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.