CBC In Depth
INDEPTH: CONSERVATIVE PARTY
The PC party
CBC News Online | Updated May 3, 2005

The roots of the Progressive Conservative Party run deep in the soil of this land. Before it disappeared as part of the Conservative Party of Canada in 2003, the PC Party was Canada's oldest by more than 20 years. Its founders dated back to the political scene of the 1830s.

It all started with John A. Macdonald, who emigrated to North America from Scotland with his family in 1820, when he was five years old. At 15, he began apprenticing under a lawyer in Kingston, Ontario. By the time he was 20 he had his own legal practice, which would become one of the busiest in Canada.


Sir John A. Macdonald
His political career began in 1844 when he won a seat in the legislative assembly of Canada, which was then made up of Upper and Lower Canada (what we now know as Ontario and Quebec).

He voted with the Conservative Party, but over the years he helped strengthen the party's support by forming a coalition between liberals and conservatives, which would eventually be called the Liberal Conservative Party.

Macdonald fought off the pro-American movement, united political groups that were scattered across the colonies and, with the help of French-Canadian Sir George-Etienne Cartier, brought together English- and French-speaking citizens.

On July 1, 1867, Canada was formed and Macdonald became the country's first prime minister. He remained in power until 1873 when he lost to Liberal Alexander Mackenzie. But Macdonald returned to win the federal election of 1878 – and the next three elections as well. He died on June 6, 1891 while still in office.

Leaders of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada
Jul 1, 1867 - Jun 6, 1891 Sir John Alexander Macdonald
Jun 16, 1891 - Dec 5, 1892 J.J.C. Abbott
Dec 5, 1892 - Dec 12, 1894 Sir John Thompson
Dec 21, 1894 - Apr 27, 1896 Sir Mackenzie Bowell
May 1, 1896 - Feb 5, 1901 Sir Charles Tupper
Feb 6, 1901 - Jul 10, 1920 Sir Robert Borden
Jul 10, 1920 - Oct 11, 1926 Arthur Meighen
Oct 11, 1926 - Oct 12, 1927 Hugh Guthrie (House Leader)
Oct 12, 1927 - Jul 7, 1938 R.B.Bennett
Jul 7, 1938 - May 13, 1940 R.J. Manion
May 13, 1940 - Jan 27, 1943 R.B. Hanson (House Leader)
Nov 12, 1941 - Dec 11, 1942 Arthur Meighen
Dec 11, 1942 - Oct 2, 1948 John Bracken
Oct 2, 1948 - Dec 14, 1956 George A. Drew
Dec 14, 1956 - Sep 9, 1967 John G. Diefenbaker
Sep 9, 1967 - Feb 22, 1976 Robert L. Stanfield
Feb 22, 1976 - Feb 8, 1983 Joe Clark
Feb 9, 1983 - Jun 11, 1983 Erik Nielsen (House Leader)
Jun 11, 1983 - Jun 13, 1993 Brian Mulroney
Jun 13, 1993 - Dec 13, 1993 Kim Campbell
Dec 14, 1993 - April 3, 1998 Jean J. Charest
April 3, 1998 - Nov 14, 1998 Elsie Wayne
November 14, 1998 - June 1, 2003 Joe Clark
June 1, 2003 - Dec. 6, 2003 Peter MacKay

After the Macdonald era, the Tory party went through an identity crisis as it tried to redefine itself. But it held onto the nation's leadership – the next four prime ministers were all Conservatives.

Since those early days, the Conservative governments have done a lot to help the country grow.

They built the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), saw Canada through the First World War, created the CBC and the Bank of Canada during the Great Depression, laid the groundwork for Canada's national health care system, proposed the Freedom of Information Act, formed NAFTA, and put into power Canada's first female prime minister.

Of course the Tories are also associated with controversial legislation like the Goods and Services Tax (GST), and the free-trade agreement with the U.S. created by the Brian Mulroney government of the 1980s and early 1990s.

The party changed its name twice to reflect changing ideals. The original name, the Liberal Conservative Party, was changed to simply the Conservative Party just before the turn of the 20th century. Then in 1942, when Progressive Party member John Bracken won the Conservative leadership, it got the name it used until the merger with the Canadian Alliance: the Progressive Conservative Party.

In July 2000, the Alliance elected Stockwell Day as its first leader – and he proved a tough adversary for the Conservative leader at the time, Joe Clark. In the 2000 federal election, neither party could knock out Jean Chrétien's Liberals, who won a third straight majority government. However, the Canadian Alliance clearly beat the Conservatives, winning 66 seats in the House of Commons to the PC's 12, making the Alliance the official Opposition.

It didn't take long for problems within the Canadian Alliance to boil up. Members within the party began openly challenging Day's ability to lead. A group of them even defected and briefly formed an alliance with Joe Clark's Tories.

In March 2002, the Alliance voted in a new leader – Stephen Harper – calming the party's internal strife.


Joe Clark
Clark led the Progressive Conservatives twice. He was first elected leader more than 25 years ago when Pierre Trudeau was prime minister.

Clark served as Canada's 16th prime minister for nine months between June 1979 and March 1980 and remained leader of the party until 1983.

Fifteen years later, under interim leader Elsie Wayne, the PC party decided it would keep its commitment to change by changing the way it would find its next leader. The party opened the leadership race to any Canadian who met minimum age requirements, and allowed every member over the age of 14 to vote. In the end, it seems the party's members wanted someone familiar to lead them into the new millennium. In November 1998, Clark returned to the Tory top spot.

But in August 2002, Joe Clark decided his time was up and announced he would step down to let the party pick a new leader. By spring of 2003 the party spoke, and voted a 37-year-old Peter MacKay to the top spot.

Voted the sexiest man on Parliament Hill four years in a row by The Hill Times, MacKay put a fresh – and somewhat controversial – face on the party. He won the leadership, in large part, because of an agreement he struck with candidate David Orchard. Orchard agreed to throw his support behind MacKay with the understanding that, if elected, MacKay would not attempt a merger with the Canadian Alliance party.

A few short months later, however, that's exactly what MacKay did. On October 16, 2003, he joined Alliance leader Stephen Harper to announce their parties had reached an agreement in principle to unite in time for the looming federal election.

"Today we start to build a bigger conservative family," MacKay said.

Prime Ministers of Canada
Term Served
Name
Party
1 July 1867 -
5 Nov. 1873
Sir John Alexander
Macdonald
Liberal
Conservative
7 Nov. 1873 -
9 Oct. 1878
Alexander
Mackenzie
Liberal
17 Oct. 1878 -
6 June 1891
Sir John Alexander
Macdonald
Liberal
Conservative
16 June 1891 -
24 Nov. 1892
Sir John Joseph
Caldwell Abbott
Liberal
Conservative
5 Dec. 1892 -
12 Dec. 1894
Sir John Sparrow
David Thompson
Liberal
Conservative
21 Dec. 1894 -
27 April 1896
Sir Mackenzie
Bowell
Liberal
Conservative
1 May 1896 -
8 July 1896
Sir Charles
Tupper
Conservative
11 July 1896 -
6 Oct. 1911
Sir Wilfrid
Laurier
Liberal
10 Oct. 1911 -
12 Oct. 1917
Sir Robert
Laird Borden
Conservative
12 Oct. 1917 -
10 July 1920
Sir Robert
Laird Borden
Conservative
10 July 1920 -
29 Dec. 1921
Arthur
Meighen
Conservative
29 Dec. 1921 -
28 June 1926
William Lyon
Mackenzie King
Liberal
29 June 1926 -
25 Sept. 1926
Arthur
Meighen
Conservative
25 Sept. 1926 -
7 Aug. 1930
William Lyon
Mackenzie King
Liberal
7 Aug. 1930 -
23 Oct. 1935
Richard Bedford
Bennett
Conservative
23 Oct. 1935 -
15 Nov. 1948
William Lyon
Mackenzie King
Liberal
15 Nov. 1948 -
21 June 1957
Louis Stephen
St. Laurent
Liberal
21 June 1957 -
22 April 1963
John George
Diefenbaker
Progressive
Conservative
22 April 1963 -
20 April 1968
Lester Bowles
Pearson
Liberal
20 April 1968 -
4 June 1979
Pierre Elliott
Trudeau
Liberal
4 June 1979 -
3 March 1980
Charles Joseph
Clark
Progressive
Conservative
3 March 1980 -
30 June 1984
Pierre Elliott
Trudeau
Liberal
30 June 1984 -
17 Sept. 1984
John Napier
Turner
Liberal
17 Sept. 1984 -
13 June 1993
Martin Brian
Mulroney
Progressive
Conservative
13 June 1993 -
25 Oct. 1993
Kim Campbell Progressive
Conservative
25 Oct. 1993 -
12 Dec. 2003
Jean Chrétien Liberal
12 Dec. 2003 -
present
Paul Martin Liberal

Note: The Liberal Conservative and Conservative Parties were what is now known as the Progressive Conservative Party.




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