The Betrayal of the Canadian Liberals
Today, the Liberal Party of Canada is nothing more than a center-left catch-all party made of up of progressives and their ilk. But this is a significant departure from its beginnings as a party of radicals committed to a classically liberal ideal.
The Rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada (modern-day Ontario) was comprised of Canadian reformers who were fed up with the aristocratic elite which had come to rule the colony known as the Family Compact. The rebels were led by the radical republican William Lyon Mackenzie, the first mayor of Toronto. After their eventual loss in the final months of 1837, Mackenzie fled to the Niagara River where he established the short-lived Republic of Canada on Navy Island.
After the dust of the rebellion settled, the radical left wing of the Reform movement founded a new political party in Upper Canada, the Clear Grits. The economic leftism of the party was a continuation of what the original Reformers had sought to bring to Canada. Taking inspiration from the English Chartists, the Reformers were Owenists, hoping to form a utopian socialist society in the New World. But this did not preclude them from radically liberal policy positions. The party quickly published a list of its policy demands, which included numerous classical liberal ideas such as free trade with the United States, austerity in public expenditures, repeal of usury laws, the abolition of public housing for Anglican clergy, repeal of publicly funded pensions for judges, localization of government, and even the abolition of the copyright.
The party was originally led by Whitby businessman Peter Perry but quickly fell under the control of Globe founder George Brown. Prior to his tenure as leader of the Clear Grits, Brown was a staunch critic of American slavery after witnessing its horrors while living in New York and was a founding member of the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada. For the most part, Brown helped the Clear Grits maintain its radical course. He was most vocal about the fight for the secularization of the clergy reserves and the removal of French Canadian influence upon English Canadian politics in Upper Canada.
In 1857, under the leadership of Brown, the radical Clear Grits joined forces with the left-wing of the Reform Party (a party first dedicated to republicanism and then to responsible government) to form the Liberal Party of Upper Canada, which split into provincial and federal parties, respectively the Liberal Party of Ontario and the Liberal Party of Canada, in 1861. It is here where the liberalism which defined the Clear Grits party would finally lose its radical vigor. The first sign was a rejection of their previous preference for localism in favor of federalism. Along with the Conservatives, the party sought the complete political union of Upper Canada and Lower Canada (modern-day Quebec). In 1840, the Act of Union eliminated the legislatures of both Upper and Lower Canada to form the unif
Article from Mises Wire