Maintaining Party Unity: Analyzing the Conservative Party of Canada’s Integration of the Progressive Conservative and Canadian Alliance Parties

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Thompson, Matthew




Federal conservative parties in Canada have long been plagued by several persistent cleavages and internal conflict. This conflict has hindered the party electorally and contributed to a splintering of right-wing votes between competing right-wing parties in the 1990s. The Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) formed from a merger of the Progressive Conservative (PC) party and the Canadian Alliance in 2003. This analysis explores how the new party was able to maintain unity and prevent the long-standing cleavages from disrupting the party. The comparative literature on party factions is utilized to guide the analysis as the new party contained faction like elements. Policy issues and personnel/patronage distribution are stressed as significant considerations by the comparative literature as well literature on the PC's internal fighting. The analysis thus focuses on how the CPC approached these areas to understand how the party maintained unity. For policy, the campaign platforms, Question Period performance and government sponsored bills of the CPC are examined followed by an analysis of their first four policy conventions. With regards to personnel and patronage, Governor in Council and Senate appointments are analyzed, followed by the new party's candidate nomination process and Stephen Harper's appointments to cabinet. The findings reveal a careful and concentrated effort by party leadership, particularly Harper, at managing both areas to ensure that members from each of the predecessor parties were motivated to remain in the new party. Harper's role in maintaining party unity is substantial, and the findings indicate that the centralization of power under the Prime Minister can have a positive impact. The findings also situate the CPC relative to its predecessor parties, uncovering in detail where the new party bears resemblance and differs from its predecessors.


Political Science




Carleton University

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Political Science

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Theses and Dissertations

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