At this point, progressives appear to be at their apex in Canada. Progressives hold over 70% of the seats federally in the House of Commons, control 7-8 provinces, and are at the helm in the vast majority of municipalities. If you value centrist policies, or lean right like myself, it’s fair to say we’re in an era of imbalance. Politics, like many aspects of life, happen in cycles; at the moment, we have the left dominating both levels. I may personally disagree with many left wing policies, but I recognize it’s important for the left to win sometimes. Both sides have their strong suits, and both need to hold some power in order to strike the best balance. If we had a Trudeau government combined with mostly centre-right provincial ones, or a Conservative one with mostly centre-left provincial ones, we would have that balance, but we do not at the moment.
Globally, however, it is a much different story. While I am glad the hard right populism of Donald Trump has not permeated north of the border, most governments elsewhere in the developed world tilt to the right. In Europe, mostly centre-right parties are in power, while social democratic parties are at record lows of support in many countries. There are a few left wing success stories, like Portugal, but not many. Asia and the Pacific are much the same as the (western) Democratic countries, while in Latin America the pink tide is ebbing.
Political balance matters, because we live in a globally competitive environment. If we have left wing parties in all levels of government while other nations’ governments lean right, we lose our competitive advantage on issues like taxation. As other countries are cutting taxes, we are raising them, making Canada less attractive for talent and business. Also, while most other countries are adopting austerity to bring deficits under control, most of our governments are spending like crazy. Thankfully our debt to GDP ratio is lower than most due to past government efforts, but looking in the direction, I fear this could change if not corrected soon. High deficits mean less money to spend on what matters to us. High deficits can also scare away investment, as investors worry it could mean future tax hikes.
There is some good news: polls suggest Liberal support is sagging federally, making them vulnerable in 2019. In both Alberta and Ontario, the conservatives are ahead in the polls, and in BC and Quebec, the centre-right remains competitive. But these are, after all, polls, and they mean nothing until the elections actually happen. Some have suggested that the success of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn is proof that neo-liberalism is dying and the left will sweep much of the West. But I am skeptical of this: both, have done better than expected, along with a few others in Europe, like Podemos, but neither Sanders or Corbyn are in power. While the younger, urban population may be trending towards socialism, once you go beyond the major cities and into the suburbs, smaller urban areas, and rural areas, as well as amongst the over 50 crowd, many are still overwhelmingly centrists or conservative. This goes for both the US and Europe; those hoping other countries follow Canada by swinging left might have to wait quite a while.
My hope is that we see a swing to the moderate right so we can regain our competitiveness in taxation and sustain a business friendly environment, while also bringing our deficits under control. Our obsession with trying to reduce income inequality is doing more harm than good, as it’s not helping bring those up from the bottom, it’s simply helping to bring those down from the top. I do support doing more to help reduce poverty, but we should focus on what works, like GAI (Guaranteed Annual Income), and raising the minimum threshold for taxation. It’s time to abandon ineffective measures like minimum wage hikes, or taxing the rich more. And as a bonus, achieving lower levels of poverty through effective policies would actually mean more government revenue and less spending.