Canada – a country with an attenuated Right (Part Two)
By Mark Wegierski
Canadians appear to be characterized both today and in their earlier history by an unusual deference to governmental authority. Before 1965, Canada was probably a substantively more conservative society than the United States, but now, when the paradigm at the top has been fundamentally altered -- in the wake of the "Trudeau revolution" -- most Canadians are willing to follow the new, politically-correct line from Ottawa. There is virtually no heritage of independence, self-reliance, or belief in rambunctious free speech in Canada. Indeed, Canadian officials point proudly to their laws against "hate-speech" as highly necessary. They say they do not have "the American hang-ups" about restricting freedom of speech.
What may be concluded from the combination of points made above is that right-of-centre positions are rather rarely seen or heard in Canada (except perhaps in the Western Canadian province of Alberta). It could be argued that, given the left-liberal predominance in the Canadian media --especially in the government (i.e., taxpayer) -funded CBC, in the education system (from daycare to universities), in the judiciary and justice system, in the government bureaucracies, in so-called high culture (typified by government-subsidized "CanLit"), in North American pop-culture and "youth culture," in the big Canadian banks and corporations, and (on most issues) in the leaderships of the main churches in Canada, any existing right-of-centre tendencies are being continually ground down. There is also the panoply of special interest groups, who receive extensive government and some corporate funding. Furthermore, Justin Trudeau has offered funding to privately-owned Canadian media of $600 million (Canadian) over ten years, which will doubtless result in even more favourable coverage for him and the Liberal Party.
Left-liberals had tried to maintain the centre-right parties in Canada in as eviscerated a shape as possible, building up the federal Progressive Conservatives at the expense of the Reform Party/Canadian Alliance, and bleaching out substantively conservative thinking as far as possible from both parties. It could be argued that, by Canadian standards, many of the more liberal Republicans or more conservative Democrats in the U.S., would have probably been placed on the "hard right" of the Canadian Reform Party. Even as elections come and go, the long-term trend is mostly towards the ever-intensifying undermining of substantively conservative impulses in Canada.
In the last two-and-a-half decades (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 Conservative Party will make little headway in the teeth of a hostile social, cultural, and political climate, unless it endeavours to give encouragement to the creation of some kind of infrastructures where more intellectual explorations of right-wing ideas and philosophies can take place in Canada. What is especially needed in Canada for conservatives is a broadly right-of-centre magazine which could serve a mobilizing role similar to the early years of National Review in the United States, as well as an academic outreach body along the lines of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in the United States (which publishes scholarly quarterlies and books, as well as offering substantial scholarships). The ISI embodies a very reflective and serious conservatism which moves far beyond day-to-day policy issues and merely fiscal and economic conservatism (while not being explicitly tied to any one religion or denomination). Perhaps the think-tank Cardus could eventually evolve into serving a similar role in Canada.
Today in Canada, there are numerous, left-wing, extra-parliamentary infrastructures, whose funding (most of which comes from the federal government) outweighs that of putatively right-wing infrastructures such as the National Citizens' Coalition and the Fraser Institute (who rely strictly on private donations -- and are almost entirely focussed on economic and fiscal issues) by astronomical factors. The effectiveness of these left-wing infrastructures has contributed to the huge intellectual influence of the New Democratic Party (Canada's social democratic party) particularly on the Liberal Party. It may be remembered that Trudeau was a former NDP member, and some have indeed suggested that he "hijacked" a somewhat more traditionalist and centrist Liberal Party in a radical direction. The extent to which large numbers of persons in Canadian society (especially in the intellectual classes) are utterly captivated by and beholden to ideas of left-wing provenance cannot be underestimated. It is only the building up of infrastructures of a serious intellectual Right in Canada that could make a difference in this regard.
The current-day Canadian situation -- of near-total left-liberal intellectual hegemony, of very little authentic academic or journalistic debate, and of little hope that a substantively conservative party will ever unseat the Liberals at the federal level -- cannot be described as offering prospects for a truly humane future for Canada. There is certainly no intellectual balancing of Left and Right, and very little possibility of alternation at the federal level between left-leaning and substantively conservative parties, in Canada today. A Conservative electoral triumph – should it ever occur in such a difficult environment – is likely to be overwhelmed by ferocious infrastructural opposition – much in the same way that Mulroney’s huge majority in 1984 was sandbagged. The ongoing, decades-long, “prior constraint” against the “Centre-Right Opposition” coming to or ever exercising any meaningful degree of power in Canada – fundamentally contradicts Canada’s parliamentary and democratic ideals as well as historical traditions.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.