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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Progressive Conservative Party in British Columbia : some aspects of organization Black, Edwin Robert

Abstract

Relatively few inquiries have been made into the section-ally-derived characteristics of Canadian political parties. The British Columbia Progressive Conservative Party had been exhibiting signs of stress between factions interested in attaining national power and those interested in provincial government objectives. The inquiry, which relied chiefly upon personal interviews and accounts in periodicals, examined the beginnings of partisanship in B.C. provincial politics. Party groups were organized along provincial lines and, when working toward electing federal representatives, they did so wholly under the provincial leader's control. Until the second world war the national party was a confederation of provincial parties loosely linked across the top. As an important force in B.C. the Conservatives died during the early thirties. When national leaders attempted reconstruction, they found provincial Conservatives in a coalition government dominated by the Liberal Party. Even after the second world war ended, the provincial leader refused to break with the Liberals and clung to sole control of a moribund provincial association. Attempts to revivify the association failed and personality clashes between the provincial leader and the national leader's personal representative brought into the open a bitter quarrel between the provincial and federal wings. A new federal party structure institutionalized the division of interests and labour between federal and provincial spheres. Acceptance of the changed structure came with the provincial group's realization of the extent of the damage done by the quarrel. Two groups promote Conservative interests in B.C., the Federal Council and the B.C. Progressive Conservative Association. The Council is the national association's chief agent in B.C. for federal matters although the association is also recognized. The latter group, which is left free to pursue provincial objectives, nominally claims but does not exercise authority in federal work. The leader of each group is not a member of the other group. The provincial leader enjoys much independence, accepts the division and seeks to heal', the rupture. Important power was not vested in the national leader's personal representatives although they performed important services. A survey indicates more co-operation existing at the grass roots level of federal and provincial wings than the leadership quarrels might suggest. Public policy issues have not divided party members, largely because ideology is not too important in the party and because there have been few periods when the party held office simultaneously at Ottawa and Victoria. National Conservative election victories eased financial difficulties for both groups and promoted reconciliation. Federalism in government and the diversity of Canada's major regions decided the organizational character of the Conservative party until about the second world war. Extra-parliamentary political associations were slow to develop. The growth of important inter-sectional interests and of feelings of nationhood was accelerated by urbanization, economic depression, war, technological advances and sociological evolution. The political party that used a Confederation framework was becoming obsolete. New forms of organization were needed that recognized the sociological changes and were equipped to handle techniques of influencing voters in the mass. Coalition government made the changes even more necessary in British Columbia and, perhaps, facilitated their realization in some ways. The B.C. Conservative organization appears to be evolving toward a new type of structure that reflects the crumbling of strong sectional feeling. Many problems remain to be examined, especially those involved in the inter-relationships of the various types of elected persons within the federally-organized political party.

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