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Electoral Politics, Political Myth, and the Future of Canada

Electoral Politics, Political Myth, And The Future Of Canada

“Nations do not make myths.  Myths make nations.”

– F.W.J. Schelling

Philosophie der Offenbarung


I. Introduction: The Electoral Expression of Regionalism[1]

Both the formal institutions of government in Canada and the somewhat less formal means by which governments make decisions have come under considerable stress in the past generation.[2] The 1993 national elections brought into focus the connection between regional identity and the representativeness of the party system that initially appeared in the 1920s.[3] The connection between region and electoral outcome was confirmed in the 1997 election and in the subsequent travails of the western-based and populist Reform Party in search of a Canadian conservative alternative to the dominant Liberal Party. Corroborative evidence for the persistence of regionalism in Canadian politics continued into the time when Stephen Harper was Prime Minister (2006–2015): he was strongly supported in his home province, Alberta, and deeply suspect in Quebec.

The election of October 2019 reconfirmed the earlier pattern: the West, which in this context means the three prairie provinces, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, is more or less Conservative; Quebec is a mixture of Liberals and nationalists; Ontario and the lower mainland of British Columbia supported the Liberals and the socialist New Democratic Party. The major parties conducting the election embodied a regrettable combination of mendacity on a national scale by the Liberals with timidity by the Conservatives, especially regarding Quebec and its distinctive “secularist” legislation that banned public servants in positions of authority from wearing religiously required clothing–– hijabs, kippahs, turbans. As might be expected with such an electoral combination, nothing decisive emerged from this recent trip to the polls. Indeed, it simply postponed some serious decisions and guaranteed that the future circumstances under which several long-standing regional problems must eventually be faced will make a moderate compromise much more difficult. The most significant consequence of 2019 was that the Liberals returned to office with the smallest share of the vote of any government in Canadian history. Previous and precarious minority governments[4] all had greater popular support. And the Conservatives? Despite the remarkable series of (once again) Quebec-centred corruption scandals and the Prime Minister’s bizarre personal behaviour, the Liberals were still able to take advantage of the Conservatives’ many shortcoming, especially their questionable leadership.

The result was deeply disappointing to Westerners. Worse, the manner of the Liberal victory was especially insulting. Rather than attempting to defend a questionable record, the Liberals attacked Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer as a continuation of the Liberally-detested Stephen Harper. They claimed Scheer and the Conservative Ontario premier, Doug Ford, were closet Trumpians, neither of which charge was remotely plausible. The Liberals also claimed they would ensure that Canada remain a “progressive” northern bastion against nativism, polarization, authoritarianism and the demonization of enemies, all evils they attributed to the Trump Administration. That is why they expended so much energy (and who knows how much money?) to lobby Barack Obama to endorse Justin Trudeau. That kind of election interference by foreigners is perfectly acceptable to the progressive left in Canada.

The data summarizing the October 21st results are clear, even eloquent. The Conservatives won 68% of 104 seats in the West. The Liberals won 60% of 234 seats in the non-West. As one insightful observer put it, Canadian elections have become opportunities for Ontario to decide how much money the West will send to Quebec under the federally administered equalization program, discussed below. Several commentators recalled the advice of the Liberal campaign manager of the 1980s, Keith “The Rainmaker” Davey and his 35-year-old advice: “Screw the West; we’ll take the rest.” It worked for the first Trudeau and now it has worked for his son, who (along with the former Liberal Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne) then had the temerity to accuse Alberta premier Jason Kenney of fomenting national division, disunity, and Alberta independence.

Looking back as well as ahead, the 2019 minority government is quite unlike, for example, the Conservative minority of 2006. Following the 2004 Liberal minority, the Harper conservatives tailored their policy to appeal to Quebecers––cancelling their plan to end corporate subsidies to the subway and aircraft manufacturer, Bombardier, for example. The Conservatives gesture toward Quebec interests have not been reciprocated by the Liberals even when, as in 2019, they were effectively shut out of the West. On the contrary, when Westerners have endured Liberal minorities, as in the present, there is no pressure for the government to appeal to Westerners. Rather, Westerners fully expect the Liberals to double down, under the guise of “fighting climate change” on policies that have imposed tremendous economic damage on the region, chiefly by preventing Western petroleum resources reaching global markets. Westerners know this, which is why there has been a spike in media chatter reflecting increased support for Western independence.

The actual public opinion data regarding Western independence have in fact been pretty stable. About a year ago an Angus Reid poll found that nearly three out of four Westerners thought that Ottawa doesn’t treat them fairly. Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute, told Global TV News that the West “does not see itself reflected or represented in our so-called national institutions” and suggested that the data reflected the position of the Reform Party in the late 1980s and cited their slogan: “The West Wants In.”[5] Westerners are still not represented in our so-called national institutions. The difference this time is that increasingly the West wants out. The interesting question so far as the topic of this paper is concerned is: how does the treatment of the West by Ottawa, and the current response by Westerners to that treatment, reflect Canadian political myths?

Let us consider one more piece of contemporary evidence: the interpretation of the last election by the Ontario media, particularly in Toronto’s “national” newspapers. On October 24, 2019 in The Globe and Mail, Eric Reguly said Westerners, particularly Albertans, were punishing themselves. They should have been “sophisticated” like the admittedly “cynical” electorate of Quebec, and voted strategically to “keep the federal favour-train running.” Instead, masochistic fools that they are, Alberta “rendered itself totally defenceless in Ottawa” and now must “prepare itself to take a few lashings.”[6]

The next day, Reguly’s colleague, Marcus Gee, revealed to the nation that “Toronto and the dynamic communities in its orbit have become the key to winning elections in the country.” This, of course, is good news. “Whether Canada succeeds depends on whether its biggest city succeeds.” Accordingly, “Toronto deserves every bit of its growing influence. Sensible Canadians will cheer it on.” For miscreants suffering from a regrettable lack of enthusiasm for Toronto and all for which it stands, and thus who find no reasons to cheer, his advice was brutally clear: “Get used to it.” Like it or lump it, the shining sun of Canadian success rises and sets on TO the Great.[7]

Andrew Coyne, writing in the National Post on October 26, 2019, half-endorsed Reguly’s notion that the Government of Canada is really a “national protection racket.” He certainly starts off, like his Globe colleague, in an odd way. Evoking The Sound of Music, he begins: “How do you solve a problem like Alberta?” and asks with indignation not irony: whatever are they complaining about now? The Liberals just bought them a pipeline. They have “one of the highest standards of living on earth” and the highest of all the provinces. And yet they claim the federation “does not work for them.” Ottawa, which passed Bill C-69, thus increasing the regulatory burden on the energy industry and effectively preventing further pipeline construction, and Bill C-48, which prevent Canadian petroleum products from reaching global and especially Asian markets, by prohibiting tankers from the north coast of BC, is not to blame for the destruction of the Alberta economy (low world oil prices are, Coyne says; but then why is the American oil and gas sector doing well?).[8]  The carbon tax, Coyne avers, is “good policy in the national interest.” The courts and activist groups, not the Government of Canada, are responsible for the absence of pipe. But who other than the Liberal Government of Canada has encouraged them both with poisoned rhetoric about social licence? Coyne did, however, condescend to observe: “But for goodness sake, it is hardly unreasonable for Albertans to feel themselves besieged.”[9]

Such commentary is not new in Canadian history, nor is the reality to which it refers, namely regionalism, a new concern. During the 1920s, for example, the combination of the Western farmers’ parties, called the Progressives, and the Eastern Maritime Rights movement put considerable strain on the customary “brokerage” role of political parties in Canada. Instead of trading off regional and other interests within the government, these interests, fortified by ideological visions, clashed openly across the floor in the House of Commons. Notwithstanding this challenge to traditional party government, the Liberal Party of Canada under Prime Minister Mackenzie King was able to swallow and digest regionalism, and much else besides.[10]

Partly as a consequence of his adroitness, Mr. King was able to transform the Liberal Party into what Reg Whittaker called the “Government Party.”[11] The 1993 eclipse, not to say the dissolution, of the Conservatives and the replacement of the two constituent elements of that party by the Western Reform Party and the nationalist Bloc Québécois, provided Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien with a problem and an opportunity not dissimilar to that faced by Mr. King during the 1920s and 1930s.  Changes in the political economy of the West and in the structure of federalism over the past two generations made the task of Mr. Chrétien in some respects easier, but in others much more difficult. Particularly important among the difficulties that any government in Ottawa must deal with is the enormous resource wealth of the West and the constitutional provision that such wealth must be redistributed, by Ottawa, to so-called “have-not” provinces. In the event, the chief beneficiary of what Canadians call “transfer payments” has been Quebec. Alberta has provided most of the money. The numbers are impressive: since 1961 the net fiscal transfer from Alberta has been $611 billion; since 2010 Alberta has supplied Ottawa with over $20 billion a year. Between 1961 and 2018, Quebec received 78% of net federal fiscal transfers and even today, while running a budgetary surplus of $4 billion, still receives two-thirds of every equalization dollar. Alberta, owing to stranded resources and limited pipeline capacity for export, sells its oil and gas to captive markets in the United States at deeply discounted prices. The result is a $6.7 billion budgetary deficit.[12]

In commonsensical terms, the federal equalization program means that an Alberta family of modest means contributes in federal taxes around 10% of its income to provide benefits to well off families in “have-not” provinces.[13] It almost goes without saying that Westerners consider the equalization program both corrupt and perverse. To use the language of the Declaration of Independence, the equalization program looks to many Westerners as part of a long train of abuse. It is, however, reflected in, and even supported by, Canadian political myths.

II. Political Myths in Canada

The electoral manifestation of regionalism in Canada is not simply a matter of conflicting interests. Perhaps more important are the conflicting ways in which Canadian citizens in different parts of the country understand their place in the nation, their distinct histories, and what these recent expressions of regionalism mean. Canada has long been described as a nation with “limited identities.”[14]  The 1993, 1997, and 2019 elections confirmed this interpretation.  Regional identity, as distinct from political unity, is characteristically expressed in contrasting, and often conflicting, regional myths. The stability of these myths effectively makes them political institutions in their own right. If they are ignored, as so often they are, one’s understanding of Canadian political reality is correspondingly impaired.

Political myth should be distinguished from political history. As Northrop Frye, who was  Canada’s most eminent literary critic, once said, history aims at telling what happened, whereas myth aims at telling what happens all the time. His distinction may not reflect the theoretical penetration of a political scientist such as Eric Voegelin, but it is still useful. According to Frye. the privileged discursive vehicle for recounting political myths is imaginative literature. In Canada, it is fair to say, there is no writer (and no literature) of whom one can say he or she belongs among the classics. That would include Frye’s most gifted pupil, Margaret Atwood. That Canada has produced no Daunty, Gouty or Shopkeeper (to use James Joyce’s trilogy of great European writers) is not to be deplored, at least not by political scientists. Canadian literature records what the Canadian imagination has experienced as meaningful, and it tells readers about those meanings in a way that nothing else could do. Chief among the questions literature answers is, as Frye also remarked, “where is here?” The “answer” is found in an imaginative and participatory knowledge, a knowledge of reminiscence and reflection, not of reductive transformation and scientific restatement.

To put this point abruptly: when someone says, “I am a Westerner,” he or she means something. Specifically, one is making an imaginative or metaphorical identification of place and meaning.  One is answering the question: “where is (my) here?” According to Frye, literature expresses a sense of identity.  “Identity is local and regional, rooted in the imagination and in works of culture; unity is national in reference, international in perspective, and rooted in a political feeling.”[15]  The distinction between regional identity and national unity is, in my opinion, of considerable importance and theoretical significance.  According to Frye, “the essential element in the national sense of unity is the east-west feeling…expressed in the national motto, a mari usque ad mare.” Suitably qualified, Frye’s observation undoubtedly applies to Western regionalism, political culture, and myth.

The devil is in the qualifications.  First, it should be emphasized that the tension between cultural identity and national unity is not just unresolved for the time being, but is incapable of resolution.  Second, the “east-west feeling” is not simply or necessarily a positive one.  Third, unity is not only distinct from uniformity but is opposed to it.  Political unity rejoices in, and accommodates, dissent and variety of outlook, tradition, and myth.  In part this understanding of Canadian unity is expressed in the celebration of linguistic duality, and clearly the symbolism can include Westerners who are overwhelmingly English-speaking.  At the same time, however, the symbol of bilingualism expresses most perfectly an important attribute only of the nineteenth-century colony of Canada, the Canada of the St. Lawrence valley, not the entire country.  To distinguish the identity of Canadians living in what was the old colony of Canada from the identities of other Canadians, I have for several years employed the adjective “Laurentian.”

Today the term is used in a polemical way as when Westerner Populists in particular dismiss the opinions of “Laurentian elites,” a sample of which was provided by the Toronto newspaper columnist quoted above. This usage is intelligible enough, but “Laurentian” also refers to the self-understanding of Canadians living in the St. Lawrence drainage basin, mostly downstream from Lake Huron. The founder of Laurentian School of Canadian Historiography was Donald Creighton whose opening words in his first (and to my mind his best) book are worth recalling: “When in the course of a September day in 1759, the British made themselves the real masters of the rock of Quebec, an event of apparently unique importance occurred in the history of Canada.”[16] French power in North America collapsed and the basis to achieve the empire indicated by the title of his book was established. As he remarked a few pages later, “The whole West, with all its riches, was the dominion of the river …. The dream of the commercial empire of the St. Lawrence runs like an obsession through the whole of Canadian history and men followed each other through life, planning and toiling to achieve it.”[17] The great problem with empires, whether commercial or political, particularly in the context of British political culture, is that the inhabitants of them tend to look upon themselves as self-governing citizens rather than as quiet subjects fit only to be ruled by their betters living in lands far away. The British first discovered this with respect to their North American colonies in 1776. Laurentian Canada seems to be discovering the same reality today.[18]

Frye’s argument also reflects a curious insensitivity to the imperial vision of Laurentian Canada. He emphasized, as we noted, a conceptual distinction between political unity and regional identity. And yet, he also spoke easily of the Canadian imagination and characterized it by “what we may provisionally call a garrison mentality.” The earliest maps of the country showed only forts, he said. Late eighteenth-century British Governor John Graves Simcoe had read his Tacitus and established outposts along the Niagara frontier to keep the Indigenous and the American feri at bay until they swore allegiance and became socii.  The Canadian cultural maps of a later time also showed only forts, according to Frye.  Now, a garrison is a closely knit, because beleaguered, society, held intact by unquestionable morals and authority.  Motives count for nothing.  One is either a fighter or a deserter.[19]  The point of garrison life, evidently, is to survive.  Garrisons are also sites of imperial military and administrative rule.

The limited applicability of Frye’s position is indicated with the observation that Frye maintained both that identity is regional, local, and imaginative, and that there is a Canadian mentality expressed imaginatively in a Canadian literature.  If one combines both positions, the survival of the Laurentian imaginative garrison, which is by all arguments the symbolization of an identity of some kind, has become an expression of a national identity.  The result, however, is to absorb regional self-understanding into an overarching Laurentian myth. As we shall see, it also expresses as an aspirational imperial overreach.

Consider first “the Maritimes,” as Canadians call the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.[20] As one student of Maritime self-understanding observed, “Frye’s Laurentian paradigm of Canada can, in fact, be seen as an incidental demolition of the Maritimes and that region’s vision of the reality it constitutes.”[21] Instead of the typical Laurentian imagery of nature depicting savagery, emptiness and cold, the neoclassical “book of nature” features prominently in Maritime symbolism along with invincible backwoodsmen capable of reading it.  According to Frye, however, Canada effectively has no Atlantic seaboard, unlike the Thirteen Colonies. Arrival in Canada, by way of the Laurentian Chanel, through the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and up the great river, he said, is a recapitulation of the story of Jonah being swallowed by the whale.[22] For the people who actually inhabit the easternmost shore, such images simply do not express the reality of their experience.  Not only does the country have an Atlantic seaboard, but the experiences native to it constitute the “headwaters of Canadian literature.”[23]  Furthermore, Frye’s Laurentian imagery implied that, because a search for imaginative Canada could never start with the Maritimes, what one found there (if anything) was unlikely to be “Canadian,” in the Laurentian mythic sense. If the Maritimes were, in one way or another, to be swallowed by the Laurentian/Canadian whale, that happy event would signal the region had at long last become imaginatively “Canadian.” Maritimers, however, see things rather differently.  Their parochialism is a defense against imaginative “Canada,” to say nothing of the West.

If, Keefer said, “there were a historical type native to the Maritimes, surely it would be that of the pawn or born loser.”[24] The historical evidence is clear enough:  the exiling of the Acadians to Louisiana and their later return, the reception of exiles from the Thirteen Colonies and from the Scottish Highlands.  Even if one traces the social patterns of twentieth-century Maritime experience to an otherwise admirable eighteenth-century conservatism,[25] the fact remains that stagnation and decadence remain the most prominent features of pre-modern communal life to have survived into the present.[26]

The political consequences for contemporary Canada usually appear in a context of controversy and polemic in which statistics on income or unemployment feature prominently. In making sense of these indicators a somewhat more profound conflict of interpretation comes to light. On the one hand, Maritimers have long maintained second thoughts about Confederation with Canada; on the other, outsiders have long been puzzled by the economic ineptitude and inertia of the region. When a British Columbia Member of Parliament wondered whether federal policies that redistribute wealth from productive individuals and regions to the Maritimes had not turned them into dependent “charity cases,” he was roundly attacked for his insensitivity and within a week had issued an apology.[27] A few years later, when Stephen Harper remarked how dependence on Ottawa had induced a “culture of defeat,” he was likewise criticized on all sides. Harper did not apologize. Only recently have Maritimers begun to question the desirability of federal transfer payments to the region,[28] though their fellow citizens in other parts of the country have long held serious reservations about the deliberate creation of economic dependency by the federal government.

This brief excursus into the symbolism and identity of the Maritimes indicates clearly that Frye misused his own distinction between unity and identity. A plausible account of why this occurred is contained in the analysis of another literary critic, Dennis Duffy. In the concluding remarks to his fine study of Upper Canadian/Ontario literature,[29] he said that the evidence he had just reviewed made imaginatively articulate not Canada and not even the contemporary political unit of Ontario, but the heartland of Upper Canadian Loyalism, the wedge of land between the Ottawa River and Lake Huron. In that place the myth of exile (from the American colonies), covenant (loyalty to the Crown), and return to a garden (the transformed wilderness) fully expressed the regional identity of an imaginative “Canada.”  To be more precise: “Canada,” understood as a symbol of identity and not as a political body, is centered in the Loyalist heartland, is full of garrisons concerned about survival, and is indeed moved by feelings of a beneficent east-west axis.  This “Canada,” which is imaginatively real, is, however, imaginatively unconnected with even the Loyalist Maritimes, and is connected still less with the West. Duffy sensed this, though his account of those differences was regrettably undeveloped. To put the matter bluntly:  Canada, the imaginative reality centered in the Loyalist heartland, became Canada the political reality. By so doing imaginative “Canada” betrayed its own regional identity and was rewarded, as it were, with imperial control of the political unit. The commercial empire of the St. Lawrence became the political empire of Canada. This is a problem to which we return below.

By making Duffy’s hints explicit we see, in a larger context, how unoriginal they are. This is not a criticism, because in that unoriginality is found a great insight. The expansion of political and economic power from the St. Lawrence valley, and especially from the Loyalist heartland, carried with it the attempt to replace the local sense of identity of the inhabitants of the proto-West with that of the newcomers, the imaginative “Canadians.”  It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that the Métis, as well as the other nineteenth-century inhabitants of what became the Canadian West did not greet the representatives of Canadian administrative rule as the bringers of light, culture, and civilization, which was how the newcomers understood themselves.  The story of this cultural conflict, which is the foundation myth of the West, has been played out time and again.

If we employ Frye’s terminology consistently we would conclude that there is, indeed a “Canadian identity,” and it is located geographically in the Loyalist heartland of Ontario. The political unit, Canada, of course, embraces the Loyalist heartland but a great deal more as well.  Thus there is neither a pan-Canadian identity nor a pan-Canadian culture, though there is a “Canadian identity” and “Canadian culture,” in the precise (and restricted) sense of the identity and culture of the Loyalist heartland. Moreover, within the Laurentian myth that gives form and meaning to the old colony of Canada, the identification of a pan-Canadian political identity with the foundation of a federal, bilingual Dominion is easy enough to make. The myth of a Loyalist garrison can easily be accommodated to the image of a French linguistic, cultural, ethnic, historical, or religious garrison as the foundation myth of francophone and nationalist Quebec.[30]

The francophone nationalist myth of Quebec has its own peculiarities. It took on recognizable form in the wake of Lord Durham’s famous Report (1839). In the larger context, Durham laid the theoretical groundwork for the “second British Empire” after the loss of the Thirteen Colonies. In French Canada he shocked and offended generations of secular political and intellectual leaders by pointing out to them their inherent bad faith of being themselves urban and educated North American liberals but liberals who appealed to the non-liberal sentiments and emotions of their rural and religious supporters as well as pointing to the obvious solution to this on-going political problem, namely greater liberalization.[31] In 1840 François-Xavier Garneau published a long poem, Louise: Une Légende canadienne and five years later his multi-volume Histoire du Canada began to appear in print. The Histoire, in particular, set the pattern for nearly all subsequent French-Canadian historiography, inspired a school of patriotic poetry, and the plot-lines of innumerable historical novels: the alleged English desire to suppress the French was the desire of evil to destroy goodness—and yet goodness survived and endured, and one day would triumph.  The key to survival was to cling to tradition, especially religion, to change nothing, and to resist the temptation of “English” liberalism. Liberalism was a temptation because it promised prosperity, just as Durham had said.

The formular French-Canadian novels of the mid-nineteenth century disclosed a variation on the following story: a young man abandons the farm, lured by an urban anglaise temptress.  In the city he is degraded: he learns to swear, drink, smoke, and brawl but is saved by a virtuous French-Canadian girl who brings him back to the rural paradise, saves his soul and ensures continued survival. The plot was a central theme as late as Abbé Groulx’s L’Appel de la Race (1922), and Groulx is often identified as the patron of contemporary Quebec nationalism.

A generation later, the contrast between the corrupt and secular but rich urban English and the virtuous and religious but poor rural French had turned into the contrast between rich corruption and poor virtuousness within the city. If it was not God’s will that only the rural poor were virtuous, then another explanation had to be sought. Sociologically inclined historians, heirs to the novelist-priests, supplied one. Michel Brunet, for example, explained the relative poverty of French Canadians in 1950 by way of the conquest of New France nearly 200 years earlier. The logic of Brunet’s position was simple: the English are a majority and majorities rule in their own interest, which means suppressing the French. No need to examine evidence contrary to the thesis ever arose; indeed, historical facts, if chosen with sufficient care, could easily confirm it. The single cause of French poverty, the English, was balanced by a single solution for French poverty, independence, or failing that, as much political jurisdiction as possible. Castigating les Anglais has always been, and remains, preferable to proclaiming the need to change or to reform Quebec’s own distinct political practices.

In the generation after Brunet the same story was told—or rather, the same myth was retold. One finds, for example, Charles Taylor’s curious (and in my opinion, spurious) distinction between “first-level diversity” and “deep diversity.”[32] Taylor is a Canadian federalist, not a sovereigntist and his views are prudently qualified. This is much less true with an avowed sovereigntist such as the late Fernand Dumont, whose most  important work, Genèse de la Société québécoise has influenced a host of Quebec commissions and a generation of intellectuals and politicians.[33] His language, no less than his doctrine, has been heavily influenced by Hegel.[34] In the autobiographical preface, which he called his “mise en scène,” Dumont adopted a voice of great confidence. What he had to say is unambiguous, not to say self-evident.

It is obvious (c’est entendu) that the present state of a society, he began, can be understood only by again raising the question of its past, which meant both returning to the historical and elevating it to the dignity of a true story.  History, Dumont said, is not a chain of events punctuated by a few dramatic episodes that somehow ends up in the present, but the story of a decisive “turning”  (un tournant)[35] of a collectivity first from an unfocussed collectivity to a society, even a “distinct society,” but then from society to a state, which was for Dumont the final Aufhebung, the last historical overcoming, to be achieved through a re-examination of the genesis of the collective identity as set out in Genèse de la Société québécoise. Because this final overcoming has not taken place, Dumont was compelled to evoke a goal or a purpose, which he called a “utopia.” He could only hope or anticipate its achievement. That is why his book is called The Genesis of Quebec Society, not The Genesis of the State of Quebec. The history of Quebec, therefore, is the story not of the birth of a state but of the genesis of a society awaiting transfiguration into a state.

But this “idealist” or purposive element in Dumont’s argument also means that his is not a serious Hegelianism,[36] and the results therefore remain incomplete. Indeed, Dumont has simply tarted up the traditional Garneau-Groulx-Brunet myth in the garish colours of Hegelian philosophy of history. The new look has great appeal to the secular intellectuals of contemporary Quebec. Indeed, what might be called the political religion of Quebec’s sovereigntists looks like nothing so much as chirping within Hegel’s geistige Tierreich, the spiritual bestiary, a discourse forever poised on the brink of an apocalypse. This consciousness, which is expressed in a subdued and scholarly way in Dumont, is given more enthusiastic expression in popular tracts, the titles of which are meant both to present the apocalypse in thought and to evoke the apocalypse in deed.[37] The strong words—and Vadeboncoeur once went so far as to speak of genocide, a génocide en douce—do not, however, refer to the reality of strong deeds. We remain cooped up in Hegel’s bestiary with noisy intellectuals going on and on about the “naturalness” of the evolution of Quebec towards an independent state.

Turning now to the West, one finds actual not imaginative forts, but very little trace of the garrison mentality. Critics who have analyzed the literary texts of Western Canada have nearly all emphasized the importance of the landscape. Thus Donald Stephens observed that “the ‘garrison mentality’ so obvious in the writing of Eastern Canada (in the Maritimes, Quebec, and Ontario) is not prominent in that of Western Canada (the Prairies and British Columbia).” The reason, he said, is because “the prairie is a landscape that makes them [the inhabitants] greater than [garrison] life; it is an environment that brings out the best, and the worst, in man.”[38] There is plenty of critical and imaginative evidence that could be cited. The point, however, is plain:  the West is not a transplanted imaginative Ontario garrison.[39]

The imaginative prairie landscape has both a spatial and a temporal dimension. Spatially it extends, as David Carpenter said, “from the dryland to the Promised Land,” that is, from Manitoba and Saskatchewan to Alberta.[40] Imaginatively, Alberta is the quintessential West, and B.C., as McCourt called it in his classic study, is the near east.[41] However that may be, changes over time are more important for our purposes than changes over space.

The historical theme of Western identity consists in variations in the response of European groups and individuals to a non-European landscape. The new land did not have an impact on an empty head but on a conscious one filled with the old culture. Right from the beginning British words such as meadow, red deer, and snow proved inadequate to the reality experienced. Only recently have cultural geographers and historians devoted much attention to the problem of how the Western landscape was articulated by the presettlement explorers.[42] After the early explorers, who were more interested in markets than landscape anyhow, descriptions turned technical or fictional; from about the mid-nineteenth century, economics and calculative reason parted company with imagination and emotion. Explorers were supplanted by expeditions, hastily scribbled journals by official reports, by scientific accounts and scientific speculations about rainfall, flora, and isotherms. Maps were drawn on grids. From the start, then, the West has felt the impact of the most advanced contemporary technologies. Moreover, unlike the great technologies of central Canada, western ones were concerned directly with resource extraction not industrial manufacturing. Just as in the United States, the transcontinental railways never could have been built in the absence of huge deposits of coal along what became the right-of-way. At the same time however (and also in a way similar to the settlement of the American West) settlers were subordinated to centralized administrative technologies. Consider, for example, the prairie town. Wallace Stegner’s “hugeness of simple forms” congealed in towns into the mass production of identical grain elevators, banks, and railway stations, a main street called Main Street, and a dirt road beside the tracks called Railway Avenue.[43]

The early settlers, chiefly from Britain, Ontario, and the U.S., and the earliest writers clung to the cultural forms they left behind. Consequently they often made “inappropriate” responses to the new environment. The settlement experience was in many respects a frontier experience, though it was seldom seen that way by the Canadian literary imagination. On the contrary, the Canadian West was part of an imperial civilization whose most idyllic fictional characters, the policeman, the preacher, and the teacher, were its agents. When, during the 1920s, the “realistic” novels of F.P. Grove or Sinclair Ross began to displace the romantic and pastoral adventures of an earlier day, a new awareness of Western experience had achieved articulate form. The chaste, sunlit and superficial garden myth was rejected along with the spirit of empire. Constriction and isolation, the dark effects of conquering rather than cultivating the land, became major themes of Western literature. The closest the west ever came to creating a garrison mentality was probably in a Depression-era novel such as Ross’ As For Me and My House.[44] Contemporary Western literature—the comedy of W.O. Mitchell, Robert Kroetsch, W.P. Kinsella, Jack Hodgins, Aritha Van Herk or Guy Vanderhaeghe, for example—offers less a rejection of sentimental romance, as did Ross and Grove, than a self-conscious new beginning. “The habit of beginnings, of starting again,” wrote Dick Harrison, “is deeply ingrained in the western consciousness, and comedy is its necessary expression.”[45] No one could confuse the genuine and raunchy comedy of Aritha van Herk’s No Fixed Address with the grim fantasies of Margaret Atwood’s Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale.

The conclusions to be drawn from this brief consideration of Western self-understanding may be summarized as follows: (1) the West, as the Maritimes, has not been part of imaginative “Canada”; (2) there is scant evidence of a garrison mentality; (3) survival is not the dominant theme save under extreme and adverse conditions; and (4) it soon enough gives way to the spirit of new beginnings.

Several times I have alluded to the political effects of empire and to what might be called its symbolic expression, most of which originates in Laurentian Canada. I would like to conclude this essay by integrating several of these themes as they are found in the contemporary West. These remarks provide additional context to the 2019 federal election.

III. Western Geopolitics

A key question that seldom has been raised by Canadian historians and political scientists is the following: granted the imaginative “Canada” is confined to Laurentian Canada. what are the pragmatic political implications? Or more specifically, how does the lopsided electoral results of 2019 fit into the self-understanding of Laurentian Canada? How does one integrate the sentiments expressed in the words of Laurentian journalists quoted in section one of this paper with the long-term, institutionally stable Laurentian myth?

Let us begin with the observations of James R. Mallory, a distinguished political scientist of an earlier generation.[46] In his contribution to the mid-twentieth-century, multi-volume deployment of (mostly Laurentian) intellectual power to the study of Social Credit in Alberta and other untoward Western eruptions such as the Progressive Movement, he wrote a balanced and fair appraisal of Social Credit and the Federal Power in Canada.[47] I first read it as an undergraduate in a course on Canadian federalism where I came across Mallory’s description of the new (1905) provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. They “were provinces not in the sense as were Ontario and Quebec, but in the Roman sense.” Because Mallory’s readers today are unlikely to be familiar of the implications of the Roman sense of the meaning of “province,” a brief elaboration is required. The Latin word, provincia carries with it the implication of rule on behalf of (pro) the vanquished or conquered (vincia). A Roman province, Trans-Alpine Gaul, for example, was a territory where imperium, administrative power, was exercised by an agent of Rome, a governor. In addition, unlike the Roman inhabitants of Italy, those of the “provinces” paid tribute––taxes––to the imperial capital. Mallory’s meaning therefore was clear: the West was ruled by the new Rome on the Rideau River, Ottawa, as conquered territory; in return for such a favour, Westerners were granted the right to pay taxes to the Government of Canada.

A second indicator of the place that the West holds in the imagination of Laurentian Canada is found in the Latin motto on the Canadian coat of arms, quoted above by Frye: a mare usque ad mare, from sea to sea. The text is from the vulgate translation of Psalm 72:8. It does not include the rest of the verse: et a flumine usque ad terminos terrae, nor does it contain the opening words, et dominabitur. The King James version translates the entire verse: “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” The Latin dominium and related words referred to a territory that was mastered and was used in its English form by the British to refer to their colonies and possessions. Before the American Revolution the Thirteen Colonies were often referred to as the Dominion of New England. When, out of fear of offending the United States, the British Foreign Office objected to the name Kingdom of Canada, which the Canadian colonials preferred, Sir Leonard Tilley of New Brunswick suggested the term Dominion. It has remained the formal title of the country ever since though it is hardly used today. More interesting for present purposes are the addition implications: the Canadian Dominion shall extend from the river to the ends of the earth. There is no question that the river is the St. Lawrence and the contemporary West is their terminos terrae, the ends of the earth, excluded from Confederation in order to be dominated by it. Hence the expression “out” West.

When the ends of the earth were transferred from the Imperial Crown to the Crown in right of Canada––and it is important to remember that Rupert’s Land and the Northwest and Northeast Territories were not purchased by Canada from the Hudson’s Bay Company the way the Americans purchased Alaska from Russia––the Northeast Territories were given to Quebec and some of Rupert’s Land was given to Ontario.[48] The rest was administered from Ottawa “for the purposes of the Dominion.” In other words, 180 years ago, when Laurentian Canada acquired dominion over Rupert’s Land and the Northwest, the lands previously granted as a “plantation” to the Hudson’s Bay Company, there was no thought given to consulting the inhabitants or to accommodating the distinctive way of life that the inhabitants led.

Today, however, contemporary historians of Rupert’s Land and of the “distinctive regional way of life” achieved by the fur-trade society that lived there have recalled for contemporary Westerners as well as Laurentian Canadians that a sense of distinctiveness was central to the inhabitants of the contemporary West whatever their nineteenth-century ethnic composition was.[49] For a generation after 1821, with the amalgamation of the Hudson’s Bay Company of London and the Northwest Company of Montreal, Canada showed no interest in Rupert’s Land. As with the New England settlements a century before, this neglect enabled something like a political self-awareness to develop at the Red River Settlement, the site of modern Winnipeg. When Red River looked towards Canada at all it was in order to find political allies, not because the inhabitants sought to become Canadians. For their part, Canadians––that is, the inhabitants of the old colony of Canada––seem never to have understood this, not in the nineteenth century, not now.

Meantime, the inhabitants of Rupert’s Land and the Settlement underwent the more or less futile experience of petitioning the Imperial Parliament for redress of such British imperial abuses as taxation without representation and rule without consent, both of which were familiar to an earlier generation of North American colonials. Like their predecessors, in 1845-6 the inhabitants of Red River even petitioned the U.S. Congress for help. In 1861, following yet another unanswered petition to the Imperial Parliament, the inhabitants raised the possibility of forming a Crown colony at the Settlement. To state only the most obvious and significant consequence: by its failure to attain the status of Crown colony, Red River and the whole of the North-West could never join Confederation. The inhabitants of the Settlement could only be annexed. And in the event, annexed by force of arms. The consequences of the failures of the 1860s constitute and important structural feature of Canadian federalism to this day.

Thus, when Red River was transferred to Canada, neither the Imperial government nor the Canadian government discussed the change with inhabitants of the Settlement. When, in 1869-70 the Red River rebellion, resistance, or insurrection erupted under Louis Riel, this showed, in the understated words of W.L. Morton, that “there was . . . little active sentiment for union with Canada.”[50] As the contemporary political scientist, Ted Morton (no relation to W.L.) has often said, it is unlikely in the extreme that Alberta and Saskatchewan today would join Canada under existing economic circumstances or existing legal and political conditions. In this respect contemporary critics of the relationship between the West and Laurentian Canada echoed Alexander Kennedy Isbister, a nineteenth-century London barrister (whose mother was Cree) and opponent of the Company born in Cumberland House, in present-day Saskatchewan: the pretentions of Canada to Rupert’s Land and the Northwest degraded his homeland into “a colony of a colony.” The inhabitants of Rupert’s Land and of Red River were, in contrast, determined to enter Canada, if at all, on their own terms, as did British Columbia. That did not happen. Nor was there anything like the American Northwest ordinance of 1789, the provisions of which enabled the inhabitants of the American Northwest a couple of generations earlier to integrate the territory and the citizenry in a legal and orderly way into the United States. Moreover the American Ordinance at least paid lip-service to the desirability of gaining the inhabitants’ consent, to say nothing of admitting the territory to the new and expanding country on a basis equal to the existing states or provinces further east.[51]

So far as the understanding of the West in Laurentian Canada is concerned, the problem is compounded by the distribution of natural resources in Canada. Apart from cod, nickle and white pine, the largest resource deposits have always been in the West. This has been so since before Confederation. After 1867, the Canadian population remained centred in the St. Lawrence valley, mostly downstream from Lake Huron. In terms of resources, however not much changed: fur, especially beaver was replaced by grain, mainly wheat, then potash, uranium, oil and gas. That is, natural resources are still chiefly found in the West. Federalism was supposed to reconcile population and resource wealth. The transfer of jurisdiction over natural resources in 1930 changed the status of Alberta and Saskatchewan from “Roman” provinces into Canadian ones, at least in legal theory. For many years after 1930, during the unpropitious times of Depression and World War II, many Westerners believed that federalism fulfilled its promise. That is why, as David Smith observed, Westerners initially worked within the dominant parties to get their interests acknowledged. Then they tried third parties––Social Credit, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the Progressives, the Reform Party of Canada. Westerners have engaged with every party under the sun and deployed strategies from balance-of-power to disruption. None of them worked.[52]

The reason is simple: owing to their own imaginative myth, Laurentian Canada has never seen the West as part of a federation. The Canadian federation, so far as they are concerned, is made up (as was implied by the sentiments of all the Laurentian journalists cited in the first section) of Ontario and Quebec. The Maritime provinces were sidelined during the nineteenth century within a generation of Confederation. Newfoundlanders managed to hold out until 1949 when bankruptcy compelled them to join Canada. In the imagination of Laurentian Canada, the West was never part of the deal. The West was, and remains, the “out there,” the terminos terrae. The 2019 election, particularly as interpreted by the Laurentian media is continuous with the historical understanding of Canada’s (and Britain’s) imperial involvement in the West, which long antedated 1867. The problem for Westerners today is that they still see themselves as part of a federation, not the vanquished members of a Laurentian commercial and political empire; they see themselves as living in provinces like Ontario and Quebec, not Roman provinces. They have forgotten that from the start the first Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald habitually referred to the West as Canada’s “crown colony.”

It seems to me that the real question facing Westerners and their political leaders is actually quite plain and simple. To use the language of the Declaration of Independence, how much longer will “the long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object” be endured before both Westerners and Laurentians acknowledge that serious and long-postponed action is required? How many times must polite petitions be answered with repeated injuries? As in eighteenth-century America, so in twenty-first century Canada, these are not theoretical or legal issues but practical ones. Westerners will determine in practice what the outcome will be, and conflicting myths will provide the context.



[1] Partial versions of this paper have appeared in Politik und Politeia: Formen und Probleme Politischer Ordnung, Fertgabe für Jürgen Gebhardt zum 65, Geburstag, (Würtzburg: Könighausen and Neumann, 2000), 269–80; and as “Challenges for Western Independence,” The Frontier Centre for Public Policy, available at:

[2] In Derailed: The Betrayal of the National Deam, (Toronto: Key Porter, 1994), David Bercuson and I discussed at some length in the context for the present analysis. I have also discussed later, twenty-first century continuations of these issues in It’s the Regime, Stupid! A Report from the Cowboy West on Why Stephen Harper Matters, (Toronto: Key Porter, 2009).

[3] Previously the topic had been examined indirectly by means of an analysis of the Canadian electoral system, which combines single-member constituencies, a plurality needed to elect, and disciplined parliamentary parties.  See Alan C. Cairns, “The Electoral System and the Party System in Canada, 1921-1965” reprinted in Douglas E. Williams, ed., Constitution, Government and Society in Canada: Selected Essays by Alan C. Cairns, (Toronto:  McClelland & Stewart, 1988), 111–38.

[4] A minority government in Canadian political language is one where no party commands a majority in the House of Commons. Usually the party with the largest number of seats (a plurality) is called on to form the government. The British call this outcome of an election a “hung Parliament.”




[8] For the first time since records have been kept, 1949, the U.S. became a net exporter of petroleum in September, 2019. See Stephen Cunningham, “U.S. Posts First Full Month as a Petroleum Exporter,” Financial Post, 30 November, 2019, FP13.


[10] His actions are described clearly in the standard histories of the various regional protests. See, for instance, Ernest R. Forbes, Maritime Rights: The Maritime Rights Movement, 1919-1927, A Study in Canadian Regionalism, (Montreal, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1979), ch. 8; W.L. Morton, The Progressive Party in Canada, (Toronto:  University of Toronto Press, 1950), ch. 6.

[11] Whittaker, The Government Party: Organizing and Financing the Liberal Party of Canada, 1930–1958, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977).

[12] See Calgary political scientist (and former Alberta Minister of Finance) Ted Morton’s recent discussion of the problem, which he compares to events leading to the Boston Tea Party. These observations have become relatively common among critics of the federal government. See Joe Oliver, a former federal Minister of Finance in the Harper government, “Alberta Needs a Fair Deal Now,” Financial Post, January 23, 2020, FP9.

[13] See Finn Porschmann, Where the Money Goes: The Distribution of Taxes and Benefits in Canada, (Toronto: C.D. Howe Institute, 1998) Commentary No. 105. That is, a moderate-income family in Alberta contributes around $6500 a year whereas a wealthy family in Newfoundland receives around $1200.

[14] The term “limited identities” is taken from J.M.S. Careless, “Limited Identities in Canada,” Canadian Historical Review, 50 (1969), 1–10.

[15] Frye, The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination, (Toronto: Anansi, 1971), ii.

[16] Creighton, The Commercial Empire of the St. Lawrence, 1760–1850, (Toronto, The Ryerson Press, and New Haven, Yale University Press, 1937), 1.

[17] Creighton, The Commercial Empire, 6–7.

[18] I have discussed the political evolution of the West and the parallels with the Thirteen Colonies during the eighteenth century in It’s the Regime, Stupid! ch. 3.

[19] Frye, The Bush Garden, 225-6; See also Margaret Atwood, Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature, (Toronto: Anansi, 1972), 32.  In 1976, Frye wrote of “National Consciousness in Canadian Culture.” Here the identification of imaginative, that is, regionalized, Canada, and the political unit is even more pronounced. The essay is reprinted in Divisions on a Ground: Essays on Canadian Culture, (Toronto: Anansi, 1982), 41–56.

[20] After Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949 the term “Atlantic Canada” was coined to include that large offshore island. The Maritime provinces are a geographic extension of New England; Nova Scotia in the eighteenth-century was the home of “neutral Yankees” owing to the presence of the large Royal Navy base at Halifax (see John Bartlet Brebner, The Neutral Yankees of Nova Scotia: A Marginal Colony Curing the Revolutionary Years, [New York: Columbia University Press, 1937].) New Brunswick, in contrast, received many of the Loyalist refugees following the American Revolution, as did the present province of Ontario.

[21] Janice Kulyk Keefer, Under Eastern Eyes:  A Critical Reading of Maritime Fiction, (Toronto:  University of Toronto Press, 1987), 27.

[22] Frye, The Bush Garden, 217–18.

[23] See Arthur MacMechan, Headwaters of Canadian Literature, (Toronto:  McClelland and Stewart [1924] 1974).

[24] Keefer, Under Eastern Eyes, 16, 94.

[25] D.C. Harvey, “The Heritage of the Maritimes,” Dalhousie Review, 14 (1934), 28–32.

[26] See William S. MacNutt, The Atlantic Provinces: The Emergence of Colonial Society, 1712-1857, (Toronto:  McClelland & Stewart, 1965), 267-8 and Silver Donald Cameron, The Education of Everett Richardson:  The Nova Scotia Fisherman’s Strike, 1970-71, (Toronto:  McClelland & Stewart, 1977), 30.

[27] See Alberta Report, (4 July 1994), 6–7.

[28] See Fred McMahon, Looking the Gift Horse in the Mouth:  The Impact of Federal Transfers on Atlantic Canada, (Halifax: Atlantic Institute of Market Studies, 1996).

[29] Dennis Duffy, Gardens, Covenants, Exiles: Loyalism in the Literature of Upper Canada/Ontario, (Toronto:  University of Toronto Press, 1982).

[30] William Johnson has provided the most thorough, and controversial, discussion of the French ethnic garrison in two books, the first written in French, Anglophobie, Made in Quebec, (Montreal:  Stanké, 1991) and the second in English, A Canadian Myth:  Quebec, Between Canada and the Illusion of Utopia, (Montreal:  Davies, 1994).  Neither has received much attention from Quebec or Canadian intellectuals or scholars.

[31] This interpretation of the Report was recently restored to public visibility by Janet Ajzenstat in her splendid study, The Political Thought of Lord Durham, (Montreal:  McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1988).

[32] Taylor, Reconciling the Solitudes: Essays on Canadian Federalism and Nationalism, ed., Guy Laforest, (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1992), 183.

[33] Dumont, Genèse, (Montreal: Boréal, 1993). Dumont remains an important intellectual force in Quebec and is well known in the French speaking world of scholarship. In addition to major sociological and cultural studies, he has written on Christian theology as an homme de foi, and is a published poet.

[34] Taylor, as well, is known internationally for his interpretation of Hegel. Indeed, an account of the importance of Hegel in Canadian intellectual life, which usually is more sensed than understood, has been discussed in: David MacGregor, “Canada’s Hegel,” The Literary Review of Canada, (February 1994), or Peter C. Emberley, Values, Education, and Technology: The Ideology of Dispossession, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995), ch. 4. See also Robert C. Sibley, Northern Spirits: John Watson, George Grant and Charles Taylor, Appropriations of Hegelian Political Thought, (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2008) and Susan M. Dodd and Neil G. Robertson, eds., Hegel and Canada: Unity of Opposites (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018), which contains my paper, “Hegel’s Laurentian Fragments,” pp 311–41.

[35] The “turning” is the Heideggerian Kehre writ large.

[36] According to Hegel, the social elements awaiting transfiguration will remain external to one another so long as the society in question is shielded from the experience of violence. Dumont does not discuss this zauberisch aspect of Hegelian political science, which, because it would lead back to the arguments of Pierre Vallières and the 1960s violence and terrorism of the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ), may be just as well.

[37] See for example Louis O’Neill, Le Prochain Rendez-vous: Essai sur l’Avenir du Quebec, 1988; Pierre Bourgeault, Maintenant ou jamais!, 1990; Jean-Charles Claveau, Ma Terre, Québec:  Essai sur le Québec en Marche, 1990; Jean-Louis Boorque, Demain, La République:  Le Projet du Québec Profond, 1992; Pierre Vadeboncoeur, Gouverner ou Disparaître, 1993.

[38] Stephens, “Introduction” to Stephens, ed., Writers of the Prairies, (Vancouver:  University of British Columbia Press, 1973), 2.  See also Henry Kreisel, “The Prairie:  A State of Mind,” Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, Series IV, vol. VI (1968), 1973.  Consider the opening sentence of one of the most famous Western Canadian novels, W.O. Mitchell’s Who Has Seen the Wind? “Here was the least common denominator of nature, the skeleton requirements simply, of land and sky—Saskatchewan prairie.” See also Laurence Ricou, Vertical Man/Horizontal World:  Man and Landscape in Canadian Prairie Fiction, (Vancouver:  University of British Columbia Press, 1973), 173.

[39] Greg Thomas and Ian Clarke in “The Garrison Mentality in the Canadian West,” Prairie Forum, 4:1 (1979), 83-104, discussed the Hudson’s Bay Company forts and the tree-planting palisades of prairie homesteads. They said nothing, however, of the “many tender ties” that joined the men of the HBC and the women of the country; palisade trees, which also acted as windbreaks, were in any case characteristic only of Ontario settlers’ homesteads. See also Silvia Van Kirk, Many Tender Ties:  Women in Fur-Trade Society in Western Canada, 1670-1870, (Winnipeg:  Watson and Dwyer, 1980) and my Alexander Kennedy Isbister: A Respectable Critic of the Honourable Company, (Ottawa:  Carleton University Press, 1988) for further discussion of Western self-understanding prior to the arrival of Canadians.

[40] David C. Carpenter, “Alberta in Fiction:  The Emergence of a Provincial Consciousness,” Journal of Canadian Studies, 10:4 (1974), 17.

[41] Edward A. McCourt, The Canadian West in Fiction, (Toronto:  Ryerson,1949), vi. We will not consider the complexities of B.C. regionalism here beyond the observation that a single cultural province extends from San Francisco to Vancouver and Victoria..

[42] A selection of these early writings is in John Warkentin (ed.), The Western Interior of Canada:  A Record of Geographical Discovery, 1612-1917, (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1964).  Discussion of the writers excerpted by Warkentin may be found in:  D.W. Moodie, “Early Images of Rupert’s Land” in Richard Allen (ed.), Man and Nature on the Prairies, Canadian Plains Studies, 6 (Regina:  Canadian Plains Research Center, 1976), 1-20; B. Kaye and D.W. Moodie, “Geographic Perspectives on the Canadian Plains,” in Richard Allen (ed.), A Region of the Mind:  Interpreting the Western Canadian Plains, Canadian Plains Studies, 1 (Regina:  Canadian Plains Research Center, 1973),17-46; G.S. Dunbar, “Isotherms and Politics:  Perception of the Northwest in the 1850s” in A.W. Rasporich and H.C. Classen (eds.), Prairie Perspectives, 2 (Toronto:  Holt, Rinehart and Co., 1973), 80-101; R. Douglas Francis, “Changing Images of the West,” Journal of Canadian Studies, 17:3 (1982), 5-17.  See also Doug Owram, Promise of Eden:  The Canadian Expansionist Movement and the Idea of the West, 1856-1900, (Toronto:  University of Toronto Press, 1980), and Doug Francis, Images of the West:  Responses to the Canadian Prairies, (Saskatoon:  Western Producer Prairie Books, 1989).

[43] Stegner, Wolf Willow: A Story and a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier, (New York: Viking, 1962), 27. Stegner was likely the only major North American writer claimed by both the United States and Canada. He was born in Lake Mills, Iowa and grew up in Eastend, Saskatchewan about which he wrote in Wolf Willow. He ended up at Stanford where he established the creative writing program.

[44] At the same time, two things ought to be borne in mind. In 1941, when Ross’ book was published, it sold only a few hundred copies. And second, those who have certified Ross’ novel as a “prairie classic” were critics for whom garrison literature was most familiar, that is, Laurentian Canadians. Certification was as much a political as an artistic judgment.

[45] Dick Harrison, Untamed Country:  The Struggle for a Canadian Prairie Fiction, (Edmonton:  University of Alberta Press, 1977), p. 179. See also Laurence Ricou, “Field Notes and Notes in a Field:  Forms of the West in Robert Kroetsch and Tom Robbins,” Journal of Canadian Studies, 17:3 (1982) 117–23; and Robert Lecher, “Bordering On:  Robert Kroetsch’s Aesthetic,” ibid., 142­–33.

[46] See David. E. Smith, “James R. Mallory: His Legacy,” Canadian Journal of Political Science, 37 (2004) 715–29.

[47] Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1954.

[48] For a discussion of the details of the transfer and of the several legal ambiguities of the Hudson’s Bay Company Charter, see my Alexander Kennedy Isbister, ch. 7, “The Charter Challenged,” pp.175–202.

[49] See Sylvia van Kirk, Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society, 1670-1870, (Winnipeg: Watson and Dwyer, 1980) 2.

[50] Morton, “Introduction,” to Alexander Begg’s Red River Journal, (Toronto: Champlain Society, 1956), 12.

[51] In neither country, however, were First Nations/Native Americans or Métis/mixed blood inhabitants treated the same as European settlers. At least the American procedure had the potential for equal treatment of all citizens when the consent of the European settlers was sought.

[52] David E. Smith, “A Comparison of Prairie Political Movements in Saskatchewan and Alberta,” Journal of Canadian Studies 4:1 (1969) 17-25.

Barry CooperBarry Cooper

Barry Cooper

Barry Cooper is a Board Member of VoegelinView and Professor of Political Science at the University of Calgary. He is the author, editor, or translator of more than thirty books and has published over one hundred and fifty papers and book chapters. He writes a regular column in the Calgary Herald.

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