Wednesday, August 6, 2003

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A dyspeptic Canadian

David Martin really doesn't like Canadian conservatives. He says the following in today's Chicago Tribune:

What began in the 1980s as an occasional Reagan-inspired polemic has grown into a panoply of Canadian-bred George Will wannabes. Media once filled with liberal and left-of-center columnists are now rife with young Canada bashers who would like nothing better than to turn us into the 51st state.

These FOWs (friends of W) take every opportunity to belittle Canada and praise the American way. Socialized medicine--bad. Free enterprise--good. Multilateralism--bad. Unilateralism--good.

Often children of privilege, Canada's print corps of self-styled compassionate conservatives bridles at the notion of cooperative federalism or government intervention. They belittle the very societal structures that gave them their privileged status and yearn for the more individualistic American society that will presumably yield them even greater riches.

David Frum, Mark Steyn, David Warren, Danielle Crittenden, Andrew Coyne and Rondi Adamson. These are just some of the Republicans-in-waiting who haven't met an American institution they didn't like.....

Take our young conservative commentators off our hands. They all want to be Americans anyway. So please, just let them. And if you'd like, we'd be happy to accept any of your old liberal commentators in return. Assuming you have any left, that is.

This rant is pretty amusing, given the lack of influence conservatives have in Canada. The Conservative Party has never recovered from it's decimation following the U.S.-Canada free trade agreement. The Liberal Party has been ascendant in Canadian politics for the last decade.

Apparently, that's not enough for Martin. Only when every Canadian writing anything about Canada is suitably liberal will this man rest.

Go read the whole op-ed -- it manages to combine some unusual traits -- bitterness and silliness.

posted by Dan on 08.06.03 at 03:01 PM


Actually, the Conservatiaves (Progressive Conservatives as they were called - in Canada you're not allowed to be just plain Conservative)were decimated, not due to the US-Canada FTA. Brian Mulroney's Conservatives won a landslide election on that very issue. The Conservatives were decimated because Mulroney himslef was personally discredited with real or imagined scandals and because he did not know how to incorporate the more libertarian conservatives that were growing powerful in the western part of the country.

posted by: Rony Zimerman on 08.06.03 at 03:01 PM [permalink]

This is about the same tone we get from leftists complaining about the Conservative Media or the French trying to stop people from calling e-mail, e-mail.

Canada is slowly losing its distinctive culture and is in many ways becoming culturally part of the United States. Given our proximity and shared history, that's hardly surprising.

Were Canada ever to become officially part of the US, presumably, it would come in as more than one state, no?

posted by: James Joyner on 08.06.03 at 03:01 PM [permalink]

Rony is right.

As the for the author's bitterness/silliness combination, well, he lives in Ottawa so that's about what we'd expect.

Congrats on the new MT site, Daniel!

posted by: Joe Katzman on 08.06.03 at 03:01 PM [permalink]

I would say that Canadian Conservatives were destroyed by their stupid support for a value-added tax (which they call the Goods and Services Tax--GST) that was imposed in 1990.

posted by: Bruce Bartlett on 08.06.03 at 03:01 PM [permalink]

I don't really agree that Canada has an excess of knee-jerk neocons (I think this is the term for the attitude he describes). On other other hand, Alberta is the most neoconservative province in the country, so perhaps its local media has a few more partisan types. Still, given the relative quality and efficiency of health-care in Canada and the States, anyone who wants to change our system to the American one is up against masses of empirical data saying that that's a bad idea. So perhaps Martin has a point.

As far as the Conservative/Liberal parties: Canadians in general are much more in agreement as to the direction the country should be taking than Americans, eg. they support single-payer health care, a welfare net, etc. - policywise, things are pretty good the way they are now federally. The Conservative party was decimated by Mulroney, and lacks any way to positively differentiate their policies from the Liberal party and make a comeback. As well, they must split the conservative vote with the Canadian Alliance.

posted by: Skarl on 08.06.03 at 03:01 PM [permalink]

Dan: What on earth are you on about? You're confusing big "C" and little "c" conservatism, ignoring the reality that many big "L" Liberals are actually relatively conservative, and appear to be deliberately missing the policy influence that both the Reform Party and PCs have had on the (relatively) centrist Liberals. Paul Martin is no socialist.

Do you know why the Liberal party is ascendant?

Besides, what's your point? Saying that there is a contingent of pro-American, anti-Canadian conservatives out there isn't news to anybody; that position was the raison d'etre of the National Post, for Zeus' sake. They're notorious for cooking polls and spinning both news stories and editorials to a degree that leaves most observers breathless; the Washington Times could learn from the National Post at its height.

(That said newpaper is a notorious failure isn't surprising; being Conrad Black's bully pulpit doesn't make you a Newspaper of Record, no matter how much money he throws at you. Being pro-American and anti-Canadian as a Canadian newspaper isn't much help either.)

Actually, James, Canada and the U.S. are diverging. (Religiosity is one key factor, but there are a lot of others. Look at the reactions to Iraq.)

Rony: If you're going to take potshots, you should probably learn some history: the Conservative party incorporated the populist Progressives in order to prevent a splinter group from ruining their coalition.

It was, of course, precisely that kind of splinter group that doomed the Conservatives. The Reform party is probably never going to achieve power, as they're too regional, too purist, and simply socially conservative for most of Canada... but they do a great job of ensuring that the PC party can't form a government. Of course, they continue to try to absorb said party, but the Canadian Alliance is a non-starter until they learn that regional rumps don't get to absorb parties that were responsible for the creation of the country.

posted by: Demosthenes on 08.06.03 at 03:01 PM [permalink]

I don't know enough about Canada to respond with authority to Demosthenes, but I do know that the National Post was getting traction until Black was forced to sell it, and then readership collapsed under the non-conservative new ownership.

posted by: pj on 08.06.03 at 03:01 PM [permalink]

Demonsthenes: Pretentious names aside,(uh oh! another potshot) thanks for confirming the exact point I was making.

I ‘m clear on why the Conservatives added the word "progressive" to their party name, thanks. Did I take a potshot at the self righteous morally superior attitude that Canada absurdly maintains - of course, it deserves those potshots and more. (And Demo, can I call you Demo?... if we're going to be giving history lessons here, I'm sure you are aware that the Conservatives were called unofficially called Progressive Conservatives by John A. himself, well before confederation, over one hundred years before the national Conservatives brought in the regional Progressives)

I noted that the Progressive Conservatives were unable to incorporate disparate elements into their party. You note that the Conservatives became “Progressive” when they incorporated an emerging regional political cousin you call a splinter group. My point remains and is in fact highlighted by your very post. IF the PC had the leadership and skill that the earlier Conservatives managed, had the PC been able to incorporate or address the legitimate concerns of the Western reformists and others, Canada would not today be, for all intents and purposes, a one party system. It is too late now for the PC? Probably, could it have been handled better in retrospect and thus allowed the party to remain united and to reamin an opposition force? Certainly.

Finally, re the National Post: I didn't realize criticizing Canadian politics and institutions was anti Canadian. The Nation, Alterman, the NYT, the LAT and all the other media that I’m sure you read, continuously extol the virtues of many elements of the Canadian system and criticize many of the American, yet I doubt you'd call them Pro-Canadian/Anti-American

posted by: Rony Zimerman on 08.06.03 at 03:01 PM [permalink]

People should never underestimate the importance of Kim Campbell's incompetence in killing the PCs dead at the Federal level.... Mulrooney made conservatives unpopular, and encouraged the birth of Reform with his regional pro-Quebec politics (funny how Liberal party apologists only condemn regionalism when it occurs outside of Central Canada), but it was Campbell's awful campaign, including the brutal "is this the face of a prime minister" ads attacking Chretien, that sealed the Tories' fate at the Federal level.

As for what the Liberal party represents, let's see.... they're essentially the party of institutional government. If anti-american bigotry will get them votes, they'll encourage it. If balancing budgets and providing gets them votes, they do that too.

I think you'd be hard pressed to identify a single party issue that matters more to them tahn preserving control of government (and, if you're cynical, continued access to the billions they loot from the treasury for corporate pals like Bombardier every year).

posted by: Craig on 08.06.03 at 03:01 PM [permalink]

pj: The National Post was in trouble long before the Aspers took over. It was bleeding cash from the get-go, and it never really succeeded in supplanting the Globe and Mail's position, especially in the valuable Toronto market. It was certainly a well-designed newspaper, and the financial post subsection was relatively popular, but the entire Hollinger chain was taking a bath on the thing.

Heck, that's one of the reasons Black sold most of it to the Aspers in the first place.

Rony: Under Conrad Black, the National Post was notorious for advocating that Canada give up its currency, its sovereignty, its policies, and even its distinctive national character in order to become more like the United States- to the point of not only commissioning polls that stated that Canada is going to unify with the United States in one fashion or another, but hauling out endless think-tank studies saying that that's a good and necessary thing. Conrad Black was and is openly contemptuous of the country and its people, and the newspaper was his bully pulpit.

If that's not anti-Canadian, Rony, then I must ask you: what is?

As for the PCs and the earlier Conservatives: if you're so well versed with Canadian history, then you know that the Conservatives in their original "Conservative" trappings were about as successful at gaining and holding control of the federal as they were in their "PC" trappings... which is to say, not much.

To criticize the one and not the other is absurd. The group left in the first place because of centrist "red Tories", so why blame the Conservatives for not bringing into the fold a splinter group that won't let them? The Reformers have repeatedly demonstrated that they have little interest in compromise under any "big tent", especially if that group is under the mistaken impression that Canadians will "come 'round" sooner or later. Unfortunately, there's no way that they can form a government with their policies. They can't even get a seat west of Manitoba!

The only thing that's helped them last as long as they have is Jean Chretien's long period at the helm. Once Paul Martin takes over, they'll be crushed. Which is kind of sad, as I really liked Preston Manning in a lot of ways, but his party is unlikely ever to approach the stature of its founder.

posted by: Demosthenes on 08.06.03 at 03:01 PM [permalink]

that is, of course, "control of the federal government".

My apologies.

posted by: Demosthenes on 08.06.03 at 03:01 PM [permalink]


1. During several of the Trudeanmania elections, the Liberals hardly won any seats West of Manitoba and of course everyone considered them a national party. If I recall correctly, in one election the Liberals won 7 or less seats west of Ontario and (...fill in the blank with a number in the hundreds...) east of Thunder Bay. I’ll check those exact numbers when I get a chance but I’m confident I’m in the ballpark.

2. Re the Post: Not surprisingly I agreed with a lot of what the post had to say. I don't see the Post’s advocating that the country change its "distinctive national character" - whatever that is - is un Canadian or that it makes one "Notorious". Its notorious to you because you don’t share that opinion. The Globe and Mail is “notorious” for being a bore. I have lived in Canada most of my life and beyond relatively clean streets, nationalized health care and an inferiority complex with our neighbor, I'm not sure what constitutes that "distinctive national character." Lamenting the state of one´s nation is not wrong, nor is suggesting that it could adopt aspects of another. Are there many elements of the U.S. system that the Canada would be wise to adopt? absolutely. If it could be shown that having some sort of union with the U.S. would improve the lives of Canadians, is that something that should be considered? absolutely. If giving up the ever sinking CDN$ would improve Canadians´ purchasing power, is that something that should be debated, of course. Nationalism for nationalism's sake is ridiculous, look how well its worked for Quebec's separatists. Seems like most in that Province continue to want a "Union" and have managed to maintain their "distinctive character".

Watch out for U.S. papers calling for greater cooperation with the UN (un-American). Careful with those Turkish papers calling for joining the EU (un-Turkish sp?). Its called debate, its called opposition.

Re the Conservative grip on power, you're right, even with Borden, Bennet, Diefenbaker, Mulroney et al. it was unfortunately never as strong as the Liberal machine (I agree 90% with Craig re the Libs). Mulroney left no coattails, Campbell was a disaster an neither were able to shake off the image they were big business conservatives and not just conservatives. I insist that if during Mulroney’s tenure, the party would have reached out to that element you say is un reachable, things would have been different.

We simply disagree. Enjoy the Juno Awards.

posted by: on 08.06.03 at 03:01 PM [permalink]

The only question I have is as follows. Why are Canadian newsmen so afraid to target Brian Mulrooney and his band of conservative cronies. The entire party was on the take in some way or another and their was more corruption and graft while that government was in power than at any other time in our country. There is no doubt as to why Brians nose was so brown, as he had it up the Americans ass so far that what else could happen?

posted by: Gerald Joly on 08.06.03 at 03:01 PM [permalink]

Looking for anyone who can help me. I am doing a story on the Mulrooney PC government and need a list of scandals from their years in power. Please only real scandals. In particular any scandal that may have involved Solicitor General Doug Lewis but am in need of any and all.

posted by: Jim Tolnai on 08.06.03 at 03:01 PM [permalink]

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