JC: Well, I didn’t support the merger of my Progressive Conservative Party with the Reform Alliance because I thought the result would not be balanced. I thought that the very strong and positive traditions of my party would tend to be moved aside, and I’m afraid [that I’ve been proven] right… I think that this has been in effect a Reform Alliance government much more than a Progressive Conservative government. What does that mean? It’s certainly clear in international affairs, where its focus has been very narrow on the military and on trade. Much of the emphasis upon CIDA, which had been upon actual development dealing with poverty, has been replaced now by a supportive role [in] trade arrangements, not necessarily in the poorest countries. Our relations with many parts of the world where we had historically strong partnerships have deteriorated. There is an avowed interest in Latin America as a priority, but it’s primarily a trade interest rather than a political interest, and I think that is wasting a Canadian advantage. I’m sorry that’s happened.
I also think there has been an hostility towards some of the Canadian institutions – the CBC’s the most recent – and none of these are fault-free, but I think that they were given a benefit-of-the-doubt under former Progressive Conservative governments, and they’re not now. I’m astounded, frankly astounded, by the degree to which Parliament and Cabinet acquiesce in following, without any apparent questioning, the Prime Minister’s lead. Prime Ministers have always been strong in our system, but almost all others have respected their parties and their parliaments more than Prime Minister Harper does.
I generally agree with this critique, but with a qualifier — clearly Joe Clark does matter. For one thing, we’re talking about him. For another, his protégé just beat a campaign led by Stephen Harper’s old staffers to retain the job of Premier of Alberta, so clearly the Red Tory progressive tradition still has a bit of life in it.
I think Clark’s a bit of a sore loser and a political mess-up, but he has had a major impact on present-day Canada. It’s no surprise that the Charlottetown Accord was his baby.
I say a Joe Clark of the present-day would probably find his place in the NDP — much like what happened to the last Progressive Conservative MP for Toronto Centre-Rosedale. Does that say something about how far the spectrum has shifted since 1976? Perhaps.
Anyway. It’s interesting, where the Canadian political spectrum is shifting to…