Do I start or you?

I guess I do? I don’t really know.

I mean, this is new for both of us.

That’s true.


Shouldn’t you be asking questions?

Oh, right. So like what’s the deal? With the timeline and stuff?

Well it’s Canada 2004 with Bernard Lord leading the Conservatives.

Oh, okay. Well good luck with that.

After first winning power in a landslide in 1999, Bernard Lord had become a conservative star across Canada. For the youthful Premier, at just 33 years of age, the future seemed practically limitless. And why wouldn’t it? Popular, young, and bilingual, many conservatives saw him as the future of both the ideology and the country, and almost immediately prominent conservatives began courting Lord to run for federal office. While Lord brushed off such attempts, he did little to curb speculation. An electrifying speech at the 2002 Progressive Conservative convention seemed to many his declaration that he was entering federal politics, but once again he declined. The fact was, as intriguing as the idea of entering federal politics was, he still had a job do to back home. While the future remained up in the air, Lord was committed to finish his first term before making any further decisions. Indeed, one of the most important things Lord had to do back in New Brunswick, at least in his mind, was lead the Progressive Conservatives to re-election in 2003.

Given the nature of the province, his main opponent was the Liberals, who had chosen the relatively green and fresh-faced Shawn Graham as their leader. Having only been in politics since the end of 1998, Graham’s chances of winning the leadership were initially dismissed, and conventional wisdom had former cabinet minister Paul Duffie as the candidate to beat. However, despite his relative inexperience, Graham had one advantage working in his favour; the extent of the Liberal loss in 1999 actually benefited him. Being one member in a 10-person caucus gave him much more a profile in the party than being a member in a 20-person caucus ever would have, and it would be because of this, combined with a surprisingly strong lead in delegate selection meetings, that ultimately led to Duffie resigning and Graham winning the leadership against only token opposition.

Just as the provincial media dismissed Graham’s chances at winning the Liberal leadership, they also dismissed his chances of winning the general election. After all, Lord was still fairly popular, having successfully implemented their “200 Days of Change” platform, while Graham was still somewhat of a nonentity in the minds of many New Brunswickers, and a seemingly inexperienced nonentity at that. Once again though, Graham would exceed expectations throughout the campaign. Running a virtually flawless campaign focusing on improving universal health care in the province, keeping NB Power (the province’s electric utility) as a public crown corporation, and lowering auto insurance rates, the Graham Liberals were able to effectively use the latter issue to catch Lord and the Progressive Conservatives off guard and put the party on defence through the rest of the campaign. While at the outset Lord had initially been all but assured of victory, and a landslide victory at that, Graham’s strong campaign put that earlier belief of a PC victory into question. A strong performance by Graham in the English debate further narrowed the edge between the two parties, and for a time it looked like the Liberals would return to power just four years after being defeated. A poor performance by Graham in the French debate, however, in which Graham’s poor command of the language was evident, caused the Liberals to drop in the polls and lose the momentum that they had earlier in the campaign, and the Progressive Conservatives were able to use Graham’s poor performance as an example of what they called “poor, inexperienced” leadership.

When the results ultimately rolled in, Lord and the Progressive Conservatives were re-elected with another majority government, with Graham’s poor performance in the French debate ultimately preventing the Liberals from returning to government. Nevertheless, Graham still managed to significantly improve the Liberals’ standing, gaining 13 seats and nearly 7 points in the popular vote, assuring his position as Liberal leader in the next election despite his loss.


Having won a second majority government, Lord initially set about governing the province, but just a few months later federal politics once again came calling. By the end of 2003, Peter MacKay, having been chosen as the federal Progressive Conservative leader earlier in the year, had come to an agreement with Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper to merge their two parties, forming the Conservative Party of Canada, and once again Lord was being sought out to run for its leadership. Prominent eastern Conservatives saw Harper as too closely tied to the socially-conservative Alliance wing. While Harper had been more moderate than his immediate predecessors, Stockwell Day and Preston Manning, in the minds of many Canadians he was too closely tied to the “scary” Alliance and some of its more controversial members, like Alberta MPs Rob Anders and Myron Thompson, or British Columbia MP Darrel Stinson. This, combined with his lack of strong appeal east of Manitoba, left many Conservative organizers fearing he would be unable to truly unite the party and win a national election. As for MacKay, while he was popular in the east and somewhat respected in the west, his tenure as Progressive Conservative leader had been fairly controversial, and his “betrayal” of merging the two parties meant that many former Progressive Conservatives, even if they were now members of the new party, still had a grudge against their former leader.

While these overtures would normally have fallen on deaf ears, this time around Lord was interested. Not only had done what he promised to do back home, implementing the platform he was first elected on and leading his party to re-election with another majority, but the new federal landscape meant that, for once, he had a path to victory. Sure, the Liberals were soaring under the leadership of new Prime Minister Paul Martin, but with the Alliance and Progressive Conservatives now merged, the Liberals were no longer assured of dominance for the foreseeable future. Though Lord was somewhat reluctant to move away from New Brunswick and worried about the impact a career in federal politics would have on his young family, it soon became clear that, if he wanted a career in federal politics, now was his best chance. Thus, with his family supporting him, he announced on January 16, 2004 that he was resigning as Premier and throwing his hat in the ring for the Conservative leadership.

Joining Lord in the leadership race were Harper, former Ontario Health Minister and MPP Tony Clement, and auto parts magnate Belinda Stronach, with Harper generally on the right, Stronach covering the same ground as Lord, and Clement generally in the middle. Lord and Harper quickly became the candidates to beat, with Harper generally doing well in the west and Lord doing well in the east, though the latter did manage to pick up some key western endorsements in the form of prominent Alberta conservative Jim Prentice and British Columbia MP James Moore, among others. In Ontario, the “Big Blue Machine” of former Premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eves generally supported Lord (with Eves himself endorsing Lord, in a blow to the Clement campaign), though a decent percentage of the provincial machine supported Harper, Stronach, and Clement, the latter of whom had his greatest success in his home region of the Greater Toronto Area. With a poor campaign and views generally shared with Lord, Stronach withdrew from the race before the vote, endorsing the former Premier and emerging as a prominent and effective surrogate for his candidacy.

As the vote approached, though, the outcome was still very much in the air. While Lord had been able to effectively take the lead east of Manitoba, the disproportionate amount of Conservative members coming from the west still meant that, even if Lord won Ontario and dominated Quebec and the Atlantic, Harper could still eke out a victory in the overall popular vote with a strong performance out west. Working in Lord’s favour, though, was that the leader would not be chosen by a simple count in the popular vote. In a system used at the insistence of MacKay (who argued correctly that it was the only way to prevent the eastern, former Progressive Conservatives from constantly being outvoted by the western, former Alliance), the leader would be chosen in a point system, with each of the 308 ridings having an equal number of points distributed proportionally, regardless of the total amount of Conservative members living there. Due to the relatively few Conservative members living in Quebec, for instance, this meant that Lord could win the province with relatively few votes and win most of the 7000 plus points in the province in the process. Thus, as the vote approached, the outcome remained unclear, and largely dependent on each candidate’s regional strength. When the ballots were counted, the system did in fact work in Lord’s favour, as he won a majority of the points despite winning only a 48.5% of the vote (just over a percentage more than Harper), electing him leader and avoiding a second round. With the leadership election behind them, and Harper trying to stop any infighting in the party by throwing his full support behind Lord, the party now sets its sights towards the general election and the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut that is Paul Martin…

I think my biggest question is...who?

Anyways, a Progressive Conservative is better than Harper. Maybe he can win in 2004.
I think my biggest question is...who?

Anyways, a Progressive Conservative is better than Harper. Maybe he can win in 2004.

Think of him as a combination of Robert Stanfield and Brad Wall. Stanfield in the sense that he's a popular, moderate Premier from the Atlantic, and Wall in the sense that he is/was constantly talked about as a federal candidate but always refused.
Think of him as a combination of Robert Stanfield and Brad Wall. Stanfield in the sense that he's a popular, moderate Premier from the Atlantic, and Wall in the sense that he is/was constantly talked about as a federal candidate but always refused.

Ah. Well, that sounds like a good PM.
Interesting.... Bernard Lord is an obvious alternate leader, but I don't think I've seen anyone use him in 2004. Looking forward to where this leads.
Interesting.... Bernard Lord is an obvious alternate leader, but I don't think I've seen anyone use him in 2004. Looking forward to where this leads.

Thanks. And that's kind of strange he hasn't been done in 2004 - I always figured that if there was ever a time for him to enter federal politics, that would be it.
Oooh this looks interesting. Wonder if Lord wins 2004 or not. Looks like the conservative movement will be quite different without a decade of Harper.
As Canada’s 2004 general election, the country’s 38th, got underway, things were looking up for the Liberals. All things considered, things were fine; the economy was doing well, the country was no longer gripped with the fears of Quebec separatism, as they had been for most of the previous decade, and the government’s decision to keep Canada out of the Iraq War, while met with annoyance and disapproval in the United States and the United Kingdom, was very well received at home. As the campaign began, the Liberals looked set to return to government with yet another majority (in fact, a majority generally assumed to be far larger than the one they had won just four years earlier), a fact made all the more notable given how vastly the Canadian political landscape had changed. Both the Liberals and the New Democrats had replaced their leaders, with former finance minister Paul Martin succeeding Jean Chretien for the leadership of the Liberals (and, as a result, succeeding him as Prime Minister) and Toronto city councillor Jack Layton winning the leadership of the NDP following the retirement of Alexa McDonough. Most notably, though, the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance, after themselves going through changes in leadership (with Peter MacKay succeeding Joe Clark for the former and Stephen Harper succeeding Stockwell Day for the latter), had voted to merge, with New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord narrowly beating out Harper for the leadership. Compared to 2000, only the Bloc Quebecois had not gone through a change in leadership, with party leader Gilles Duceppe ironically remaining a point of stability in Canada’s otherwise hectic political landscape.

For some parties, these changes in leadership paid off; for others, not so much. Layton’s personal popularity, for instance, helped boost the NDP in the polls, while his seemingly stronger support for more left-wing policies (at least compared to McDonough) help prevent any internal divisions emerge in the party, as had very nearly occurred under McDonough’s leadership. For the PCs and Alliance, meanwhile, their changes in leadership had ultimately allowed the two parties to merge, with the united Conservative Party arguably putting the Liberals in the toughest position they’d been in since over a decade earlier. For the Liberals, though, replacing Jean Chretien with Paul Martin, while initially promising, soon turned out to be a bit of a mistake. It’s not that Martin was a bad leader or had a lot of baggage; on the contrary, Martin’s successful and well-received tenure as Finance minister appealed to many Canadians. The problem was that Chretien had hardly ended up resigning voluntarily. Since the late 1990s, when speculation first began that Chretien’s retirement was imminent, Martin slowly began taking control of the party machinery and winning over the loyalty of his fellow Liberal MPs, naturally hoping to have a leg up in the presumably imminent leadership race. The problem was that Chretien did not retire as expected, instead opting to stay on as Liberal leader and contest the 2000 election. Even after that, his retirement kept getting pushed back further and further, and he started hinting about running for a fourth term, and the infighting between him and Martin reached its breaking point. In 2002, Martin left cabinet, either through his own resignation or because he was dropped by Chretien (the story differed depending on who you asked), and essentially declared open war on Chretien’s leadership. While Chretien initially refused to resign in the face of such threats, when it became clear that Martin had amassed enough support and control over the party that Chretien would lose a rapidly approaching leadership review, Chretien changed course and announced that he would retire in early 2004 (later changed to late 2003).

With Martin’s control of the party now evident, most of the oft mentioned leadership candidates, including Allan Rock, Martin Cauchon, and Brian Tobin (most of whom were Chretien allies), opted against running. John Manley, Chretien’s Deputy Prime Minister and Martin’s successor as Minister of Finance, ran a brief campaign for the leadership before withdrawing once it became clear that he lacked the support to win the leadership (or even prevent Martin from winning a first ballot victory), while Sheila Copps, another former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage, ran a long-shot campaign that failed to win many people over; on the first ballot, with only her and Martin in the race, she won less than 10 per cent of the overall vote. With Martin having (overwhelmingly) succeeded in becoming leader, Liberals initially looked toward a period of reuniting the party, with an appearance by musician Bono at the Liberal convention seeming to help lessen the tension between the Chretien and Martin camps. This reunification, though, would not end up happening any time soon. Still bitter at their refusal to support his leadership, Martin and his supporters shut the Chretien wing of the party out of any positions of power, both in the party and in government. When he unveiled his cabinet in December 2003, Chretien supporters were entirely left out. Copps was sent to the backbenches, while Rock, Manley, and Cauchon, among others, being forced into retirement under the threat of a nomination challenge which, the Martin camp assured them, they would almost certainly lose. Copps herself already found herself facing a nomination battle with Martin ally Tony Valeri.

Even still, despite their internal disunity, the Liberals looked set for an overwhelming majority government, though many bad decisions by Martin ultimately prevented this from happening. First, Martin refused to call an election at the height of his popularity, from late 2003 to the very early months of 2004. Worried that he would instead offend Canadians for trying to take blatant advantage of his honeymoon (as he believed happened to John Turner in 1984), he continued to delay the election, missing out on a golden point in early 2004 where his honeymoon was still at its peak and, more importantly, the Conservatives were still leaderless after only just having merged. His bigger mistake, though, was ignoring Chretien’s advice when it came to the so-called sponsorship scandal, which, in short, had seen federal money meant to support Canadian unity instead being funneled into the Liberal Party’s Quebec wing. Given the potential harm the scandal could do to the Liberals, and given the slowly growing public outrage surrounding it, Chretien offered Martin two things: first, he offered to stay on as Prime Minister until February 2004 and essentially “take the fall” on the scandal, resigning after its initial reports had been released and allowing Martin to take over without being tainted by the scandal. Second, Chretien offered to refer the investigation to the RCMP, which, though it would keep the scandal out of the public mind (and result in few details about the scandal in the process), had the risk of alienating voters by keeping the details under wraps. Martin refused both these offers, instead opting to set up a public commission to investigate the scandal, which (although initially praised) would eventually prove to do Martin more harm than good.

By the time the election was called for late June 2004, Martin’s overwhelming lead had mostly disappeared, as a result of both his honeymoon ending and continued reports on the sponsorship scandal hurting the party, with the latter proving to be the defining issue of the campaign. A strong campaign from the Conservatives and an inept one from the Liberals narrowed the gap between the two parties significantly, while an unpopular budget from the Ontario Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty put their stranglehold on Canada’s most populous province at risk. In Quebec in particular the sponsorship scandal hit the Liberals hard, with support for the Bloc Quebecois and the Conservatives (thanks to the popularity of the bilingual Lord in the province and a strong lieutenant in the form of Andre Bachand) skyrocketing compared to pre-election polls. An ad released late in the campaign accusing the Conservatives of being hard-right radicals and the “Canadian George W. Bush” didn’t do the Liberals many favours either, as voters turned away from the ads largely seeing Lord as the moderate conservative he was. As Election Day approached, the gap between the two parties had narrowed significantly, and nobody was really quite sure how the election would turn out.


Ultimately, despite Martin’s mistakes as leader and despite the sponsorship scandal, the Liberals were still able to win re-election, albeit with a minority government of only five seats. While voters saw Lord himself as a moderate pragmatist, the fact that half of the Conservative Party were (seemingly) socially conservative, hard-right ideologues in the mould of Stockwell Day left many Canadians wary of voting for them, despite arguably supporting Lord more than Martin. As for the remaining parties, the Bloc Quebecois, largely due to the sponsorship scandal, won a record 55 seats, while the NDP were able to rebound from the McDonough years and win 25 seats, nearly doubling their overall count. For the Liberals, the silver lining of the results was their performance out west, where Martin’s greater popularity (when compared to Chretien) and Lord’s struggles with Western conservatives allowed the party to actually make gains when compared to 2000, picking up a fair amount of seats in both British Columbia and Saskatchewan. For Martin himself, one of the more disappointing results came in the riding of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek; although the Liberals retained the riding it was under the candidacy of Sheila Copps (who had narrowly managed to survive her nomination battle), proving that she would be remain a thorn in his governments side in the backbenches for the foreseeable future.


As for the Conservatives, the greatest part of the result (aside from nearly forming government) was their performances in Ontario (where the party was able to win 37 seats, a significant increase for a party that had had just 4 seats in the province before the election) and in Quebec, where the party was able to win 7 seats, including that of Lord’s Quebec lieutenant Andre Bachand, the former Progressive Conservative MP who had, after initial skepticism, stuck with the merged party after it became clear that, under Lord’s leadership, it would not become the second coming of the Canadian Alliance.

Wow. He was able to make a surprising part of Toronto blue. Nothing like the horrors of 2011, but not bad.

Also, Lord did well. Looks like there'll be an election in 2005.

Well, he didn't do that much better than Harper IOTL; he only gained Brant, Burlington, and Brampton West (where Tony Clement ran) in comparison.
*wipes away tears*

Beautiful. Marvellous. My riding is Conservative, my former Premier is Tory leader and on the verge of becoming the first former provincial leader to win a federal election.
Wow, even knowing this is a Lord TL, that's a much closer election than I expected. Martin's going to have even less of a legacy here.

Looks like a major divergence is no bozo eruptions from the CPC. Has Lord done a better job muzzling the caucus, or did he just get lucky?

Also: in the smallest of all nitpicks, Akimiski Island (the one in James Bay, off the coast of Northern Ontario)... is actually part of Nunavut, not Ontario. ;)
*cut to 2005 Liberal majority*

Or maybe not.

It's possible that a 2005 Conservative majority will exist. I guess it depends on how Martin governs. To me, he came across as a guy who tried his whole life to be PM, and then when that finally happened he didn't know what to do with his newfound power. If that's the case ITTL, without Harper's hard right views on many issues, I think the Conservatives winning a majority in 2005 is not just possible, but plausible.