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THE FUTURE OF A CONSERVATIVE PARTY DANA PORTER A POLITICAL party consists of a group of co-ordinating individuals who are agreed on a general direction and conception of policy. The rise ofa party begins with a common motive inspired by a pI:ogressive idea. As the spirit of the time undergoes its inevitable unfolding development, a party retains its hold upon public favour so long as the pr~gressive idea behind it grows in harmony with the social and political temper. Political parties in Canada that have succeeded in attaining power, have maintained generally a long 'term of ascendancy; for the idea that·in the early stages captured the public approval has been presented and developed by a group of leading personalities who resisted the temptation of moving too far in advance of the time. Once the progressive idea upon which the common policy is based, has played itself out, new forces based upon a younger and newer point of v'iew find impulse and expression in an alternative party. vVhen the main core of the,original group of men whose team play has carried the party through a lease of life weakens through age and death, the process of disintegration becomes rapid. In ,Canada, the injection of new leadership and the sprinkling of new blood into a party after a long term of power) has never arrested the process of deterioration. It seems that the natural scheme that has fitted the progress of national life, is for political parties successively to lie fallow. The ascendancy then falls into the hands of the former opposition , which in turn follows a similar pattern. This natural trend has given in a broad way a flexibility to the progt'ess of national ' life, so that the gradual and steady change that 'constantly plays upon the outlook of men's minds is 'neither thwarted nor frustrated. .This pattern consists of more than a mere party game of the "ins" and the "outs." The new creative impu]se that occurs from time to time to give new direction and new power springs from the progressive conception. In reviewing the past, it may appear at first sight, as if neither of the traditional parties of Can~da differed widely in principles. Yet in the atmosphere of the moments when 191 192 THE UNIVERSITY OF TOR9NTO QUARTERLY power changed hands) the differences appeared clearly drawn to contemporary minds. If the 'differences in fundamental principle were in reality slight, the differences in personalities and in manner, of approach were relatively great. A progressive. idea does not necessarily differ in its fundamental principles from its outworn predecessor. The idea in politics becomes a mixture of minds and men. It becomes identified with th~ personalities of its advocates. Its newness, its progressiveness and its general appeal, draw their breath of life from the new men who step forth to personify it: If a political idea takes active shape radically different' in its fundamentals from tradition or radically in ,advance of the general social temper, there ensues a real danger of an irreconcilable cleavage in society. The maximum measure of freedom f~r the body politic consists of the minimum of irreconcilability. Violent changes are always fraught with a direct menace to a 'free society. It is therefore essential for any political party in Canada to adjust its ideas on the broadest possible basis, fully ' in step with changing conditions , but directed to preserve the maximum measure of freedom. The future of a Conservative party in Canada depends upon whether it will represent a new progressive idea that will capture the imagination of public opinion in its broadest sense. It will equally depend upon whether there emerges a group of co-ordinating individuals who can personify this idea with real conviction, and hold out a promise of -administrative ability when called upon to assume power. Before considering this problem, it may be useful to survey briefly some of the political movements of the past in the light of thes~ reflections. II HI am satisfied," wrote Lord Sydenham in 1840, "that the mass of the people are sound-moderate in their demands, and attached to British institutions-but they have been...


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pp. 191-199
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