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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 December, 2003, 02:09 GMT
Canada's political right unites
Paul Martin
The new Conservative Party hopes to beat Martin's Liberals
Canada's two right-wing opposition parties have agreed to merge.

The Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance will join forces under the new name of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Over the past decade, votes split between them has helped to keep them out of office with the Liberals winning three elections in a row.

Their merger comes just in time to challenge the Liberals in elections expected to be called early next year.

Jubilant

The Progressive Conservative votes were relayed by phone from delegates across the country and as the results were tallied, it soon became clear that support for a merger was overwhelming: 90%

Their decision came a day after Alliance members voted 96% in favour of the union.

The BBC's Lee Carter in Toronto says nobody was more relieved than the Progressive Conservatives' leader, Peter MacKay.

He had endured sniping from the party's former leader and even a threatened lawsuit from a leading opponent of the merger.

"Finally, after ten years, the Liberal Party of Canada will be facing a united, strong, conservative family in the next federal general election," a jubilant Mr MacKay said

"With this overwhelming vote, we have just become Paul Martin's worst nightmare," he said.

Differences

Mr Martin is due to take over from Jean Chretien, who is stepping down as prime minister on 12 December after a decade in office.

Mr Martin has indicated he will call an election early next year to seek a new five-year mandate instead of serving out the final two years of Mr Chretien's term.

The Liberals have easily won the past three elections.

In 1993, the once-mighty Progressive Conservatives were crushed. During the 1990s, disaffected conservative Canadians in the western part of the country deserted the party in droves.

They joined the more right-wing Reform Movement, which eventually became the Canadian Alliance.

Ideological differences between the two parties linger, and it remains to be seen how well they will work together and how they will decide who leads the party.


SEE ALSO:
Canada picks leader in waiting
15 Nov 03  |  Americas
Canada's Chretien bids farewell
14 Nov 03  |  Americas
Country profile: Canada
28 Oct 03  |  Country profiles


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