If liberalism (in its inception) emphasized individual liberty, private property, and minimal government intervention, then our friends to the south and even some parties in Canada will basically be liberal—in this first generation sense.
If conservatism (in its modern inception) countered the excessive individualism and memoricide of the past (think of the French Revolution), then we probably don’t have a traditionally conservative party in North America that stands a chance of winning office.
Remember that conservatives founded the CBC, CNR, Ontario Hydro, and the Bank of Canada. Note too that a Baptist pastor first rolled out Provincial healthcare, which paved the way for national health care.
Such interventions, whether pleasing or not, follow from a genuinely conservative point of view. They aim to intervene in order to meet the needs of society: electricity, travel, un-biased news (yes, ha ha now), and so on.
My point is not that these are good things that conservatives have done, but that they make sense to have been done from a conservative point of view.
Or to put it more pointedly, conservatives have in their modern inception countered the individualism that is now present in various libertarian groups. That, by the way, does not make something like the platform of the PPC bad. It might just mean that part of what that movement represents is something deeply non-conservative.
That said, definitions change. So for the most part, Canadians have now adopted the American republican style of conservatism, which overlaps a lot with Lockean liberalism: the right to life, liberty, and property. It also affirms the basic liberal ideas of individualism and minimal government intervention. It adds free-market economies and more besides.
So at one level, these are just species of liberalism, although I know the language here trips us up. But it probably should not. If we want to be political—i.e. live this life with understanding—then it’s useful to know our history.
Ron Dart talks about memoricide, the death of memory. Well, yes, even in Canada we were not republican or blue tories until about 2003. At least when the Conservative Alliance formed, at that time, then we became almost entirely blue tories.
The Harper government would be one great example of what this looks like. And by the way, I don’t mean this critically. We can be liberal, should we want to be. And we can be liberal conservatives if by that we mean we want to conserve the liberal ideals of individual liberty and so on.
According to professor Dart, someone like Roger Scruton actually preserves first-generation liberalism. So even Scruton might represent only right-leaning liberalism, one that conserves that tradition (and can be called conservative for this reason).
What’s a Canadian to do in such a situation? Well, for someone like myself who enjoys the benefits of social health care and various interventions like these while ALSO affirming the need for a voluntary society, something like high toryism or so-called red toryism is the place to live.
We can here deny the disaster of marxism and the excess of individualism that we now see across North American society. We can draw on the past of Christian thinkers since Christians tended to be what we might anachronistically call tories. So read Richard Hooker (1554-1600), as an example.
I do fear that our assimilation into the USA has progressed too far. Our private piety and public polity is becoming more and more like the USA. I am not anti-USA. I am merely pro-Canada.
So let’s resurrect our dead memories and realize why the Loyalists rightly left the colonies and created a Canada built upon something better than our friends to the South could create. At least better in some ways, worse in others. Maybe a better way to put it is: we built a way of life that makes sense for us, and we don’t need to become the USA to flourish.