Red Tory

A dominant strain of Progressive Conservatives in both federal and provincial politics during the last half of the 20th Century. They tended to emphasize the “Progressive” over the “Conservative” aspect of the party name. The “Red” in their own moniker indicated they were more left wing, or Liberal red, than other party members, who were seen as “Blue” Tories.

Red Tory avatars include former federal Progressive Conservative leaders Robert Stanfield and Joe Clark, former provincial premiers John Robarts and Bill Davis (Ontario) and Richard Hatfield (New Brunswick). Some of its prominent national figures have included Flora Macdonald, Dalton Camp and David Crombie. They were seen as more supportive of social programs, more in favour of government involvement in the economy and more accommodating of Quebec nationalism. In some situations (wage and price controls in the 1974 election), Red Tories were to the left of the Liberal Party.

For many years, Red Tories were engaged in a slow-burn civil war with “Blue” Conservatives” – largely originating from Western Canada. Brian Mulroney was a rare figure who bridged both camps. However, rise of the Reform Party and the decimation of the Progressive Conservatives in the 1990s was the death knell for Red Toryism, with the merger of the two parties into the Conservative Party of Canada in the early 21st Century serving as its last rites.

Even Ontario – in many ways Ground Zero of Red Toryism – saw the Mike Harris “Common Sense” governments implement policies anathema to their ethos. Red Tory politicians in the polarized political climate of the 2010s – from John Tory to Alison Redford – have had a difficult time of it.

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