Margaret Thatcher is “the mother of Canadian conservatism” ??????

Apr 17th, 2013 | By | Category: In Brief

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and wife Laureen depart Ottawa on Tuesday, April 16, 2013, on route to London for Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. CP Sean Kilpatrick.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 17, 2013. GANATSEKWYAGON, ONTARIO, CANADA. Today marks the funeral of the fabled Iron Lady back in the old imperial metropolis across the sea. And according to Matthew Coutts at the Daily Brew :”Canadian Conservative leaders including Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be in attendance when Margaret Thatcher, the woman some consider the mother of Canadian conservatism, is laid to rest … Harper left Ottawa for London on Tuesday along with his wife Laureen and former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney.”

Coutts also notes : “Maclean’s suggested on Tuesday that Thatcher was ‘the Big Kahuna of Canadian conservatism.’” In this age of the global village — which I agree is noble in many ways — it may seem parochial to point out just how much this underlines the traditional abject neo-colonialism of Canadian conservatism. But I think this is still something worth pointing out. As Bertie Wooster long ago observed: “it’s always just when a fellow is feeling particularly braced with things in general that Fate sneaks up behind him with a bit of lead piping.”

Say whatever else you like. If you at all seriously believe in Canada and its future, the kind of Canadian conservatism that sees Margaret Thatcher as “the mother of Canadian conservatism” desperately needs to be hit in the head with Bertie Wooster’s bit of lead piping — several times, at least. And this may help account for the quite astounding recent “Forum Research poll, the first conducted since the son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was elected party leader on Sunday,”which “has the Liberals at 43% and the Conservatives at 30%. That amount of support would give the Liberals a solid majority government.”

It may help elucidate the point here to point out that April 17, 2013 is also the 31st anniversary of :”This Day in History: April 17, 1982 …  On this day in 1982, Canada finally severed ties to its colonial past and became fully independent from Britain with the signing of the Constitution Act by Queen Elizabeth and prime minister Pierre Trudeau in Ottawa.” Neither the Mulroney nor (perhaps especially) the Harper Conservatives have ever quite accepted what is now properly known as the Constitution Act, 1982 as the decisive moment in modern Canadian history that many among the rest of us believe it is!

* * * *

Like others who feel the way I do, I understand that the land of the Canadian Conservatives (and conservatives) who believe the latest happenings in the old mother country are the main markers for progress has fairly deep roots in at least one side of the Canadian past. A book about Toronto in the 1920s that I have on my shelves shows an ad from the December 1921 Canadian federal election. It is headed “Canada for the Canadians.” And it urges that if “Canada’s destiny”is “to be that of a great free nation within the British Empire group of nations,” then “Canada Needs Meighen.” (Ie, Arthur Meighen — the Conservative candidate for prime minister, as it were.)

Yet this particular election was won not by Arthur Meighen but by the new Liberal leader, William Lyon Mackenzie King — grandson of the leader of the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, and the very self-conscious legatee of modern Canada’s first French Canadian prime minister, Wilfrid Laurier. (Whose deep attachment to “sunny ways” the new Liberal leader of 2013, Justin Trudeau, almost seems to be trying to revive.)

Nowadays, in the early 21st century, the great problem with the traditional Canadian conservative view of “Canada for the Canadians” is of course that the “British Empire” has disappeared. And the one great achievement of Pierre Trudeau (Justin’s father) is that he had at least the beginnings of an answer to the Empire’s disappearance for the future of Canada. We the great huddled mass of ordinary Canadian people may never have altogether grasped just what Pierre Trudeau was talking about. But enough of us dimly appreciated his vision of a post-colonial Canada with a future that made sense to keep him in office, for most of the time from 1968 to 1984.

Apparently, Stephen Harper and his government, whatever its other virtues, really does not understand this. That may finally be the best explanation for the quite remarkable rise of Justin Trudeau in the opinion polls of late 2012 and early 2013. Margaret Thatcher and her view of the world may or may not have been a great boon for the United Kingdom of the 1980s. But it had and still has very little to do with Canada today and its future. PM Harper and his acolytes, it seems increasingly clear, are trapped back in the 1950s, or the 1920s, or even the 1890s of the Boer War and “The old man, the old flag, and the old policy” (or words to that effect). That just may be the Achilles’ heel which Justin Trudeau is an increasingly strong position to exploit. (Or not, of course, of course. It is far too early, etc, etc. But already some of the signs are intriguing. And to say that Margaret Thatcher is “the mother of Canadian conservatism”just betrays the fundamental bankruptcy of the phenomenon in question. You can fool some of the people all of the time. And all of the people some of the time. But even in Canada, etc, etc, etc.)

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