Comparing the Canadian and the American Right – updated to 2020 (Part One)
By Mark Wegierski
Canada today, despite its great over-all wealth, is a society of contrasts. While the problem of Quebec separatism which was so central in Canadian history since the 1960s may appear to be fading a little, there are many new challenges arising. While Canada is still, to a large extent, a more pleasant place to live than the United States (especially when one compares life in the two countries’ large cities), there are many issues looming on the horizon which can prove severe challenges to a safe, civil, prosperous life – the permanence of which all too many Canadians today take for granted. There are a number of substantial differences between the Canadian and American societies today, which may indeed have a profound impact on the type of future the countries will have.
In the years 2006 to 2015, Canada had a federal Conservative government, while during most of that time, Obama was President of the United States. This was a fairly unusual situation where the U.S. may have had a more left-liberal government than Canada. The comparative fiscal discipline of the Harper Conservatives was breathtaking to contemplate, when viewed against the almost unbelievable fiscal profligacy of the Obama Administration.
Now, however, Liberal Justin Trudeau is Prime Minister of Canada (since 2015), whereas Donald Trump is President of the United States. There appear to be very few prospects of a Trump-like figure arising in Canada.
It should also be remembered that holding a majority in the federal Parliament (which conjoins executive and legislative authority) is putatively more effective than, for example, just the holding of the U.S. Presidency. However, there are other differences between Canada and the U.S. that point to the fact that the Conservative majority in 2011 to 2015, may not have been as powerful and effective in Canada as might putatively appear to be the case. There was the instance, for example, when the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) had carried out the longest filibuster in Canadian history, to try to block back-to-work legislation in regard to the labour dispute at Canada Post (the Canadian postal corporation).
The victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential election, has created an enormous amount of volatility and unpredictability in U.S. politics.
Nevertheless, it could be argued that one important difference between Canada and the U.S. is the absence of a more organized, coherent, political Right in Canada. While there are many similarities between the left-liberal media, academic, cultural, juridical, and governmental establishments in Canada and the U.S., Canada manifestly lacks a rambunctious right-wing. In the U.S., it could be argued that there has been a wide-ranging and extensive debate among various groupings of the broader (and far more dynamic) right-wing, including paleoconservatives, neoconservatives, right-wing Greens, libertarians, paleolibertarians, classical liberals, “social conservatives of the Left” (such as Christopher Lasch), and religious conservatives (sometimes called “theo-cons”).
Nevertheless, in more recent years, the debate appears to have slackened, becoming dominated by neoconservatives and shallow Republican Party operatives. Another trend to be noted is the atrophy of “paleo” elements in most forms of libertarianism. And today’s National Review – traditionally the flagship journal of all of American conservatism -- is a terribly weak shadow of the highly robust and intellectually trenchant, early National Review.
There are also at least two huge factors that have contributed to a more politically conservative U.S. – the first being that, as “the one remaining superpower,” the United States had cherished and effectively maintained its military; and secondly, the large presence of Christian religion in the U.S. (including both Protestant fundamentalists and tradition-minded Catholics).
It should also be remembered that (for now at least) taxation is low in the U.S., relative to Canada; that U.S. gun-control legislation is minimal, relative to Canada; and that the U.S. medical system has (until recently) been largely driven by free-enterprise, relative to Canada.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.