In a scene that feels as if it could only come out of some gathering of Trump obsessed Republicans, the recent policy convention for the Canadian Conservative Party saw a 15 year old girl receive thunderous applause as she pleaded to the crowd not to “let the door open for men” to enter women’s bathrooms. She did so during the open debate for a proposal to exclude trans women from “female only” spaces and to define “woman” as meaning “female person,” an awkwardly phrased dog whistle for TERFs who wish to define womanhood based upon biology. This proposal, which was one among thirty other non-binding suggestions raised by Conservative Party delegates from various federal ridings, passed by 87 percent. Yet its passing was not the only moment in the convention that desperately reeked of American culture war influence. Both policy proposals and speeches spread throughout the three day gathering of delegates from the second largest Canadian party were peppered with the same buzzwords already workshopped and popularized by the Trump controlled ‘populist’ GOP. Mentions of cancel culture, wokeness, the nefarious influence of groomers, and even nods to critical race theory made the convention feel as if it was a bizarre pantomime of American events like CPAC, with references to Biden being merely replaced with Trudeau. This is a rather significant moment in Canadian politics, as a necessary fact concerning long term Canadian political trends that makes both liberal and conservative alike uncomfortable can no longer be denied. For liberals, this moment serves as the nail in the coffin for the lie of 'Canadian exceptionalism.' The so-called ‘bi-partisan consensus’ on social issues that is supposed to unify the country regardless of party affiliation (and therefore make us oh so better than those evil Americans) can no longer be repeated with a straight face. Some significant portion of the Conservative Party is no longer afraid of calling for a ban on gender-affirming care for minors or inviting people from anti-abortion organizations to their conventions. Those whose lives may be destroyed by the removal of institutional protections must seriously be concerned about the results of federal elections. We are, despite liberal assertions otherwise, just like our southern neighbours. And for conservatives, they can no longer pretend they aren’t the Canadian party of Donald Trump. The desperate attempts by Conservative Party leaders to toe the line of ‘respectable conservatives' while somehow not pissing off the growing minority of culture war-obsessed freaks have utterly failed. How the fuck has this happened? On a very old episode of my podcast that preceded the 2019 Canadian Federal Election, I noted that Canadian politics is just America on a five year time delay. And for the most part (plus or minus a few years depending on the given issue), this has been correct. And yet, not exactly. There is an essential caveat to Canada’s cultural dependence upon The United States. We, as Canadians, are cursed to draw almost all of our cultural energy from our southern neighbours, yet we must emulate them in the most farcical way possible. To understand the general nature of this intra-state cultural influence, think of the asinine attempts by American right wing ‘populists’ to successfully copy Trump’s appeal. Now, imagine this applied to an entire country’s political stage. Canadian politics is a theatre where both left and right are awkwardly miming the actions of their southern counterparts. We still have our ‘woke’ liberal president (only he is known for doing blackface), and the various vulgar ‘populist’ conservatives who have attempted to step up to the plate and be our Donald Trump have been completely and utterly forgettable; most hilariously in buffoonish Shark Tank entrepreneur Kevin O’Leary being too lazy to learn French (a requirement for the office). Even our two main parties, liberal and conservative, read like placeholders for Democrat and Republican in a fictional country whose writer hasn’t come up with unique names yet. Even our multi-party system, which at the very least gives some form of federal electoral influence to parties other than the only two who have a hope of electing a prime minister, has become a mere re-articulation of American political divisions. Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the left leaning New Democratic Party, appeared on the American radio show The Breakfast Club to compare the NDP to AOC and Bernie Sanders and the newly formed far right “People’s Party of Canada,” created essentially out of a political schism caused by the conservatives not being sufficiently obsessed with American culture war issues, famously erected a billboard in 2019 that read “stop antifa.” Yet despite the total and utter failure by the Canadian political establishment to produce any equivalent to either recent historically significant ‘once in a lifetime’ American political leaders (Obama and Trump), baying hordes of Canadian voters have continued to demand some equivalence between them and their southern neighbours. Sometimes I see Americans online making fun of politically minded Canadians for being so incredibly focused on what’s happening in America. Ironically, Americans can sometimes be self-centred enough that it prevents them from understanding just how much influence they have elsewhere, especially in a country as close in spatial and cultural proximity as Canada. And while any mockery towards Canadians is, in my opinion, both valid and morally correct, some Americans fail to understand that Canada is America in almost every way that matters. Our culture, politics, language, and economy are, with slight exception from the French (derogatory) provinces of the country, entirely dependent upon what’s going on down south (although even the French far right cannot resist the urge to invoke le wokisme). The consequences of this fact, as American cultural influence becomes more and more essential to how Canadians articulate political divisions, are remarkably far reaching, both leading to hilarity, such as in the case of a Canadian man invoking their “first amendment” rights in a Canadian court case, and also rather troubling developments concerning Canada’s most marginalized groups. Yet before I dive too deeply into the conservative party’s convention itself, and what it means for the future of Canadian politics, I should first provide a brief history of how we got here in the first place. Throughout Canada’s existence, it has been economically dependent upon the export of simple commodities (lumber, coal, gas, etc.,) to a single, larger economic sphere. As the saying goes, Canada is essentially ‘three resource extraction companies in a trench coat,’ hastily set up by bloodthirsty entrepreneurial WASP settlers as a means to steal large swaths of resource-abundant land from its original inhabitants for the sake of profit generation. Essentially everything else about it is a front for this initial purpose, and its culture is virtually indistinguishable from the one it inherited from the society that created it as a venture to pursue blood soaked financial gains. Initially, Canada was economically dependent upon Britain. Its culture and political institutions were, like other British colonies, a perfunctory copy-paste of the society from which a majority of its population originally derived. So, for a while, Canada was functionally British in culture. Yet, over the past few centuries, our major trading partner has shifted from one English speaking Protestant great power to another. It should not be a surprise that American cultural influence abroad has had a particularly strong effect on a small neighbouring country with a growing economic dependence upon America, rather shallow cultural traditions of its own, a shared language as well as religion (for most of Canada at least), and a fairly similar political context (a white supremacist settler state originally set up by the British). Canada’s primary trading partner shifting from Britain to the United States in the 20th century led to a rather stark change in Canadian culture. This change is still noticeable within intergenerational cultural divides. Like counting the rings on a tree, how culturally connected a Canadian is to Britain, as opposed to America, is often a telltale sign of one’s age. Members of the silent generation and baby boomers, for instance, are far more focused on developments and scandals pertaining to the British royal family. Yet for younger Canadians, it sometimes feels strange to remember that we are, technically, British royal subjects. Our head of state is, technically, King Charles and our prime minister is, technically, approved of by the royal family’s official representative. Yet, in reality, Canada is far less culturally and politically dependent upon the country that created us than we are on our neighbours to the south. And while America is a lot more subtle in its control over the country than our previous overlords, manifesting in, for instance, almost complete control over trade disputes between the two countries, they have served rather well to fill the role of the new political/economic block we look towards for our identity as the sun finally set over the British Empire. While Canadian culture and political discourses have been fairly reliant on America for a while, this cross border cultural exchange has become most absurdly intense in the digital age. While older forms of media are generally distributed among Canadian audiences by Canadian companies, giving us a semblance of separation from America by privileging ‘Canadian made’ content, online content distribution algorithms are essentially a free-for-all. In previous decades, Canada may have gotten our own equivalent of some American made political media specifically attuned to our context (e.g., in the aughts, America had The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and we had the Rick Mercer Report), yet the population’s increasing dependence upon social media websites for political content has almost entirely destroyed any semblance of cultural difference. Canadians are beginning to no longer consume American culture through one degree of separation, where we are able to tell ourselves we are in some ways culturally unique from our southern neighbours. We are getting our political media directly from the source. Yet this phenomenon is not unfolding evenly across the electorate. Canadians whose politics are more ‘terminally online’ seem to be far more willing to completely disregard the political specificities of Canadian politics in favour of rhetoric designed and produced for a specifically American context. It should not be a surprise, therefore, that political ideologies that are more dependent upon the dissemination of their ideas online tend to breed Canadian believers who no longer even pretend to tailor their rhetoric or policy positions to the Canadian context. So, while Canadian politics has been a copy of America for a while, only the online age could produce a statistically significant portion of the Canadian electorate whose political beliefs are so intensely informed by American media that some of them feel the urge to, for instance, invoke the first amendment of the American constitution in a Canadian court. This tendency has come to a head most absurdly in The Conservative Party of Canada’s rather uncomfortable relationship with the growing influence of American culture war bullshit on the Canadian conservative electorate. The party has essentially become sandwiched between two blocs: the longer standing respectable ‘Tories’ and the growing and rabid ‘populist’ minority obsessed with Trump. Yet unlike in the American context there has not been an effective Trump like figure to successfully galvanize the latter voting bloc into marginalizing the former. It seems as if the primary influence that has led to this latter voting block to become in any way relevant is Trump himself and the concomitant American-made far right media sphere that has sprouted out of his popularity. The Trump obsessed culture warriors essentially exist in their own bizarre little world, where their reactionary social policies are even more unpopular than has been demonstrated in the American context (see: The Modern Electoral History of Transphobia). This has led to an incredibly awkward balancing match, where Conservative Party leaders feel the need to acquiesce to the vocal and growing minority within the party that demands their leader commit to policies that any rational politician understands to be political suicide in the Canadian context. This schism has resulted in the previous two leaders of the party, Andrew Scheer and then Erin O’toole, being completely forgettable ‘middle ground’ candidates who successively lost to Liberal Party golden boy/costume enthusiast Justin Trudeau. The latter of these leaders hilariously abandoned his own party’s policy convention in 2021 following failed attempts to ensure the party made tacit commitments to limiting carbon emissions. American culture war influence has even led to a splinter party called the “People’s Party of Canada,” created in 2018 by former conservative member of parliament Maxime Bernier. Before his departure from the conservative party, Bernier was one of its more prominent members, serving as minister of industry and then foreign affairs under the Harper government. His departure, it seems, was partially a result of him losing the 2016 conservative leadership race by a single percent margin to Andrew Scheer (remember him from the last paragraph?). The PPC is remarkably embedded in culture war bullshit, with the first three campaign issues listed on their website being, limiting immigration, promoting “self defence” laws, and eliminating “radical gender ideology.” But as I noted before the 2019 election, the rabid appeal to American far-right cultural signifiers felt like it came a couple of years too early. And, of course, I was right about this. For the first few years, the party saw limited success, achieving only 1.6% of the federal vote in 2019 and zero seats in parliament. The party’s leader, Bernier, even lost the seat he previously held as a conservative to his Conservative Party replacement. But the People’s Party really took off following the covid pandemic and the increase in right-wing conspiracy-based politics embedded in the American culture war. COVID-19 quarantines pushing people increasingly online essentially caused the ‘far right terminally online’ voting block to become large enough not to be fully contained, in the Canadian context, within a rounding error. The PPC made its mark by being the only ‘mainstream party’ that explicitly opposed any COVID-19 restriction measures, gaining 5% of the vote in the 2021 election. While this may not seem like a lot, a political party gaining 5% of the vote on its second election is absurd growth, beating the longstanding Green party and achieving almost 1/3rd of the 17.8% received by the NDP. While many of these new voters did not actually come from the Conservative Party but instead from the Greens, the few percentage points the PPC likely skimmed off the Conservatives certainly helped sway the balance of power in an election that was rather close. Yet while the PPC appeared rather scary in 2021, they haven’t done a particularly good job of taking advantage of the increasingly terminally online portion of the Canadian electorate since then, with polls having them at a steady 5%. This is likely a result of the decreased significance of COVID-19 lockdowns, which was the primary issue that got many voters to abandon their old parties for the PPC. So, fears that the People’s Party of Canada would grow into some sort of formidable federal party in the near future seem to be misplaced. One of these concerns, which is not necessarily off the table in the future, relates to the PPC repeating Canadian history and merging with the Conservatives to form a new, unified, right wing political party. This is how the current Conservative party was formed in 2003, and Bernier is obviously aware of this strategy. But a merger between The Conservatives and the PPC seems far less likely following the rise to prominence of the Conservative Party’s current leader, Pierre Poilievre (pronounced ‘poly-ev’), who gained recognition for, among other things, taking the side of anti COVID-19 mandate’ freedom convoy’ protestors and criticizing the former conservative party leader for remaining relatively neutral on the debacle. The obvious reason for this neutrality, of course, is because a strong majority of Canadians, even many who oppose COVID-19 lockdowns, didn’t approve of the so-called “freedom convoy,” which occupied downtown Ottawa for more than a month during February of 2022. Looking at Poilievre’s YouTube channel he essentially appears to be a Canadian version of Ben Shapiro, even down to his annoying nasally cadence. His appeal within the conservative electorate seems heavily connected to his presentation as a conservative 'public intellectual' whose simplistic 'populist' messaging, while incoherent, plays well among a group who already look to political influencers producing similar forms of rhetoric. Yet while Poilievre is comfortable agreeably appearing beside those like Jordan Peterson, who lives and breaths socially reactionary culture war issues, the messaging of Poilievre's campaign has been rather void of any reference to 'gender ideology' or 'critical race theory.' Instead, Poilievre seems to be running on an ‘economic populist’ campaign strategy, blaming inflation on the Canadian central bank printing out too much money and the housing crisis on regulators, whom he repeatedly calls “gatekeepers,” that make the construction of more housing unnecessarily difficult. Originally, this strategy came with an obsessional reference to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin as a means of ‘beating’ inflation, with Poilievre being quoted as wanting to make Canada into a “crypto utopia” if elected. But he seems to have dropped this line after bitcoin halved in price beginning in late April of 2022 almost immediately following his recommendation to voters to invest in it. But while Poilievre's campaign seems to have positioned itself rather closely to culture war obsessed far right reactionaries, you should not be fooled. Poilievre is not himself a true culture warrior. He is a career politician, holding no other job than “graduate student” and then “member of parliament,” who has attempted to appeal to this growing, yet still rather small, portion of the conservative electorate as a means of forging a political coalition that can ‘unify’ the conservative party. Appealing to the freedom convoy was a cynical, calculated move by a politician who has identified the culture war freaks as a useful ally. And yet, ironically, this has placed him in the exact same position as the previous conservative party leaders he attempted to supplant. Only now, the rabid right wing culture warriors have been emboldened (by, among other things, Poilievre himself) to such a point that they will only accept a political party that embraces a position on social issues that would leave the party in complete ruins. Poilievre has responded to the growing support for issues such as banning late term abortions and excluding trans women from “women’s only” spaces within his party by trying to pretend as if they don't exist. He is unable to explicitly reject such proposals, for fear of losing a useful ally, and unable to accept them, as doing so would be wildly unpopular with the rest of the electorate. Poilievre has shown some signs of being unwilling to dedicate himself to culture war issues before the recent policy convention. When New Brunswick premier (like an American governor) passed a law requiring parents to be notified of their children's wishes to go by different names or present as a different gender in school, Poilievre skirted any questions of whether curtailing the freedoms of trans children was good or not, saying that Trudeau, who condemned the bill, should “butt out” of provincial political issues. And during a recent federal byelection in Ontario, local ‘pro-life’ activists wanted to nominate a candidate who was explicitly against abortion, which Poilievre denied. This schism demonstrates an underlying tensions between the radical culture war obsessed minority of the conservative electorate, who have so far mainly gained influence in power in the party through controlling various local conservative chapters, and Poilievre himself, who has no interest spearheading a culture war crusade. Leading up to the convention, Poilievre refused to explicitly comment on the culture war driven proposals raised by various delegates. When asked about the two anti trans proposals up for debate by a journalist, he responded by saying, “I haven’t had a chance to study all the proposals at our convention, but we’ll take a careful look at every proposal and decide whether or not it lines up with our platform.” During his grand two hour speech at the convention itself, he completely ignored any reference to culture war issues that could not be directly tied to his form of ‘economic populism.’ No mention of things such as critical race theory, radical gender ideology, or abortion. And he was quick to leave the convention on the final day without taking questions from any journalist concerning the passed proposals. Poilievre, it appears, is not stupid enough to run on culture war issues. He has made it resoundingly clear that he knows that any reference to banning abortions or curtailing LGBT rights would be political suicide for his campaign. The Liberal Party has gained a great deal of mileage contextualizing the Conservatives as “dangerous," and if Poilievre ran on socially reactionary policy positions that are opposed by a vast majority of Canadians, it would be a godsend for the liberals, whose widely unpopular candidate, Trudeau, has little to promise the country that he hasn’t already failed to live up on. It seems like other members of the Conservative Party are also well aware of this fact. When the anti-trans proposals were being discussed on the convention floor, multiple people brought up how easily such policies could be turned into ammunition to destroy the Conservative Party's chance of winning upcoming elections. Of course, at the end of the day, that is what truly separates many of the remaining 'respectable' conservative politicians from the culture war obsessed freaks. The former understands that their context cannot allow for a successful campaign ran on these issues. Poilievre does not care about trans people, abortions, or gay marriage. In fact, despite having a gay father, he was rather late to join the Canadian 'bi-partisan consensus' concerning support for gay marriage. He cares about winning. And he has been able to gain popularity, at least up to this point, by engaging in a dangerous juggling match between antithetical groups. Yet it's rather unclear how far this strategy will take him. One conservative member of parliament responded to journalists questioning him about the proposal results in the convention by saying “you guys want to make it an issue. The liberals want to make it an issue, but the average Canadian and us here? We have a job to do, and that’s to win the next election.” Yet, unfortunately for the MP quoted, as well as Poilievre, the passing of these proposals and the increasing pressure that will come in the next few years from America-obsessed culture warriors within the party will ensure that this will be “an issue,” or perhaps the issue, that plagues the upcoming Conservative Party's campaign. Poilievre, it seems, has bit off a bit more than he can chew. He has emboldened a political block with little care for the “electability” of their demands, who will not stop asking for more from him until his policy positions would make Desantis blush. As it turns out, there is no “middle ground” to be found in the conservative electorate. And while conservatives are currently celebrating a remarkably strong lead in the polls, come next election cycle Poilievre will have to reckon with either abandoning the political ally he has depended upon or running a campaign that could somehow convince at least a plurality of Canadians that Trudeau is the best option. I am not going to try to predict the results for the next Canadian election. Even I will admit that Canada is matching America’s acceptance of reactionary far right politics at a pace I did not expect. And its very scary. But however much I, as a Canadian trans woman, instinctually want to come away from this situation cursing the far right lunatics down south who have made my existence a political issue in my own country, it is essential to remember that any exported culture war issues can only find a home elsewhere by preying on already existing political antagonisms. This tendency does not, in fact, confirm the liberal lie that Canada is in some way ‘better’ than America (if only we just didn’t consume American political content!). Instead, it shows that we are exactly like them. If all Canada needed in order to slowly become a carbon copy of America was unsupervised internet access, then putting the blame on America for this tendency would be like getting angry at the internet for making 13 year old boys enjoy photos of boobs.