Right in the centre - New parties need to read history


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Canadians history is well seeded with new political parties. Most haven’t gained enough traction to even be in most peoples’ memory banks. Occasionally, a new party emerges and gains enough support to actually elect some members.

The Progressive Party, headed by Tommy Crerar, a Manitoban, had some success in the 1920s but, after a few years, was absorbed into the two main line parties. Some Progressives joined the Liberals and became the Liberal-Progressive party. The Liberals dropped the Progressive name in the 1950s or 60s, I believe. Some of the Progressive joined the Conservatives and became the Progressive Conservative party of Canada.The progressive name was dropped when the PCs joined the Alliance Party to become today’s Conservative Party of Canada.

In Alberta, there have been many new parties, and especially, recently, the Wild Rose Party, but it was swallowed up by the PCs and became the United Conservative Party (UCP).

In Manitoba, we have had the Green Party, The Manitoba Party and now the Keystone Party. Neither the Greens nor the Manitoba Party ever elected. a member to the legislature. The Greens have been banging the drum for 15 or 20 years and just elected a new leader. That’s all well and good, but understand they only had 89 members vote for leader. Seriously?

Some very bright people have been elected leader of the Green Party in Manitoba, but my advice to them has always been join a party that has a chance to form government and work within the party to change policies’.

That is easier said than done, but, from my observation and experience, it is better than beating your head against the wall trying to get a new party going.

There is a reason for that. Canadians, and maybe especially Manitobans, are too complacent, too busy or too lazy to actually get into politics. My wife and I know from harsh experience that is the case. But there is a system to get involved in and it starts at the local level. Keeping a local constituency association alive takes a lot of work. The work load lands on the backs of members of the legislature (MLAs) which is unfortunate. Local areas or constituencies, if people actually cared as much as they say they do, would be strong committees with meeting 3-4 times a year and hold vigorous annual meetings. They would elect delegates to the provincial AGM and they would actually send policy resolutions in to the AGM. They would also understand that the “party hierarchy” is always resistant to change. Again, complacency, busyness and laziness takes over. The hierarchy, and every party has one, takes the easy way out by keeping opinions and ideas suppressed.

Currently in Manitoba, the Keystone Party is holding meetings and looking for candidates. I could be wrong, and I have offered this advice to the party, that the best they will likely do is elect one or two people but more likely, they will ensure that  they will cut into the PC votes in some ridings and let more  NDP members get elected. The Keystone Party doesn’t want that result, but they are willing to take the risk.

Over the years, the PC party of Manitoba has become complacent and unwilling to bring new people into the operations of the party. Back in the day, Gary Filmon, whether you agreed with him or not, was an effective leader. So was Brian Pallister. Both men brought regrowth and some vigour to the party. Since the early 80s, other leaders did not do so. Nice people, yes, but effective? No.

The reason for that is that the parties and the members, dare I repeat myself, became complacent, lazy and and too busy to care.

There is an underlying message here. The party hierarchy, and there is always a hierarchy, where everyone, including the MLAs, are kept complacent and busy. Not many MLAs are lazy, but they easily become too busy and complacent.

What is needed is an invigorated system to teach people how to participate in party politics. Meetings need to be held regularly, they need to be effective and short, but they do need to be held. 

It’s easier to let things slide, but when that happens, very little gets done, membership isn’t maintained nor does it grow. Individuals fall back into doing things the same old way until less and less is done by fewer and fewer until almost nothing gets done at all. I guess that’s complacency at its finest and it happens in every walk of human life and endeavour.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.