Some Suggestions for Canadian Conservatives
from Mark Wegierski
The Canadian federal election of September 20, 2021 was another failure for the Conservative Party of Canada, despite Conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s attempted “move to the centre”. Now, the Conservative Party is consumed by a battle between pro- and anti- O’Toole factions. Looking back at history, the Conservative Party (called the Progressive Conservative party from 1942 to 2003) has largely failed to make an impact on Canadian society, politics, and culture, since the critical election loss of the staunch Tory John Diefenbaker to Liberal Lester B. Pearson, in 1963.
The Canadian Right will make little headway in the teeth of a hostile social, cultural, and political climate, unless it endeavours to give encouragement to the creation of infrastructures in which intellectual explorations of right-wing ideas and philosophies can take place. What is especially needed is a broadly right-of-centre magazine which could serve a mobilizing, galvanizing role similar to the early years of National Review in the United States. Perhaps Candice Malcolm’s True North Canada initiative could grow to include a monthly print magazine.
An academic outreach body along the lines of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in the United States (which publishes scholarly quarterlies and books, as well as offering substantial scholarships) is also urgently required. The ISI embodies a reflective and serious conservatism that moves beyond day-to-day policy issues and merely fiscal and economic conservatism, while not being explicitly tied to any one religion or denomination. Perhaps the Canadian social conservative think-tank Cardus could eventually evolve into serving a similar role in Canada.
Today, in Canada, there are numerous, left-wing, extra-parliamentary infrastructures, whose funding, most of which comes from the federal government, outweighs that of putatively right-wing infrastructures such as the National Citizens’ Coalition and the Fraser Institute (who rely strictly on private donations — and are almost entirely focussed on economic and fiscal issues) by astronomical factors. The effectiveness of these left-wing infrastructures has contributed to the huge intellectual influence of the New Democratic Party (Canada’s social democratic party) particularly on the Liberal Party. Long-time Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau was a former NDP member, and some have indeed suggested that he “hijacked” a somewhat more traditionalist and centrist Liberal Party and moved it in a radical direction. The extent to which many Canadians (especially in the intelligentsia) are beholden to ideas of left-wing provenance cannot be overestimated. Only the building up of infrastructures of a serious intellectual Right in Canada could make a difference in this regard.
The current-day Canadian situation is one of near-total left-liberal intellectual hegemony, with minimal authentic academic or journalistic debate. There is little prospect of a substantively conservative party ever unseating the Liberals at the federal level. And there is certainly no intellectual balancing of Left and Right. A Conservative electoral triumph – should it ever occur in such a difficult environment – is likely to be overwhelmed by ferocious infrastructural opposition – much in the same way that Brian Mulroney’s huge majority in 1984 was sandbagged. Should they ever form the government again, the CPC must promote an ambitious legislative agenda, trying to challenge almost six decades of relentless left-liberal victories. The ongoing, decades-long, “prior constraint” against the so-called Centre-Right Opposition coming to or ever exercising any meaningful degree of power in Canada fundamentally contradicts Canada’s parliamentary and democratic ideals, as well as betraying its history.
Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based writer and researcher