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Looking at the structural problems of Canadian conservatism at the dawn of 2023 (Part One)

By Mark Wegierski
web posted January 30, 2023

It must be said that Canadian conservatism has not made too many extensive and discernible advances in Canada, despite the winning of a majority government in the federal Parliament, by the Harper-led Conservative Party, in the federal election of May 2, 2011. The Conservatives ended up routed in the federal election of October 19, 2015. They had manifestly failed to create some kind of independent conservative infrastructures during the propitious time of their majority government. The Conservatives also failed to defeat the Trudeau Liberals in the federal election of October 21, 2019, as well as in the federal election of September 20, 2021. However, the recent winning of the Conservative Party leadership by the young, dynamic Pierre Poilievre, may offer some hope.

What is most sorely lacking are some kind of major infrastructures outside the framework of the federal Conservative and provincial Progressive Conservative parties. In provincial politics in Quebec, the centre-right is grouped around the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ); in Alberta, the Wildrose Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives have merged as the United Conservative Party; in Saskatchewan, there is the centrist Saskatchewan Party; while in British Columbia, there is one large centrist Liberal Party.

There also are or were a series of minor parties – the People’s Party of Canada/Parti populaire du Canada; the Manitoba Party; the People’s Alliance party in New Brunswick, the Christian Heritage Party Canada; the Family Coalition Party in Ontario; federal and provincial Libertarian Parties; the Freedom Party of Ontario; and the Cultural Action Party of Canada. In the 2022 provincial election in Ontario, at least two minor parties ran with great ambitions – the New Blue Party, and the Ontario Party, but they ended up playing a minimal role in the election, both of them failing to win a single seat. In the 2022 provincial election in Quebec, the Conservative Party of Quebec won 13 percent of the vote – but not a single seat.

As a result of burgeoning Western Canadian alienation, a federal Wexit Party had been formed in Alberta, and other Western provinces. It was renamed the Maverick Party around September 2020. Also, the Freedom Conservative Party and Wexit Alberta merged to form the Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta (WIPA). In Saskatchewan, Wexit Saskatchewan was renamed as the Buffalo Party. (“Buffalo” was the proposed name of a larger province that would have included Alberta and Saskatchewan, before it was decided that the two smaller provinces would be formed.)

There are also a number of well-known foci, for what could be broadly considered conservatism, outside of the major party structures. These would include the Fraser Institute, the National Citizens’ Coalition (NCC), and the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation (CTF). However, all three organizations are almost exclusively focussed on economics, and all have a relatively low profile, compared to the multifarious infrastructures of left-liberalism. Indeed, such groups as ideological feminists receive huge funding from various levels of government.

The right-leaning economist, Brian Lee Crowley, has established a think-tank called The Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

In 2010, the Ludwig von Mises Institute Canada was established.

In the Western provinces, there is the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (FCPP), and in the Atlantic provinces, there is the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS).

After the failure of The Western Standard some years ago, there arose in 2011 two new, broadly right-of-centre publications – The Dorchester Review (which is named after the British nobleman who gave Canada the Quebec Act of 1774), and The Canadian Observer (which in its first issue, announced its ambitions to be a Cité Libre [1] of the Right). However, it appears to have failed subsequent to the appearance of the Spring 2012 issue.

The remnants of the long-standing Report newsmagazines in Western Canada (which had reached a height of about 80,000 subscribers, mostly in Alberta) are now represented by the Citizens’ Centre for Freedom and Democracy (CCFD).

The main, broadly right-leaning “ginger group” in Canada is Civitas, which has endeavoured to raise its profile somewhat in the last few years. Its main activity is the annual conference. Civitas was somewhat of a successor to the short-lived Charlottetown Society of the early 1990s, which failed when its main founder untimely passed away.

There has also arisen in recent years the Manning Centre for Building Democracy (MCBD), which could be seen as existing both inside and outside the Conservative Party. The Manning Centre was renamed as the Canada Strong and Free Network in 2020, at the personal request of Preston Manning.

The Manning Centre has helped to launch a prestigious e-journal: .

There has also arisen in recent years the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF), as well as the Runnymede Society. After three highly successful annual conferences on legal and cultural issues, the CCF had decided to focus most of its efforts on litigation. The annual conferences, all of which took place in Toronto, were very warmly received, and it is unfortunate that there was such a long break (between 2009 and 2015), in their holding.

John Carpay, who had been one of the founders of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, has subsequently founded the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), which is especially devoted to freedom of speech issues, especially at Canadian university campuses. However, he was put on a leave of absence from the Presidency of the JCCF, after a scandal where he had hired a private investigator to monitor whether the Chief Justice of Manitoba was following COVID protocols. But after seven weeks, he was nevertheless brought back as President.

Joseph Ben-Ami, a well-known conservative activist, has established a small think-tank called the Canadian Centre for Policy Studies (now, I believe, reconfigured as The Arthur Meighen Institute for Public Affairs).

To be continued. ESR


[1] Cité Libre was the name of the intensely left-wing and intensely intellectual journal founded by Pierre Elliott Trudeau and his associates in 1950s Quebec – when the prospects for the Left in Quebec and Canada seemed very thin indeed. Cité Libre was arguably the launch-pad for the so-called Quiet Revolution in Quebec, and the somewhat later “Trudeau revolution” in all of Canada.

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.


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