Old Glory

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Today is Independence Day, the Fourth of July, the date on which our American cousins celebrate their successful 18th Century rebellion, which technically won them the right to decline to bow or curtsey to any monarch who does not have a working connection with the entertainment industry.

This day, on which the Stars ‘n’ Stripes flies proudly all across the continent, including along many roads in far southern Alberta, notwithstanding the presence of large numbers of social democrats in Edmonton, is also an excellent opportunity for Canadians to remind themselves of why Stephen Harper and the political party he heads have no business calling themselves Tories.

While notion of Tories, in the English tradition, had its beginnings among the royalist faction in the English Civil War of 1639 to 1651, in the North American context it normally refers to the Loyalists of British North America who eschewed American secessionism during the so-called War of Independence.

Alert readers of history will recall that this conflict, also known as the American Revolutionary War, began in 1775 and resulted in the recognition of the independence of the United States by everyone who mattered in the Treaty of Paris of 1783.

This freed our neighbors from the tyranny of -our words, which, it must be conceded was a positive outcome for them. This all happened long before the phrase “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, long may he reign” meant anything to anyone.

It also allowed the treasonous and newly confident American revolutionaries to hurl the term “Tories” at their patriotic fellow-Americans as venomous political invective. Those Tories who were not murdered for their loyalty to the Crown were robbed and driven from their homes. They landed in British North America, that part of the continent we now call Canada, as what we would term political refugees today.

Not surprisingly, these early Tories and their descendants became fierce Canadians, conservative in the best and most proper sense of that word — that is to say, determined to conserve those things in our society that are of value.

By association, in this country “Tory” became honourable shorthand for the Conservative Party of John A. Macdonald, fiercely protectionist builders of Canada, and by near-apostolic succession the line of Conservatives of prime ministers through John Diefenbaker and Joe Clark, and arguably even unto Brian Mulroney.

But Stephen Harper and his gang, what’s left of it? Tories? Or, for that matter, even conservatives? 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 are a Republicanized neoliberal wrecking crew, loyal only to the concept of globalization, worshippers of every American idea except the good ones, who engineered the Invasion of the Party Snatchers that undid the honorable old Progressive Conservative Party in 2003 and have been hard at work dismantling everything else of value Canada produced ever since.

Indeed, they despise Canada. As Harper famously commented in December 2000, Canada isn’t the finest, freest place on the planet, it’s nothing but ‘a second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status.”

Given that conviction, the government now setting up shop in Edmonton must give him the vapours!

Whether it is their faith in American political institutions such as elected upper houses, fixed election dates and term limits (although only when convenient), and the separation of powers, their love for the worst features of the American economic system, their hatred of civil collective action, or their reliance on U.S.-style wedge issues such as attacks on the abortion rights of Canadian women and sensible gun-control policies, they have pursued a radical policy agenda since the reverse hostile takeover of the PC Party by the Reform Party in 2003.

The theft of the grand old Canadian political designation Tory by Harper and what should properly be called “the American Party of Canada,” done with the connivance of a cadre of lazy newspaper headline writers, must have Mr. Macdonald, our first prime minister of any political persuasion, spinning like a top in his grave! The site of his grave, readers will note, is in Kingston.

As to the oft-repeated complaint that Canadians define themselves as who they are not, that is to say so-called Americans, one can only respond that it was the Americans who started that, wasn’t it, when they ran the real Tories out of town on a rail?

Surely Independence Day 2015 is as good a moment as any to formally begin the process of returning Canadian values to the governance of Canada?

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca. The author’s first ancestor on this continent, Johann Heinrich Kleimenhagen, was one of the 30,000 German “Hessian” troops who served the British Crown in the fight against American insurgents in the Revolutionary War. He returned to North America after his service was over and ended up in Upper Canada circa 1793.

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe...