Tory is the most common colloquial term for members and supporters of the Conservative Party. The party as a whole is thus referred to as 'the Tories'.
Historically, the term Tory has been applied in various ways to supporters of the British monarchy. The word comes from the Middle Irish word tóraidhe, modern Irish tóraí — outlaw, robber, from the Irish word tóir, meaning 'pursuit', since outlaws were "pursued men".
See also: Upper Canada Tories and Conservative Party of Canada (historical)
The term was used to designate the pre-Confederation British ruling classes of Upper Canada and Lower Canada, known as the Family Compact and the Château Clique, an elite within the governing classes, and often members within a section of society known as the United Empire Loyalists.
In post-Confederation Canada the terms "Red Tory" and "Blue Tory" have long been used to describe the two wings of the Conservative and previously the Progressive Conservative (PC) parties. The diadic tensions originally arose out of the 1854 political union of British-Canadian Tories, French-Canadian traditionalists, and the monarchist and loyalist leaning sections of the emerging commercial classes at the time - many of whom were uncomfortable with the pro-American and annexationist tendencies within the liberal Grits. Tory strength and prominence in the political culture was a feature of life in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, and Manitoba.
By the 1930s, the factions within Canadian Toryism were associated with either the urban business elites, or with rural traditionalists from the country's hinterland. Over time, however, the term Blue Tory has come to embody the more ideologically neoliberal (in the manner of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan) elements in the party, while a Red Tory is a member of the more moderate wing of the party (in the manner of John Farthing and George Grant). They are generally unified by their adherence to the monarchy in Canada.
Throughout the course of Canadian history, the Conservative Party was generally controlled by MacDonaldian Tory elements, which in Canada meant an adherence to the English-Canadian traditions of Monarchy, Empire-Commonwealth, parliamentary government, nationalism, protectionism, social reform, and eventually, acceptance of the necessity of the welfare state. By the 1970s the Progressive Conservative Party was a Keynesian-consensus party.
With the onset of stagflation in the 1970s, some Canadian Tories came under the influence of neo-liberal developments in Great Britain and the United States, which highlighted the need for privatization and supply-side interventions. In Canada, these tories have been labeled neoconservatives - which has a somewhat different connotation in the US. By the early 1980s there was no clear neoconservative in the Tory leadership cadre, but Brian Mulroney, who became leader in 1983, eventually came to adopt many policies from the Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan governments.
As Mulroney took the Progressive Conservative Party further in this direction, with policy innovations in the areas of deregulation, privatization, free-trade, and a consumption tax called the Goods and Services Tax (GST), many traditionally-minded Tories became concerned that a political and cultural schism was occurring within the party.
The 1986 creation of the Reform Party of Canada attracted some of the neo-liberals and social conservatives away from the Tory party, and as some of the neoconservative policies of the Mulroney government proved unpopular, some of the provincial-rights elements moved towards Reform as well. In 1993, Mulroney resigned, rather than fight an election based on his record after almost nine years in power. This left the PCs in disarray and scrambling to understand how to make toryism relevant in provinces such as Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia that had never had a strong tory tradition and political culture.
Thereafter in the 1990s, the PCs were a small party in the Canadian House of Commons, and could only exert legislative pressure on the government through their power in the Senate of Canada. Eventually, through death and retirements, this power waned. Joe Clark returned as leader, but the schism with the Reformers effectively watered down the combined Blue and Red Tory vote in Canada.
By the late 1990s, there was some talk of the necessity of uniting the right in Canada, if there was any hope of deterring further Liberal majorities. Many tories - both red and blue - were opposed to any such notion, while others took the view that all would have to be pragmatic if there was any hope of reviving a strong party system. The Canadian Alliance party (as the Reform Party had become), and some leading tories came together on an informal basis to see if they could find common ground. While the Tory Leader Joe Clark rebuffed the notion, the talks moved ahead and eventually in December 2003, the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative parties voted to disband and integrate into a new party called the Conservative Party of Canada.
After the merger of the PCs with the Canadian Alliance in 2003, there was some debate as to whether the "Tory" appellation should survive at the federal level. Although it was widely believed that some Alliance members would take offence to the term, it was officially accepted by the newly-merged party during the 2004 leadership convention. Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, and the Prime Minister as a result of the January 23, 2006 election, regularly refers to himself as a Tory and has suggested that the new party is a natural evolution of the conservative political movement in Canada. However, many former Progressive Conservatives who opposed the merger take offence to the new party using the term, as do some members of the former Reform/Alliance wing who do not wish to be associated with the "Tory" governments of Canada's past, or the values of traditional Tory thought.
Mobbing the Tories - print from a 1921 history of the United States
Before the Revolutionary War, the founders of Anglican and Catholic colonies were generally well disposed towards the Stuart dynasty. Their affections were alienated by a new, foreign dynasty which seemed to little know or care for the Tudor-Stuart legacy in the New World. Those who founded the Puritan colonies of New England were Cromwellians and Orangists.
It is interesting to note the chief allies of the American Patriots were Whigs such as Charles James Fox and Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond, each with direct ties to the House of Stuart and probably resentful of the Hanoverian succession--with its dire consequences in the old colonial empire in North America.
The term Tory or Loyalist was used in the American Revolution to describe those who remained loyal to the British Crown. Since early in the eighteenth century, Tory had described those upholding the right of the Kings over parliament. During the revolution, particularly after the Declaration of Independence in 1776 this use was extended to cover anyone who remained loyal to the British Crown. At the beginning of the war, it was estimated that as much as 40% of the American population were Tories. Those Loyalists who settled in Canada, Nova Scotia, or the Bahamas after the American Revolution are known as United Empire Loyalists.
Tory was frequently used as a revolutionary's pejorative, e.g., a "Tory militia" was a militia unit which took the British side during the War.
The British term Whig, referring to the anti-Tory political movement in England, had a much longer life in the American political discourse, especially through the Whig Party.