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A comparison of the conservative traditions in America and Canada (Part Three)

By Mark Wegierski
web posted December 5, 2011

Most of the developments in the Canadian polity, society, and culture occurring in the wake of Trudeau have consisted of a further extension and pushing forward of his social liberal agenda. In the last two decades, however (presumably in reaction to the collapse of Soviet Communism) left-liberalism has become far more willing to concede some major fiscal and economic issues to the "managerial Right" -- while continuing a ferocious struggle against small-c conservatism and social conservatism.

Left-liberals had tried to maintain the centre-right parties in Canada in the 1990s and early 2000s in as eviscerated a shape as possible, building up the federal Progressive Conservatives at the expense of the Canadian Alliance (which arose out of the Reform Party in 1998-2000) and trying to bleach out substantive conservative thinking as far as possible from all these parties. In the 2000 federal election, the splitting of the popular vote between the PCs and CA, as well as the continual deriding of Stockwell Day, the CA leader, as a "fundamentalist Christian extremist", resulted in another comfortable Liberal majority in the federal Parliament.

In December 2003, a reconstituted Conservative Party was formed from a merging of the federal Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance – and seemed to have unexpectedly acquired a certain conceptual energy under the leadership of Stephen Harper. In the June 2004 federal election, the Liberals were reduced to a minority government. From January 2006 to 2011, the Harper-led Conservatives  held onto a minority government in the federal Parliament, having won a plurality of seats in the federal elections of 2006 and 2008. In the May 2, 2011 federal election the Conservatives finally won a strong majority.

Given the left-liberal dominance in so many social and cultural areas, the election of a substantively conservative majority government at the federal level in Canada, might not mean that anything will really change. Nevertheless, it's clear that only a Conservative majority in Parliament could ever hope to really change things.

Another possible challenge to the mostly Ottawa-and-Toronto-centred left-liberalism could arise from the ideas of maximal regional devolution (decentralization or so-called "provincialization") becoming more salient in Canada.

It could be argued that, given the left-liberal predominance in the Canadian media, 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 the North American (Canada and U.S.) pop-culture and "youth-culture", in the big Canadian banks and corporations, and (for the most part), in the leaderships of the main churches, any existing "small-c conservative" tendencies are being continually ground down. There is also the panoply of left-oriented special interest groups, who receive extensive government and some corporate funding.

To be continued. ESR

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.





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