Canada today, the
Conservative Party truly faces an uphill battle against the Liberal Party and
the extraparliamentary Left.
Canada seems to combine the most liberal aspects of America and
Europe. Like some European countries, it embraces social liberalism
as demonstrated by the federal Parliaments acceptance of
same-sex marriage in 2005 under the direction of the
Canadian judiciary (based especially on the court decisions in Ontario and
British Columbia in 2003).
What conservative critics call judicial activism is in
Canada a comparatively late but now flourishing development that began in
1982 with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter essentially
enshrined virtually the entire agenda of Pierre Elliott Trudeau the
emphatically Liberal prime minister from 1968 to 1984 (except for nine
months in 19791980) as the highest law of the land. After
Brian Mulroneys huge Progressive Conservative majorities of 1984
and 1988, with abysmal records with respect to social and cultural
conservatism, Liberal Jean Chrétien comfortably won the elections of
1993, 1997, and 2000. Chrétiens successor, Paul Martin Jr.,
lost the Liberal majority in the June 2004 election but continued with a
minority government until January 2006.
Unlike some European countries, Canada lacks a hard
right that can attract up to 20 percent of the vote, has no
organic peasantry, and has few right-wing intellectual
traditions. Canada, which has very high rates of immigration, has strongly
embraced multiculturalism, affirmative action (officially called
employment equity in Canada), and programmatic
Canada has also acquired some of the more negative aspects of
American society such as the excesses of pop culture, the trend to
political correctness, and growing litigiousness. However, it lacks many
aspects of American society that may temper these trends. The
government accounts for about half of the gross domestic product (in
contrast to about a third in the United States). Taxes are high. The medical
system is socialized. The gun-control laws are stringent. Fundamentalist
Christianity plays virtually no role. Canada has a rather small and
underfunded military, and there is major elitist disdain towards the military.
Canadas security provisions, refugee policy, and control of its
borders are lackadaisical.
The Trudeau Legacy
Canadians have historically displayed an unusual deference to
governmental authority. Before 1965, Canada was probably a more
conservative society than America. Now, however, the paradigm at the top
has been fundamentally altered in the wake of the Trudeau revolution, and
most Canadians have followed.
right-of-center outlooks are rarely present in the political
conversation in Canada (except perhaps in the western Canadian province of
Alberta). It could be argued that any existing right-of-center tendencies are
being continually ground down.
Evidence of this abounds in the left-liberal predominance in the
Canadian media (especially in the taxpayer-funded CBC), the educational
system (from daycare to universities), the judiciary system, the government
bureaucracies, the so-called high culture (typified by government-subsidized
CanLit), the North American pop culture and youth culture, the big Canadian
banks and corporations, and (on most issues) the leadership of the main
churches in Canada.
Numerous left-wing, extraparliamentary infrastructures enjoy
funding (largely from government) that dwarfs that of putatively right-wing
infrastructures, such as the mostly economically focused National
Citizens Coalition and Fraser Institute (which relies strictly on private
donations). The effectiveness of these left-wing infrastructures has
contributed to the disproportionate intellectual influence of the socialist New
Democratic Party (NDP) the NDP has usually held only about 25
seats in a federal Parliament of about 300 seats. Trudeau was a former NDP
member, and some have indeed suggested that he hijacked a
more traditionalist and centrist Liberal Party in a radical direction.
In the last 15 years (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 near-total left-liberal intellectual hegemony and comparatively
little authentic academic or journalistic debate do not offer rosy prospects
for a truly humane future for Canada. There is certainly no intellectual
balancing of Left and Right in Canada today. This concretely means that a
Conservative electoral triumph should it even occur in such a
difficult environment is likely to be overwhelmed by ferocious
infrastructural opposition in much the same way that
Mulroneys huge majority in 1984 was sandbagged.
Conservatives holding on to their minority government (the largest number of
seats but without a majority in the federal Parliament), won in the January
2006 election are hoping to finally win a majority when the next
election ensues. (Because of the minority-government situation, an election
can happen any time a more important bill is voted down in the federal
Parliament when the three opposition parties including the separatist
Bloc Québécois combine against it.)
The ongoing, decades-long, prior constraint against
the exercise of any meaningful degree of power in Canada by the
centre-right opposition fundamentally contradicts
Canadas parliamentary and democratic ideals. (The centre-right
opposition has included the Reform Party of Canada, founded in 1987, which
eventually transformed into the Canadian Alliance, then merged with the
ultra-moderate federal Progressive Conservatives in
December 2003 renamed together as the Conservative Party.) It
remains to be seen whether the anticipated federal election will somehow
give some scope for a more substantive conservatism in Canada.