With a spate of recent polls show Tories in the 25-27% range while NDP gaining from last election, I think evidence is becoming increasingly strong that Canada is going through a big shift left and it is unique to Canada, not part of a global trend. The question then becomes why? Sure there are unique circumstances but still, find me one country elsewhere where right is under 30%. Heck few where even under 40% is common and while yes in other countries may have right wing parties individually that are under 30%; the combined is well over. What is more amazing is Liberals have largely abandoned the centre so you would think that would help the Tories and hurt NDP, yet opposite is happening. O’Toole is trying to moderate party yet not doing any good. And while parties further right making very minor gains, combined right still sub 30%. This leads me to believe something big is happening. Some may say this is just a short term trend and things will self correct. But I don’t totally buy that. Big events often lead to big shifts. It was Great Depression that lead to FDR’s New Deal and such policies dominated American politics until early 80s when the Reagan Revolution came about. I don’t think it is inconceivable that pandemic being a once in a lifetime event has created such a big shift.
The question becomes why in Canada not elsewhere as usually trends to happen in multiple countries not unique to one. My theory is threefold.
- Living next to US which is more right wing than most, you are seeing an equal and opposite reaction thus overreaction to their excesses on the right, while those not next door to US don’t think about this as much.
- We are nation of the little guy. Being a small country next to US, we often like to think of ourselves as being nation of little guy and much of our identity is based on this. With rise of nationalism, that has benefitted right in most countries. But since Canada’s nationalism has often been more on left, that could be a reason for that.
- We are a more compassionate and gentle country. With discovery of multiple mass graves from residential schools, we do have a dark history, but in many ways Canada came of age in 60s and our culture was very much built on idea of compassion. As such the woke backlash you are seeing elsewhere is not happening here because of who we are. Canadians are long stereotyped for their politeness and always saying sorry. Perhaps this is just this manifesting itself politically.
That being said even with this, question becomes why now? After all Harper won only a decade ago and while country has changed, I am not sure it has changed that much. Today it almost seems inconceivable that any Conservative governments could win. Heck even the 34% Andrew Scheer got seems impossible now. Now yes maybe a blip and things swing back. But my gut tells me this is a long term big shift. Liberals won’t be in power forever, but I predict NDP not Tories will defeat them when people fatigue of them. Tory base seems very detached and quite extreme so my prediction is after O’Toole loses badly, his replacement will be further right and party will blame him for not being right wing enough. This will ensure an even bigger loss in 2025 and likely falling to third place thus beginning of the end for party. Some suggest Liberals will swing back and things will look more like BC, but I am skeptical of that. Everything I see suggests Canadians are left wing across the board and unlike past, there are no issues where public leans right. In UK, public has swung left on fiscal issues, but being culturally conservative, party could pivot to that to stay relevant. In Canada what is issue Conservatives have in their favour? My answer is nothing. Some will say eventually there will be a backlash to excesses on left, but I am not so sure. If the policies to dig out are painful, many people will choose to stay with what they are comfortable with. Reality is even with big shift left, we aren’t going to become next Venezuela. Maybe will lag behind most of our competitors but will still remain a fairly prosperous country meaning public will have no reason to shift back. And with high immigration rates, that maybe able to blunt the grey tsunami that will hit others a lot harder. Never mind living next door to US, our economy tends to move largely in tandem with them so as long as US does well; we should follow along irrespective of how economically bad our government’s policies are.
5 thoughts on “More evidence that Canada is becoming most left wing on earth”
I think politics makes more sense when you ditch the left/right-wing thing. People are not consistent across the board with left/right. It has been my experience – 30 years as a Red Tory; left when PC merged with Reform and never looked back – that on election day people vote for the person and party who look the sanest and least likely to drive the car off the road.
NDP insistence on philosophical purity loses them votes during an election as they can’t talk practical issues like their provincial parties can. CPC will lose because they can’t get past the self-indulgence of insulting people who they think are going to disagree with them. The number of former PCs who no longer care what happens to the federal CPC is quite large.
Smartest thing the LPC did was wake up to the fact that Trudeau needed to ditch the stunts that got him attention – both good and bad – during his first term and turned him into The Caring PM, the guy with the good bedside manner who would stroke your hand and say “there, there, everything is going to be all right”. Then the pandemic hit and he kept it up consistently all the way through. The result? O’Toole looks like a hysterical crank who complains about everything and Trudeau just soars above it all without looking down.
I’m telling you – there are children not yet born who will grow up to serve in his cabinet.
This will probably be Trudeau’s last term and agree merger hurt Tories. But I think a lot of the former Red Tories are now on left today as we’ve become more polarized with centre shrinking. Certainly the Tories’ nastiness unhelpful although Liberals can be just as nasty. Difference is people see Liberals fighting for the little guy while many see Tories as a bunch of right wing cranks fighting to stop progress.
Still you would think if not left vs. right, out of the 30-50 developed countries at least one would have right doing as poorly and fact none do does play into idea Canada is most left wing relative to others. Off course there are circumstances but still I don’t know of any other liberal democracy where right routinely gets under 35% much less mid 20s. True in many, the right is not as crazy as Canada, but still I think right so loathed that even a more decent leader would only get party into low 30s, not to level they could win. Party brand is so badly damaged that people just instinctively believe they are extreme no matter who they put up. And also Overton Window in last decade in Canada has moved quite a bit left so Chretien/Martin government would be too right wing to win today.
Even in the best days, 38-40% was the ceiling for conservative parties without the help of non-conservative voters (i.e. a coalition with Quebec nationalists, who are all over the spectrum). However, the percentage appears to be lower now and I see a few reasons:
1) There is no other country in the developed world that has such a high percentage of the population in major metropolitan areas. With the polarization that is going on, that is a recipe for the population to clearly be on the left side of the political spectrum, especially on social and cultural issues. In places like Toronto and Vancouver and their near suburbs, which alone represent 1/5 of the population, it’s more like 75% on the left and 25% on the right, and in Montreal, it’s more like 90% on the left and 10% on the right. Some other cities are also very left-wing.
2) The high percentage of the population who has a high level of education, particularly among women where the solid majority have at least a Bachelor’s degree. That dynamic exists in no other country in the world. Polls are showing that women under 35 tend to be VERY left-wing. In fact, a few polls among them have the Conservatives in 4th. I think any Liberal leads among that group are out of fear and they tend to be naturally NDP (or even left of them) but are scared of the Conservatives. (It’s not so pronounced with men as the Conservatives tend to be near the lead or leading slightly with them, but interestingly younger men give the PPC their best results, which may be an anti-establishment movement with some of them. Also millennial men are far less likely to have a university degree.)
3) The polarization is also playing to the left overall. Rural areas in much of the country, particularly in the Prairies but also parts of the BC Interior and rural Ontario have been moving rightward. They have always had at least a lean towards social conservatism but have also joined in on the cultural protectionism which lines up with the viewpoints in their ridings. That plays horribly in urban Canada for the most part. As a result, it only hurts the Conservatives there – even if their leader opposes such polarization, O’Toole is himself to the left of 80-90% of Conservative members and the fear factor also plays into the left. At the same time, if the Conservatives abandon those people, it gives the PPC and the Maverick Party a solid base to work from and they risk annihilation. For some reason, other than anglophone New Brunswick, such polarization is absent in Atlantic Canada.
4) Another name that probably plays into this is Donald Trump. He is radioactive in Canada outside of the conservative base. The close proximity of the United States probably elevated his presence and created the sense that he represents the overall base. That only plays into the hand of the left. Nowhere else was Trump’s shadow so strong.
5) Quebec does play into this somewhat, but defining the position of Quebec nationalists and Bloc supporters is difficult. They tend to be a “big tent” from centre-right to far left. Economically they are definitely left-leaning, while culturally they tend to lean right. That said, the urban ridings where they typically elected their most left-wing members (think east Montreal) have mostly Liberal MP’s, probably due to the fear factor and running left-wing candidates. Yet even if Quebec is ignored, the combined left (LPC+NDP+GPC) is over 60% in polls right now, while the combined right (CPC+PPC) is in the low to mid-30s.
The pandemic may have moved some people to the left, but the die was already cast.
Agree with a lot here which I referenced in earlier post
1. We actually aren’t most urbanized country on earth, US has similar percentage living in large metro areas as Canada, but their metro areas tend to sprawl out a lot further and far more live in suburbs as opposed to city proper. Australia I believe is even more dominated by metro areas than Canada, yet right seems to be holding up well there unlike Canada. UK too but a lot more live in smaller metro areas. Otherwise percentage of Brits living in urban areas over 100,000 is about same as Canada but over 500,000 much lower and those between 100,000 to 500,000 are not exactly right leaning, but they aren’t as lopsided to left as those over 500,000 are; more bellwethers.
2. On education that is bang on. Only Israel and Japan come close here and Israel due to security factor is pulled right as economics tends to take a back seat there and more two state solution and security drive voting patterns. Japan is a very culturally homogenous country and very big on tradition.
3. Polarization is happening everywhere but because left had strong edge to begin with has just helped them. In countries where 50/50 like US just lead to widening gap while in countries where right had edge it has helped them.
4. Agreed and I would just say US in general being right next door. A lot of their problems and fact right further right there worries Canadians while those who are an ocean away don’t think about US that much. Its why income inequality is a much bigger issue here despite the fact our gap is not unusually large. Its why any talk of more private involvement in health care is political suicide even though pretty much all other industrial countries have mixed systems and its not controversial, even amongst left. Its why any talk on abortion is too due to laws being introduced in US while in most other countries people take more nuanced view of abortion should be legal in some circumstances but not all, versus our attitude its an all or nothing.
5. I think Quebec makes it more difficult but as you say BC, Ontario, and Atlantic Canada are not exactly friendly to Tories are moving away. Alberta is too, but at least Tories have another decade or two before that becomes problematic at federal level (provincial different story).
Shows how silly John Ibbitson and Darrel Bricker’s Big Shift book was as opposite seems to be happening. Yes foreign born residents are growing but their dubious assumption that helped Conservatives doesn’t seem to be panning out. Immigrants may be more socially conservative than native born Canadians, but it tends to be a secondary issue not defining on how they vote. Also growth of 905 has helped Liberals not Tories. Only blessing is if Liberals screw up enough and fall to third, it seems 905 tends to go Tory over NDP as it did in 2011 federally and 2018 provincially, but as long as Liberals not NDP is main alternative to Tories, 905 belt is tough to win. Another was growth of the West. Yes West has grown, but that has made it less conservative not strengthened the hand of Conservatives as many moving there don’t share same conservative views as those whose families have been living there for years thus pulling region left and not helping Tories. Never mind BC which is largest Western province was never exactly a Conservative stronghold. Tories may have won there often, but it was always very soft and vulnerable. Alberta as it grows will become less monolithically Conservative.
I would also add further to one and three, in Europe a lot more live in smaller urban centres which tend to be more centrist rather than left wing; think Barrie, Kelowna, Prince George, Brantford, Belleville; all places Tories were still competitive in recent elections vs. large centres. At same time rural Europe is not nearly as right wing as rural Canada as its more densely populated and tends to be closer to metro areas thus helps keep them less reactionary thus does less to scare those in urban areas. In UK, rural areas are Conservative, but not as reactionary as some of our rural areas thus not same urban backlash we are seeing.