TORONTO, CANADA — In some countries, the perennial dominance
of one party or political orientation has led to fundamental distortions
of social outlooks and the political milieu. In the last few years,
it has become clear that Canada — with the Liberals as “the
natural governing party” (a term frequently used in self-congratulatory
fashion by Liberals themselves) — is such a country.
In the January 2006 federal election, the Conservative Party was
finally able to win a minority government, that is, a plurality of
seats in the federal Parliament, with Stephen Harper as the new Prime
Minister. In the October 2008 election (called at the request of the
Prime Minister), the Conservatives won an increased number of seats
but still remained a minority. In the next election, the critical issue
is whether the Conservatives will be able to win a majority or if the
Liberals will come roaring back to success under their new leader,
Michael Ignatieff. A decisive Conservative win would probably be the
first time since the early 1960s that Canada would have the chance
to have a substantively conservative majority government at the federal
The Canadian polity created in 1867 (called “the Dominion of
Canada”) is only the latest development in a long history of
the French and the British in North America. Canada was created by
the British North America (BNA) Act, an act of the Parliament in London,
and many Canadians have defined themselves as “British North
Americans.” British identity in Canada was more political than
ethnic, extending to anyone who accepted the British system of constitutional
monarchy and Parliamentary government — as opposed to American republicanism.
British North America largely arose as a result of the massive influx
of Loyalist refugees from the American Revolution, especially to Ontario
and the Maritimes. The War of 1812 — where the various U.S. invasions
of Canada were beaten back in the face of apparently overwhelming odds
— was a defining moment for traditional British Canadian identity.
In the last few decades, Canada — once called “the peaceable
kingdom” — has become an increasingly fragmented country with
a very tenuous identity. Today’s shallow attempts to define Canadian
identity, as in a beer commercial of some years ago (where a young “Joe
Canuck” ever more loudly shouts anti-American slogans), seek
to eviscerate Canada’s real roots. (Indeed, that actor has now
gone to Los Angeles to advance his career.) Several books discuss the
more profound attempts to define Canada and the current predicaments
into which it appears to have fallen. Among the more important are
George Grant’s Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism
(1965); Peter Brimelow’s The Patriot Game: National Dreams and
Political Realities (1986, reprinted in 1988 with the subtitle, Canada
and the Canadian Question Revisited); William D. Gairdner’s The
Trouble with Canada: A Citizen Speaks Out (1990); and Ken McDonald’s
His Pride, Our Fall: Recovering from the Trudeau Revolution (1995).
The first book criticizes corporate liberalism and the amalgamation
of Canada into the “American technological empire.” The
other three criticize left-liberalism, especially the “new” Canadian
state that arose in the wake of the Trudeau revolution, which some
have termed as the “Trudeaupia.” Pierre Elliott Trudeau
was Canada’s long-serving, emphatically Liberal Prime Minister
from 1968 to 1984 (except for nine months in 1979-1980); his crowning
achievement was the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 — a document
of politically correct, left-liberalism rather than classical liberalism.
Driven by judicial activism since the introduction of the Charter of
Rights and Freedoms, the “new” Canada is one of triumphant
multiculturalism, high immigration, radical feminism, and gay rights.
All these books point to the deeper reasons why the Liberals have
continued to win elections in Canada. It is unclear whether the current
Conservative minority government’s management of the economy,
considered by many to be better than what the Liberals could do, might
actually deliver a majority to the Conservatives in the next election.
In a minority government situation, an election can occur anytime the
combined opposition parties defeat the government on a more important
bill, such as the budget. However, through skillful political maneuvering,
the Harper-led Conservatives have managed to survive the key votes
in Parliament for over four years, with one or more of the three opposition
parties voting with them or abstaining from voting, thereby allowing
the Conservatives to continuously govern the country since January
Harper and the Conservative Party appear to be slowly inching toward
a situation where they might actually win a majority, despite having
to endure a social and cultural setting that is largely hostile. Whether
the aftermath of a new Conservative majority in the federal Parliament
might ultimately prove as disappointing to “small-c” conservatives
as did Brian Mulroney’s massive Progressive Conservative electoral
wins in 1984 and 1988 remains to be seen.
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View From The North is copyright © 2009
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Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based writer, social critic, and historical
researcher and is published in major Canadian newspapers, as well as
in U.S. scholarly journals such as Humanitas,
Review of Metaphysics, and Telos, and in U.S. magazines such as Chronicles
and The World & I. His writing has also appeared in Polish, British, and German publications.
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