Defining a conservative

Response to remarks about 'real conservatives' and the conservative philosophy

I agree with every word of the excellent letter written by Jim Miles in response to Scott Anderson’s remarks about “real conservatives” and the conservative philosophy of “liberty and self-sufficiency.”

Mr. Anderson’s comments concern me in other ways as well, since he seems to believe that there is only one conservative philosophy that all “real conservatives” subscribe to.

This is a complete misconception as every country and society will have its conservatives and they will not all be the same. It depends entirely on the country in question.

The basic definition of conservative in the Canadian Dictionary of the English Language is, “favouring traditional views and values.”

The definition of conservatism is, “the inclination especially in politics to maintain the existing or traditional order.”

Conservatives are simply those who follow and maintain the traditions of their own society. There is no such thing as a “real conservative.” Obviously the traditions and values of different countries vary greatly, so it would be impossible for one conservative philosophy to fit them all.

I have been disturbed by how often those with beliefs appear to be ignorant of the political history of Canada and of the history of the Canadian Conservative Party.

Many conservative groups in western countries do share a distrust of government activism, but not all by any means. That is particularly true of Canada which historically was built by activist governments. One of the most activist was the conservative regime of Sir John A. Macdonald, the father of our country.

He introduced a planned economy (seems quite socialist to me) called the National Policy. This was very successful at the time and set the stage for activist governments of the future both federal and provincial.

Then of course, there was the way we acquired the railroad and you can’t get much more activist than that. Macdonald was not only the father of our country, he was the father of activist government in Canada. That is part of Canada’s tradition of conservatism.

Even before he became prime minister, Macdonald repeatedly remarked that, “what we need in this party are more progressive conservatives.” Others agreed with him and finally the name was made official in 1942.

Long before the name change, those conservatives of the past were often very progressive. For example the earliest form of the CBC was set up by a Conservative government in 1932. A Conservative government also established the Canadian Wheat Board in 1935, one of the most successful pieces of legislation ever enacted. This progressive approach was another part of Canada’s own conservative tradition.

Now no longer “progressive” (what a slap in the face for Sir John A.), Stephen Harper, and Preston Manning before him, created a party that has abandoned Canadian conservative traditions and values, and has embraced the far more right-wing conservative beliefs of a foreign country, the U.S.

Some might view this as an insulting and unpatriotic betrayal.

After all, according to the definition, a conservative is supposed to maintain the traditions of his or her own country, not the traditions of the country next door. Harper and his followers have done the exact opposite, so by rights should not be called Canadian conservatives at all.

If they changed their name to the “Republican Party North,” that at least would reflect what they truly represent.

Their ideology and most of their policies are unmistakably right-wing Republican, so this would be most appropriate. Unfortunately, their present actions continue to tarnish the name of a once great party that was instrumental in building Canada.

Sir John A. Macdonald would be appalled by the Americanization of his beloved party. To have this agenda carried out by those who call themselves Canadian conservatives would be the ultimate insult.

Poor Sir John A. must be whirling in his grave.


Sharon Ramsdale,Vernon