Partially based on research done with Mike Krupa, M.A., for a paper accepted for the August 28-August 31 2014 American Political Science Association (APSA) Annual Meeting and Exhibition (110th APSA Annual Meeting)(Politics after the Digital Revolution) (Washington, D.C.), from which we had to withdraw because of unforeseen personal circumstances.
The emergence of the Internet, where social, political, and cultural commentary could supposedly be freer of so-called “gatekeepers”, is said to have introduced a greater and more genuine pluralism of outlooks to societies.
Considering that it could be argued that much of Canada ideologically resembles the “bluest” of the “Blue” (Democratic) American states, the emergence of right-leaning counter-tendencies would arguably be a step towards greater pluralism. However, despite over two decades of Internet development, it could be argued – as far as the author of this article can ascertain — that a Canadian right-wing “blogosphere” barely exists.
Looking at some of the conservative Canadian websites and major bloggers, it’s easy to see there wasn’t any point in recent Canadian political developments where they might have made an impact comparable to the blogger impact in the 2004 U.S. Presidential election. That was when right-wing bloggers turned back an attempt by the “main stream media” to undermine George W. Bush’s Presidential campaign. The MSM was questioning Bush’s National Guard service record, based on what were ultimately proved to be forged documents. (It is, of course, an entirely separate issue, that Dubya’s two terms have ended up as an almost unmitigated disaster for any more seriously defined conservatism in America.)
The author finds that, in Canadian society, which, unlike the U.S., does not have solid social bases, groups, or publications for a more substantive conservatism, the presence of a few websites and bloggers has had decidedly minimal impact.
The impact of the so-called right-wing blogosphere is certainly far less in Canada than in the United States. The impact of various personal blogs (such as those of Kate McMillan, the late Kathy Shaidle, or Richard Klagsbrun) is difficult to accurately gauge. There are as well the party-based Blogging Tories. The website conservativeforum.org is only an archive site. Free Dominion could be called a “self-posting forum” where commentary is not formally structured.
Unfortunately, Free Dominion has been recently subjected to vicious “lawfare” and its situation is highly tenuous. Enter Stage Right is one of the few independent, formally structured, consistently-edited, frequently updated, conservative Canadian e-zines, that the author of this article is aware of (apart from Judi McLeod’s Canada Free Press).
In July 2013, there arose with great fanfare, the daily webzine, Freedom Press Canada Journal, but it was forced to greatly reduce the frequency of its postings as of November 30, 2013, and, in subsequent months, appears to have been completely removed from the Internet. From mid-2014 onward, short article postings began to very sporadically appear on the website (freedompress.ca), but now that website appears to no longer be extant.
There has arisen Ezra Levant’s The Rebel (or The Rebel Media) website, with dozens of bloggers contributing to it.
Another substantial media initiative is Candice Malcolm’s True North Canada.
Also, there is The Post-Millennial website.
Another substantial website is The Hub ( thehub.ca ).
There is also c2cjournal.ca – a prestigious quarterly online publication.
Canada also has one of the most prominent pro-life, pro-family news websites in the world (lifesite.net).
There are, as well, some right-leaning individual blogs associated with major newspapers and magazines (such as, most prominently, The National Post, and Macleans). There are, as well, the blogs associated with some far smaller publications, notably Comment (by the social conservative think-tank, CARDUS); and The Interim: Canada’s Life and Family Newspaper.
CARDUS had published a print publication called Convivium. However, Convivium had become an online-only publication – its last print issue appeared in January 2017. On February 18, 2022, even the online version of Convivium was closed to new submissions – although the website archive is expected to remain.
There is a social conservative journal in Quebec, called Égards (Considerations).
Representing Western Canada, there is the new Western Standard website.
Three websites of the “culturalist opposition” are actforcanada.ca, capforcanada.com, and eurocanadian.ca .
Various right-leaning think-tanks maintain a substantial Internet presence, notably, the Fraser Institute, Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation (CTF), and National Citizens’ Coalition (NCC) – all of which are almost entirely economically focused. In Western Canada, there are also the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (FCPP); and the Citizens’ Centre for Freedom and Democracy (CCFD) — all that remains of the old Report newsmagazines. In Atlantic Canada, there is the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS). The well-known right-leaning economist, Brian Lee Crowley, has helped establish the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa. The Manning Centre for Building Democracy (MCBD) has existed both inside and outside the Conservative Party. In 2020, the name of the Manning Centre was changed to Canada Strong and Free Network, on the personal request of Preston Manning. In 2010, the Ludwig von Mises Institute Canada was established.
There are two main outfits dedicated to legal issues, especially property rights and freedom of speech – the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF), and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF).
Two other think-tanks are the Toronto-based Mackenzie Institute, devoted to security matters, and the Arthur Meighen Institute for Public Affairs.
One of only a few social conservative think-tanks is the Institute for Marriage and Family in Ottawa. The most prominent pro-life, pro-family association is the Campaign Life Coalition.
Any putative impetus for conservatism in Canada would have come mainly from the 2011 election of a federal Conservative majority government. It could be argued that, ironically, it may have been precisely the minor role played by right-wing political online commentary that was one of the factors that made such a victory possible. Indeed, the election of a majority government may have been possible only by downplaying numerous aspects of conservatism, or, in fact, setting oneself at the head of “progressive” trends such as high immigration policies (as has been argued, for example, in The Big Shift by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson). The federal Conservatives had to downplay their conservatism in response to left-liberal hegemony in opinion-generating and -propagating institutions.
And, as of the October 2015 federal election, the Conservatives lost their majority to a roaring Liberal tide. Justin Trudeau, the son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, won a strong majority – and has inaugurated another wave of “progressive” change. In the October 2019 federal election, the Liberals still won a strong minority government – which was supported by the New Democratic Party (NDP), which is even further left. Virtually the same result was repeated in the 2021 federal election, despite O’Toole’s adoption of a “centrist” electoral strategy. Now, however, the young, dynamic Pierre Poilievre has won the leadership of the Conservative Party, which may give some chance for real change.
Also, unlike in the U.S., more of the political debate in Canada is, in general, channeled “top-down” through the leaderships of major political parties, rather than upward from the so-called “grassroots” through independent commentary. Furthermore, in Canada, the infrastructural weight of such institutions as “the main stream media”, government bureaucracies, and the juridical apparatus far outweighs any Internet-based resisters.
There is also the fact that websites and blogs of whatever outlooks are more likely to be replacing print newspapers than television – which leaves a huge and more immediately impactful medium unaffected. A more text-based vehicle such as blogs affects fewer of the general voting population.
It could be concluded that the Internet in Canada is unlikely to provide conservatism with enough societal “authority” and financial resources needed towards re-introducing a more robust pluralism of ideas into the Canadian political system. But without the possible efficacy of dissent on the Internet, what else remains?