The failure of the Canadian Right (Part Two)
By Mark Wegierski
It could be argued that one of the central reasons for the continuing failure of the Canadian Right since the 1960s is the ongoing establishment of vast liberal-leaning media, juridical, academic, educational, bureaucratic, and corporate structures – a nexus of interests which certain American and European critics have called “the managerial-therapeutic regime” – which could be characterized as socially liberal and economically conservative. There is also the fact that “North American” pop-culture is the primary “lived cultural reality” for most people in Canada, which tends to reinforce socially liberal, consumerist/consumptionist, and antinomian attitudes, especially among the young. Unlike in most other Western countries, where various countervailing factors of various kinds exist to the hegemony of the managerial-therapeutic regime, current-day Canada is probably an example of such a managerial-therapeutic system in its “purest” form. Some of these countervailing factors in the United States include such things as the far greater saliency of the military, the far greater presence of organized religion (both in regard to fundamentalist Protestants and traditionalist Catholics), homeschooling as a major social trend, the existence of probably hundreds of more traditional-leaning private colleges, and a large network of right-leaning think-tanks and publications – which together are part of what some have called the “Right Nation.” At the same time, the United States has a more robust tradition of independent-minded, left-wing, anti-corporate, ecological, or agrarian dissent, such as that typified by Ralph Nader, Christopher Lasch, Rachel Carson, Helen and Scott Nearing, and Wendell Berry. It could be argued that social, political, cultural, and economic life in Canada – lacking, in fact, either an authentic Right or Left --has therefore become the least subject to popular will and democratic input, indeed, it could be called “post-democratic.” The lack of robust democratic participation and input in Canada should be of concern to theorists across the political spectrum. Insofar as the system maintains itself through massive “prior constraint” against a very broad array of ideas, beliefs, and opinions, its pretense to be upholding democracy is questionable. Such a profound lack of equilibrium is profoundly harmful to a more “ideal-typical” form and exercise of democracy.
Trying to continue to exist in such a context, the Canadian Right is probably on the fast track to extinction. In the 2019 federal election, a major surge of Maxime Bernier’s populist People’s Party of Canada against the Conservative Party is likely to ensure a Liberal majority, because of the vote-splitting in a “first-past-the-post” system. Maxime Bernier had almost won the leadership of the Conservative Party in 2017, but subsequently became disillusioned with the Conservatives, and decided to establish his own party, subsequent to voicing a strong critique of the excesses of multiculturalism, high immigration policies, and “the cult of diversity”. Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada might indeed be the last stand of a somewhat more substantive conservatism in Canada, but it is very likely to prove to be a quixotic undertaking.
There are also a number of structural and cultural political problems in which the Canadian Right has been and is embroiled, most notably, their lack of appeal to Quebec. There is the long-term “Quebec problem” of the Canadian Right. There is also the lack of appeal to older immigrant groups (the so-called “white ethnics”) – who might have been a natural constituency for them. There is also their lack of appeal to newer immigrant groups (the so-called “visible minorities”) – although there is probably little they could do to increase their appeal there. The Canadian situation is markedly different than the situation in the United States, especially in regard to the extent of highly-principled “minority conservatives” in both countries.
Because of the ongoing decline of conservative thought in Canada, there are only sporadic attempts to ever articulate a “counter-ethic” to the prevalent “Liberal idea of Canada.” Such attempts are especially rare among currently-active conservative politicians.
There is clearly, furthermore, an astronomical inequality of financial resources as between left-liberals and substantive conservatives in Canada.
Given the direction of development of historical, social, cultural, and economic processes in Canada over the last five-and-a-half decades, and the various factors mentioned above – the incoherence of the articulation of a “counter-ethic”, the hardening of a once-robust parliamentary democracy into a “managerial-therapeutic regime,” the very low profile of any possibly competing countervalent power-centers such as the military and churches, the increasing centralization of the polity in the federal government, the prevalence of “North American” pop-culture with its amplification of socially-liberal, consumerist, and antinomian attitudes, and the various structural and cultural political problems for the Canadian Right -- notably their lack of appeal to Quebec and “white ethnics”, and the fewness of highly-principled “minority conservatives” in Canada – it could be seen that the Canadian Right is approaching extinction in Canada. The future of Canadian politics is therefore very likely to move in the direction of a “post-democratic” and de facto “one-party” system – which will be overwhelmingly socially liberal and economically conservative.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.