In This Review
Reconciling the Solitudes: Essays on Canadian Federalism and Nationalism

Reconciling the Solitudes: Essays on Canadian Federalism and Nationalism

By Charles Taylor

McGill-Queen's University Press, 1993, 208 pp.

According to Charles Taylor, one of North America's leading thinkers of the democratic left, the dispute between English and French Canada is at bottom a clash between two concepts of nationality, with English speakers devoted to liberal institutions and the French loyal above all to their peoplehood. As a venerable advocate of accommodation of Quebec, Taylor's writing will help non-Canadians understand the strain of thinking that produced the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords. As a political theorist who candidly acknowledges the tension between English Canada's liberalism and French Canada's collectivism, Taylor illuminates why English Canada in the end decided that the two accords were too much to swallow.

Taylor's essays also illuminate Canada's economic failure. Taylor has long argued that Canada can create a strong national identity only via statist economic enterprise. This theory has guided Canadian elites since the early 1960s, and has justified the series of costly adventures, culminating in the National Energy Policy of 1980, that blasted Canada's economic hopes. It is interesting if depressing to rediscover the origins of this remarkably foolish public policy idea.