Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

« The Canadian condition | Main | Liveblogging the 2nd US Presidential Debate »

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Canadians are conservative

The surest sign that a political party is suffering from disunity is when the leader of that party is forced to say that they are united. There are other signs of course that the deep divisions in the Liberal Party have not healed. For one thing Dalton McGuinty has screwed Dion nearly as well as Ralph Klein screwed Harper a few years back (remember the open musings about health care reform?).

We are also treated to stories of Liberal Party elders referring to Dion's campaign as a children's crusade (led by Stephane the Hermit). The truth of these damaging comments is quite clear. Mr. Dion himself claimed that his campaign's slow start was due to how green his team was. (not green as in environmental. Green as in no one knows what the hell they are doing).

All this has caused the party organization to dissolve into shambles. Even in Jean Chretien's old riding the Liberals do not have much of a force. They have little money and even a smaller portion of volunteers. Their best and brightest are sitting on their hands and despite Dion's claims the potential front bench looks abysmal.

So about now you are wondering why the Liberals are keeping the Tories at a minority. The answer is simple. Canadians are conservative.

No I don't mean it in the way that most people mean it these days. I mean the word literally, Canadians are very suspicious of change. It would barely be an exaggeration to say that Canada is still being governed primarily by the policies set forth by John A. MacDonald. Certainly there has been changes, but they have all evolved from the same source. Canadian political history lacks any real cosmic shift in policy.

Even Trudeau wasn't as epoch making as people like to think. The Bill of Rights and other constitutional adjustments paved the way for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Also the Auto Pact paved the way for NAFTA. Nothing changes in this country without testing it for a few decades first.

Any Canadian politician who demonstrates a clear and revolutionary change of direction is promptly defeated. Preston Manning is the most recent example but there are others. Wilfrid Laurier was bold in the 1891 and 1911 elections. He was also defeated in those elections. He only succeeded when he was more cautious and offered only tinkering to the National Policy.

In short, why are so many Canadians going to vote Liberal? Because that is what they are use to doing.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on October 7, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Canadians are conservative:


How would you explain the massive expansion in the Canadian state in the 60s/70s - socialized medicine to name only one program.
And abandoning Parliamentary democracy for an American-style written constitution and a charter of rights is hardly a gradual evolution.

Posted by: Craig | 2008-10-07 6:16:54 PM

"Any Canadian politician who demonstrates a clear and revolutionary change of direction is promptly defeated."

What about René Lévesque ?

Posted by: Marc | 2008-10-07 8:08:25 PM

I agree that Canadians are by nature conservative, or certainly much more so than Americans. Craig, if I recall correctly none of those drastic changes formed part of a party platform and none of them won an election based on a campaign promising such changes. As far too often those elected did things for which they were not given a mandate. At the same time they were unwilling to offer us a voice through referendum. This was the approach used to change our flag and everything else you mentioned. So it seems that we had all this imposed on us rather than us chosing it.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-10-07 8:23:09 PM

Right on Marc. And how about Preston Manning?

Too bad both were destroyed by the media machine in this country.

Posted by: dp | 2008-10-07 9:54:31 PM

Alain - Fair enough, but these still were big changes. In fact, as Bill Watson points out in his 'Globalization' book, pre-1960 we had smaller government than the U.S.
Also, a point in support of the original post - we were originally Tories and as Gad Horowitz and others have argues our embrace of the welfare state is just a modern version of conservative paternalism.

Posted by: Craig | 2008-10-08 12:07:27 AM

Craig, I was not trying to defend the CPC, which is conservative in name only. In my opinion all three major federal parties are what I call collectivist welfare statists. The only difference I see is the speed at which it takes place. So no argument from me regarding the political parties, but I still believe that as a people we tend to be conservative in the real sense of the word.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-10-08 12:05:13 PM

"Any Canadian politician who demonstrates a clear and revolutionary change of direction is promptly defeated."

What about René Lévesque ?
~Marc | 7-Oct-08 8:08:25 PM

Well, Runnie' was clearly an exceptional character, not just a politician.

Anyone else who would drive drunk, run a man down in the street, kill him, and then flee the scene like Runnie' did would go to prison.

But not your old Runnie'!

Posted by: Speller | 2008-10-08 3:11:45 PM

Rene Leveque only came into power when he softened his sepertist position. So really I think that example proves my point. He was a big dreamer whose dreams were reigned in by the populace (in this case a good thing). The same can be said of Preston Manning (a bad thing).

The Charter did not come out of no where. It was part of an intellectually and political evolution. That said it was likely the most revolutionary thing that happened in this country. At the same time not many people wanted it.

And yes Uncle Loius had a smaller welfare state. That is one of the reasons I list him as Canada's second best PM

Posted by: hughmacintyre | 2008-10-08 5:41:21 PM

I suspect that you are right Hugh. So many Canadians are used to noshing at the trough that we are loath to forage in the forest. That is why we are so afraid to review our health care even though there are better schemes in existance.

Posted by: DML | 2008-10-08 11:06:08 PM

I can hear you and your statement has some merits. Though Canada is a very heterogeneous society. It is interesting that none of the three major cities in Canada, have voted for conservatives in the last elections. Indeed, conservatives and their primitive ideas were completely shut down in major centers of economy and innovation of our country.

Innovation and evolution comes with going beyond the boundary. I do not know of any major scientist, engineer, poet, writer, ... who made a creation when they followed the status quo ... Being a conservative and being creative do not go together!
I hope for the sake of beauty of minds, Canadian demonstrate that they are better than what conservatives have in mind for them. .... I hope they choose the superiority of mind and the dignity that goes with it.... I hope that they choose LIBERALS.
In Quebec, we will shut off the conservatives. I hope that it will be a good change for the rest of the country! :)

Posted by: Meg | 2008-10-11 8:28:52 AM

Meg you missed one of my premises. The Liberals ARE the conservative choice. How can they not be? They have been in power for 3/4 of the last century. The Liberals are the status quo and conservative in the truest sense of the word.

You want change and innovation, go with something new.

Posted by: hughmacintyre | 2008-10-11 8:34:49 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.