It is often said that, here in Canada, we do not elect a government, but, rather, eject the previous government. We suffer a government until we find their policies becoming too egregious, until we begin to see overly self-serving interests coming to the forefront, and then we vote in “the other guys.”
There is, obviously, a little more to Canadian politics than this, but, if one simplifies it, distills it down, the stumbling block has always been that Canada is a divided country. And this has never been more apparent than today when one looks at a coloured map of how Canada is segmented by political parties: the western provinces are blue (Conservative), the Maritimes are red (Liberal), and Central Canada is the battleground in which the parties seek to win their fortune of seats, which is mostly red at the moment.
Each party has always sought to find a populist thread to help them win an election, but this is also what has helped to keep them united, too. The Conservatives, Canada’s oldest political party, have always struggled to find that leader that can bring all of its factions together. Stephen Harper was the last Conservative leader capable of doing so, but he did so through tempering his party’s positions on many contentious issues. Andrew Scheer does not look like he has the mettle to accomplish this, which led to Maxime Bernier departing the party, as he had his goals set on the Quebec brand of Conservatism.
The Liberals, on the other hand, have traditionally been a Brokerage Party, putting forth a plethora of policies that appealed to various groups of Canadians, and this shotgun effect has been very successful over the past 100 years. The past election saw election reform and the legalization of marijuana as two issues that appealed to the millennial generation, the largest demographic in Canada now. They have truly failed to produce on many of their promises, running the risk of becoming a one-term government, and they are now looking to other populist issues that might now charm the electorate. Immigration may just be that cause.
One would be remiss to ignore the NDP, which once showed promise of moving from the status of “rump party.” In 2011, when it became the official opposition to Harper’s Conservatives, it did so because it moved toward the centre, engaging with new Canadians in Quebec, taking from the Liberals at that time, whom they emulated. Can they do this again remains to be seen.
Populism seems to have been at the heart of Canadian politics, helping to make a party relevant for a brief moment in time. Though each election has helped to shape Canada’s history, what has bound Canadians together is our disgruntled attitude with government. Is this any way to build a nation, or is it time to think about politics from a different perspective, looking to ideas that are founded upon “the common good”?
John Kennair is an international consultant and doctor of laws who lives in St. Albert.