Canada's `Red Tory' Is A Parliament Hill Fixture

Article excerpt

HEATH MACQUARRIE is a rare bird in Canadian politics: a left-leaning, liberal-minded member of Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservative Party.

He likes to say that if he had been a member of the British Parliament under conservative Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady most certainly would have referred to him as a "wet" (as in "wet hen"), a back-of-the-hand she reserved for liberal-leaning members of her Conservative party.

Instead, the 73-year-old senator and former member of Parliament from Prince Edward Island is known here on Parliament Hill as a "red" or liberal-minded Tory, one of the few remaining Conservatives of that ilk.

"I suppose they {Reagan-Mulroney-Thatcher-style conservatives} realize this species is so rare now that they're not terribly dangerous," says the cherubic-faced islander with a strong Scottish accent.

"Sometimes I think I'm the last of the red Tories, which is about as exciting as being the last of the Mohicans," he says.

But when Senator Macquarrie arrived in Ottawa in 1957, a newly minted Member of Parliament from Canada's smallest province, red Tories made up an entire wing of the Conservative Party. Louis St. Laurent was Canada's prime minister and Dwight Eisenhower was president of the United States.

Placing Macquarrie in time can seem irrelevant, however. Because while prime ministers and presidents come and go, Macquarrie has become a Parliament Hill fixture, appointed in 1979 to the Senate.

Entrenched as a savvy observer of Conservative politics, Macquarrie attended his first political meeting at age 11. Last year he published his political memoirs, entitled "Red Tory Blues," setting forth a red Tory's lament at the shift to the right his party has taken over the last decade under Mulroney.

Despite his ideological isolation, Macquarrie seems just as excited as any Conservative about the party leadership race as it moves toward its climax. The leadership convention running today through June 13 will be historic, because it will for the first time choose a new Conservative Party leader to take the reins of power from a sitting Conservative Prime Minister.

"My personal morale has gone up tremendously since the {Mulroney} withdrawal," Macquarrie says.

"We've had a long time of the rightist mandate. The country has shown that it hurts them. We have grave unemployment in this country, an increasing scorn of the political process and the political institutions that is very very dangerous."

From Macquarrie's left-of-center viewpoint, the free-trade push and its attendant dropping of tariff barriers designed to protect Canadian business is a mistake, as has been much of the privatization of Crown corporations. …