Skip to comments.Harper wins Conservative leadership
Posted on 03/20/2004 3:28:02 PM PST by Clive
Stephen Harper beat Belinda Stronach and Tony Clement to become the first leader of the new Conservative Party of Canada on Saturday.
Mr. Harper won 296 of 308 ridings, accumulating 16,148.9 points, or 56 per cent of the vote on the first ballot. Belinda Stronach followed with 10,196.2 points, 34 per cent, and Tony Clement trailed with 2,755 points, or 9 per cent.
The number of points needed to win was 15,400.1
In his victory speech, Mr. Harper made it clear that the party will set its sights on the Liberals.
"There's going to be a takeover," he told the 1,500 assembled party members. "The Conservatives taking over the government of Canada, that's what we're doing."
But having cemented the party with a new leader, Mr.Harper also acknowledged that the Conservatives would now face the fiercest challenge yet from the ruling party.
"The tired, old, corrupt Liberal party is cornered like an angry rat," he said. "They are going to attack us like never before."
A merger between the former Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative parties several months ago formed the new Conservative Party of Canada, which moved quickly to ratify the agreement, establish new riding organizations, nominate candidates and hold a leadership convention.
More than a quarter of a million party members were eligible to vote in ridings across the country in a process that continued to elicit complaints until the final hours of campaigning on Friday.
Under the preferential balloting system, party members were asked to vote by ranking the candidates in order of preference.
If no one was declared a victor on the first count with more than 50 per cent support, the third-place finisher would be dropped from the ballot. The second choices of that candidate's supporters would then be allocated to the two remaining hopefuls.
Prime Minister Paul Martin is expected to call an election as early as April, and observers say the ongoing sponsorship scandal has left his Liberal government vulnerable. Many hope the new Conservatives will pose a viable alternative to the federal Liberals.
Delegates at the Toronto leadership convention Saturday were focused on a bright future for the conservative movement. Alberta Premier Ralph Klein delivered an afternoon keynote address on the topic.
"For me this is a dream come true," Mr. Klein said. "For the past four or five years...I've talked about a unified party. And I've mentioned that it's always been a dream of mine not to have a Progressive Conservative party and a Reform or an Alliance conservative party, but a Conservative party. And the Conservative party of Canada."
Offering a brief lesson on the history of Conservatism in Canada, Mr. Klein encouraged party members to aim toward taking the party to a strong position on the federal stage.
"I needn't tell you it was a Conservative, John A. Macdonald, who first held the job of Canadian Prime Minsiter, thus beginning in the 19th century a process of nation building under Conservative principals," he said.
"I am confident that this Conservative party will soon take its place as the true Canadian nation builder of the 21st century."
In his usual rabble-rousing style, Mr. Klein took shots at the federal Liberals. He joked about being chosen as the speaker because rock star Bono, who was the guest speaker at the Liberal convention, was unavailable. He reprimanded the Chrétien government's handling of the sponsorship scandal with an impersonation of the former prime minister, Québécois accent and all, and said the current Liberals had lost sight of values.
"When you talk about values, they say 'What? What is that word, values?'" Mr. Klein said. "Well, today each of you here is sending a message to the Liberals and that message is: we are conservatives, we are united and yes, Mr. Martin, we are back. In a big way."
Mr. Harper was born and raised in Toronto — his father was an executive with Imperial Oil. He moved to Calgary in 1978, studying economics and working in the oil industry, before politics lured him away.
Preston Manning, founder of the Reform Party and its first leader, was at first very impressed with Mr. Harper, appointing him chief policy officer for the nascent party in 1987.
Mr. Harper worked as an assistant to Conservative MP Jim Hawkes and then to Deborah Grey when she was elected in 1989 as the Reform Party's first MP.
But he clashed repeatedly with Mr. Manning and left politics in 1997 after one term as an MP, to head the National Citizens Coalition. He then snatched the leadership of the nascent Canadian Alliance from Stockwell Day, whose political fumbles had handed Mr. Chrétien another majority government in 2000 and created a schism within the Alliance.
Mr. Harper healed that schism, wooing dissident MPs back into the Alliance caucus without embittering the Day faction, then helped engineer the merger of the Alliance and Tories with Progressive Conservative leader Peter McKay.
Mr. Harper is still trying to recover support in Atlantic provinces, after alienating them in 2002 by saying their reliance on federal handouts had bred a "culture of defeat" in the region.
Mr. Harper made one of the strongest speeches of his career when he wound up his campaign in Toronto on Friday night.
In true front-runner's style, he directed his criticisms at Paul Martin, rather than the Conservative leadership underdogs, promising to hold the Prime Minister accountable for the Liberal sponsorship scandal.
He promised to "put money in the pockets of taxpayers, not line the pockets of the government's friends," toughen up on crime, cut red tape, and elect, rather than appoint, senators.
Bill Clinton was her campaign advisor, or so it appeared. Wonder what compensation he received in return for his services?
Ol' X42 is amassing quite a record of advising/campaigning for candidates that subsequently lose, isn't he?
Yes indeed, we have just finished paying $29,242 for a new dining room carpet for Rideau Hall because of red wine stains caused by the Governor General's guests.
Who knows what we would have had to replace at 24 Sussex Drive, and caused by who knows what kind of stains.
They're the same everywhere.
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