View from the North: In search of new “cadres” for a Canadian renewal
By Mark Wegierski
Can the mutual interests of the regions lead to a decentralized Canada?
Whether one calls them infrastructures or “cadres”, conservatives in Canada today are greatly in need of them.
A truly consummate politician is able to utilize the self-interest of disparate groupings to work towards some common goal that only he or she has in mind. This process is exemplified by a leader like Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the Liberal Prime Minister of Canada from 1968-1984 (except for nine months in 1979-1980). Trudeau’s ability to turn both French- and English-speaking Canada to his own ends, with both parts of the country thinking they were at least partially pursuing their own self-interest, is the mark of a very effective political figure.
Indeed, it may be argued that one of the most important elements of highly effective politics is harnessing the energies of others (other nations, “cadres”, groups, or “schools”) to consciously or unconsciously (willingly or inadvertently) work for your own goals.
One could look at “cadres”, broadly defined, as a possible key to understanding much of the world-historical process. Certainly, in the Twentieth Century, the exercise of social, political, and cultural power by various “cadres”, whether left-liberal, Leninist, fascist, nationalist, or theocratic (in Iran, for example) can be seen as having had an enormous impact on history. Is it the leader who leads, or rather the “cadres” which implement the program, that are more important?
It has been suggested that some kind of “provincialization” or “regionalization” might be a vehicle for restoring some degree of balance in the Canadian polity. It could be argued that, perhaps, Quebec, Ontario, Western Canada, and the Atlantic provinces, while pursuing mostly their own objectives, might find it in their interests to undertake some kind of “re-Confederation.” What might flow from that is a re-balancing, in many parts of the new Canadian polity, between Left and Right. So while the Liberal Party and the socialist New Democratic Party would gain strength in Alberta, the Progressive Conservative party would make gains in Ontario, and the center-right Coalition Avenir Quebec would increase its popularity in Quebec.
We may have reached a situation today where it could be asked, from the standpoint of a more traditional vision of human life and the human purpose, whether current-day Canada actually deserves to fail?
Liberal Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson (1963-1968) began the creation of what could be called the New Canada; Liberal Pierre Elliott Trudeau (1968-1984, except for nine months in 1979-1980), was its main architect; Progressive Conservative Brian Mulroney (1984-1993), mostly followed in Trudeau’s footsteps; while Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien (1993-2003) was a close associate of Trudeau. These have probably been the four specific individuals most responsible for creating the current-day Canada. Stephen Harper, the Conservative Prime Minister of Canada from 2006 to 2015 had but feebly responded to the massive tides of transformational change that have overwhelmed Canada since the 1960s. And now, the election of Liberal Justin Trudeau (son of Pierre) is likely to inaugurate another massive wave of “progressive” change.
This could be imaginatively described as a process akin to that of demolishing a solidly-built, longstanding traditional neighborhood, and replacing it with modern gleaming skyscrapers, condo-towers, and ugly housing projects. It is as artificial as a huge gleaming spaceship crash-landing on top of some hapless small town. Canada’s British past was thoroughly repudiated, and, to cite one major example, the country’s armed forces and military traditions (a common locus for national pride) were severely undermined since the 1960s through punitive budget cuts, the ridiculous “unification” of the services, and the imposition of various “politically correct” agenda on them. Another example was the annihilation of “Tory Toronto” through mass, dissimilar immigration and cultural fragmentation. Toronto had been given that nickname because it was seen (before the 1960s) as so conservative and British-focussed. A third example is the “judicial activism” driven by ultra-expansive definitions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982). The bringing of that document into the Canadian constitutional system has sometimes been characterized as the equivalent of a coup d’état. A fourth example is the massive reconfiguration of the education systems in most provinces to serve multifarious emanations of “political correctness.” (In the Canadian constitutional system, education is the responsibility of the provinces.)
It’s possible that the current-day Canada, which might be called a consumptionist welfare-state, has consumed for comparatively little good effect, and with obvious detriment to social ethos and cohesion, vast resources which could have sustained earlier societies in relative comfort and stability for centuries.
It is to be hoped that some kind of new arrangements focusing on “de-centralization” and “regionalization”, which would hopefully be more congenial to a more authentic social, cultural, and political existence, can be reached in this northern half of North America, before the almost inevitable-seeming social meltdown, or descent into cultural oblivion, occurs. Perhaps one can take some small comfort from the fact that, despite everything, the future is never entirely predetermined.
Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based, Canadian writer and historical researcher.