Progressive politics, ideas & culture

September-October 2004

“Progressive Canadian Party” piggybacks on the PC Party’s name

Julia Williams

Photo of ElvisDespite Stephen Harper’s best intentions, the PC Party is far from dead—it’s alive and coveting the right-wing vote. In fact, in this past election, 16 candidates across the country battled Harper’s new Conservatives for Tory support under the PC Party banner. It was just like old times—sort of. Turns out, this PC is not like the other.

In a marketing campaign based largely on deception, the Progressive Canadian Party ran in 16 ridings, using the PC Party banner on election signs and ballot boxes.

In Richmond Hill, Ontario, Conservative candidate Pete Merrifield took issue with the PC’s Tory-blue signs and its use of the phrase “progressive conservative” instead of Progressive Canadian. He even suggested the rival PC camp was stealing his signs.

Conservative Party spokesperson Carolyn Stewart Olsen, on the other hand, maintains that while individual candidates may have had problems with the PC Party, the Conservatives as a whole did not. “We didn’t have time to pay much attention to fringe parties,” she says.

But Joe Hueglin, national coordinator for the PC Party, thinks Harper’s Conservatives should indeed be worried by the new Tories on the block. And while he acknowledges that Conservative candidates complained about his party’s tactics, he’s making no apologies. “We’re operating within the law,” Hueglin says. Did it cause confusion? “Quite possibly. But many people didn’t know they were voting for Stephen Harper [by voting for the Conservative Party], because they don’t follow politics.”

With only 100 official members, the new PC Party isn’t exactly a force to be reckoned with, but it’s got more than a familiar name on its side. One of its star candidates, Rev. Dorian Baxter (a.k.a. Elvis Priestley), is an Elvis-impersonating Anglican priest who ran against Conservative wonderwoman Belinda Stronach in the Ontario riding of Newmarket-Aurora.

Stronach won. Elvis took 2.11 percent. But according to Hueglin, “the Conservatives are blaming [the PC Party] for Belinda’s poor performance.”

Watch out, Stephen Harper. You could be next.

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