Canadian conservatism needs drastic reform

Written By Anthony Daoud, Posted on January 8, 2020

Canadian conservatism has undergone an immense transformation in the past several decades. For those like myself, who adhere to its philosophical tenets, the Conservative Party of Canada hardly advocates for what it suggests to represent. 

In many ways, it has become intellectually void, relegated to the usual nonsense of promising “tax reduction” and “small government,” two abstract concepts that don’t tear at the heartstrings of Canadian voters.

Suffice to say, the country’s brand of conservatism needs drastic reform if it wishes to win future elections consistently. It may seem like a daunting task, but all that’s required is the recuperation of scholarship and ideological congruence. 

One-Nation Conservatism

In his illuminating work, Sybil: Or the Two Nations, former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, discussed the juncture between society’s upper and lower class and its implications, primarily the formation of two nations existing in a single sovereign territory. 

He extrapolates on their common ignorance writing, “[they] as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts and feelings as if they were […] inhabitants of different planets.” Thus, the natural aim for one nation’s tories is to bridge the gap, ultimately uniting the various social classes under national fidelity. To do so, the former British Prime Minister advocated for paternalistic programs to ensure the less fortunate were accounted for, and the “two nations” could be merged. 


As Russell Kirk eschews in The Conservative Mind, Disraeli enacted the reforms while fiercely defending traditional institutions and “elevating” the people’s will. Therefore, healthcare, social security, and unemployment would not only be valued, but become integral recipients of lofty government subsidization. 

In “Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition,” British conservative philosopher Roger Scruton dispels the misconceived narrative regarding the reluctance conservatives have for actively promoting increased government expenditure. To do so, Scruton places significant emphasis on Samuel Taylor Coleridge and John Ruskin, who is credited with contributing to conservative political thought. 

Coleridge (1772-1834) was an early British conservative, which was overwhelmingly skeptical about the cultural impact caused by fervent capitalism that resulted from the industrial revolution. He called for government intervention in the market to help the poor, especially those who are impoverished through no fault of their own. 

John Ruskin (1819-1900), another English conservative who lay in the middle, opposed himself to both capitalism and socialism. Akin to his ideological predecessor, he advocated for a government that served the disenfranchised. 

Going forward, it would be wise for Tory politicians to acknowledge the early teachings when constructing an adequate method to navigate our complicated internal affairs.

In a 2019 article, Lord Lexden resurrected former Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin’s 1924 address wherein he famously announced that through paternalistic institutions, countries could make a home for their populace and if adequately defended, “nothing else matters in the world.” 

The inspiration for Lexden’s article is a little surprising. Since Boris Johnson became Tory leader, One Nation conservatism has bulldozed the United Kingdom, thrashing Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and the progressive Social Democrats in the country’s recent election. Last year, The American Conservative reported on Johnson’s adherence to one nation Toryism, citing a 2010 interview he gave when he was still London mayor. Discussing his political beliefs, Johnson said, “I’m a one-nation Tory. There is a duty on the part of the rich to the poor and the needy,” further adding, “but you are not going to help people express that duty and satisfy it if you punish them fiscally so viciously.” 

Dissimilar from quintessentially aggressive left-wing economic policy, one-nation conservatism does not seek to expand the government into intrusive jurisdictions. While aiding the poor is paramount, primarily through healthcare and social security, there remains an agreed-upon limit to avoid excessive spending; financial responsibility can exist in tandem with a proactive government.  

In Canada?

In my advocacy for a Canadian brand of one-nation conservatism, the question I am most frequently asked regards its functionality in our political system. Because we are a federal state, and there exists a clear delineation of powers between federal and provincial governments, applying the theory into practice poses some challenges. However, this must not deter the Conservative Party of Canada from pursuing this route because it is manageable. 

I will briefly touch upon the Canadian healthcare regime, social programs that are synonymous with our robust federal government, and which receives broad support from the general populous. 


The federal government does not directly control the Canadian healthcare system. Under sections 91 and 92 of the 1982 Constitution Act, the provinces are afforded jurisdiction over their respective programs. Despite the divide, however, there continues to exist levels of involvement. 

Per Health Canada, The federal government’s role includes establishing and administering national principles for the system protected under the Canada Health Act, which sets clear “criteria and conditions for health insurance plans that must be met by provinces and territories for them to receive full federal cash transfers in support of health.” Furthermore, it provides support for health promotion and health research.

The College of Family Physicians of Canada’s report indicated the population’s rapidly changing health needs, and the federal government’s responsibility to ensure the provincial governments meet them and improve “on past achievements.” They’ve indicated the lacklustre initiative to adequately fund, and make advancements in developing the Patient’s Medical Home (PMH). Additionally, more money must be allocated to improve the existing national standard for wait times, a pervasive issue that has mostly thwarted the healthcare system’s efficacy. Addressing the problem would allow patients to receive faster access to care in hospitals. 

Indigenous needs have largely been ignored by Canada’s government, regardless of the governing party. According to EPHPP, many communities still desperately require access to proper drinking water and funding to ensure procedural check-ups are met. 

The root cause for the issues listed above is the archaic nature of our healthcare program, which finds itself “locked” in the ’60s. As noted by the Conference Board of Canada, the plan of complete transformation is the sole remedy. And it is only an ambitious government, one that is unafraid to invest in our healthcare system heavily, can finally spearhead change. 

Both the Liberals and the Conservatives, in their current state, have failed miserably, indicating why one-nation conservatism is the viable way forward.

Anthony Daoud

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