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Canada's Minister of State for Finance Ted Menzies speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa October 22, 2012.CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters

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In the 2004 election campaign, Joe Clark singled out Ted Menzies as one of the few Conservative candidates the former Progressive Conservative leader was willing to support. But given Mr. Clark's loathing of the new Conservative Party and its leader, Stephen Harper, Mr. Menzies declined the offer, and won the riding of Macleod on his own.

Now the Minister of State for Finance has announced he will not be running in 2015 and wishes to be removed from cabinet, so that he can focus on helping flood victims in his riding. Mr. Menzies' decision is a loss for the Conservative Party. And it marks another milestone in the passing of the Tory tradition in Canadian politics.

Ted Menzies, Lee Richardson and Jim Prentice were all Alberta Progressive Conservatives who supported their party's merger with the Canadian Alliance and who ran under the new Conservative Party's banner. Mr. Prentice left politics in 2010; Mr. Richardson resigned his seat last year; when Mr. Menzies goes, there will be no more Alberta MPs who were former PCs.

Although not all Progressive Conservatives were Tories, most Tories were Progressive Conservatives. In Canada, Toryism traditionally meant support for the British monarchy; a mildly conservative approach to fiscal policy; a progressive approach to social policy, but based more on noblesse oblige than on a commitment to equality; a bias toward preserving community values over promoting individual liberties; a tendency to favour the cautious and incremental over the bold and experimental.

This definition is hardly exact. As David Smith, a leading Canadian authority on political parties, observed in an interview, Tory prime ministers created a national public broadcaster, brought women and minorities into cabinet and introduced Canada's first bill of rights.

In truth, apart from a general Tory incomprehension of Quebec, it was hard to distinguish Progressive Conservative governments from Liberal governments. Both were part of the postwar social and economic consensus that saw Republicans acting like Democrats and Conservatives embracing the policies of Labour.

In Canada in the 1990s, the Tory tradition as represented by the Progressive Conservative Party was eclipsed by a rising Western conservative populism embodied by the Reform and Canadian Alliance parties.

After the Alliance absorbed the enfeebled Progressive Conservatives, Mr. Menzies offered a good example of the Tory minority among the Reform/Alliance majority.

He lacks the extreme partisan zeal – or bile – that animates Conservative true believers. Though fiscally conservative – he is, after all, an Alberta farmer – he is a moderate on social issues. Personally, he is well liked and respected – within caucus, across the aisle and in the press gallery – for his balanced and good-humoured (on most days) approach to his job.

With his departure, the Tory remnants within the Conservative caucus are largely confined to a few Ontario and Maritime ridings. Peter MacKay is their most visible spokesman. The Defence Minister is currently fighting to preserve a rule in the party's constitution that ensures each riding casts an equal number of votes when choosing the next Conservative leader, a policy that amplifies what is left of the Tory voice within the party.

If and when Stephen Harper does step down, however, the contest to replace him will not pit Tories against Reformers. There are too few Tories left to mount such a challenge.

But though the Tory tradition is disappearing, the Tory legacy remains. The impetus toward consensus is still part of the nation's DNA. For Prof Smith, that impetus comes out of the Tory tradition, stretching back to John A. Macdonald. "It has been going on for a very long time," he observes.

Stephen Harper is no Tory, but he often governs like one. He avoids the extremes of cultural conservatism. While his rhetoric may sometimes be fierce, he favours a cautious, incremental approach to governing. He is Tory in deed if not in word.

Tough economic times are polarizing politics between economic conservatives and economic progressives, at the expense of middle-of-the-roaders. Western conservatives, in combination with suburban voters in central Canada, now occupy the right side of that divide.

But the Tory impulse toward caution, its concern for precedent over innovation, its urge toward consensus, is still a part of the Canadian polity.

In a couple of years, Ted Menzies will be gone from Ottawa. But the Tory tradition he embraced will not soon be forgotten.