In Canada today, the Conservative Party truly faces an uphill battle
against the Liberal Party and the extraparliamentary Left.
Canada seems to combine the most liberal aspects of America and Europe.
Like some European countries, it embraces social liberalism — as
demonstrated by the federal Parliament’s acceptance of “same-sex
marriage” in 2005 — under the direction of the Canadian
judiciary (based especially on the court decisions in Ontario and British
Columbia in 2003).
What conservative critics call “judicial activism” is
in Canada a comparatively late but now flourishing development that
began in 1982 with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter
essentially enshrined virtually the entire agenda of Pierre Elliott
Trudeau — the emphatically Liberal prime minister from 1968 to
1984 (except for nine months in 1979–1980) — as the highest
law of the land. After Brian Mulroney’s huge Progressive Conservative
majorities of 1984 and 1988, with abysmal records with respect to social
and cultural conservatism, Liberal Jean Chrétien comfortably
won the elections of 1993, 1997, and 2000. Chrétien’s
successor, Paul Martin Jr., lost the Liberal majority in the June 2004
election but continued with a minority government until January 2006.
Unlike some European countries, Canada lacks a “hard right” that
can attract up to 20 percent of the vote, has no “organic peasantry,” and
has few right-wing intellectual traditions. Canada, which has very
high rates of immigration, has strongly embraced multiculturalism,
affirmative action (officially called “employment equity” in
Canada), and programmatic “diversity.”
Canada has also acquired some of the more negative aspects of American
society — such as the excesses of pop culture, the trend to political
correctness, and growing litigiousness. However, it lacks many aspects
of American society that may temper these trends. The government accounts
for about half of the gross domestic product (in contrast to about
a third in the United States). Taxes are high. The medical system is
socialized. The gun-control laws are stringent. Fundamentalist Christianity
plays virtually no role. Canada has a rather small and underfunded
military, and there is major elitist disdain towards the military.
Canada’s security provisions, refugee policy, and control of
its borders are lackadaisical.
The Trudeau Legacy
Canadians have historically displayed an unusual deference
to governmental authority. Before 1965, Canada was probably a more conservative
society than America. Now, however, the paradigm at the top has been
fundamentally altered in the wake of the Trudeau revolution, and most
Canadians have followed.
Indeed, right-of-center outlooks are rarely present in the political
conversation in Canada (except perhaps in the western Canadian province
of Alberta). It could be argued that any existing right-of-center tendencies
are being continually ground down.
Evidence of this abounds in the left-liberal predominance in the Canadian
media (especially in the taxpayer-funded CBC), the educational system
(from daycare to universities), the judiciary system, the government
bureaucracies, the so-called high culture (typified by government-subsidized
CanLit), the North American pop culture and youth culture, the big
Canadian banks and corporations, and (on most issues) the leadership
of the main churches in Canada.
Numerous left-wing, extraparliamentary infrastructures enjoy funding
(largely from government) that dwarfs that of putatively right-wing
infrastructures, such as the mostly economically focused National Citizens’ Coalition
and Fraser Institute (which relies strictly on private donations).
The effectiveness of these left-wing infrastructures has contributed
to the disproportionate intellectual influence of the socialist New
Democratic Party (NDP) — the NDP has usually held only about
25 seats in a federal Parliament of about 300 seats. Trudeau was a
former NDP member, and some have indeed suggested that he “hijacked” a
more traditionalist and centrist Liberal Party in a radical direction.
In the last 15 years (presumably in reaction to the collapse of Soviet
Communism) left-liberalism has also clearly become far more willing
to concede some major fiscal and economic issues to the “managerial
Right” — while continuing a ferocious struggle against
any more-substantive conservatism. It appears that, in the main, only “fiscal
conservatism” is permissible in Canada.
The near-total left-liberal intellectual hegemony
and comparatively little authentic academic or journalistic debate do
not offer rosy prospects for a truly humane future for Canada. There
is certainly no intellectual balancing of Left and Right in Canada today.
This concretely means that a Conservative electoral triumph — should it even
occur in such a difficult environment — is likely to be overwhelmed
by ferocious infrastructural opposition — in much the same way
that Mulroney’s huge majority in 1984 was sandbagged.
The Conservatives — holding on to their minority government
(the largest number of seats but without a majority in the federal
Parliament), won in the January 2006 election — are hoping to
finally win a majority when the next election ensues. (Because of the
minority-government situation, an election can happen any time a more
important bill is voted down in the federal Parliament when the three
opposition parties — including the separatist Bloc Québécois — combine
The ongoing, decades-long, “prior constraint” against
the exercise of any meaningful degree of power in Canada by the “centre-right
opposition” fundamentally contradicts Canada’s parliamentary
and democratic ideals. (The centre-right opposition has included the
Reform Party of Canada, founded in 1987, which eventually transformed
into the Canadian Alliance, then merged with the “ultra-moderate” federal
Progressive Conservatives in December 2003 — renamed together
as the Conservative Party.) It remains to be seen whether the anticipated
federal election will somehow give some scope for a more substantive
conservatism in Canada.
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