Driven by a dutiful obligation to cast an informed vote, and perhaps a little cynical curiosity, my wife and I attended an early federal election campaign debate in our Quebec riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-Westmount.
Once a bastion of the former Anglo business establishment, the NDG-Westmount riding now largely represents a diverse mixture of upper- to middle-class bilingual Montrealers. It is a reasonably typical example of the cosmopolitan urban neighbourhoods that account for the higher income zip codes in most large North American cities. California Senator and Democrat presidential candidate Kamala Harris once lived in the area and graduated from Westmount High School in 1981.
As is often the case with such events, the array of political positions laid out in the stately old Montreal West Town Hall were clearly meant to be viewed along a “right-left” line of comparison. Occupying the centre position was our sitting Liberal MP, the Honourable Marc Garneau. To his immediate right were the Conservative and People’s Party candidates. No NDP candidate participated, so the Bloc Quebecois and Green Party candidates filled the remaining seats on the left. Occupying a separate table to the left of the entire field was CJAD Radio host and debate moderator Elias Makos.
Ironically, in wealthy urban ridings like NDG-Westmount, “extreme right-wing” candidates are currently portrayed as representatives of a rapacious 1 percent who seek to unleash the planet-destroying greed of capitalist patriarchs. They are the classical liberal or neo-conservative PPC and Conservative parties that generally promote free market economics, individual liberty, self-reliance, equality of opportunity, rule of law, Canadian interests, and national unity.
Candidates to the left are seldom regarded as “extreme.” They regard themselves as smarter and better educated. They favour mixed or socialist economies, collective action, welfare entitlements, collective security, equality of result, social justice, global integration, and cultural diversity. Among our presumed best and brightest in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, this has been a familiar humanitarian pantomime since “Das Kapital” was translated into English in the late 19th century.
This right-left comparison has its historical roots in the last century. In the early decades of that era, fascists were regarded as the extreme right and communists the extreme left. Both movements embraced a statist form of government and were responsible for some of the most horrific, politically motivated crimes in the modern era.
But after the Second World War, only the fascist right was found guilty of crimes against humanity. Because Stalin had entered into a convenient wartime alliance with western democracies, the communist regime in Russia escaped judgment. Soviet atrocities went largely unexamined, and with the support of thousands of fellow travelling socialist intellectuals in the West, a communist reign of terror in Eastern Europe continued until the USSR fell apart under the weight of its own economic failure in the late 1980s.
The free world’s reluctance to judge communism left the door open for the development of revolutionary socialist movements in countries like China, North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba. To this day, the casualties of socialism continue to pile up in places like Venezuela, Hong Kong, and Islamic-Marxist regimes in the middle East, while many liberal intellectuals have become willing accomplices to their survival.
As a result, by the 1960s the seductive influence of socialist ideas began to turn countries like Canada and the United States into very different places than they had been at their founding. Fascism was conveniently redefined to include capitalism and nationalism, casting constant suspicion on the motives of entrepreneurs and traditional patriots. The “liberty parties” became wrongly regarded as the alt-right.
Brian Lee Crowley, Canadian author and managing director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, argued in his 2009 national bestseller “Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada’s Founding Values” that the generation of Canadians who came of age in the 1960s were largely unaware of just how different the Canada they came to know was from the Dominion founded in 1867.
“The old Canada was a liberal-conservative nation in which smaller government, fiscal rectitude, suspicion of dependence on government or charity, and a ferocious work ethic were the norm,” he wrote. That Canada attracted thousands of hard-working immigrants seeking liberty and opportunity.
The Canada ushered in during the post-war era was quite different. The adoption of “progressive” reform-liberal and democratic socialist agendas by political leaders like Pierre Elliot Trudeau in the 1960s led to decades of unbalanced budgets, deficit spending, high taxes, and low productivity—to the point, said Crowley, “that the Wall Street Journal in 1995 said that the state of our public finances qualified us as an honorary Third World country.”
The new Canada became a nation of takers, not makers.
Crowley and others have argued that it is time for the pendulum to begin swinging back to a time when Canadians were less willing to rely on the state for support and people voted for leadership that promised them work over entitlements.
As issues are debated over the coming weeks, it might be useful for all Canadians to put aside the old “right, bad/left, good” paradigm they are constantly presented with and give a little more careful thought to where our country has been and where it is going.
William Brooks is a writer and educator based in Montreal. He currently serves as editor of “The Civil Conversation” for Canada’s Civitas Society and is an Epoch Times contributor.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.