In Search of Canadian Political Culture.


347 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-7748-1388-4
DDC 306.2'0971





Reviewed by Graeme S. Mount

Graeme S. Mount is a history professor at Laurentian University and
author of Canada’s Enemies: Spies and Spying in the Peaceable Kingdom.


Wiseman defines his work as “a reflective inquiry rather than a venture into the frontier of research.” His purpose is to compare Canadians to each other, not to Americans, and for that purpose, he divides Canada into six regions: Newfoundland, which he sees as an offshoot of Ireland and West Country England; Atlantic Canada, an extension of New England; Quebec; Ontario, the Taiwan of the American Revolution; the Mid-West (Manitoba and Saskatchewan); and the Far West (Alberta and British Columbia). He rejects the usual division of Prairies and British Columbia because he considers Manitoba and Saskatchewan pioneers of social democracy, the two westernmost provinces “upstart and recalcitrant.” Alberta resembles the prairie states, British Columbia Australia.


While well informed, some of Wiseman’s opinions are controversial. On page 95 he notes that despite the Official Languages Act of 1969 and the Constitutional Guarantees of 1982, Quebec has become more unilingually French, the rest of Canada more unilingually English—although he makes an exception for New Brunswick and “the bilingual belt along [Quebec’s] border with Ontario.” These are rather important exceptions. New Brunswick has become officially bilingual since 1969, and French since then has become a language of instruction throughout designated secondary schools in Ontario. French immersion programs are ubiquitous. Wiseman himself notes that in 2001, the Ontario Court of Appeals overruled an attempt by that province’s government to close a French-language hospital in the Ottawa area.


Then, on pages 128 to 130, Wiseman analyzes the defeat of the Charlottetown Accord in the 1992 referendum. He does not mention that by 1992, Prime Minister Mulroney was so unpopular that whatever he embraced received a kiss of death. If he liked something, Canadians thought that it must be flawed. Wiseman analyzes the referendum’s results largely in terms of Quebeckers who thought the Accord granted them too little and of others who thought that it granted them too much. Pollsters in Northern Ontario said that the negative vote there reflected distrust of First Nations people. The same was probably true among many Albertans and British Columbians.


Wiseman, Nelson., “In Search of Canadian Political Culture.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 21, 2024,