Tuesday, February 07, 2006

book review: Rescuing Canada's Right

Rescuing Canada’s Right
Kheiriddin, Tasha & Daifallah, Adam
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, October 28, 2005
ISBN: 047083692X

Reading Rescuing Canada’s Right hit the spot after the Conservative Party of Canada’s minority win in the Canadian federal election three weeks ago. This hopeful and provocative book by Tasha Kheiriddin and Adam Daifallah, two of Canada’s bright, young (and attractive) small-c conservatives challenges: “We must not only make it cool to be conservative, we must make it uncool not to be conservative,” and then lays out how that can be done.

The book’s introduction illustrates the present off-the-rails state of Canadian conservatism. It begins:

Proclaiming oneself a conservative in Canada today is (check one): a] unusual; b] a lonely endeavor; c] political suicide; d] all of the above.

It goes on to explain how Pierre Trudeau and the policies put in place by him have led to the present situation in Canada where the

“...political status quo is not liberal, conservative, right wing or even classical liberal – it is statist. Statism, as defined by the Acton Institute, is ‘a program or viewpoint that looks to the state for resolution of social and moral problems rather than to individual effort...where nongovernmental institutions of a society develop an overextended and unhealthy reliance upon political structures for the solution of problems.’”

Following the introduction, the book is broadly organized into three parts.

Part one (chapters 1-3) is a history of conservatism in Canada to 2005 (not including the election just past, of course).

In part two (chapters 4-11) the authors do a detailed analysis of how and why conservatism has languished in eight areas: 1] the grassroots; 2] think tanks, policy research and pressure groups; 3] the media; 4] the charter; 5] academia; 6] Quebec; 7] new immigrants; 8] leadership development.

Part three (chapters 12-16 and the Conclusion) lays out a vision for a strong conservative movement in Canada by spelling out a conservative position in four areas: families, health care, environmentalism and federalism.

The back of the book contains an Appendix of conservative organizations and contacts, and an index.

I especially appreciated the historical first section of the book. Questions I've had, like where did the ‘Red Tories’ come from, and why have past Conservative party platforms been almost identical to the Liberals, were answered.

The middle section of analysis and proposed redress was revealing and informative, though I felt in places overly hopeful (like we’ll see conservative thought encouraged in curricula and universities in Canada any time soon!). The chapter on the media explained a lot of things I’ve been noticing and I entirely agree with the prescription in the book’s final section - abolish the CRTC! The section which dealt with the charter was also enlightening. It explained how a ‘reading in’ of sexual orientation in Section 15 of the charter has caused it to be a prohibited grounds of discrimination, analogous to race, sex, religion, and age.

My favorite section, though, was the vision proposed in the last four chapters of the book and the template proposed for formulating policy especially as it relates to two areas:

The family: “Pro-family and pro-marriage policies that make it an economic advantage to wed and have children...with the goal of establishing strong families as a counterpoint to dependency on the state.”

(However, the words I left out “These policies should include all families both opposite and same-sex ones,*” highlight the point where social conservatives [so-cons] will disagree. Kheiriddin and Daifallah’s position on so-cons is that they need to concede to the status quo in abortion and gay marriage. And yet they see so-cons as playing a role:“The key contribution of so-cons to social policy is their belief in the importance of family and children” [P. 204]. I would submit that so-cons oppose abortion and gay marriage for the very reason that they are seen as destructive of the family. So at this key juncture I find the authors’ position inconsistent, even oxymoronic. But, I remind myself, this is a book about making conservatism cool, not logically consistent.)

And health care: “Health care policies that permit the development of a parallel private health care system”.

At last someone is talking some sense. The Canadian Conservative Party win on January 23rd followed by finding and reading this book has left me with the hope that a forward-thinking, strong, self-reliant Canadian populace may not be just a pipe dream after all.


* emphasis mine

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