In my last essay, commenting on the results of last week’s federal election, I quoted myself as having said that it proved what I, ala Evelyn Waugh, had been saying about the queen needing a better method of selecting her ministers than popular election, and that if elected officials are to be retained in our government we need a more limited franchise. Lest anyone make the mistake of thinking this to be a partisan comment, my breakdown of the election results into the good and bad – the good being that Mulcair and Harper lost, the bad being that Trudeau won – it should be apparent that any other outcome to that election would also have supported my position.
That having been said, there are those who took umbrage with my sin against the modern dogma of the universal franchise, but I am in no way repentant over it. A broad franchise makes more sense in the context of a small group of people with very similar interests electing their local officials than it does when we are talking about the government of a large country like Canada. Most people know and understand the affairs, interests, and concerns of the local area in which they live and work much better than they do those of their country as a whole. A broader franchise, therefore, makes more sense when a town is electing its mayor and council than when a province is electing its legislature and when the country is electing its Parliament.
The past election demonstrated just how appalling the dearth in understanding of Canadian civics has become in our country. Whatever one may think of either Justin Trudeau or Stephen Harper, the results of the election show that our voters thought in terms of an American Presidential election – that they were choosing the next Prime Minister. That is not how our system works, however. We vote to form a Parliament, the elected portion of which is made up of representatives of the areas in which we live. We choose who will represent our area in the House, and in accordance with tradition and our constitution, the person who can command the most support in the House becomes Her Majesty’s next Prime Minister and forms the next government. If we understood our system better and thought in terms of who the best person to represent the interests of our riding would be rather than which party leader would make the best Prime Minister a broader franchise would more justified than it is at present.
It is not just the Trudeau supporters who show this lack of understanding but the Harper supporters as well. On the night of the election after the Trudeau victory was apparent countless numbers of irate Harper supporters began calling for Alberta and Saskatchewan to separate and form a “Republic of Western Canada”. They too were thinking entirely in terms of the country’s premiership rather than the representative of their ridings. Furthermore, their willingness to indulge in the silly sentiment of “you’re not going to play my way, I’ll take my ball and go home”, anti-patriotic, separatism that is reminiscent of nothing so much as the way left-wing Hollywood actors talk every time it looks like a Republican might win residence in the White House, shows how little they understand of the conservatism they profess to stand for. So, of course, does the suggested name for their hypothetical break-away country. As I have said before and will say again a true conservative is a monarchist not a republican.
Those who find the thought of limiting the franchise objectionable seem to have overlooked the fact that there are already limits on who can vote. You cannot, for example, vote if you are under the age of eighteen. This is a very reasonable limitation and while I have encountered people who think this is unfair and arbitrary and that the age should be lowered I would argue, myself, that it ought to be raised by a decade or two. The absurd cult of youth and its accompanying notions that we are in constant need of change and newer fresher ideas is an indicator of degeneracy and a culture and civilization gone mad. Young people think they know, if not everything, so much more than their elders, when, of course, in most cases the opposite is true. Wisdom, which is even more important than knowledge for wise statesmanship, is even rarer among youth as it is usually something that develops with age and experience.
Stephen Marche, in a recent column for the Huffington Post, maintains that “Trudeau Won Because Youth Want the Old Canada Back”. Yet if there is anything his article demonstrates it is that most youth don’t have a clue what the old Canada was. Nor, for that matter, does Marche himself. Old Canada was the British country built on a foundation of Loyalism that gradually grew up and obtained control of her own affairs within her own Parliament under the shared monarchy, within the British Empire and without severing ties to the British family of nations. Within the old Canada was an even older Canada, the French Canada that had been ceded to the British Crown after the Seven Years War, and was guaranteed her French language and culture and her Roman Catholic religion by royal decree. French Canada remained staunchly traditionalist Catholic until the “Quiet Revolution” of the 1960s, while English Canada had a very Victorian culture and society. Anyone who wants to know what that Canada was like will find it described in the histories written by Donald Creighton and W. L. Morton, but will probably find a more meaningful encounter with old Canada in the novels of Mazo de la Roche, Lucy Maude Montgomery and Robertson Davies and in the short stories of Stephen Leacock. This is the Canada that I want back. It is not the Canada that Stephen Marche is talking about.
By “old Canada”, of course, Marche means “Canada before Harper” but the way he describes it his “old Canada” is younger than I am, going back no farther than 1982, the year in which the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was passed. He calls the Charter our “founding document” and suggests that a Trudeau running for Prime Minister is “not the same as a Clinton or a Bush running for President” but would be “closer to a Washington or a Jefferson”. This is truly ignorant in a most grotesque fashion. This comparison would be true of a MacDonald or a McGee, an Archibald, Brown, or Campbell, a Cartier or a Tache, but certainly not a Trudeau. If a comparison must be drawn between the Trudeau family and an American political family the most suitable name is that of Kennedy.
Marche quotes Stephen Harper as saying “You won't recognize Canada when I'm through with it”, a sentiment which demonstrates Harper to have been unworthy of the leadership of the Conservative Party but which would have been appropriate in the mouths of Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau in the 1960s. For twenty-one years, with one brief intermission, the Liberal Party under the successive leadership of these men, waged a relentless war on Canada’s British and Loyalist heritage, turning a country in which people saw the Common Law protections of their basic rights and freedoms as their birthright as free subjects of the Crown, whether English speaking Protestant or French speaking Catholic, into a country that was expected to be grateful to Trudeau for the much abridged version of their rights and freedoms contained in the Charter. This was hardly an improvement.
The attack by the Pearson-Trudeau Liberals on our British traditions and institutions created a national identity crisis that has not truly been resolved since and which has generated our unhealthy national obsession with not being American. The old Canada defined itself positively rather than negatively as a British country, built on a foundation of Loyalism, that treasured its rich inheritance of parliamentary monarchy and Common Law, in which the language, religion, and culture of French Canada was recognized and protected. We did not need to obsess about what made us different from the Americans – that was obviously implicit in our retaining the identity which the Americans rejected in 1776. When Pearson and Trudeau, while keeping the outward form of our government, tried to create a Canada that no longer identified herself as British, the result was a Canada obsessed with how she is “not American”.
This has manifested itself in all sorts of foolishness in the form of declaring something to be “American”, then declaring us to be the exact opposite, usually getting both the United States and Canada completely wrong in the process. Capitalism, Christian fundamentalism, and militarism have all been declared to be “American”, therefore Canada must be socialist, secular or religiously liberal, and a country that is particularly devoted to peace. All of this, however, is utter hogwash.
The American government of the 1930s and 1940s was far friendlier to socialism, and to the USSR, than any Canadian federal government prior to 1968 ever was, and most of the “socialist” policies introduced in North America in the twentieth century were introduced by the United States first, with Canada following the American example. These include the progressive income tax (USA – 1913, Canada –1917), the New Deal (USA – 1933, Canada – 1935), and the expanded welfare state of the “Great Society”, introduced in the United States in 1964-1965 by LBJ whose presidency ended the same year the premiership of Pierre Trudeau, who brought us similar programs as part of his concept of a “Just Society”, began.
The idea that Canada is a “secular” country compared to the “fundamentalist” United States is even more absurd. It is the United States that has historically been the secular country. The idea of separation of church and state has been enshrined in the First Amendment of her Bill of Rights since 1791. In 1962 and 1963, the Supreme Court of the United States drove the Bible and prayer from public schools in America, and, Christian fundamentalists have not succeeded in restoring them since, nor in restoring the state bans on abortion struck down by SCUSA in Roe v. Wade in 1971, demonstrating that Christian fundamentalists simply do not have the clout in the United States that liberals seem to think they do. Separation of church and state has never been part of the Canadian tradition or constitution, and the Lord’s Prayer and the Bible remained in Canadian schools until the end of the 1980s. Our Supreme Court did not become an aggressively activist force on behalf of secular humanism, the way the American Supreme Court had been for decades, until Pierre Trudeau added his Charter to our constitution in 1982. Our abortion laws, passed shortly after Confederation, while liberalized somewhat by Pierre Trudeau in 1969, were not struck down completely until 1988.
In both of these cases, socialism and secularism, not only were these not characteristics of old Canada, of Canada as she was through most of her history, far from making us “different from the Americans” as ignorant liberals maintain, it was by following the example set by the United States that they were introduced to Canada.
What about militarism then? Surely Canada’s “peace-keeping” role in geo-politics is distinctive?
Justin Trudeau and his supporters have made much out of the fact that Stephen Harper’s neoconservative, sabre-rattling is a radical departure from Canada’s tradition, which it was, but they ignore the fact that the “peace-keeping” role they look back to was itself a relatively recent break from Canada’s tradition, and one which, ironically, has the same ultimate origins as Harper’s neoconservatism, in the United States. All American foreign policy since the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt has been one version or another of Wilsonianism, the policies of the American President who led the United States into the First World War, Woodrow Wilson. The idea is basically that of a global association of states, led by the United States, which would police the world, protecting the rights of small nations, and “making the world safe for democracy”. Versions of this differ depending upon how large of a role is envisioned for the United States, whether democracy was to be spread or merely protected where it developed on its own, and other such considerations, but if Stephen Harper’s approach is a Canadianized version of the version of Wilsonianism that has been favoured by the Republican Party for the last three decades – neoconservatism, Lester Pearson’s concept of peace-keeping was no less Wilsonian in nature and American in origin.
Lester Pearson won his Nobel Peace Prize, for his efforts as Minister of External Affairs under Louis St. Laurent, in the formation of the United Nations Emergency Force and the resolution of the Suez Crisis in 1956. Hopefully, he received his thirty pieces of silver alongside his medal, for the outcome he worked for was a complete betrayal of everything Canada had traditionally stood for. In response to the nationalization of the Suez Canal by the Soviet-backed Egyptian regime of General Nasser, Israel, Great Britain, and France invaded Egypt with the intention of recapturing the canal and toppling the Nasser regime. American President Dwight Eisenhower demanded that Britain, France, and Israel withdraw. Pearson had been working towards the creation of the first United Nations Emergency Force, in which troops from countries not directly involved in the conflict would, under the aegis of the United Nations, police the area and enforce the ceasefire. This brought about the de-escalation of the situation, but at the cost of the humiliation of Britain and France, accomplishing the ends of President Eisenhower who wished it to be clear that the USA and the USSR were now the true world powers.
Young people today, who have been indoctrinated by Liberal dominated public schools into thinking of Pearson’s “peacekeeping” as our traditional role in world affairs, simply don’t realize what a drastic break from Canada’s true military tradition this was. Canadians at the time did – which was a significant contribution to the Liberals being voted out and John Diefenbaker’s Conservatives being voted in in 1957.
Do you recall what Canadians used to honour most in the history of our nation? I do. It was the way that our forebears, even before the Dominion of Canada came together in Confederation, had, along with the British army, successfully fought off the invasion of American “liberators” in the War of 1812. It was the way Canadian troops had proved themselves on the battlefields of Ypres and the Somme, at Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge, in World War I. It was the way Canada declared war on Germany on September 10, 1939 – exactly one week after Great Britain had – the delay, to honour the fact that since the Statute of Westminster of 1931 our own Parliament determined when and if we were to go to war, the declaration because we knew that in such a conflict, our place was by Britain’s side. It was the way our men had again fought honourably in the noble cause of king and country, at Dieppe and in Hong Kong, in Sicily and on the Atlantic, at Juno Beach in Normandy and in the liberation of the Netherlands.
It was not just by promoting a UN solution to the Suez Crisis that achieved the ends of the United States – and Soviet Union – at the expense of the humiliation of Britain, that Pearson broke with Canada’s older, longer, and more honourable, military tradition. When as Prime Minister he brought in the Maple Leaf flag in 1965, a flag that represents the Liberal Party far more than it does Canada as a country, it was to replace the Canadian Red Ensign which had been made our official flag by order-in-council on September 5, 1945, three days after the formal surrender of Japan ended the conflict in which over a million Canadians had fought under that flag, and over forty-two thousand lost their lives. The replacement of that flag, was a disgraceful insult to those men.
By the end of World War II, Canada had the fourth largest air force and the fifth largest navy in the world. Our armed forces shrunk considerably under the Pearson and Trudeau premierships, during which they were deployed mostly on peacekeeping missions for the UN. This was as much in service of American foreign policy as Stephen Harper’s later, more belligerent, approach was. Don’t let the rhetoric of the UN General Assembly, full of the worst sort of leftist anti-Americanism, fool you. The peacekeepers answer to the Security Council, which ordinarily plays the tune called by the United States, and Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau were well aware of this fact. The new peacekeeping role they envisioned for Canada allowed them to have their cake and eat it too. They could meet Canada’s minimal commitments to the American-led alliances to which we belong, while engaging in verbal abuse of the United States on par with that of any Third World kleptocrat with a seat at the General Assembly. Furthermore, they could claim to be building a Canada full of “caring” and “compassion” because instead of maintaining our military, one of the basic essential functions of a government, they were able to spend more of our tax dollars on other projects. Like propping up the failed governments of wealthy Third World dictators and calling it relief for the poor, replacing Canadians with thousands of Third World immigrants, and establishing a federal kangaroo court authorized, in complete violation of our traditional understanding of justice, to investigate accusations of thought crime (discrimination) that come with stiff penalties and where the onus of proof is on the accused.
Young Canadians may want the “old” Canada of Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau back, but I for one want the older Canada of Sir John A. MacDonald and John Diefenbaker. The fact that young Canadians seem largely unaware of the latter and are so easily duped by the myths of the former, just goes to show that the voting franchise should be entrusted to those who have acquired wisdom through age, and not to the young, idealistic, and utterly ignorant.