Getting the Canadian Right
by Mark Wegierski
There are currently three main groups in Canada that do not understand the Canadian Right — the media, the other parties, and conservatives themselves. In the last few decades, Canadian conservatism has been hurt by its too-ready association with the U.S. Republican Party, and a lack of knowledge of its own roots and history. Actually, the bivalent term “Red Tory” can represent some of the best tendencies of Canadian conservatism (such as those articulated by Canadian traditionalist philosopher George Parkin Grant), as well as a less-salubrious, opportunistic embrace of left-liberalism. The so-called “right-wing” of the Conservative Party has been marked by an infatuation with “free market philosophy” and the reduction of all policy to tax-cuts and budget-cuts. Yet free-market fundamentalism has not traditionally been a hall-mark of conservatism in Canada.
At the same time, social conservatives who care about social and cultural issues have become bogged down in the now-fruitless debate over abortion rights and same-sex marriage. Like it or not, the latter have become an indelible part of the Canadian political landscape. Nevertheless, it is still possible to promote pro-family policies (especially through the tax-system) that can win broad acceptance in Canadian society today. For example, the tax-penalty on households with one main breadwinner in the marriage should be ended.
The obvious fiscal irresponsibility of the current Administration may lead to a virtual economic collapse in a matter of years. The Conservative Party of Canada should be leading a crusade against the fiscal profligacy of the current Administration.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, real conservatism and Green philosophy have something in common – the stewardship of the land for future generations. A clear way forward for conservatism, and the CPC, would entail significant efforts towards promoting a “Green Conservatism”. This would mean the acceptance of a carbon tax, a “fiscal conservative” idea in the first place, the most free-market oriented tool in an ecological policy. Conservation issues and the defence of the environment cannot be left to opponents of conservatism.
There is a strong core of conservative belief that criticizes the excesses of multiculturalism, and the very high levels of immigration being promulgated by the current Administration. The need for the promotion of Canadian values among immigrants requires serious consideration. There is also an ecological argument that can be made for significantly reducing immigration levels.
Canada has one of the lowest percentages of men under arms in human history. Conservatives believe that this dangerous weakening of the Canadian military and security assets under the current Administration should be challenged. Military spending should be raised to the recommended NATO levels. Foreign policy, likewise, has fallen under the paradigm of “soft power” – with development aid the preferred instrument of policy. Some Canadians imagine that they are considered a uniquely virtuous nation in many parts of the Third World, on account of their “do-gooder” policies. It is more likely that they are simply seen as “suckers”.
There is today in Canada a massive cultural fracturing, under the pressures of the American cultural hegemony and the extremes of multiculturalism. The core Canadian identity is in danger of disappearing, “the centre cannot hold”, only the so-called fringes are powerful. The goal should be to re-orient cultural funding to give more voice to core Canadian identity. Also, the Canadian academy, especially in the humanities and social sciences, is devoted to identity politics, and intersectionality. Dissenting voices are frequently silenced. There should be legislation to restore greater freedom of speech in academia and in society as a whole.
As for the multifarious crises of family and morality, no matter how many rights and benefits a given society provides, it is still bankrupt if it fails in the task of reproducing itself – both in the purely physical as well as cultural sense. The government must therefore increase the incentives for married couples to have or adopt children. Related to the crisis of morality is the triumph of the “permissive” society – the decline of respect for legitimate authority and the sometimes absurdly lax operation of the criminal justice system.
If there is anything that conservatism is characterized by, it is a pragmatic approach to the free-market, at times embracing policies that appear to be social democratic, and a pro-social and cultural approach to community and nation, with an emphasis on cherishing its history and culture. The Canadian Confederation came about through the coalescence of two, pre-existent nations, English Canada and French Canada. The Aboriginal peoples were included in that history insofar as they were traditionally considered to be under the special protection of the Crown. What are today called the First Nations or Indigenous Peoples are finally receiving the respect due to them – but this cannot be achieved by demonizing the history of the country as a whole – and especially what were traditionally called the founding nations of Canada (the British and the French). That way lies self-loathing.
Mark Wegierski is a writer and researcher based in Toronto