Wegierski: Getting the Canadian Right, right

There is now occurring a major debate about the shape and future of conservatism in Canada, in the wake of the defeat in the October 2019 federal election, and the resultant leadership race in the Conservative Party of Canada. Andrew Scheer, although he was able to reduce the Trudeau Liberals to a minority government (a plurality of seats in the House of Commons), has proven to be a highly ineffectual leader.

There are three main groups in Canada that do not understand what the Canadian Right amounts to today — the mainstream media, the other parties, and conservatives themselves. In the last few decades, Canadian conservatism has frequently 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 very bivalent term “Red Tory” can represent some of the best tendencies of Canadian conservatism (such as that articulated by Canadian traditionalist philosopher George Parkin Grant), as well as of a less-salubrious opportunistic embrace of left-liberalism. The so-called “right-wing” of the Conservative Party has often been marked by an infatuation with the so-called “free market philosophy” and the reduction of all policy to tax-cuts and budget-cuts.

Free-market fundamentalism has not traditionally been a hall-mark of conservatism in Canada. At the same time, social conservatives, who putatively really care about social and cultural issues, have become bogged down in the now-fruitless debate over abortion rights and same-sex marriage. In the Canadian context, it is almost unavoidable that abortion rights and same-sex marriage have become an indelible part of the Canadian political landscape. Arguing against them as part of an official party policy, would present almost insuperable obstacles to the election of a Conservative government. Nevertheless, it is 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 difficult to believe, real conservatism and Green philosophy have a lot in common – the stewardship of the land for future generations. A clear way forward for conservatism, and the CPC, is one that sees significant efforts being directed towards enunciating and promoting a “Green Conservatism”. Conservation issues and the defence of the environment cannot be left to opponents of conservatism. This would mean the acceptance of a carbon tax, a “fiscal conservative” idea in the first place, which fits the bill for being the most free-market oriented tool in an ecological policy.

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. A total of a million immigrants over the next three years have been promised – about 330,000 a year. (Canada’s current population is around 38 million, with about a quarter-million immigrants arriving every year since the late 1980s, about eighty percent of them from the Third World. Prior to that the immigration rates since the late 1960s were on average about 100,000 a year, about seventy-five percent of them from the Third World.) The need for the promotion of Canadian values among immigrants should be given serious consideration. There is also an ecological argument that could be made for significantly reducing immigration levels.

There is also the near-disappearance of praise for real masculinity, and the devalourizing of the military and the police in Canada’s general culture. Canada has one of the lowest percentages of men under arms ever seen in human history. It would also be ridiculous to penalize legal gun-owners, by so-called “total gun bans”, when most of the crime comes from illegally-held guns. Conservatives also believe that the dangerous weakening of the Canadian military and security assets under the current Administration, could be an effective point of criticism. Military spending should be raised to the recommended NATO levels. This would, for example, allow Canada to more meaningfully assert its sovereignty over the Arctic, and make Canada generally less beholden to U.S. military hegemony.

The exercise of foreign policy has long fallen under the paradigm of “soft power” – with development aid the preferred instrument of policy. Some Canadians imagine that they are seen as 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 credulous “suckers”. There must be some pruning of the foreign aid budget. Some further attention should be paid to broader cultural issues. There is today in Canada a massive cultural fracturing, under the pressures of the American cultural hegemony, and of the extremes of multiculturalism. Ironically, the greatest champions of Canadian culture today are also usually mavens of “political correctness”. The core Canadian identity is in danger of disappearing, “the centre cannot hold”, only the so-called fringes are powerful today. One might question the drowning of a shared identity in a sea of identity politics dictating what, and whose, current particularities are the most important. The goal should be to re-orient cultural funding to give more voice to core Canadian identity, and core Canadian culture and history.

Also, the climate in the Canadian academy today (especially in the humanities and social sciences) has become unbearably “woke”, devoted to identity politics, and intersectionality. Non-woke voices are frequently silenced. There should be legislation to try to restore greater freedom of speech in the academy, and in society as a whole. There should also be a move away from the current Administration’s blatant promotion of “equity, diversity, and inclusion” (EDI) in the academy, in favour of general merit and excellence. And there is the multifarious crisis of family and morality. It has been pointed out by various commentators that no matter how many rights and benefits a given society offers, it may still be considered a failing society, if it fails in the most essential task of reproducing itself – both in the purely physical as well as cultural sense. The government must therefore significantly 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 death of respect for legitimate authority and the sometimes seemingly absurdly lax operation of the criminal justice system. There should be a general tightening up of the legal system – as far as real punishments for real crimes – as opposed to the imagined offenses against “political correctness”.

If there is anything true conservatism is characterized by, it is a pragmatic approach to the free-market, often embracing economic policies that appear to be social democratic, and a pro-social and cultural approach to community and nation, with an emphasis on remembering and mostly cherishing the long history and culture of one’s own country. The history of Canadian Confederation is painted as a union of two, long pre-existent, historic 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 now finally receiving the respect due to them – but this cannot be achieved by disrespecting the history, culture, politics, and laws of the country as a whole – and especially what were traditionally called the founding nations of Canada (the British and the French). Thoughtlessly demonizing the entire past (as in the current frequent attacks on Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s superlative founding Prime Minister) and even aspects of the present, achieves nothing except the self-loathing of most Canadians.

Mark Wegierski

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