The Other North American Election
By Samuel Edward Konkin III
While Richard Nixon bored everyone with his landslide on November 7, Canadians were treated to a cliff-hanger a week earlier on October 30. The pollsters confidently predicted a Trudeau return as Maritime provinces’ results swung slightly towards the Liberal Party, and Quebec cut the Progressive Conservative seats from four to two (out of 74). True, the Social Credit Rally (Ralliement Creditiste) increased their popular vote substantially, but gained only one seat. Then Ontario came in with the social democratic New Democrat Party and the Progressive Conservatives slashing into the Grit (Liberal) standings. And then the West.
In Alberta, all four Liberal seats were buried under a Tory (PC) avalanche. British Columbia moved the Tories even with the Grits, and brought in the NDP main strength. The Northwest Territories gave the NDP their first “frontier” seat (Grit loss) and the Tories held on to the Yukon to put them one seat up, 109-108.
Canada does not allow absentee balloting, except for one special case. The Social Credit Party’s sole gain was at the expense of Jean-Luc Pepin, a Liberal Cabinet Minister involved in what Murray Rothbard called Quebec’s “White Terror” suspension of civil rights of a few years ago, and, since the Creditistes are the federal party which most free market libertarians (especially minarchists) in the U.S. would sympathize with, it seemed like divine justice. Unfortunately, the military votes Grit, and their absentee ballots reversed the 100-vote margin, knocking the Creditistes back to 14 seats. Libertarians can probably read symbolism into that as well.
The final standings of 109 seats each for the Liberals and P. C.’s, 30 for the NDP, 14 for SC, one Independent Conservative and one Independent (speaker of the House Lucien Lamoureux—non-partisan) tell the average American nothing, assuming he even heard of them. For the libertarians wanting of know who to cheer and who to boo—as Dr. Rothbard is wont—even less. I shall undertake here to give you a programme to go with your scorecard.
The Social Credit Party used to be based in the rightist West, Alberta and British Columbia, and was a free market, pro-American party with a funny money policy they could not legislate because they had only controlled provincial governments. They never had more than a minority in the national House of Commons. In 1963, they defeated John Diefen-baker’s minority Tory government because he failed to balance the budget. In 1962, Real Caouette led his Quebecers into the House in larger numbers than the Western wing, and the party eventually split. The Western wing withdrew in favor of P. C.’s to stem the Trudeau sweep of 1968, and never recovered. Caouette kept his more orthodix Social Credit position, appealing populistically to the Quebec habitants (peasant farmers) and stayed in the House. Recently he tried to expand westward, but failed to restore the party outside Quebec (although there are still a few Socred diehards lurking in rightist circles in ranch and oil country). The Alberta provincial Socreds were thrown out of office for the first time in 35 years in 1970 by Kennedyesque Tory Peter Lougheed, and their very survival as a party depends on Lougheed’s self-destruction. This year in British Columbia, W. A. C. Bennett’s 20-year Socred regime was ousted by the NDP in an even greater victory, marking a swing from far Right to far Left in the Canadian four-party spectrum. Although Caouette increased his popular vote markedly, and signs of organization were seen again throughout Canada, the recent net effect for the “good guys” (least worst guys) is down.
The Leftist bad guys, the New Democrat Party, which is labour backed and oriented, like the British Labour Party, now has three provincial governments (B. C, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba) and their largest number of seats ever in the Federal House. American investors are fleeing B. C. right now, and Canadian capitalists are screaming to the federal government to bail them out by preventing nationalization of federal regulated industries. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
The big gains federally were reaped by Robert Stanfield’s Progressive Conservative Party, but it cannot take over the government without 25 more seats—and the Creditistes haven’t got that many. The Tories are conservative, but in the British/European sense, not (except for a small Ontario faction) in the American quasi-libertarian sense. Hence they love mercantilism and fear gradual socialism much less. Thus NDP support for the right Welfarist concessions is thinkable, and the NDP’s and PC’s both are anti-American (just as the Liberals and SC’s are pro-American). Their foreign policy might seem more appealing to a libertarian; but it manifests itself in increasing government regulation of corporations (50% of Canadian companies are American controlled) and in little which could be considered objective anti-imperialism. The NDP leader, David Lewis, will “throw his support behind whichever of the old line parties is prepared to deal adequately with unemployment, inflation, old age pensions, and a more equitable tax system.” Coming from a socialist, that seems ominous. I doubt that libertarians could imagine a worse nightmare than a de facto socialist-traditionalist coalition.
Trudeaumania is gone, but Pierre Elliot Trudeau clings on. He has not resigned, and it looks as if he will try to keep governing, daring the Opposition to precipitate an election by defeating him on a non-confidence motion. Here, precedent is murky. There is no reason the figurehead Governor-General can’t ask the Tories to try to gain confidence for a majority—but in 1926, Governor General Lord Byng refused Liberal Mackenzie King’s request for dissolution of Parliament, and invited Conservative Arthur Meighen to govern. His bungling Progressive supporters blew a “pairing”, bringing him down only days later, and William Lyon Mackenzie King rode to victory attacking Byng’s interference. Would Roland Michener have the guts of Lord Byng? Ultimately, the Tories may be thwarted by this vestige of royal privilege. Michener was a Conservative, to add to the irony, but was appointed by a Liberal government, following a recent cross-party tradition.
Still, Trudeau has a problem if Michener doesn’t give him an issue. The electorate might decide to finish the job by giving Stanfield a majority. Diefenbaker ended 22 years of Liberal government in 1957, and dissolved his minority government early in 1958 calling for just such a majority. He won a record 208 out of 265 seats.
On the other hand, Lester Bowles Pearson won two minority governments in a row of 1963 and 1965 after a Tory minority of 1962, failing to get the majority he craved. He limped along in the Centre, depending on Social Credit support.
It is in the Grits’ interest to give the Tories the government, so that Stanfield can begin to alienate voters. But it’s not in Trudeau’s interest, as shown by Diefenbaker’s ouster after his election defeat by a particularly brutal purge which caused enough resentment in the West to give Trudeau his 1968 victory in the first place. Trudeau’s ouster would not be so regionally oriented, because half of the Liberal seats are in Quebec anyway, and his followers have nowhere to go but the Creditistes, the Tories being unthinkable and the NDP frowned on by the Catholic Church.
The French-English split is being played up by foreign papers, and the Separatists may be bolstered by the defeat of their centralist enemy Trudeau—but that is a Provincial effect, not a Federal one. Furthermore, resentment against compulsory bilingualism/biculturalism is found in the third of the population of non-WASP origin (mostly in the West) such as German, Ukrainian, Galician, Icelander, Dutch, Russian, and others who are just speaking English in the first or second generation. The only real amelioration will be found in reviving the Social Credit and Union Nationale’s (a Quebec provincial party, recently defeated by the Grits) demand for greater decentralism and provincial rights. The present trend is the other way, but Canadians are a remarkably non-revolutionary lot, pointing with pride to their “evolution” from Great Britain, as opposed to the Americans’ messy violence. Quebec independence will be gained gradually if at all, by the Parti Quebec parliamentarily (with both RIN-socialistic-and RN-Creditiste-wings) and not by the ten to fifteen FLQ goons.
Revolution in Canada is a bigger joke than in the U.S., and rather than radical change, resulting from elimination of Trudeau’s flashy, slightly-leftist liberalism (he flirted with price controls but never implemented them, by the way) one should expect stodginess, anti-communist witch-hunts from Liberal renegade Paul Hellyer, and the ominous economic changes resulting from NDP support. Canadian libertarians and their American allies should be hoping for a new election and a minority government with Creditiste swing vote power. Failing that, how about Parliamentary Chaos?
 Page 1, The Edmonton Journal, Tuesday, October 31, 1972.
 Front de Liberation Quebecois RIN = Reassemblement pour l’Independence Nationale, and RN = Ralliement Nationale. The Nationale recurring in Quebec party names has the opposite meaning of “nationwide”.
SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Before becoming a well-known libertarian activist and writer, Mr. Konkin was a Socred activist, and Chairman of the University of Alberta Social Credit Party from 1966-68. He became senior participant in the Model Parliaments, and was involved in all Canadian and Alberta elections from 1962 to 1968. He is now a foreign student at New York University, a candidate for a Ph. D. in Theoretical Chemistry.
The Libertarian Forum
Volume 4 Number 11 / January 1973
Pages 4, 6