Chuck Strahl talks about the Progressive Conservative / Democratic Representative Caucus (DRC) and the Canadian Alliance party.
re:politics (formerly, Maple Leaf Web): Why did you decide it was time to return to the Canadian Alliance fold?
Chuck Strahl: There were really three factors in determining the timing of our return to the Alliance caucus.
- there was huge pressure from within the Coalition for us to simply join the PC party, while there was similarly consistent pressure in each of our ridings to return to the Alliance. When the choices seem irreconcilable and you have to choose one or other, siding with your local supporters is a no-brainer.
- while the PC-DRC Coalition was working well in Parliament, it was not evolving into a viable electoral option for those of us in the DRC.
- Stephen Harper handled our re-entry very well, giving assurances that it would be relatively painless for us individually (this proved to be true) while stressing that he simply could not wait forever.
MLW: How would you characterize your experience with the PC-DRC coalition?
Chuck Strahl: For the most part, our experience in the Coalition was positive. We were able to critique the government on the issues of the day while developing policy options both in the House and in the Standing Committees. In all cases we found a surprizingly large degree of agreement amongst members from both Parties. We also developed good working relationships (and friendships) amongst Senators, MPs, and both Parliamentary and partisan staff. Excitement grew as we saw the potential of people from diverse backgrounds pulling in the same harness, especially since our polling, consultations, and anecdotal information found that Canadians were and are in general agreement that the Liberals need a strong, unified alternative.
MLW: Many have suggested that the right cannot seriously challenge the Liberals while there are two parties. What is your opinion on this?
Chuck Strahl: Everyone – even strong partisans from both the Progressive Conservative party and the Canadian Alliance – agreed that challenging the Liberals while we are still challenging one another makes replacing the natural governing party more difficult. Is it possible to win while both parties still exist and compete with one another? Of course it could be done, but so many stars have to line up in the firmaments of political heaven that star-watching and navel-gazing become one and the same. Canadians waiting for unity on the centre-right are impatient, and the reality is that the record low voter turn-out of the last election could become a more chronic, serious, systemic problem as people give up hope. Of course, it is also possible that a party with a winsome platform and a dynamic leader could sway things quickly, and if the electorate decide that the other party has neither of these attributes, then forcing the government from office (or into a minority situation) is doable.
MLW: The leadership issue has been settled, what is the next step in pushing the Canadian Alliance Party forward?
Chuck Strahl: I believe there are three things that will propel the Alliance forward. First is the stability and confidence that comes from solid, reliable leadership. Every indication is that Stephen is playing his cards well on this front, and is looking like the ‘in-charge’ and ‘in-control’ person that Canadians demand from their leaders. Second, the Liberals can help by continuing their own self-destrcutive ways, with a steady diet of more scandal and arrogance. Thankfully, any government in power for three terms of office serve up lots of this kind of fodder, lending credibility to the axiom that ‘governments defeat themselves’. Lastly, when the electorate is finally ready to throw the rascals out, the Alliance have to show- through their behaviour, policy options, and professionalism- that they are the party of choice for those looking for an electoral alternative.
MLW: re:politics (formerly, Maple Leaf Web) is releasing an upcoming feature on this summer’s G8 Summit. What should Canada’s main objectives be at the upcoming G8 meetings in Kananaskis?
Chuck Strahl: The G-8 conference is a bit of a crapshoot, really. It may prove to be a productive and innovative meeting, with plenty of interesting items on an agressive agenda, or it may prove to be a media/security circus. Assuming they are not subjected to a Seattle-type protest party, there are really two items I would like to see front and center. First is the whole package of security issues- international, hemispheric, and continental- and how the new reality of post September 11th will impact the G-8 on trade, immigration, terrorism, etc. Hopefully the leaders will have some provocative discussions (already underway, we must assume) to develop a common front to make international commerce, the free trade of goods, and the mobility of travellers less of a hassle for the good guys, and more of a problem for the bad.
The second issue is international free trade and a rules-based trading regime. Although this second issue flows from the first, it simply must be discussed with renewed passion and dedication given the protectionism that is creeping back into American and European governments. Canada needs the rest of the G-8 to commit anew to the goals and purpose of the WTO, and set in place achievable targets to keep the free trade process on the rails.