Then as Farce: a Brief Review of Canadian Culture War Politics
This newsletter discusses the ramifications of the recent culture war riddled Conservative Party policy convention and how Canada has arrived in a political climate that is increasingly American
In a scene that feels as if it could only come out of some gathering of Trump obsessed Republicans, the recent policy convention for the Canadian Conservative Party saw a 15 year old girl receive thunderous applause as she pleaded to the crowd not to “let the door open for men” to enter women’s bathrooms. She did so during the open debate for a proposal to exclude trans women from “female only” spaces and to define “woman” as meaning “female person,” an awkwardly phrased dog whistle for TERFs who wish to define womanhood based upon biology. This proposal, which was one among thirty other non-binding suggestions raised by Conservative Party delegates from various federal ridings, passed by 87 percent. Yet its passing was not the only moment in the convention that desperately reeked of American culture war influence. Both policy proposals and speeches spread throughout the three day gathering of delegates from the second largest Canadian party were peppered with the same buzzwords already workshopped and popularized by the Trump controlled ‘populist’ GOP. Mentions of cancel culture, wokeness, the nefarious influence of groomers, and even nods to critical race theory made the convention feel as if it was a bizarre pantomime of American events like CPAC, with references to Biden being merely replaced with Trudeau.
This is a rather significant moment in Canadian politics, as a crucial fact connected to long term Canadian political trends that makes both liberal and conservative alike uncomfortable can no longer be denied. For liberals, this moment serves as the nail in the coffin for the lie of 'Canadian exceptionalism.' The so-called ‘bi-partisan consensus’ on social issues that is supposed to unify the country regardless of party affiliation (and therefore make us oh so better than those evil Americans) can no longer be repeated with a straight face. Some significant portion of the Conservative Party is no longer afraid of calling for a ban on gender-affirming care for minors or inviting people from anti-abortion organizations to their conventions. Many marginalized people whose lives could be destroyed by the removal of institutional protections must seriously be concerned about the results of federal elections. We are, despite liberal assertions otherwise, just like our southern neighbours. And for conservatives, they can no longer pretend they aren’t the Canadian party of Donald Trump. The desperate attempts by Conservative Party leaders to toe the line of ‘respectable conservatives' while somehow not pissing off the growing minority of culture war-obsessed freaks have utterly failed. How the fuck has this happened?
On a very old episode of my podcast that preceded the 2019 Canadian Federal Election, I noted that Canadian politics is just America on a five year time delay. And for the most part (plus or minus a few years depending on the given issue), this has been correct. And yet, not exactly. There is an essential caveat to Canada’s cultural dependence upon The United States. We, as Canadians, are cursed to draw almost all of our cultural energy from our southern neighbours, yet we must emulate them in the most farcical way possible. To understand the general nature of this intra-state cultural influence, think of the asinine attempts by American right wing ‘populists’ to successfully copy Trump’s appeal. Now, imagine this applied to an entire country’s political stage. Canadian politics is a theatre where both left and right are awkwardly miming the actions of their southern counterparts. We still have our ‘woke’ liberal president (only he is known for doing blackface), and the various vulgar ‘populist’ conservatives who have attempted to step up to the plate and be our Donald Trump have been completely and utterly forgettable; most hilariously in buffoonish Shark Tank entrepreneur Kevin O’Leary being too lazy to learn French (a requirement for the office). Even our two main parties, liberal and conservative, read like placeholders for Democrat and Republican in a fictional country whose writer hasn’t come up with unique names yet. Even our multi-party system, which at the very least gives some form of federal electoral influence to parties other than the only two who have a hope of electing a prime minister, has become a mere re-articulation of American political divisions. Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the left leaning New Democratic Party, appeared on the American radio show The Breakfast Club to compare the NDP to AOC and Bernie Sanders and the newly formed far right “People’s Party of Canada,” created essentially out of a political schism caused by the conservatives not being sufficiently obsessed with American culture war issues, famously erected a billboard in 2019 that read “stop antifa.” Yet despite the total and utter failure by the Canadian political establishment to produce any equivalent to either recent historically significant ‘once in a lifetime’ American political leaders (Obama and Trump), baying hordes of Canadian voters have continued to demand some equivalence between them and their southern neighbours.
Sometimes I see Americans online making fun of politically minded Canadians for being so incredibly focused on what’s happening in America. Ironically, Americans can sometimes be self-centred enough that it prevents them from understanding just how much influence they have elsewhere, especially in a country as close in spatial and cultural proximity as Canada. And while any mockery towards Canadians is, in my opinion, both valid and morally correct, some Americans fail to understand that Canada is America in almost every way that matters. Our culture, politics, language, and economy are, with slight exception from the French (derogatory) provinces of the country, entirely dependent upon what’s going on down south (although even the French far right cannot resist the urge to invoke le wokisme). The consequences of this fact, as American cultural influence becomes more and more essential to how Canadians articulate political divisions, are remarkably far reaching, both leading to hilarity, such as in the case of a Canadian man invoking their “first amendment” rights in a Canadian court case, and also rather troubling developments concerning Canada’s most marginalized groups. Yet before I dive too deeply into the conservative party’s convention itself, and what it means for the future of Canadian politics, I should first provide a brief history of how we got here in the first place.
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