"Tories in name and nothing else," said a headline on the front of Friday's Globe and Mail. The story was about the meeting between Britain's new Tory prime minister, David Cameron, and Canada's allegedly Tory PM, Stephen Harper.
"The two men are united only by the word Tory," the Globe's writer asserted. Actually, while this is true in a sense, and while Cameron sounds as if he actually may be a Tory in one historical sense of the word, Harper is not. He's no Tory, and he's no Conservative either.
Consider Bill C-9. In the budget implementation act now before Parliament, Prime Minister Harper is bringing to Canada the U.S. legislative technique of hiding "earmarks" within spending legislation to mislead voters, manipulate opposition politicians and block democratic debate.
This is only one of many examples, of course, of the chronic desire to Americanize Canada of this prime minister and his angry brigade of so-called Conservative MPs. As a consequence, his party should be known as "the American Party of Canada."
This is not mere hyperbole. Canada's Conservatives, so called, are certainly not conservative, either in the common dictionary meaning of the term or in the collection of beliefs traditionally associated with the Conservative Party of Canada, which, for a spell, was known as the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.
Whether it is their faith in American political institutions such as elected upper houses, fixed election dates, term limits and the separation of powers, their love for the worst features of the American economic system, or their reliance on American-style wedge issues such as attacks on the abortion rights of Canadian women, they have pursued a radical policy agenda since the reverse takeover of the old Progressive Conservative Party by the Reform Party in 2003.
Just as they are not Conservatives, nor should these people be called "Tories" -- no matter how convenient this is to those few remaining headline writers in the employ of Canadian newspapers, whether they work from the Canadian Press office in Toronto or an anonymous cubicle farm in Bangalore.
In the Canadian political tradition, "Tories" began as Empire Loyalists, that is, British patriots in North America who sided with the Crown. This venerable English political term was hurled at them as an insult by the treasonous American revolutionaries.
Those who were not murdered for their loyalty to the Crown were robbed and driven from their homes. They landed in British North America, what today we would call political refugees.
Not surprisingly, they and their descendants became fierce Canadians, conservative in the best and most proper sense of the word.
By association, in this country "Tory" became shorthand for the Conservative Party of Macdonald, fiercely protectionist builders of Canada, and by near-apostolic succession the Conservatives of prime ministers like John Diefenbaker and even Joe Clark. One could even countenance calling the odious Brian Mulroney, pockets full of cash-stuffed envelopes and all, a Tory by lineage if not conviction.
But Harper and his gang? Conservatives? Tories? Not a chance!
These are not the conservative descendants of the Empire Loyalists, faithful to Canada and the True North, Strong and Free. Harper’s Conservatives (nothing progressive about them, thank you very much) are Republicanized pod-people, worshippers of every American idea except the good ones, who engineered the Invasion of the Party Snatchers that undid the Progressive Conservatives in 2003.
They despise Canada. As Harper famously said in the National Post in December 2000, Canada isn’t the finest, freest country on the planet, it's nothing more than "a second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status."
Well, he’s set about to fixing that, hasn’t he?
It's a lamentable commentary on the debased state of political discourse in this country that the author of Friday's Globe report seems to think the term Tory belongs to the neo-liberal wrecking crew, to which Mr. Harper belongs but Mr. Cameron apparently does not.
He means, of course, the American Party. Bill C-9 is just another plank in the American Party’s platform.
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.