Peter Stockland: The Tide May Be Turning on Progressivism’s Ascension

July 15, 2022 Updated: July 18, 2022


To serve up a mangled metaphor that fits our topsy-turvy times, the tide might be turning on self-identified progressivism’s long march through the institutions.

Certainly, in the bigger picture, recent events signal more than a sea change of political seasons evident in indicators such as this week’s polling numbers showing Prime Minister Trudeau’s bottomless fall from the updrafts of wingéd power’s pinnacle (OK, OK, I’ll stop).

True, close to half of Canadians surveyed in a Postmedia-Léger poll said the PM should resign before the next election (49 percent) or offered only the back-handed “support” of saying they didn’t know what he should do (21 percent). More than 60 percent of those who participated in the online survey, conducted between June 30 and July 3, said the younger Trudeau has been a divisive force in Canada. Fifty-five percent disapprove of his performance, 32 percent strongly and 23 percent somewhat. A mere 17 percent—about one in six Canadians—think he’s made the country a better place.

“When you take the results … in their entirety, one can’t help but think the progressive coalition that elected Trudeau to his majority in 2015 and contributed to his back-to-back minorities is significantly strained, if not broken,” Postmedia quoted Andrew Enns, an executive vice-president of Léger polling company.

Should the numbers hold, and Enns’s nuanced prophecy actually prove prophetic, it would mean, of course, only that a new name will appear on Justin Trudeau’s former office, and potentially that the furniture in the Prime Minister’s Office will change to Tory blue from Liberal red. Obviously, that is not nothing. Au contraire, peaceful transition of power is the heart of our parliamentary, and therefore democratic, life. The genius of our system is providing new blood without spilling real blood.

But it’s one thing to shuffle the deckchairs of personality and partisanship. It’s another to overturn ways of thinking that were entrenched before many current political actors were born. In past months, not one but two international events have unfolded that repudiate more than a half-century of such thinking. They may lead, with Canada the laggard as usual, to very different ways of affirming truth at the institutional, and consequentially personal, level.

The two events are environmental moralism running head first into the brick wall of the Russian bear (sorry) in Europe, and the prevarications of pro-choice legalism being swatted into non-existence by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs. Both promise to restore to our world what was once the enduring rule of public and private life: You cannot just make stuff up.

The long march of progressives through the institutions, enabled by their alternatively grim-faced and gleeful defiance of that ancient code, stands checked by restitution of the old order. We can wait in joyful hope for the checking to become a rout.

In Europe, the Putin invasion of Ukraine, with the devastating turmoil it has created for world energy markets, gives the lie to the sacramental professions of the green movement, which from its inception has shielded itself in a self-serving aura of moral purity. Whatever its illusions and delusions and nose-stretching, it could cavalierly spread the big lie everywhere that at least it was a force for good; the good, no less, of “saving the planet.”

Saving the planet, you say? How about saving the millions of Europeans at risk of freezing to death this winter because of energy shortages that are a direct consequence of the incremental acceptance of green ideological hogwashery since the 1960s? At a less urgent level, how about saving the faces of politicians across Europe currently kicking environmentalist nostrums to the curb in the rush to reactivate coal plants and nuclear power? Beyond that, just think how much of the world’s wasted time could have been saved if very real environmental concerns had been addressed from the last half of the 20th century until now with realism, pragmatism, equilibrium and, oh yeah, not making stuff up?

The same question arises out of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. Imagine the amount of time, energy, money, anger, hostility, polarization, and, yes, violence, would have been spared if Roe v. Wade had been answered honestly back in 1973, i.e., there is not, and never has been, a Constitutional right to abortion in American law, tradition, or history, and it is a matter for the states to democratically decide for themselves. Put another way, what world might we live in now if the Court, 49 years ago, had simply told the truth and not made stuff up?

Whether one is fervently pro-life, implacably pro-choice, or somewhere in the zone that says abortion when necessary but rarely necessarily abortion, even those with minimal historical awareness must agree it would be a far better world than what we’ve lived through since. It would, after all, have made progress itself genuine and pragmatic by requiring proof of its need rather than relying on lies to embed progressivism institutionally and privately.

Fortunately, the sands of time appear to be running out on the progressive tide. That alone is worth many a mangled metaphor, is it not?

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Peter Stockland is a former editor-in-chief of the Montreal Gazette and co-founder of Convivium magazine under the auspices of the think tank Cardus. He is also head of strategic communications for Ottawa’s Acacia Law Group.