C2C Journal’s name is a deliberate double-play on our central aspirations – to be read from coast to coast and to nurture important conversations between Canada’s conservatives. While we may not always get along perfectly, having just lost an entirely winnable federal election in which the Conservative Party topped the popular vote, now is a critical time to have a wide-ranging and civil debate about the future of conservatism in our beloved country. Ben Woodfinden kicks off C2C’s new special series on this important topic with a thoughtful essay about a Canadian political tradition that enjoyed plenty of success in our past, and deserves to be revived today.
The future belongs to Canada. And it seems it always will, at least going by the many failed predictions of Canada’s imminent emergence as a praised and respected world-class nation. That’s because it’s not really about Canada in the global community, it’s all about us and our insecurities, writes Benjamin L. Woodfinden. That’s also why Woodfinden expects prodigious commentator, author and former news media magnate Conrad Black’s prescription to transform Canada into a “laboratory” – though a “sensible” one – for great new policies, or at least policies Black thinks are new and great, to go the way of similarly grandiose historical attempts.
Canadian conservatives blame the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms every time the courts render a Charter decision they don’t like, which is most of them. But the Charter’s not the main problem, writes Ben Woodfinden, and even if it were, it’s almost impossible to change. If you want to stop activist judges from using the Charter to enact progressive policy, the solution is to develop an “originalist” legal movement in Canada that will eventually produce judges who bring diversity of thought to constitutional cases, interpreting the Charter with restraint and respect for the supremacy of Parliament – just as its Framers intended.
In newsroom vernacular, the decision to kill a story is called “spiking”. It happens for various reasons including inaccuracy, irrelevance, dullness, and defamation. Writers get spiked too, for all those reasons and more. The superb former National Review essayist Kevin Williamson, for example, got spiked this month just as he was about to start a new gig at The Atlantic. Furious vilification by progressives over an intemperate tweet pre-empted his move from the conservative confines of NR into the mainstream liberal media. Williamson is no outlier, contends Ben Woodfinden, but rather the latest victim of “no-platforming” by leftists bent on banishing the right from public discourse.
The one year countdown to Brexit has begun, and mostly unenthusiastic negotiators for the EU and the UK are trying to come up with an arrangement that minimizes the economic and political pain. Their work is complicated by the revival of a Cold War with Putin and a Trade War with Trump. Be that as it may, writes Ben Woodfinden, Brexit has the potential to revive Britain as a model global free trader and alternative to both suffocating supranational bureaucracy and rampant populist protectionism.
Why does Sydney Crosby keep playing hockey after four concussions when he has $50 million in the bank? Why is Tom Brady trying for his 6th Super Bowl ring at 40? And why do millions of sports fans spend billions buying tickets, jerseys, cable TV subscriptions and all the other stuff that makes pro sport such a global economic behemoth? Plato knew the score, writes Ben Woodfinden, who reckons the great philosopher would approve of the way modern western society has channelled the innate human desire for glory into non-lethal entertainments for the masses.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tried to hang the Omar Khadr payoff on Stephen Harper, which roused a feisty counterattack from Canada’s most reclusive ex-PM. But Harper’s legacy won’t be defined by whatever he did or didn’t do to a confessed terrorist. Instead, writes Ben Woodfinden, it will be defined by what he did to unite Canada’s Conservative party and movement, build its institutional foundations, and make it permanently competitive for power.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, according to the proverb. But what does all play and no work do to us? Thanks to the rapid acceleration of automation and artificial intelligence, we may be about to find out on a humanity-sized scale. With a guaranteed income and no job, and machines that can do anything we can do, only better, what will we do all day? Will it make us more creative and philanthropic, or more hedonistic and self-destructive? Ben Woodfinden weighs the odds.
The latest deadline for a UK-EU Brexit deal has passed and the chaotic efforts to get a deal will continue. God knows how this process will end but there will inevitably be winners and losers and prominent among the latter will almost certainly be Prime Minister Theresa May. Still, it’s hard not have some grudging respect for her doggedness and endurance. On the eve of the 2017 UK election Ben Woodfinden wrote an optimistic piece about May’s future that was almost immediately repudiated by her appalling performance in that campaign. But Woodfinden was right about one thing. Like the great Maggie Thatcher, May can take a punch, or ten, and has proven herself not for turning in the face of tremendous challenges.