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Chretien | 1995 Referendum  | 1998 Seperation Ruling | Nunavut | Budget Surplus | Reform Party | The Bloc

Although various revenue sharing agreements had been negotiated by the Liberals and the Alberta government, the National Energy Policy (NEP) had left a deep and bitter taste in many westerns mouths. Even under the Mulroney government many in the west did not believe that they were getting the representation they deserved.

By 1986, many of the alienated people and groups in Alberta and western Canada began to coalesce around a dynamic speaker who was the son of a former Premier of Alberta, Preston Manning. By the autumn of 1987 what had started as a reform association became a political party with the founding of the Reform Party of Canada in Winnipeg. The main objectives of the party were fiscal responsibility and constitutional reform that would give the west a greater say in the Canadian Government.

The basic principles were a continuation of a long prairie traditional of populism which had manifested itself in the Social Credit, the CCF and even the Diefenbaker Conservatives. he constitutional reform which the party aspired to were items such as a tripe E Senate (Equal, elected and  effective), the ability to recall elected officials, ballot day propositions directly voted on, reducing the size of the Federal government and opposition to any special deals for Quebec.

During the 1988 election passions ran high over the free trade debate and Reform failed to make any electoral breakthrough although it did do well as a percentage of he vote in western Canada. In 1989 in a Federal by-election Reform managed to win the seat in Alberta and elected it's first MP Deborah Grey. That same year, Alberta under pressure from Reform, held and election for the Senate, although not legally binding, and a Reform candidate was election and was in fact appointed by the Conservatives in Ottawa.

Reform opposition to both Meech Lake and the Charlottetown Accords helped them gain many new supports in the west and their opposition to the GST brought in many more fiscal conservatives. By the time a Federal election was called in 1993 Reform was capitalizing on the collapse of support for the Conservatives in the west and a general dislike of the Liberals which remained from the Trudeau years. Reform won 22 seats in Alberta, 24 seats in BC, 4 seats in Saskatchewan and 1 in Manitoba, and 1 in Ontario for a total of 52 seats. The Bloc Quebecoise won 54 seats in Quebec and the Conservatives were reduced to just 2 seats.

Manning's claim that Reform was a national party was obviously not supported by the election results but they at least now had a strong voice in Parliament.  The party was unable to make much progress with the public due to it's extremely conservative stance on social issues such as women's rights, homosexuality, ethnic groups and social justice programs. They also effectively eliminated themselves from contention in Quebec due to their anti-Quebec rhetoric, resistance to any compromise with Quebec and general pro-western agenda. This substantially eliminated them from any opportunities of becoming a majority governing party.

The other conservative issues which they focused in on was fiscal responsibility, balancing the budget and paying down the debt which the Progressive Conservatives had completely failed to address. The Liberals under Paul Martin undertook fiscal reform as their main objective which completely undercut any criticism which they could have aimed at the Liberals.

The other issue which permeated the party was the infighting which emerged as the party grew in status. The basic populist tendencies of the Reform Party attracted supports who believed in grass roots politics with recall and direct propositions as examples. This political philosophy does not generally translate well into a disciplined, centralized, unified party which operates as one organic whole. The secondary result of diffused democracy in a party is the over emphasis that is placed on disciple in order to maintain control and a sometimes harsh restriction of membership.

With those issues retarding party effectiveness the Reform managed to increase their support in the 1997 election and captured 60 seats but it lost it's one Ontario seat and remained an exclusively western party. As the official opposition the Reform Party started to lose some of the support it had built up when Preston Manning reneged on his original refusal to use the Official Opposition leaders residence and the Reform MP's decided to accept MP perks which they had previously criticized as a waste of money. The Progressive Conservatives had also rebounded and won 20 seats in the election which maintained a split on the right of the political spectrum.

By 2000 in an attempt to bury its' issues with Ontario and Quebec the Reform Party decided to hold  a series of meetings and conventions to re-unit the right. The result was the formation of the Canadian Alliance Party and the disbanding of the Reform Party.