Can the mutual interests of the regions lead to a decentralized Canada?

By Mark Wegierski

Regionalization is a possible solution to Canada’s current-day crisis. Whether one calls them infrastructures or “cadres,” conservatives in Canada today are greatly in need of them.

A truly consummate politician is able to utilize the self-interest of disparate groupings to work towards some common goal that only he or she has in mind. This process is exemplified by a leader like Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the Liberal prime minister of Canada from 1968-1984 (except for nine months in 1979-1980). Trudeau’s ability to turn both French- and English-speaking Canada to his own ends, with both parts of the country thinking they were at least partially pursuing their own self-interest, is the mark of an effective political figure.

Indeed, it may be argued that one of the most important elements of highly effective politics is harnessing the energies of others (other nations, “cadres,” groups, or “schools”) to consciously or unconsciously (willingly or inadvertently) work for your own goals.

One could look at “cadres,” broadly defined, as a possible key to understanding much of the world-historical process. Certainly, in the 20th century, the exercise of social, political, and cultural power by various “cadres,” whether left-liberal, Leninist, fascist, nationalist, or theocratic (in Iran, for example) can be seen as having had an enormous impact on history. Is it the leader who leads, or rather the “cadres” which implement the program, that are more important?

It has been suggested that some kind of “provincialization” or “regionalization” might be a vehicle for restoring some degree of balance in the Canadian polity, essentially calling into being new cadres or infrastructures. It could be argued that perhaps Quebec, Ontario, Western Canada, and the Atlantic provinces, while pursuing mostly their own objectives, might find it in their interests to undertake some kind of “re-Confederation.”  What might flow from that is a re-balancing, in many parts of the new Canadian polity, between Left and Right. So, while the Liberal Party and the left-wing New Democratic Party would gain strength in Alberta, the Progressive Conservative party would make gains in Ontario, and the center-right Coalition Avenir Quebec would maintain its popularity in Quebec. Also, if there were in fact greater regional autonomy, federal elections would not necessarily be locked into regionally determined voting patterns.

Canada has been undergoing massive, transformational change since the 1960s, mostly under the aegis of the federal Liberal Party. It could be argued that, since that time, Canada’s British past has been thoroughly repudiated. To cite one major example, the country’s armed forces and military traditions (a common locus for national pride) were severely undermined through punitive budget cuts, the ridiculous unification of the services, and the imposition of various politically correct agenda on them. Another example was the annihilation of “Tory Toronto” through mass, dissimilar immigration and cultural fragmentation. Toronto had been given that nickname because it was seen (before the 1960s) as so conservative and British-focussed. A third example is the judicial activism driven by ultra-expansive definitions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982). The bringing of that document into the Canadian constitutional system has sometimes been characterized as the equivalent of a coup d’état. A fourth example is the massive reconfiguration of the education systems in most provinces to serve multifarious emanations of “political correctness.” (In the Canadian constitutional system, education is the responsibility of the provinces.)

Stephen Harper, the Conservative Prime Minister of Canada from 2006 to 2015 had but feebly responded to the massive tides of transformational change that have overwhelmed Canada since the 1960s. The election of Liberal Justin Trudeau in 2015 inaugurated another massive wave of “progressive” change – which is continuing after his re-election in 2019, albeit with a minority government.

It is to be hoped that some kind of new arrangements focusing on decentralization and regionalization, which would hopefully be more congenial to a more authentic social, cultural, and political existence, can be reached in this northern half of North America, before the almost inevitable-seeming social meltdown, or descent into cultural oblivion, occurs. Perhaps one can take some small comfort from the fact that, despite everything, the future is never entirely predetermined.

Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based writer and historical researcher. An earlier version of this article has appeared in Enter Stage Right.