Throughout the fall of 1854 that government enacted “a series of measures” which removed many of the ‘Conservative’ privileges of the Seigneurs (in Quebec) and the Family Compact (in Ontario) and released the economic energy of the individual to begin to build the strong Canadian economy we know today. 

This progressive platform continued to characterize the Conservative party through Confederation and Canada’s expansion to the Pacific and Arctic oceans. The addition, the adjective ‘Progressive,’ used at the 1942 annual general meeting was thus not, in fact, a policy change for the party but a public proclamation of Macdonald’s progressive policies which have been maintained for 150 years.

In summary, Macdonald forged a coalition of progressive-minded citizens and, with them, enacted “progressive Conservative” policies which removed the elite’s economic privileges in favour of ‘the little guy’.

In contrast Stephen Harper’s new party drove away the more progressive members of the PC Party and now appears to be advocating a return to the ‘traditional conservative values’ of 150 years ago, which Macdonald had the wisdom to abandon. 

Harper's actions have favoured the few.

That is why Canada has seen its fiscal balance of revenue among its citizens rise so that today one per centof our citizens now control over 14 per cent of the nation’s revenue. Our banks are the largest institutions in the country with combined earnings last year of over $30 billion making them the largest earning institutions in the land, while both the environment and aboriginal peoples lands are being sacrificed.


Sinclair Stevens is the leader of the Progressive Canadian Party. He lives in Newmarket, Ont.   smstevens@epla.net

Organizations: Canadian Alliance, Conservative Party, Progressive Conservative Party of Canada P.C. Party of Canada PC Party Progressive Canadian Party

Geographic location: Canada, Quebec, Ontario Pacific Arctic Newmarket

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