FGF E-Package
View From The North
February 25, 2010

Canadian Conservatives Swim Against Liberal Tide
by Mark Wegierski

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 level.

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 2006.

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.

View From The North archives

View From The North is copyright © 2009 by Mark Wegierski and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com. All rights reserved. Please forward this copyright info and links when sending to friends and colleagues.

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.

See author's bio and other articles.

To subscribe, renew, or contribute, please send a tax-deductible donation to the:
Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation
P.O. Box 1383
Vienna,VA 22183
or donate online.

© 2009 Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation