Shades of fading blue: Canadian conservatives' quest for a "National Review North" publication has mostly failed
By Mark Wegierski
Much of the apparent fragility of conservatism in Canada arises from the lack of an intellectual infrastructure outside of various party structures -- and especially of a major, highly influential publication like the early National Review in the United States.
One of the best-known quotations by Conrad Black concerns his promise (or threat) to try to establish a publication in Canada which would be a "National Review North." Although Lord Black certainly created a revolution in the Canadian newspaper world, whose effects continue to be felt today, it is truly doubtful if he ever created a publication that could play as profound a role in Canadian politics as the early National Review played in the creation of an American conservative movement.
In the 1980s, with a huge Progressive Conservative majority, there was some quickening of conservative intellectual life in Canada. The businessman William A. B. Campbell tried to launch a publication called International Conservative Insight. There was an attempt to launch a right-leaning newsmagazine in Ottawa called Seven Days. Dr. Branka Lapajne was bringing out a monthly newspaper called The Phoenix. There was a brief attempt to launch a right-leaning student newspaper at the University of Toronto. Launched with great fanfare, Peter Worthington's Influence magazine collapsed after about two years. The newsletters of the University of Toronto P.C.s, Rabble & Reaction, and of the young Ontario P.C.s, Blue Wave, were sometimes interesting.
Finally, there arose The Idler, a precocious journal of literary-artistic-cultural pretensions, with some sotto voce conservative philosophizing.
The major conservative publications at that time were the Alberta Report/B.C. Report/Western Report of the Byfield family.
In the early 1990s, The Idler finally folded when foundation funding was withdrawn. William D. Gairdner, the author of the bestselling, The Trouble with Canada, tried to launch a publication called Speaking Out, but it failed with the first issue. In Toronto, Judi McLeod, who had been a prominent Toronto Sun columnist, launched Our Toronto Free Press, a free-distribution monthly newspaper. Toronto's free-distribution monthly newspaper TransForum was open to contributions from across the spectrum. There was also a free-distribution newspaper called Toronto Westend Express. Young writer Michael Taube tried to launch a 'zine called From The Right, which lasted only three issues. The Canadian branch of the Catholic group, Tradition, Family, and Property (TFP), published a low-circulation magazine in the early 1990s. A major magazine open to contributions from across the spectrum was The Next City, which was supported by the Donner Foundation. Gravitas, also funded by Donner, was a brief, brave attempt at a conservative intellectual magazine of considerably greater social and political engagement than The Idler.
The Byfield newsmagazines, practically a Canadian conservative institution, failed shortly after the beginning of the Twenty-First Century, but have now been largely replaced in their "niche" by The Western Standard.
Social conservatism in Canada is now represented mostly by The Interim: Canada's Life and Family Newspaper (and its website, lifesite.net ) and Catholic Insight (Toronto).
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.