Thursday, July 3, 2014

"Canada's Founding Party"

How Harper's Conservatives have constantly tried to mangle and even rewrite Canadian history has been an alarming interest of mine.

There are events like the celebrations of the War of 1812, when Peter MacKay famously thanked the French for their kind assistance when in fact they had been on the other side. Remember that Napoleon guy who gave England so much trouble? MacKay tried to recover by saying he was referring to French Canadians, except of course he made the statement at the French embassy to real Frenchmen.

Others have written extensively about how the Conservatives' 8th grade approach to Canadian history is pretty much only about hockey and wars. Even as I hit the "publish" button on this little note, Andrew Coyne wrote an article about Harper's 2014 Canada Day speech.

The Conservative Party's website has a page devoted to how the history of Canada is supposedly the history of the Conservative Party: "Conservative achievements include Confederation, women’s suffrage, the Canadian Bill of Rights, and the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement." Women's sufferance in 1917 was introduced by Borden as an electoral trick to win the election (only women connected with serving soldiers got the vote so they could vote for "pro-soldier" Borden's Conservatives). Diefenbaker's Canadian Bill of Rights was toothless and is now irrelevant thanks to the Charter, which Harper refuses to acknowledge or follow when it conflicts with what he wants. And the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement brought in by Mulroney is at best controversial benefit to Canada and at worst decimated Canadian industry and put us firmly on the path to devolving once again simply into a resource state, which Harper has again embraced wholeheartedly.

As for being responsible for Confederation and Canada itself, that is a myth.

Forget for a moment that that same page states that the current Conservative Party was founded in 2003, it reaches back over the corpse of the Progressive Conservative Party so Harper's Conservatives can lay claim to being "Canada's Founding Party".

Glossing over the other aspects of shoddy historical revisionism, the main claim to being "Canada's Founding Party" is a major and false part of the Harper Conservative mythology. Of course Sir John A. Macdonald was a major mover in Confederation, but he was hardly alone.

There are generally accepted to be 36 "Fathers of Confederation" (not including Joey Smallwood) and they came from all parties. Here is a list of the "Fathers of Confederation" to which I have simply appended their political affiliations:

Politician -- Province -- Political Party

  1. Sir Adams George Archibald -- Nova Scotia -- Liberal
  2. George Brown -- Ontario -- Liberal
  3. Sir Alexander Campbell -- Ontario -- Conservative
  4. Sir Frederick Carter -- Newfoundland and Labrador -- Conservative
  5. Sir George-Étienne Cartier -- Quebec -- Conservative
  6. Sir Edward Barron Chandler -- New Brunswick -- Conservative
  7. Sir Jean-Charles Chapais -- Quebec -- Conservative
  8. Sir James Cockburn -- Ontario -- Conservative
  9. George Coles -- Prince Edward Island -- Liberal
  10. Robert B. Dickey -- Nova Scotia -- Conservative
  11. Charles Fisher -- New Brunswick -- Liberal
  12. Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt -- Quebec -- Liberal-Conservative
  13. Sir John Hamilton Gray -- Prince Edward Island -- Conservative
  14. Sir John Hamilton Gray -- New Brunswick -- Conservative
  15. Sir Thomas Heath Haviland -- Prince Edward Island -- Conservative
  16. William Alexander Henry -- Nova Scotia -- Liberal
  17. Sir William Pearce Howland -- Ontario -- Liberal-Conservative
  18. John Mercer Johnson -- New Brunswick -- Liberal
  19. Sir Hector-Louis Langevin -- Quebec -- Conservative
  20. Andrew Archibald Macdonald -- Prince Edward Island -- Conservative
  21. Sir John A. Macdonald -- Ontario -- Conservative
  22. Jonathan McCully -- Nova Scotia -- Liberal
  23. William McDougall -- Ontario -- Liberal
  24. Thomas D'Arcy McGee -- Quebec -- Liberal-Conservative
  25. Peter Mitchell -- New Brunswick -- Liberal-Conservative
  26. Sir Oliver Mowat -- Ontario -- Liberal
  27. Edward Palmer -- Prince Edward Island -- Conservative
  28. William Henry Pope -- Prince Edward Island -- Conservative
  29. John William Ritchie -- Nova Scotia -- Conservative
  30. Sir Ambrose Shea -- Newfoundland and Labrador -- Liberal
  31. William H. Steeves -- New Brunswick -- Liberal
  32. Sir Étienne-Paschal Taché -- Quebec -- Conservative
  33. Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley -- New Brunswick -- Liberal
  34. Sir Charles Tupper -- Nova Scotia -- Conservative
  35. Edward Whelan -- Prince Edward Island -- Liberal 
  36. Robert Duncan Wilmot -- New Brunswick -- Conservative
As you can see, there are a lot of Liberals in the mix, including key men of considerable political stature like George Brown and Oliver Mowat of Ontario. 

Macdonald himself at the time of Confederation had run under the confusing banner "Liberal-Conservative", which mostly died out within a decade although was still in use by some candidates as late as 1911.

In 1864 at the Charlottetown Conference there were 9 Liberal delegates and 14 Conservative or Liberal-Conservatives.

Confederation a Conservative achievement? Hardly.  As a glance at the above list shows it was a complex alliance of provinces, politicians and parties, but to the 8th grade history of the current Conservatives, it was their achievement alone. I suppose that is why they feel they can do anything they like with it.