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Book Review: The Canadian Century

The Canadian Century, by Brian Lee Crowley, Jason Clemens and Niels Veldhuis, is an unusually sobering look at political realities in North America, suggests J.J. McCullough. It may prove, he claims, enormously prescient.

J.J. McCullough - July 12, 2010

The great dilemma of modern Canadian conservatism is its struggle to successfully establish some patriotic narrative of national pride and purpose. Since at least the 1960s, the dominant strain of Canadian nationalism has been identifiably leftist in some form or another, whereby patriotism is generally defined as support for the Liberal Party and its various agendas of socialized medicine, multiculturalism, and cultural subsidies. Conservatives, who tend to be critical of such things, are now saddled with the uphill battle of trying to culturally reorient a country that has been dominated by the ideology of the other side for so very long.

The Canadian Century is an interesting cultural artifact in this regard, as it represents an attempt to link the rising popularity of conservative fiscal principles with a classically Canadian appeal to anti-American chauvinism. In doing so, it presents a new, fairly modest conservative thesis of Canadian nationalism in which the country’s national purpose is defined as simply being more fiscally conservative than the United States -- a goal we are said to be currently achieving. It’s a bold and challenging argument, and will likely be very attractive to many Canadian fiscal conservatives who desire a sense of patriotic identity, yet remain profoundly disillusioned with the government-directed nationalism of the Liberal Party, and find themselves increasingly nonplussed by the agenda of Obama’s America.

Though the idea that Canada’s national identity can be simplified into such a narrow economic goal is somewhat naive and unsophisticated, The Canadian Century is nevertheless an unusually sobering look at the political realities of North America from a perspective we rarely hear. As a book on the fiscal state of the continent, and the challenges that await in the new decade, it may prove enormously prescient.

Four important facts

Authored by a trio of Canada’s leading free-market intellectuals (Brian Lee Crowley, Jason Clemens, and Niels Veldhuis), The Canadian Century is a tome that desperately wants to remind Canadians of four important facts that are either largely forgotten or unfashionable to recall in the present day:

1) Canada had a very, very poorly-run economy from the 1960s to the late 1990s, and in terms of national debt and unsustainable spending, was teetering on “third world” status.

2) The 1993-2003 Liberal government of Jean Chretien embarked on a remarkable agenda of fiscal conservatism to resolve the aforementioned crisis, as did many of the provincial governments of the same era.

3) Canada’s political culture has historically favored small-government and low spending. The left-wing goofiness that dominated the 1960s through 1990s represents an aberration of the national character.

More articles by J.J. McCullough