The term applied to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party during their unequaled forty-two year hold on government in the province.
The Big Blue Machine refers not just to the impressive electoral record of the party – winning a dozen consecutive provincial elections – but also to its largely effective management of government. The PCs mastered a pro-growth, non-confrontational style of governing that reached its apogee in the post war years and the go-go 1960s and 70s.
A hallmark of the Big Blue Machine was its ability to engineer smooth leadership transitions every decade, from George Drew to Leslie Frost to John Robarts to Bill Davis. Consequently, public appetites for change were sated within the incumbent party and government. Moreover, these transitions happened with little or no visible friction or internal rancor, giving the public an impression of smooth continuity.
The Big Blue Machine chugged along until the mid 1980s. Analysts have ascribed various reasons for its breakdown. Some say that the selection of Frank Miller to succeed Bill Davis marked a decided rightward shift for the party, ignoring the decidedly centrist appeal of the party through the years. Others blame a backlash to the Davis government’s decision to extend separate (Roman Catholic) school rights.
Most likely, the one-party hold on office, as is all but inevitable, had simply run its course.
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