“Brimelow identified a number of areas of conflict within Canada that the current system was papering over…”

[Excerpt from

Stephen Harper And the Future of Canada
William Johnson (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2005)
Pages 50-55]

Harper and Weissenberger wondered
why Canada was different. They received a powerful
lesson when, in October 1986, the Mulroney
government—their government—made public a decision that
shook all of western Canada. It announced that the
maintenance of the newly acquired fleet of 138 CF-18
fighter jets would be done by Montreal`s Canadair rather
than Winnipeg`s Bristol Aerospace. The $1.2-billion
contract went to the Montreal firm despite the fact that
the jury appointed by the government to evaluate the two
bids had found the Winnipeg bid represented “the most
favourable price and technical proposal,”
to the briefing paper prepared by the PC caucus` own
research staff. Though Bristol Aerospace offered to
service the aircraft at lower cost and with a superior
performance, Canadair won the contract…

Once again, as so often in our
history, western Canada was treated as a colony destined
to serve the interests of central Canada, and
specifically Quebec. This decision, like others of the
Mulroney government when Quebec`s interests were
involved, led the pair to reflect on the place of Quebec
in recent Canadian politics. By coincidence, a book on
the subject had been published shortly before,

The Patriot Game
: National Dreams &
Political Realities
, by Peter Brimelow. It was a
shocker, a bombshell, a call to arms. For bright young
men trying to make sense of their country at a time of
disillusionment, it offered powerful medicine.

“Brimelow`s book, that was a

big influence at the time,
Weissenberger says.
Whether you believe his analysis completely or not,
it was strong. We both read it with great interest and
discussed a lot of the points in it. Brimelow identified
a number of areas of conflict within Canada that the
current system was papering over, the Quebec question
being the largest one. We were so impressed that we
actually went to one bookstore and we said, `OK, we want
to buy ten copies of this book, what deal will you give
us?` So we bought ten copies and gave them to all our

Brimelow was a Brit who had
received an M.B.A. from Stanford University and had then
worked in Canada as a staff writer for the Financial
and as business editor for Maclean`s
magazine. He wrote The Patriot Game as a kind of

Parthian shot
aimed at Canada after he left for the
United States, where he would become a senior editor of
Forbes magazine, and a senior editor of the
conservative National Review. He wrote with wit
and irony. His perception of Canada was depressing. He
turned topsy-turvy all the political platitudes and
pious assumptions of Canada`s right-thinking
(left-thinking) elites. Brimelow invited Harper and
Weissenberger on a new voyage of discovery, and they
willingly embarked. He described many fault lines in
Canada. They included the inherent conflicts between
central Canada and the other geographical regions, and
the struggle for wealth and power between the mainstream
society and the native. But the one fundamental conflict
that he saw was undermining Canada, past, present, and
future, was that which opposed French and English
speakers, Quebec and the rest of Canada.

history and politics of Quebec are dominated by a single
great reality: the emergence of the French-speaking
nation. The process has been slow, complex, and
agonizing. There have been false starts, reversals, and
long periods of quiescence. But for over 200 years its
ultimate direction has remain the same: toward
ever-greater self-expression, as the growing plant seeks
the light.”

For Brimelow, the Liberal Party is
the villain of Canadian history. It imposed a way of
thinking about country, a vision, that was detrimental.
In effect, the Liberal Party became the surrogate of
French Quebec, ruling the country because our
parliamentary and electoral system allowed a minority to
rule that majority: French Canada voted as a bloc, while
English Canada was split.

time this [20th] century, English Canada lost
its nerve,” Brimelow wrote. “As the Anglophones
retreated, the Francophones advanced. But their movement
was not simply opportunistic. They were also impelled by
the seismic upheaval in Quebec society that led to the
so-called Quiet Revolution in the 1960s.”

Brimelow saw the history of the
previous century as essentially a competition between
French and English to assert their nationality through
the state, with the Liberals representing the
French-speakers, the Conservatives representing the

But the competition proved unequal,
in part because the Liberal ascendancy managed to impose
a false consciousness on English speakers whereby the
latter were seduced into accepting a political vision
that was contrary to their reality and to their

Canadian Liberal Party has been able to persuade English
Canada that preserving the Canadian Confederation and
common morality itself requires continual concessions to
Quebec…The Liberal Ideology to a considerable extent is
the projection of internal Quebec concerns onto the
national stage, so that Canadian politics in the Liberal
era have been essentially those of a sort of Greater

The Liberals had a left-wing
philosophy. They tailored their policies to attract
needy minorities wanting protection and favours from the
(Liberal) state. This included buying the loyalty of
client constituencies with the money of the taxpayers
with, for instance,

bewildering variety of subsidies and incentives
orchestrated by Ottawa in the 1960s and 70s to stimulate
development in the peripheral regions. If you have
convinced yourself that economic growth is not best left
to market forces but always requires government
direction, it is easier to justify what might otherwise
appear a crude attempt to bribe the regions to shut up
about federal trade policies that benefit only Central

So it happened, according to
Brimelow, that Canada acquired a hypertrophic welfare
state, with a “New Class” of politicians, civil
servants, employees of the multiple Crown corporations
such as the CBC, welfare workers, teachers, journalists.
And these opinion leaders were tributary to the Liberal
ideology which they then propagated as the true national
vision and the New Nationalism. Any other view was
politically incorrect.

The Liberals were defeated in 1984,
and Brian Mulroney brought the Progressive Conservatives
to power. Bur, for Brimelow, this was again playing the
same old Liberal game. Mulroney was from Quebec, he was
perfectly bilingual, and Quebec`s concerns were his
priorities. He maintained and promoted the same old
“Liberal Ideology.”

The focus of Canadian politics on
the concerns of central Canada, and especially of
Quebec, was causing powerful strains east of Quebec and,
above all, west of Ontario.

The attempt to remodel Canada into
a Greater Quebec would provoke a reaction, Brimelow

sectional divisions within English Canada will be a
continuing problem. This is particularly true of the
western provinces. They may lead some sort of rebellion
against the Liberal hegemony, perhaps by supporting a
right-wing, fourth party.”

The Reform Party would be founded
the following year.

Weissenberger commented:

was the time when Mulroney was bringing nationalists
into his caucus—separatists, let`s be honest. He was
trying to play both sides against the middle. And then
there was what we perceived as the crisis of the welfare
state in Canada, with the debt problem. And there seemed
to be essentially an ideological consensus between the
three major parties. Everybody had essentially bought
into the system; they weren`t willing to consider an
alternative—certainly not from the right. If anyone had
a question about what to do in public policy, well,
`we`re not spending enough money in the area,` right?
[peals of laughter]. So we were looking at it from the
other side and thinking, there have to be some other
possible solutions to this. So, in retrospect I may not
agree with all of Brimelow`s points, but certainly it
was a very important book for us at that time.”

As Harper and Weissenberger saw it,
Weissenberger in particular, Mulroney`s attitude toward
Quebec revealed a fundamental problem which made the
much-needed conservative shift in the country nearly
impossible…The West, notably Alberta, was once again
being sacrificed to Quebec. And Mulroney, despite his
rhetoric, was doing very little, they thought, to deal
with the monstrous and crushing dimension of the state
in Canada.

As Brimelow had pointed out:

suffers from a particularly acute form of the
generalized late-twentieth-century crisis of the welfare
state. Its politicians apparently feel unable to respond
to this problem, partly because of what they believe is
the danger of exacerbating sectional and linguistic
divisions by withdrawing any subsidy or privilege.”