Diane Ablonczy Talks about the Conservative Merger
Mapleleafweb: Realistically, what do you hope to accomplish in the 2004 election? What would be a successful result (in terms of seats or percentage vote)? What would be an unsuccessful result?
Diane Ablonczy: It’s very difficult to make a realistic assessment on 2004 election possibilities at this time because there are so many variables, such as: how will Paul Martin perform? what impact will continuing Liberal ethics troubles have? who will lead the new Conservative Party and how will he or she be perceived by voters? What I can say is that voters are very troubled by Liberal mismanagement, waste, undemocratic process and ethical lapses. They are looking for alternatives. Ordinary citizens have expressed a strong wish for a united Conservative alternative and for meaningful competition and choices in our democracy. I sincerely believe the new Conservative Party of Canada will generate more enthusiasm in the coming election than is currently expected. I realistically expect us to substantially increase the present number of conservative seats in the House and with a solid NDP vote, a minority government is also realistic.
Mapleleafweb: What do you think would be the ideal profile for the leader of the new Conservative Party.
Diane Ablonczy: Pan-Canadian rather than regional; project substance, competence and the ability to win respect at senior national and international levels; a personality that draws a warm response from others: qualities of likeability and good humour; a clear and articulate vision for Canada’s future direction on important issues and for our place in the global community and how to achieve that; believability on important issues of ethics, democratic renewal and inclusiveness; someone demonstrably able to attract and lead a capable team to run the nation’s affairs.
Mapleleafweb: How will you prevent social policy from turning into a battleground at a policy convention?
Diane Ablonczy: There must be an evident commitment to respectful and open debate framed by a clear set of well-considered proposals from a forward-looking conservative perspective. Most Canadians are small-c conservative on social issues but that is linked with a distaste for extremism or vilification of any segment of society. If the issues are clearly defined, there is an insistence that debate be reasoned and respectful, and decision-making is fair and open, the range of perspectives present in any group or organization should provide a healthy and dynamic process on deciding social policy issues: one with which most Canadians will agree.
Mapleleafweb: Do you think it’s possible to develop policies that will satisfy all groups?
Diane Ablonczy: The results will be satisfactory to the extent the process is satisfactory. If participants believe themselves to have a fair opportunity to be heard and to express their points of view in an environment which insists on moderate and well-reasoned input, and if the eventual decision-making process is fair and open, I believe participants will live with the results even when their particular point of view did not carry the day.
Mapleleafweb: Is there a place for so-called “Red Tories” within the new party?
Diane Ablonczy: Without question. I believe that what unites all conservatives is far greater than that which divides them. What will be required is wise leadership that helps keep the focus on common goals, allows respect for the expression of points of view, and insists on a fair and open resolution of issues and decisions. Canada is made up of a broad range of interests and perspectives. Dynamic political vehicles must mirror that in order to truly speak for our society and to win the right to represent it.
Mapleleafweb: What will happen if David Orchard is successful in his bid to stop the merger? Is it possible to return to the way it was before this all started?
Diane Ablonczy: I think this is a moot question, but the conservative unity movement is much broader than any particular vehicle. It is a dynamic whose time has clearly come, and in my view is unstoppable. That’s good news for Canadian democracy.
Mapleleafweb: There are those in both the Progressive Conservative and Canada Alliance that are sceptical of this merger. What would you say to these people?
Diane Ablonczy: We are all hopefully politically active because we want something better for Canada than the other political vehicles offer. But we will not make a real difference so long as we are vote-splitting. We have common policies and perspectives on most issues, and our parties contain a similar range of viewpoints. We ought to trust the democratic process to fairly resolve differences within our membership, and to reach balanced solutions to issues. Canada is harmed by the lack of true political competition and robust choices. People are looking to us to fix that. Let’s provide the meaningful leadership and vision our country needs at this time.