University of Calgary

Reform Party of Canada

The Reform Party of Canada was born out of a sense of frustration and disillusionment amongst a coalition of western Canadian businessmen and interest groups with what they regarded as the federal Progressive Conservative Party’s disregard for the West’s contributions to the political and economic well being of the country. Led by Preston Manning, the son of long-time Alberta Social Credit premier Ernest Manning, the coalition supported the creation of a western reform movement as a means of voicing the West’s discontent and as an alternative to western separation.

The Party was founded in 1987 and in March 1989 Deborah Grey was elected as its first Member of Parliament during a by-election held in Beaver River, Alberta.  By 1990 the Party was a significant political force in the West. In the federal election of 1993 the Party upset the political establishment by electing 52 Reformers to sit in the House of Commons (including 22 of 26 seats in Alberta and 24 of 30 seats in British Columbia), helping to decimate the Progressive Conservatives in the process. In the 1997 general election Reform increased its seat total to 60, enough to install Manning in the office of the Leader of the Opposition. However, all of Reform’s members were from west of Ontario. The Canadian political geography had split mostly along regional lines, with Reform in the West, the ruling Liberals in Ontario, and the Bloc Québécois in Quebec.

Discontented with being perceived as a regional party, Manning proposed a radical solution. In September 1998 he initiated the “United Alternative” movement to bring together conservatives from all political backgrounds in an effort to “unite the right”, produce a national party and end the vote splitting and stalemate that had resulted from the Progressive Conservative Party and the Reform Party running candidates in the same constituencies, thus allowing Liberal Party candidates to win ridings in which the majority of the electorate was right-wing. Two United Alternative conventions were held in 1999 and 2000 which lay the groundwork for a new party by bringing together supporters and organisers from a variety of right-wing parties, accepting policies, principles and a constitution that was drafted between the two conventions. On March 25, 2000 members of the Reform Party voted 92% in favour of dissolving their party and adopting the constitution of the new political party, and the Canadian Alliance was born.