Canadian Conservatism at the Dawn of 2007: Where is the infrastructure?
By Mark Wegierski
It must be said that Canadian conservatism did not make extensive advances in Canada during 2006, although Stephen Harper's Conservatives won a minority government in the federal election of January 23, 2006. What is most sorely lacking for it is some kind of infrastructure outside the framework of the "official conservative" federal and provincial parties.
One of the recently-established, most interesting institutions that can be seen as existing both inside and outside party structures is the Manning Centre for Building Democracy (MCBD),
There are at least three well-known foci, for what could be broadly considered conservatism, outside of the federal and provincial parties. That is, the Fraser Institute, the National Citizens' Coalition (NCC), and the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation (CTF). However, all three organizations are almost exclusively focussed on economics, and all have a relatively low profile, compared to the multifarious infrastructures of left-liberalism. Indeed such groups as ideological feminists receive huge funding from various levels of government.
The conservatism of such major newspapers as The National Post and The Calgary Herald, is conventionally vastly overestimated in Canada. The main conservative publication in Canada is indeed The Western Standard. There are undoubtedly some problems with The Western Standard – such as its sometimes rather shallow, newsmagazine format, its somewhat too regional nature, and the fact it does not accept freelance op-ed, book-review, or film-review pieces. It is hard to imagine that an isolated freelance writer, especially one living outside Western Canada, could ever have the necessary connections to be able to produce a so-called "hard news" story – so the requirement for only news-story proposals from freelance writers, may have the effect of simply being a blanket refusal – except in a few rare cases -- to publish freelance pieces. The Western Standard could also have a large online section of much longer and more in-depth "Conservative Philosophy Essays and Reviews" – which would certainly make it a far more reflective medium.
The main, broadly right-leaning "ginger group" in Canada is Civitas, which has endeavoured to raise its profile somewhat in the last year.
The public presence of social and cultural conservatism in Canada is indeed far lower than that of economic or fiscal conservatism. The main social conservative publications are The Interim: Canada's Life and Family Newspaper (and its website, lifesite.net) and Catholic Insight (Toronto).
The most prominent think-tank of what could be called broadly religious conservatives is the Centre for Cultural Renewal (formerly called the Centre for Renewal in Public Policy), which has also endeavoured to raise its profile in the last year. However, it is a think-tank which does not yet offer scholarships or grants. Perhaps the CCR could try to move in the direction of becoming an institution like the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) in the United States. The ISI, which is focused on academic endeavours, offers very extensive scholarships to students, as well as publishing scholarly journals and books.
Taking into account the disparity in resources as between "small-c conservatives" and left-liberals in Canada – which is clearly astronomical – the situation of conservatism in Canada may indeed be seen as virtually hopeless.
One supposes that one of the few possible reassurances for so-called "small-c conservatives" is that they, after all, have human nature and commonsense on their side. However, what traditionalists call "human nature" is considered merely a fiction by most left-liberals – who believe that human beings are almost entirely determined by their environment and can indeed be shaped in any direction left-liberalism chooses.
What most Canadian conservatives have failed to articulate is precisely what may be being lost in the transition from a more traditional society, to one characterized by the full-throated roar of late modernity.
There are indeed multifarious dimensions of this sense of loss.
For example, there is a loss of a more traditional sense of nationhood, of the feeling of living in a more homogenous, more rooted society. A more homogenous society is usually a society where people are friendlier and more courteous to each other, as they manifestly have something in common. A more homogenous society is also usually one with fewer economic disparities. The American state of Utah, one of the most homogenous in the Union, is also one with some of the lowest levels of economic disparity in America.
There is indeed in Canada a terrible cultural fracturing, under the pressures of the American pop-culture, of the extremes of multiculturalism and of excessive aboriginal claims. Ironically, the official champions of Canadian culture are among the greatest mavens of political-correctness.
And there is the multifarious crisis of family and morality. It has been pointed out by various commentators that no matter how many rights and benefits a given society offers, it may still be considered a failing society, if it fails in the most essential task of reproducing itself – both in the purely physical as well as cultural sense.
Related to the crisis of morality is the triumph of the "permissive" society – the death of respect for legitimate authority and the sometimes absurdly lax operation of the criminal justice system.
Another possible aspect of social decline is the near-disappearance of praise for real masculinity and the continual devalourizing of the military and the police. Canada is a society with probably one of the lowest percentages of men under arms ever seen in human history.
This is also combined with a ludicrous, utopian contempt for the effective operation of legitimate security and intelligence functions in Canadian society.
The exercise of foreign policy has long fallen under the paradigm of "soft power" – with development aid the preferred instrument of policy. Some Canadians imagine that they are seen as a uniquely virtuous nation in many parts of the Third World, on account of their "do-gooder" policies. It is more likely that they are simply seen as credulous "suckers".
All of the various syndromes which characterize the current-day Canada are frequently enough seen as signs of a "healthy" society by left-liberals. It is up to serious conservative thought to challenge some of the core presuppositions of the currently-regnant left-liberalism. It could be argued that it is only by contestation in the area of so-called first principles, that some kind of major intellectual and cultural shifts to societal presuppositions could be effected, which would indeed only later find an instantiation in concrete electoral victories and government policies.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.