The decisive vote in favour of the new Canadian Alliance has driven most opponents of the new party into submission.
Across the country, and particularly in the West, Reform Party members who had worked against the movement to unite with disaffected Progressive Conservatives were licking their wounds yesterday in the wake of a 91.9-per-cent vote of support for the new party.
Some opponents said they would abandon political activism rather than join the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance while others embraced the new party.
"Who am I to argue with 91 per cent?" said Myron Thompson, a two-term Reform MP from Alberta who had opposed the Alliance.
"Count me in, folks. I'm aboard."
Mr. Thompson said he was overwhelmed by the support for the unite-the-right initiative and planned to appeal to those who had opposed it to recognize that they lost and to make the vote unanimous.
There were indications yesterday, however, that such an appeal will not find universal favour.
Christine Whitaker, a Reform activist in the Saskatchewan constituency of Regina-Qu'Appelle, vowed she would have nothing to do with the Alliance.
"We're back to where we were 10 years ago or more where every political party is run out of central Canada," Ms. Whitaker said in a telephone interview. "If Reformers want the same-old same-old, so be it but I won't work for the Alliance."
She said she would not rule out voting for the new party in a future election but pledged she would not support the Alliance if Preston Manning is its leader.
She said she knows of others in her riding who let their Reform memberships lapse in recent months.
"They've just shrugged and said 'I'm finished,' " Ms. Whitaker said.
Bruce Stubbs, president of the anti-Alliance group GUARD: Grassroots United Against Reform's Demise, said he would not support the new party.
But he added that it is too soon to say what will happen to his organization.
"My recommendation is to go home and bleed a bit," he said in a telephone interview from his ranch west of Edmonton. "This is no time for hasty decisions."
Jim Unger of Edmonton, a Reform member since 1990, said most of the people he knows who were opposed to the united-alternative initiative will recognize the will of the majority.
"GUARD has finished and most of those in it will come aboard," he predicted.
Darrel Stinson, a Reform MP from British Columbia, said after the vote that he had abandoned his opposition to Alliance.
"This is what democracy is all about, this is what the grassroots is all about," he said. "The membership has spoken and we'll go forward as the Alliance."
But Mr. Stubbs questioned the results of the referendum, saying it was not a fair fight because his side was frozen out by the party establishment that was pushing the united-alternative idea.
"This is what happens in a democracy when you only have one side of the debate presented," he said, arguing GUARD didn't have the resources to gets its story out.
He said there is "lots of talk" about forming a new Western-based party to replace Reform but that he would not know until GUARD meets on Thursday how active the organization will be.
Mr. Manning said he could not explain why nearly 25,000 Reform members did not cast a ballot in the referendum.
"I don't know whether they took it for granted what the result was going to be. You'd have to ask them," he said.
A PARTY EMERGES
The result: 91.9 per cent of Reform Party members said Yes to the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance in a mail-in referendum. How many voted: About 66.5 per cent of ballots mailed out were returned -- 48,838 of 73,437. The Alliance gained a majority in every province and one combined northern region with a low of 80.8 per cent in the territories and a high of 96.2 per cent in New Brunswick. Reform's name: The name will continue to be registered with Elections Canada and will be owned by the Alliance federally and in all provinces and territories except British Columbia. Reform's future: The party will cease to exist today after 13 years. Its assets will move automatically to the Alliance. In the House of Commons: The 57 Reform MPs last week voted to sit under the Alliance name. The Alliance will become the Official Opposition when a letter is delivered today to House Speaker Gilbert Parent informing him of the weekend referendum result. Saskatchewan MP Lee Morrison will sit with the Alliance while he polls his constituents. If they object to the Alliance, he will sit as an Independent. Selecting a leader: Every member of the Alliance will be eligible to cast a ballot to select a new leader. Current Reform Party members are automatically members of the Alliance. Sales of new memberships will be cut off after June 17. On June 24, there will be a convention in Calgary and party members across Canada will also be able to vote at polling stations. The winner will need the support of 50 per cent of the votes cast plus one.
THE FRONT RUNNERS
PRESTON MANNING, 57 Founded Reform Party in 1987. Served as Leader of the Opposition from 1997 until last week. Strengths: Knows everyone in the former Reform Party and has proved a master at internal political strategy. Has a loyal following in the West. Weaknesses: Had difficulty pushing Reform to a breakthrough in Ontario in the 1997 election. Is not bilingual. STOCKWELL DAY, 49 A former pastor and auctioneer who as Alberta's Treasurer since 1997 has pushed for lower taxes. Strengths: Has government experience that Mr. Manning lacks and is seen as youthful and energetic. Is telegenic and can function in French. Weaknesses: His controversial stances on issues such as abortion, gun control and homosexuality may not play well in Ontario. KEITH MARTIN, 39 A medical doctor and Reform MP from British Columbia since 1993. Says he will be a candidate if he can raise $100,000. Strengths:Bilingual, young and moderate on social policy issues. Helps give the party a badly needed modern touch. Weakensses: Largely unknown outside the party. Advocates a form of two-tier health care that may not attract votes of moderate party members. FRANK KLEES, 49 Junior minister in Ontario Cabinet since 1999. Strengths:Brings the authority and resources of the Harris Conservatives. Reputed to have $3-million warchest. May be a kingmaker. Is said to be a member of the Ontario Tory family values caucus but says he would not impose his values on others. Weaknesses: Largely unknown even in Ontario. Not bilingual. JOE PESCHISOLIDO, 36 Lawyer and businessman from Toronto. Ran for Reform Party in 1993 and 1996 by-election in Toronto. Once served for the Young Liberals of Canada and acted as a youth co-ordinator for Jean Chrétien during the 1990 leadership race. Strengths: Speaks French and Italian. Says he has $150,000 to spend in campaign. Weaknesses: Not widely known. No seat in Parliament or legislature.