On October 19 last year, order was restored to the universe. No, Justin Bieber did not give up his music career; rather Canada elected the Liberal Party to its 15th majority election victory in Canada. After nine years of a Conservative administration led by Stephen Harper, Canada’s natural governing party once again claimed captaincy of the helm of state. The Dauphin himself, scion of the Montreal upper crust, was at the wheel – as Globalist Editor-in-chief Tom Wheeldon wrote about in ‘The Strange Rebirth of Liberal Canada’.
And where is the ship of state now headed? Well, to put it bluntly, nowhere much. On October 19, I am inclined to believe that, for all the talk of ‘Real Change’ – a slogan that must rank among the most vacuous of modern times – Candians really opted for the status quo.
We were told by the powers that be – the press and political commentariat – that Harper’s Canada was a fundamental shift from the country of old. No fawning over the UN anymore? We were positively apoplectic. He cut our taxes – we were indignant. He wanted to get our most profitable resource (oil) to market? Bastard. Everything Harper did, it seemed, was taken as a vicious assault on the cherished Canadian traditions of ‘flexible’ morality to gain international influence, paying too much tax for too little return, and pretending to care about the environment.
In these circumstances, we needed a hero.
Luckily, our knight with shining teeth appeared, armed with a smile that could melt hearts, boyish good looks, and a full head of hair that would make Rapunzel swoon. In a short, 72-day campaign, the forces of darkness were cast out and relegated to the dungeon of pooisiton, condemned to four years of impotence and ignominy on the opposition benches. For many, it was as if balance had been restored.
Before I proceed, one small disclosure is required. I, rather sheepishly, must admit that I worked on the Liberal campaign in the last election. It was, without question, a campaign of enormous energy and sleek polish, peppered with enough vague platitudes and empty rhetoric to make it inspirational. It was perhaps the best-run campaign in my lifetime. A strong argument could be made that, on the basis of that campaign alone, the Liberals earned their victory.
It does our national identity as Canadians no credit, however, to even pretend that the election was a fair fight of ideas. Aside from the 30 per cent of the population that resolutely turns up to vote for the Conservatives every election day, the party is seen as little more than a gauche throwback to the whiter and meaner Canada of a generation ago.
The Liberal opposition, by fretting that Harper was attacking civil liberties by passing anti-terror legislation – an assertion not backed up by the facts – and accusing the Prime Minister of dividing Canadians by allowing the withdrawal of citizenship from duel citizens who plot acts of terror, played into a fear of the Conservatives that has been an integral part of the Canadian political psyche for a long time. It does not matter what policies they pass or initiatives they present, the party will also be tinged as ever-so-slightly un-Canadian. The party would have killed for the relatively moderate scepticism British electors exhibited towards the Tories, who after their defeat in 1997 acquired the toxic association of being the ‘Nasty Party’.
In the past eighty years of Canadian political history, the nation has been governed by the Liberal Party for sixty of tem. It was the Liberals who brought pension plans, single-payer healthcare, UN peacekeeping, multiculturalism and official bilingualism. All these policies have their merits, and their flaws, but have become so reified that the Liberals now seem to think they occupy a hallowed place within the Canadian political imagination. Imagine the NHS, but multiply the number of sacred cows by five.
The result is a political culture whose discourse treats any shift away from the Liberal Party as deeply suspicious, in dangerous of veering away from ‘Canadian values’, which, given the near-total intellectual vacuity of the modern Left, seems to mean whatever the Liberal Party deigns to define them as. We are left with a political conversation where, despite record levels of immigration under Stephen Harper, massive investment in Quebec, and an absolute refusal to debate modifications to health policy or reproductive rights, the Conservatives can still be accused of being Islamophobic, anti-French and anti-women, somehow possessed of a secret agenda to privatise the health service. Imagine what the vitriol would have been like had they decided to govern like actual conservatives!
It should be said, of course, that living in a country where the political centre of gravity is to the left of centre is no bad thing. It is, after all, the case in most western European countries. The difference with Canada is that most other countries do not link so strongly the achievements of one political party with their national identity, and conception of ‘Canadian values’, to see even the slightest deviation from it as totally foreign. It is surely to our discredit that, in the aftermath of the Conservative majority victory five years ago, op-ed after op-ed was published declaring how this represented a ‘fundamental shift’ in Canadian political ideology. It was as if conservative politics were some foreign entity had made it to Canada’s shores and botanists were now charged with assessing how it might disrupt the existing ecology.
Our judiciary is no better in avoiding this pervasive politicisation. Using the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and constitutional document created by – wait for it! – the Liberal Party, the Supreme Court has enshrined a number of rights relating to thorny political and ethical issues, including prostitution, assisted dying and equal marriage. It seems that the Liberals no longer have to be the vanguard of social change any more – they can just wait for the courts to do their bidding and act as faithful servants of the law in implementing their decisions after the fact. In fact, a minor furore erupted when Stephen Harper appointed a conservative justice to the Supreme Court in 2014, which led some commentators to suggest that he was politicising the judiciary. Somehow, though, a bench populated by loose constructionists had gone unnoticed. It seems like a good thing that Ted Cruz is in American rather than Canadian politics – seeing the composition of Canada’s Supreme Court would likely give him a heart aneurism.
In fairness, however, the Harper administration did sometimes govern in a manner that could legitimately be called vindictive. It produced a list of ‘enemy stakeholders’, in clear contradiction of Harper’s pledge to “govern for all Canadians” in 2011, and adopted a tone so combative that you might think its Cabinet were professional pugilists. While I make no apology for some of its actions, its motivations for acting as it did are clear, given that its ministers operated in a political environment surrounded by bureaucrats and lawyers who were so clearly entrenched in this leftist political consensus.
The bottom line, though, is that Trudeau’s victory amounts to very little of the ‘Real Change’ he hyped up so much during his campaign last year. If anything, his government represents a slightly reactionary turn, defaulting to the mode of governance and political discourse that has dominated Canadian politics for the last half-century and has stifled any constructive debate on the issues. Sure, he might spend a little bit more or be more gung-ho when it comes to the environment, but his ideas amount to little more than a rehashing of the standard Canadian fare. We like deficits, high taxes and playing a relatively unprincipled role in the world. Even better, we like pretending cultural and moral relativism is our thing – we even have a word for it: multiculturalism. These are the things that Canada appears to be good at; on 19th October 2014, we voted for more of the same. Some ‘Real Change’ might be nice, but it will not come under Justin Trudeau or the Liberals.