Stop the Americanization of Canadian politics

Many on the right and the left seem to be replicating political actions that are happening south of the border without taking into consideration that Canada is a very different country than the US. By all means, look at what works and what doesn’t in the US, but also take into consideration the differences of a Canadian context and adjust accordingly. The values, issues and challenges of voters in Canada are quite different, so what works in the US won’t necessarily work as well here.

Many of the campaigns the left are fighting for are being co-opted from American progressives. Two examples I can think of are the 99% vs. the 1% from Occupy Wall Street, and the fight for $15/hour minimum wage. In addressing the first example, arguably, there will always be a top 1%, so the question becomes: is the gap between the rich and poor reasonable or unacceptably large? There is certainly a strong argument that the gap is too wide in Canada, but it is important to remember this gap isn’t even remotely close to that of the United States; in fact, in terms of income distribution, we are closer to the Nordic Countries than the United States: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_income_equality). The gap between the rich and poor has not changed much in Canada since the year 2000, whereas in the US, it has gotten much worse. As such, the arguments you hear from some politicians such as Justin Trudeau that we need to raise taxes on the rich may make sense in the US, but not necessarily in Canada. We ought to look at our own unique situation around income disparity and decide accordingly. Likewise our top marginal rates range from 47.5% to 54% whereas in the US they are 37% to 50.3% so it is quite possible the optimal top marginal rate is above that of the US, but below that of Canada.

On the fight for $15/hour, the failure to acknowledge we have a different currency than the US should suggest our minimum wage may be different. Also, the cost of living varies not just between countries but within them as well. Someone living in rural New Brunswick can live on a lot less than someone living in downtown Toronto or Vancouver, and likewise, a living wage in rural Alabama will be much lower than in San Francisco or Manhattan. Canada has a much stronger social safety net than the US, so health care, for instance, is not something that people making minimum wage have to worry about paying for, unlike in the US. Thus, rather than adapting the fight for $15/hour, this is an issue where we ought to look at the local circumstances and decide accordingly.

Of course, the problem of the Americanization of our politics is not unique to the left, and in some ways, this phenomenon is worse on the right. Past Conservative leaders like John Diefenbaker, Robert Stanfield, and Joe Clark understood we were a very different country than the US and as such, the PCs had very different policies than the GOP. Even Brian Mulroney, who may have leaned in the same direction as Reagan understood how the policies of Reagan was pushing may have been wildly popular in the US but would be a tough sell in Canada, so he was a lot more centrist. Unfortunately, it seems that recently, many conservative activists want to mimic whatever the GOP is doing, seemingly forgetting we are a very different country and the types of policies that may sell well south of the border won’t necessarily work here. We have already seen an example of this is in the 2014 election, when Tim Hudak tried to copy Scott Walker’s policies in Wisconsin. Rather than winning, Hudak had one of the worst showings ever for the Ontario Progressive Conservatives in what should have been an easily won election. Some examples of policies I see many on the right pushing for in Canada that I believe are bad ideas and will hurt conservatism include more lax gun control laws, including the right to concealed carry, a ban on Muslim immigration, and that we should blindly follow every US foreign policy decision rather than looking at each one individually.

We have seen the right in Canada adopting a lot of the rhetoric from Breitbart, Fox News, and Alex Jones’ infowars, such as: globalists and the theory that George Soros is secretly pulling Trudeau’s strings to create a global government, or how the media is overtly liberal biased despite the fact that during the last election, most papers endorsed the Conservatives, not the Liberals. Regarding the liberal media bias, it’s true the media tends to ignore the more ideological right wing elements, and that is because the hard right are a small minority in Canada. For moderate, centre-right policies, I find the media is quite fair, and while not perfect, it is far more balanced than the Rebel Media. One could argue maybe the media in the US is out of touch with most Americans, as almost all of them were very harsh on Trump yet he still won, but in Canada, there is little evidence of this. Our media is every bit as liberal as the American media, but our median voter is a lot further to the left than the median American voter, so it’s quite conceivable our media is in line with most Canadians, while the American media (excluding Fox News of course) is left-leaning relative to most Americans. The success of Fox News in the US and the failure of the Sun News Network in Canada, while failed trying to replicate Fox, seems to prove this.

I encourage everyone to look at what works and what doesn’t in the US, but keep in mind that Canada is a different country with different values and a different political system. As such, that will mean doing things differently here sometimes. In the past, most politicians seemed to understand this, but I feel too many political activists are forgetting it today. My next post will discuss the issue of Europeanization, and how many on the left want to imitate Europe, while on the right, many want to avoid this without understanding what the political implications might be or how things actually work in Europe (hint: Europe is more conservative than most Canadians think).

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