Wegierski: Political, constitutional, juridical, and socio-cultural aspects of the origins and development of the Canadian State

Partially based on an English-language text that appeared in Polish translation under the title “Kanada – eksperyment wielokulturowosci.” (Canada: an experiment in multiculturalism) trans. Olaf Swolkien. Miedzynarodowy Przeglad Polityczny (International Political Review) (Warsaw, Poland: Fundacja Srodkowoeuropejska – The Foundation for Central European) no 5 (no 10) (December 2004-January 2005), pp. 221-231.

Formally speaking, Canada is a federal constitutional monarchy of the British Commonwealth with a parliamentary, not congressional, system. The head of the federal government and the primary decision maker is the prime minister, the leader of the party with the majority of members in the federal House of Commons (divided into geographic areas called „ridings” from which members are elected on a „first-past-the-post” basis). Executive and legislative functions are conjoined in the Canadian Parliament, and a prime minister with a full majority in the House of Commons is formally much stronger than an American President (even when the President’s party controls both Houses of Congress) because of the prime minister’s tight control over his or her own Cabinet of Ministers (almost always consisting entirely of sitting M.P.’s); over the other members of Parliament in his or her own party; and over his or her own party-structures. The prime minister is the main focus of the Canadian political system, even though he or she exercises authority with the symbolic permission of the monarch (Queen Elizabeth II, who is represented by the governor-general at the federal level, and lieutenant-governors at the provincial level). There is a Senate, or upper house, which can only delay legislation, whose members are de facto appointed by the prime minister (until recently, it was an appointment for life, but now there is a mandatory retirement age of 75) as vacancies arise. This practice of late has been discredited by increasingly partisan appointments, and it became a hot issue in constitutional talks. Some have argued for an American-style Senate, others for its outright abolition. The normal limit for a government’s exercise of power is five years, but the calling of an election is at the discretion of the prime minister, at any point before the five years are over, or in a forced situation where a major government bill is defeated (which could happen if the government lacked a majority in the House of Commons). A party can exercise power in a so-called minority government situation when it has – however transiently – the support of other parties in the House of Commons – although the situation is inherently unstable. When the ruling party in a minority situation loses a major vote (called “a question of confidence”) in the House of Commons, a new government may sometimes be formed by a coalition of the other parties – or an election is immediately called.

Because of the supposed advantage of a prime minister or premier calling an election at the time of their choosing, it has become increasingly practiced for the incoming party to legislate a set date for the next election, shortly after their taking power.

Canada is a federal state, with a federal government (which also has jurisdiction over the sparsely populated northern territories) as well as ten provinces with their own elected governments and premiers (who play a role similar to the prime minister’s, within their own jurisdictions). Balancing off the competing regional interests of the Atlantic provinces (the Maritimes and Newfoundland), Ontario, Quebec, and Western Canada (the Prairie provinces and British Columbia), is a crucial aspect of Canadian politics.

Canada’s current federal structure was formally constituted at Confederation on July 1, 1867, when the long-pre-existent historical regions of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia together formed the four new Provinces of the Dominion of Canada. There had been a centuries-long history of the French and British in Canada before 1867. The British North America (BNA) Act which constituted Canada was formally ratified by the Parliament of Westminster (in London, England). The central ideals of the Canadian Founding were “peace, order, and good government” – in marked contrast to the American ideals of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  It has been argued by some that, until the 1960s, Canada was in fact a substantively more ordered, conservative society than the United States – while at the same time – due to the archetypical Canadian politeness — avoiding many of the harsh and ugly aspects of America such as racism and excessive commercialism.

The Western Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba were fully formed in today’s boundaries by 1905. To be precise, Manitoba and the North-West Territories joined Confederation in 1870, British Columbia in 1871, and the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were created in 1905. Tiny Prince Edward Island joined (with the status of a full province) in 1873. Newfoundland (currently called Newfoundland and Labrador) remained a Crown Colony of Britain (and was also for a time a self-governing Dominion of the British Empire) until 1949. The far-northern territories of the Yukon and the North-West Territories have remained under Canadian federal jurisdiction. In 1999, Nunavut was formed as the Inuit homeland. In the last few years, there has been a move towards vastly increased recognition for the Aboriginal peoples (Indians, Metis, and Inuit) – moving towards a situation of self-government or semi-sovereignty for many of the former reservation areas.

The provinces are similar to American states, but, generally speaking, they are comparatively larger in size and influence, in regard to their respective polities, and have more extensive effective powers. The larger provinces would approximate major regions in the United States. Ontario, for example, represents about 42 per cent of the total Canadian economy (according to a Statistics Canada report of October 31, 2003). Ontario provincial employees represent 23 per cent of total provincial and territorial government employees, according to that report. Ontario is Canada’s most populous province, with over thirteen million people, and is the destination for over half of immigrants to Canada. Toronto has especially become a cosmopolitan entrepot, with close to half of its population (according to the 2006 Census) consisting of visible minorities (a term of official usage). 43 per cent of immigrants to Canada settle in Toronto. The so-called Greater Toronto Area has a population approaching six million.

Canada (including Quebec) currently has a population of about 35 million. Its immigration policy foresees receiving about a quarter-million persons a year or more, for many years to come. (The Liberal government has recently raised the total to 300,000.)  According to official statistics, 75% of all immigrants to Canada between 1981 and 1991 were from non-European countries. That ratio is now increasing. In Canada, 20% of the population is foreign-born, whereas in the United States, it is about 10%.

There has been a major shift in the Canadian system owing to the introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms into the Canadian Constitution in 1982. It has encouraged a tendency towards “judicial activism,” where ever larger numbers of issues are resolved juridically, by the decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada, or sometimes even of lower courts. Before 1982, Canada more closely followed the so-called British model, focussed on the “Sovereignty of Parliament” without reference to a detailed enumeration of rights, subject to judicial review – which could be considered a more American-style constitutional model. There are also hundreds of federal and provincial administrative bodies (the so-called “quasi-judicial tribunals”) that adjudicate everything from rent increases to sexual harassment complaints, equal pay disputes, and immigration and refugee claims. Among the most prominent of these various bodies are the federal and provincial human rights tribunals, that have taken increasingly aggressive stands against so-called “hateful” speech. This is a bypassing of the strict legal requirements for “hate speech” that appear in the Criminal Code – and where prosecutions have never (or almost never) been undertaken.

The Canadian Constitution Act, 1982 (including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms), has never been formally approved by Quebec, whose governments have claimed that it tended to undermine their “collective rights.” Indeed, Quebec has made extensive use of the “notwithstanding clause” of the Charter, which allows federal and provincial legislatures to pass laws “notwithstanding” the Charter. The “notwithstanding” clause, however, has almost never been invoked at the federal level, or in any of the other nine provinces.

The configurations of the political relations between the provinces and regions of Canada have had a huge impact on the emergence and development of Canadian political parties. At Confederation and until 1896, the Conservative Party of Prime Minister John A. Macdonald (actually technically called for a time the Liberal-Conservative Party) allied with the so-called “Bleus” of Quebec, dominated the Canadian system. After 1896, Quebec – when voting at the federal level — switched its vote, en masse, to the Liberal Party (which had emerged out of a coalition of the “Clear Grits” in Ontario and the “Rouges” in Quebec). The Twentieth Century has been characterized by Liberal dominance at the federal level, with only brief Conservative interludes. The post World War I and Great Depression crisis resulted in the creation of new, mostly Western-Canadian based parties – the Progressives, the left-leaning Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, and the right-leaning Social Credit (which also had a Quebec presence, the Creditistes, who represented a nascent Quebec nationalism). In 1942, the Conservative Party changed its name to the Progressive Conservative Party, in an attempt to attract the Western-based Progressives, as well as to give it a more “moderate” image. During this time, Quebec at the provincial level tended to support ultra-socially-conservative parties (such as the Union Nationale of Maurice Duplessis), while at most times continuing to vote Liberal federally. In 1961, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation renamed itself as the New Democratic Party (NDP) – which clearly represented a shift away from some of the earlier, more socially-conservative tendencies of the CCF.

The support of Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis for the Progressive Conservatives of Diefenbaker in the 1958 election resulted in one of the largest majorities in Canadian history for Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. However, Diefenbaker’s duration in office coincided with a comparatively poor economic situation (which created a longstanding interrelation in many people’s minds between a period of Conservative government and “hard times” – so they were loathe to vote Conservative ever again). In 1963, in one of the most critical elections in Canadian history, Prime Minister Diefenbaker, while upholding a more traditional vision of Canada, was trounced by Liberal Lester B. Pearson, who (although this was not entirely clear during the election) would lead in the opening of Canada to new trends.

In 1965, Canada’s traditional flag, the Red Ensign (a flag – like that of Australia’s today – with a Union Jack in the upper-left corner), was replaced by the Maple Leaf Pennant – which some Canadian traditionalists saw at that time as a Liberal Party banner. Although the change of flag did not seem to elicit excessive controversy at the time, some students of political theory do indeed consider something like a country’s change of flag as pointing to massive socio-cultural transformation, a symbol of “regime-change.”

With the near-disappearance of the term “Dominion of Canada” from official state documents, Canada after 1965 has increasingly identified itself diplomatically to the world as “The Government of Canada.”  Semantically, this could be seen as suggesting the notion that Canadian society has little coherent existence outside of its government and juridical apparatus. Most countries distinguish in their diplomatic terminology between a given “realm” – whether a kingdom, republic, etc. – and their governments. It may not be surprising that the various levels of government in Canada today account for about half of the national GDP (in contrast to about forty percent in the United States).

In 1968, the young left-wing intellectual Pierre Elliott Trudeau, later dubbed “the Philosopher-King” or “the Northern Magus” swept the federal election as leader of the Liberal Party, in a wave of what was called “Trudeaumania.” He initiated what was later called “the Trudeau revolution” – the embrace of countrywide bilingualism (which was equivalent to massive state promotion of French), state-funded and -endorsed multiculturalism, high levels of immigration from non-European countries, an internationalist and (to some extent) Sovietophile foreign policy (looking towards a “postcolonial” and “Third World liberation” model for Canada), and profound disdain for all forms of social and cultural conservatism, as well as for Western Canada (especially Alberta). Among his social liberal achievements were the revocation of the Anti-Sodomy Statutes (something which occurred in America only in 2003), the liberalization of abortion laws, and the development of a permissive criminal justice system focussed on rehabilitation (including the abolition of the death-penalty). Viscerally opposed to Quebecois nationalism/separatism as well as to English-Canadian traditionalist residues, Trudeau proclaimed, “…there is some hope that in advanced societies, the glue of nationalism will become as obsolete as the theory of the Divine Right of kings.” Although Trudeau failed to win the majority of seats in English-speaking Canada except in 1968, he remained in power from 1968 to 1984 (except for nine months in 1979-1980) — based on rock-solid support from Quebec, as well as some assistance from the NDP, English-speaking Canada’s social democrats. Trudeau’s so-called National Energy Policy (NEP) was ferociously criticized in Western Canada, as a looting of the Western provinces for the sake of “Central Canada” (i.e., Ontario and Quebec – whose combined number of seats in the federal Parliament was nearly sufficient for a working majority). The capstone of Trudeau’s achievements was the introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms into the Canadian constitutional system, as part of the so-called “patriation” of the Canadian constitution. Some have argued that, since Britain had clearly granted Canada self-governing status through the Statute of Westminster in 1931, the notion that Trudeau actually had to “patriate” the Constitution was in itself questionable.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms was, to a great extent, an enumeration of Trudeau’s most cherished ideals, which had by now largely become the “pan-Canadian” ideals. Trudeau had enjoyed, virtually unhampered, the power given to a Canadian Prime Minister who is able to consistently maintain a working majority in the federal Parliament. In his wake, however, any future Canadian Prime Minister will have to work within the framework of the Trudeau-inspired Charter of Rights and Freedoms and have his or her legislative program subject to judicial review in reference to the Charter. It is hard to find a single figure who has had as profound an impact on the history of his or her country, as is the case with Trudeau and Canada.

In 1984, Progressive Conservative Brian Mulroney swept into power with one of the largest majorities in Canadian history, winning Quebec by a degree of co-operation with Quebec nationalists/separatists. While to some extent an economic conservative, Mulroney firmly believed in the left-liberal vision of Canada in regard to all social and cultural issues. He massively won the 1988 election by turning it into a referendum on the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

However, Mulroney’s distaste for social and cultural conservatism, as well as for Western Canada (especially Alberta), where these tendencies were probably the most pronounced, clearly contributed to the arising of the Reform Party of Canada in 1987 (co-founded by Preston Manning, the son of former Social Credit Premier of Alberta Ernest C. Manning).

Mulroney was unable to win the approval of Canada for the new constitutional package of the Meech Lake Accord.  Signed in 1987, the ratification process failed in 1990, especially over the controversy concerning the recognition of Quebec as “a distinct society” – resisted by much of public opinion in English-speaking Canada and especially by two smaller provinces in English-speaking Canada. The subsequent Charlottetown Agreements were signed in August 1992 by all the provincial premiers, but the ratification process – a countrywide referendum — failed in October 1992. To a large extent, they were rejected by English-speaking Canada because of an underlying feeling that “they gave Quebec too much” – while being rejected by Quebec because it was felt that “they gave Quebec too little.”  This resulted in a burgeoning tide of separatism in Quebec, where a new party, the Bloc Quebecois, proposed to run candidates to the Federal Parliament – though only, of course, in the province of Quebec. The Parti Quebecois had existed at the provincial level in Quebec since 1970, and had held power for considerable periods of time, launching the first referendum on what it called “sovereignty-association” in 1980, which was defeated by a ratio of about 60 to 40.

In June 1993, Mulroney stepped down as the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and as Prime Minister. At the leadership convention, Kim Campbell was chosen as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, immediately becoming the new Prime Minister.

In the October 1993 election the Progressive Conservatives were reduced to only two seats (including the defeat of Prime Minister Campbell in her own riding) — although they had about 16% of the countrywide vote. The Liberal Party under Jean Chretien was able to win a commanding majority (177 of 295 seats) (with 41% of the countrywide vote). However, the Bloc Quebecois, led by Lucien Bouchard (a former associate of Mulroney’s) won 54 seats in Quebec (with 13.5% of the popular vote) – which gave them the status of Official Opposition – the second-largest party in the House of Commons. One ex-Tory running as an independent was also elected in Quebec, along with 19 Liberals, including Jean Chretien, although most of their support came from ridings with substantial non-French-speaking minorities.

The Reform Party won 52 seats (with 19% of the countrywide vote). All but one of the seats were from Western Canada. The one Reform seat was in Ontario where the Liberals obtained 98 of 99 seats. The Reform Party existed solely at the federal level, but was eventually able to work with some of the provincial Progressive Conservative parties, notably in Alberta and Ontario – although the Progressive Conservative party at the federal level persisted in opposing a possible merger.

The New Democratic Party was reduced from 43 to 9 seats (with 7% of the countrywide vote) – apparently, many of their earlier supporters went to the Liberals.

In 1995, the Parti Quebecois, who had won the provincial election in Quebec in 1994 with a two-thirds majority in the provincial parliament (although with only a slightly greater share of the popular vote than the provincial Liberals – owing to the operation of “first-past-the-post”) launched a referendum to get public approval to begin negotiations for Quebec sovereignty. The referendum failed by an unbelievably thin margin. When an angry Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau publicly blamed the loss of the referendum on “money and the ethnic vote” he was almost immediately forced to resign – as this was seen as representing a very dark side of Quebecois nationalism.

In the federal election of 1997, the Liberals won a working majority of 155 out of 301 seats (with 38% of the country-wide vote); Reform won 60 seats (with 19% of the vote) – although without a single seat outside of Western Canada; the Bloc Quebecois won 44 seats (with 11% of the vote); the NDP won 21 seats (with 11% of the vote); the Progressive Conservatives won 20 seats (with 19% of the vote); and there was one independent candidate elected.

The apparent discrepancies between popular vote and seats won in the federal Parliament in these elections occurred not only as a result of the usual operation of the “first-past-the-post” system, but also because of the obvious vote splitting between Reform and the Progressive Conservatives.

In 1995, Mike Harris was elected Premier of Ontario. The provincial Progressive Conservatives were decidedly more right-leaning than the federal wing of the party, partly because of the reaction to the five years of NDP government in Ontario. The NDP had won the provincial election in 1990, after three years of a left-leaning Liberal government (1987-1990), and two years of a Liberal-NDP coalition (1985-1987). Before that, Ontario had elected Progressive Conservative governments since the 1940s. However, the Progressive Conservatives under Premier Bill Davis (in 1971-1985) had been largely hostile to any manifestations of social and cultural conservatism – they were pragmatic managers in a period of massive social upheaval and transformation. Frank Miller, Bill Davis’ successor, was only briefly Premier, and was characterized by the media, the opposition parties, and by even some members of his own party, as a political dinosaur. However, a decade later, the unpopularity of the NDP brought in Mike Harris and his so-called Common Sense Revolution. Mike Harris won a majority government in 1995 as well as 1999. However, he resigned in 2002. Although Harris claimed to resign for personal reasons — the controversy over Walkerton, where a number of people died from an infected water-supply – and for which the main blame was firmly placed in many people’s minds on Harris’s privatization policies – certainly was a factor.  The Progressive Conservative party leadership race between Ernie Eves and Jim Flaherty brought the decidedly more moderate Eves to the Premiership. However, in the October 2, 2003 provincial election, the Liberals, under Dalton McGuinty, won 72 seats (with 46.5% of the popular vote), the Progressive Conservatives, under Ernie Eves, 24 seats (with 34.6% of the vote), and the NDP (under Howard Hampton), 7 seats (with 14.7% of the vote).

In 1998, in an attempt to bring Reform and the federal Progressive Conservatives together, and broaden the appeal of the Reform Party in Ontario, Preston Manning, the leader the Reform Party, began the United Alternative initiative. This culminated in the creation of the Canadian Alliance (formally known as the Canadian Reform-Conservative Alliance). Although many individual Progressive Conservatives joined the Canadian Alliance, the federal Progressive Conservative Party refused to get on board.

The three main candidates for the leadership of the new Canadian Alliance party in 2000 were Stockwell Day (a former Treasurer of Alberta), Tom Long (a young, influential adviser to the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario), and Preston Manning himself. By mobilizing social conservatives on his behalf, Stockwell Day was able to win the leadership of the Canadian Alliance. However, in the onrushing federal election campaign, the Liberals capitalized on many Canadians’ suspicions of social conservatism, endeavouring to paint Stockwell Day as a Christian fundamentalist extremist. Some time after the election campaign was over, a senior Liberal pollster, Michael Marzolini, revealed that Stockwell Day had reached as high as 34 per cent in some of the opinion polls the Liberal Party was conducting privately – inducing a sense of panic in the Liberal leadership. Indeed, during the campaign, one could observe a point where there erupted a flurry of intense negative campaigning by the Liberals, for example, accusing the Canadian Alliance of being a haven for “Holocaust-deniers, racists, and bigots.”  There was also great ridicule for Day’s supposed belief in the divine creation of the Earth six thousand years ago.

The Canadian federal election held on November 27, 2000, largely confirmed the Liberal Party’s longstanding dominance of Canadian politics. With a total of 301 seats in the federal Parliament, the Liberals (led by Jean Chretien) won a large majority of 172 seats (with 41% of the nationwide popular vote) with 100 seats from Ontario (out of a total of 103 seats available), 36 seats from Quebec, 19 seats from the Maritimes, and 17 from Western Canada. The Canadian Alliance (led by Stockwell Day) won 64 of the 91 seats available in Western Canada, and also 2 seats in Ontario (with 25% of the popular vote). The Bloc Quebecois (led by Gilles Duceppe) won 38 of 75 seats available in Quebec (with 11% of the popular vote). The New Democratic Party (led by Alexa McDonough) won 13 seats, 4 of them from the Maritimes, 8 from Western Canada, and 1 in Ontario (with 9% of the popular vote). The federal Progressive Conservatives (led by Joe Clark) won 12 seats, 9 of them from the Maritimes (with 12% of the popular vote).

Stockwell Day was ousted from the leadership of the Canadian Alliance as a result of a caucus revolt that at one point attracted as many as thirteen Canadian Alliance MPs. In the ensuing contest for the leadership of the party, Stephen Harper defeated Day decisively. Joe Clark finally left the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party, resulting in a leadership contest in May 2003, won by Peter MacKay. On October 16, 2003, a merger between the Canadian Alliance (led by Stephen Harper), and the federal Progressive Conservatives (led by Peter MacKay) was announced, proposing to form the Conservative Party of Canada, pending the vote of their respective memberships by December 12, 2003. The merger of the two parties offered the possibility of a significant challenge to the perennially ruling Liberal Party.

In mid-November 2003, the enormously popular Paul Martin, Jr. (the former federal Liberal Finance Minister, credited with much of the deficit-fighting success of the Liberals) was acclaimed to the leadership of the federal Liberal Party and the Prime Ministership – while Jean Chretien resigned ahead of his predicted retirement date of February 2004. It was expected in November 2003, that in the upcoming federal election, Paul Martin — being a Quebec “native-son” – as well as often considered a so-called right-wing Liberal – was well poised to make gains at the expense of both the Bloc Quebecois and the Alliance strongholds in the West – while probably continuing to hold nearly all of Ontario. It was considered at that time in the media that Martin could win one of the largest majorities in Canadian history. At the same time, Jack Layton, the leader of the federal NDP (selected in January 2003), had the possibility of posing a formidable challenge from the Left. Although the NDP at that time held only fourteen seats in the federal Parliament, it had exercised a huge intellectual influence on Canada, especially on the Liberal Party.  Even a comparatively small increase in NDP seats and popular vote totals could have important repercussions.

Paul Martin, Jr. never seemed to reach the potential that was said to be inherent in his Prime Ministership. In the June 2004 federal election, the Liberals were reduced to a minority government.

After the “Adscam” scandal gained wide coverage, the Liberals were essentially clinging to power. They almost lost the non-confidence vote in mid-2005, and were able to survive as a government only through extraordinary measures (such as the defection of Belinda Stronach from the Conservative Party to the Liberals).

Finally in November 2005, the Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois, and NDP combined to bring down the Liberal government, necessitating the calling of an election for January 2006.

In the January 2006 federal election, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were able to win a minority government. With adroit and deft maneuvering, Harper was able to stay in power for over two years.

Finally, he requested the Governor-General to call an election for October 2008. Harper won a strengthened minority government, but a majority as yet eluded him.

In November 2008, the threat of a coalition of the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois emerged. By deft political maneuvering, Harper was able to stave off defeat. It also helped him that the idea of the coalition government was extremely unpopular among the Canadian populace at large.

The Conservatives remained in power until the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois voted down the government in 2011, thus necessitating an election call for May 2, 2011.

In the May 2, 2011 federal election, the Conservatives won a strong majority, with 166 out of 308 seats. The incredible surge of the NDP gave that party 103 seats. The Liberals were reduced to 34 seats – probably their lowest total ever in the federal Parliament. The Bloc Quebecois was amazingly reduced to four seats. 59 of the 75 seats available from Quebec were won by the NDP.

The leader of the Green Party also won the riding she was contesting – making her the first elected member of the Green Party in the federal Parliament.

So, Stephen Harper had taken a long road to win the first putatively conservative majority since the 1988 federal election. It was hoped that certain important lessons had been learned from the Mulroney years. Ironically, Mulroney’s huge Progressive Conservative majorities were a “defeat-in-victory” for small-c conservatives – what could be called a “false dawn”.

Harper, unfortunately, remained primarily pragmatic. The Left ferociously opposed him, no matter what he did, so he should have clearly tried to do some meaningful things – to attempt to govern in an “activist”, “transformational” way. It was high time to try to at least temper some of the various enormous excesses of the so-called “Trudeaupia” – to try to initiate a process of “recovery” from the “Trudeau revolution”.

Harper largely failed to “govern strategically” and found that his government’s initiatives were sand-bagged by ferocious media and infrastructural opposition – which was something akin to that which happened to Mulroney’s huge majorities.

Ironically, Harper was, to some extent, a visceral conservative – in contrast to Mulroney.

As the restoration of the traditional names of the armed services (Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force, and Canadian Army) indicates, Harper was sometimes willing to undertake bold initiatives that suggested a desire for a true recovery of Canadian identity and history. But it wasn’t enough.

As of the October 2015 election, the Liberals under Justin Trudeau (Pierre’s son), swept into power, mostly undoing whatever fragmentary conservative initiatives Harper might have undertaken.

Certainly, Canada has been marked by massive social transformation and upheaval since the 1960s, and it is highly likely that these trends will continue. For example, Canada was the third country in the world (after Belgium and the Netherlands) to recognize “same-sex marriage.” At the same time, it has embraced multiculturalism, affirmative-action (called “employment equity” in Canada), and so-called diversity with a great intensity. Trying to somehow temper the decades of Trudeau’s “activist”, “transformational” politics will be very difficult for any successors to Harper. Nevertheless, the existence and continuation of a more meaningful Canadian polity might well depend on those successors’ ability to challenge at least some aspects of the “Trudeaupia” that has increasingly engulfed Canada.

Mark Wegierski

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