Liberalism & the Political Culture of Canada: A Brief Introduction
I have never really written about Canadian politics. As someone who is both Canadian and Slovakian, I have really never been inclined, perhaps because of the fact that I was raised in both countries.
I have now lived in Canada without my folks for 3 years and am finishing my 2nd year at University. I thought it should be time I devote more of my focus towards the Canadian government and so I thought I should write a synopsis of the pillars of Canadian democracy. This is not an exhaustive account but I hope that it will quench your appetite for knowing something about this country.
I am not particularly proud of Canada. I do not consider myself a Nationalist by any metric. I think this sort of perspective on your own nation is harmful and potentially even disastrous. In that sense, I am fairly left-leaning. I am open to arguments for Nationalism, however, and have even recently read a book by Steven Harper (a former conservative Prime Minister of Canada) in defense of populism and, in a way, nationalism (that is, putting your nation’s interests above that of other’s).
Liberalism in Canada
The basic features of liberalism in Canada resemble those of other Western democratic countries. It is notably different from that of the United States, although it shares some similarities.
Canadian liberalism could be historically represented by the time before the 60s and after the 60s:
a) Pre-1960s: The government of Wilfrid Laurier which focused primarily on free markets (especially with the US), representative government, and individual liberty. In this sense, this category could be deemed as “classically liberal” in the British sense of the term.
b) Post-1960s: The second liberalism started with Lester B. Pearson. In it, the focus became more socio-centric. Issues started surrounding multiculturalism, providing basic human rights for gays & women, social justice, diplomacy in foreign policy, & free trade.
Canada, however, has been much more progressive than other Western democracies, including the US — of course — but even more so than the UK, France, and Nordic countries. Canadian society has yet to experience political polarization to the extent that the US has. Both far-right and far-left ideologies are scarce and have not been a part of public discourse whatsoever.
In Canada, there is a major emphasis on freedom of religion, speech, & basic human rights for all citizens no matter sexual orientation, race, social class, or gender. Canadians are, however, much more willing to give up some of their personal freedom in order to guarantee the collective good. Compare that to the US, where individual liberty has trumped the concern for the less fortunate.
Sam Harris, the neuroscientist and philosopher, writes an excellent piece on why this selective unfavorable view towards the less fortunate is problematic. I would recommend reading it.
America has been known for popularizing in its Declaration of Independence the notion of “Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness.”
Canada has adopted a less ambitious — but equally important — motto,
“Peace, order, and good government.”
Canada has had its fair share of controversies, with some regions (*cough* Quebec) showing up in the news much more often than British Columbia, where I reside, for example.
The Political Parties of Canada
Canada is dominated by two parties: the center-left Liberal Party of Canada & the center-right Conservative Party of Canada. One can easily argue that many conservatives in Canada would run as Democrats in the US. The differences are stark between the two different views. Many conservatives in Canada are much more liberal — both socially & economically — than conservatives in the US.
Officially, however, Liberals position themselves at the center of the political scale, the Conservatives on the right, the New Democratic Party on the left. Parties like the Quebec nationalist Bloc Quebecois and the Green Party of Canada are also represented at the federal level and have shown to exert their fair share of influence.
Let me know what else I should add in this brief introduction. I wanted to keep it brief for beginners. Let me know in the comments. Or, connect with me! Means by which to do so are below :)
Before you go…
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I write to keep you thinking and to keep me thankful and reflective. Cheers and until next time,