A brief history of conservative publications in Canada (Part Two)
By Mark Wegierski
The Conrad Black media revolution of the mid- to late-1990s, it could be argued, reconstructed the hitherto unspectacular Southam papers (and the former Financial Post) into a snazzier, as well as more intellectually diverse, format – with some surprisingly sharp-edged conservatism that had virtually never before been seen in Canada. As Black's fortunes ebbed, the ideological sharpness of the papers markedly diminished, but the changes could not be entirely expunged. Black had also controversially taken over Saturday Night, which, however, at no time came to resemble a conservative magazine. Indeed, as far as the author knows, that venerable magazine has now completely folded.
The Byfield newsmagazines, practically a Canadian conservative institution for decades, failed shortly after the beginning of the Twenty-First Century. It is difficult to say what exactly happened; some have argued that the Byfields simply got tired of their draining undertaking. Those circulation numbers certainly appeared to have made the magazines sustainable. In the aftermath of the Byfield failure, Ezra Levant and others established The Western Standard (newsmagazine format). It certainly seemed to be able to fill the "niche" left by the collapse of the Byfield newsmagazines. The demand for "only news-stories" largely excluded freelancers from the magazine. The Western Standard also folded in curious circumstances; apparently, the investors were demanding a quick return on their investment. It should be known by now that that should be secondary consideration, for political publications.
Social conservatism in Canada is now represented mostly by The Interim: Canada's Life and Family Newspaper (and the website, lifesite.net) and Catholic Insight magazine (Toronto), as well two major magazines put out by the CARDUS think-tank, Convivium, and Comment. I recall seeing in the 1990s a thin magazine of the Canadian TFP (Tradition, Family, Property), and a broadsheet called Michael Journal, published by the remnants of the Quebec Créditistes.
There is today the major, French-language, Quebec-based social conservative journal, Égards.
The arising of the Internet after 1995 did certainly open up some new forums for Canadian conservatives. The main edited e-zine has for a long time been enterstageright.com (as well as Judi McLeod's Canada Free Press); the main self-posting forum is freedominion.ca ; and conservativeforum.org is an archive of interesting articles that is not updated. In recent years, Free Dominion has been subjected to vicious "lawfare", and its situation is highly tenuous.
In 2007, there arose the major webzine quarterly, c2cjournal.ca .
There are also the party-based Blogging Tories. The impact of lesser-known websites, and more prominent personal blogs (such as those of Kate McMillan, Kathy Shaidle, or Richard Klagsbrun) is sometimes ephemeral and difficult to estimate. It still remains to be seen whether political discourse on the Internet can become a basis for generating enough financial resources and infrastructural "weight" in society to create major social, cultural, and political shifts.
In recent years, there have arisen a few conservative print publications – The Dorchester Review (with mostly reviews of works of history) (published twice a year – in a classic "quarterly" digest format); The Canadian Observer (which, after a promising start, has failed) (newmagazine format); and Convivium (magazine format, glossy, full-colour cover, monochrome inside) published by the social conservative think-tank CARDUS. They also publish a quarterly called Comment, in a smaller "digest" format (full-colour cover, monochrome inside).
The author liked the first editorial of The Canadian Observer, which said it wanted to be a "Cité Libre of the Right". (Cité Libre was the intensely intellectual and intensely left-wing journal founded by Pierre Elliott Trudeau and his associates in the 1950s in Quebec, when the prospects for the Left in Canada seemed especially thin. It was said to be the seedling from which both the so-called Quiet Revolution in Quebec, and the subsequent "Trudeau revolution" in all of Canada, arose.)
There is also a local, agrarian-focussed magazine published in Eastern Ontario, The Landowner.
In July 2013, a daily webzine, Freedom Press Canada Journal, was launched with great fanfare, but it mostly stopped publication after November 30, 2013, and has now apparently been entirely removed from the Internet. New postings have begun to very sporadically appear on the website (freedompress.ca) since mid-2014.
In any case, Canadian conservatives are still looking for a "National Review North". The main concept behind an intellectually- and ideologically-focussing magazine or daily-updated webzine is that it would be a nucleus around which other political institutions such as think-tanks and other publications could grow.
It was clearly the early years of National Review which were the most important in creating the American conservative movement. It remains to be seen whether Canada can ever begin to follow along a similar path.
This journey through the history of attempts at creating a sustainable conservative publication in Canada as an intellectual anchor (the role that the early National Review played in America), raises two points: the fragmented conservative community in Canada might lack either the will or the necessary focus to unite together around an authoritative Canadian conservative publication; while the Left in Canada, on the other hand, has amply displayed the ability to maintain more than one iconic publication.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.