George Grant’s vision of Canada increasingly attenuated (Part Four)
By Mark Wegierski
Finally, in December 2003, there occurred a merger between the CA and the federal P.C.s – who renamed themselves as “the Conservative Party of Canada” – significantly without the “progressive” adjective. The membership of both parties approved the merger by overwhelming majorities (over 90%, in both cases). Stephen Harper became the leader of the new Conservative Party in 2004.
In 2004, the Liberals won only a minority government under their new leader, Paul Martin, Jr., who had succeeded Jean Chretien.
By mid-2005, the Liberal minority government had reached the point of exhaustion, as the “Adscam” scandal – where tens of millions of taxpayers’ money had gone to the private coffers of a few highly-placed Liberals – undermined the government. Nevertheless, the Liberals were able to cling to power by arranging the defection of Belinda Stronach. However, by November 2005, the Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois, and NDP all voted against the Liberals in Parliament, thus bringing down the government, which required the calling of an election.
In the federal election of January 23, 2006, the Conservatives were able to win a minority government. Through deft maneuvering and centrist policies, Harper kept the minority government in power continuously, with the other three parties (the Liberals, the socialist New Democratic Party, and the separatist Bloc Quebecois) never combining their majority of Parliamentary seats, to vote it down.
In 2008, Harper called an election himself, and the Conservatives won a strengthened minority in the federal Parliament.
Finally, in 2011, the Conservative government was voted down in Parliament (meaning that it had “lost the confidence of the House”) thus necessitating the calling of an election. But Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were then able to win a majority in the federal Parliament, in that hard-fought election.
This was supposed to be the culmination of more than twenty years of “small-c conservative” efforts. However, the years of the Conservative majority government since then, proved rather disappointing to “small-c conservatives”.
In the October 2015 election, Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party won a strong majority. This was a signal for the dismantling of whatever fragmentary conservative measures Stephen Harper had been able to undertake. In the October 2019 election, the Justin Trudeau Liberals held on to a strong minority government – and they will probably be able to govern with the support of the New Democratic Party (NDP) – which is even further left.
The lack of success for “small-c conservatives” since the late 1960s suggests that a new, “Trudeau consensus” or “left-liberal consensus” has enveloped Canada – which it is very difficult to counteract. Some critics have used the term “Trudeaupia” as shorthand for the various structures that Pierre Trudeau created. So, it could be argued that the patterns of current-day Canadian society, politics, and culture, have indeed been set down five or so decades ago.
The seeming futility of various “small-c conservative” efforts since the 1960s, seems to point to the prescience of Grant’s thesis that any more substantive and traditional Canadian nationalism, had been defeated and beaten down, already in 1963.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.