Canada’s national election will be held in just over a week, on 20 September. Despite being only two years into a term that in Canada can run for four, even five years, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called this election. You see he had a comfortable lead in the polls and his was a minority government. He wanted a majority. Plus, incumbents around the anglosphere who’d been presiding over locking-down their citizens nevertheless had been doing well in elections. Trudeau weighed it all up and pulled the trigger, asking the Governor General to call an election. In the two or three weeks since then Trudeau’s poll ratings have gone down, down and down. From almost a double-digit lead seven or eight weeks ago to a five or six point lead when the writ was dropped, we’re now past the halfway point of the election campaign and Trudeau and his left-wing Liberal government trail the Conservatives by a few points in the polls. (Note to readers: In times past I would explain that the Liberal party in Canada was the main left-of-centre party and the Liberal party in Australia was the main right-of-centre party. But given Messrs Morrison’s and Frydenberg’s last two years of spending on steroids, facilitation of the country’s worst inroads on civil liberties in its history, refusal to take on the ABC or our universities, I don’t think anyone with a straight face can call the Australian iteration of Liberal a right-of-centre party any more. Calling it the ‘fraction of a tittle of a speck to the right of Labor’ party works though. Well, maybe.)
Now readers need to know two things. First off, Canada’s median voter is noticeably to the left of Australia’s median voter. When some commentators complained that in the 2019 Canadian election the Conservative party got 34 per cent of the votes to the Liberal party’s 33 per cent, and yet the Libs won 157 seats in Parliament to 121 for the Tories, that’s all true. The Conservative vote is bunched up in the prairie provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan (in neither of which the Libs took any seats at all, the Tories winning them all bar one – this going some way to explain the independence-from-Canada movement in Alberta). In any majoritarian voting system like Canada’s first-past-the-post or our preferential version, it’s bad to have most of your support concentrated in a few places. You win seats with heaps of wasted votes. The Liberal party then takes many of the seats in Ontario and Quebec on much finer margins. But what that correct-as-far-as-it-goes analysis omits to mention is that the main third-place party in Canada, the New Democratic party (NDP), is a harder to the left one than is the Liberal party. In 2019, the NDP won 16 per cent of the vote and 24 seats. Then there’s the Greens. They snagged just under 7 per cent of the vote and three seats. And even the party that runs candidates solely in French-speaking Quebec, the Bloc Québécois (32 seats won in 2019, second only to the Libs in Quebec, and 7.5 per cent of the overall vote albeit all from that one province), would be considered very left-wing here in Australia.
Put bluntly, the Conservatives have almost all of the right of the spectrum to themselves, barring one two-per-cent more-right party. However, their share of the spectrum is nowhere close to half. If the left-wing parties in Canada got together they would win for the foreseeable future, and win big time. That is how left-wing the country is. Or to make the point differently, if Canada had our preferential voting system, or a European proportional style one, the Tories could not win. That is the second thing to bear in mind when thinking about Canada. The Conservative party needs lots of three-way races in lots of seats. It particularly needs the NDP to do well, though a good showing by the Bloc Québécois also helps. That was precisely what happened in order for former Tory Canadian PM Stephen Harper to win three elections from 2006 to 2015 – a fractured vote on the Left. I make all those points about the fragility of the position of the Conservative party in Canada for a reason. You see even in that precarious electoral position and even in a country whose voters lean a lot more left than here, the Conservative party in Canada is a good deal braver than anything you’ve seen come out of the Coalition in this country since it defenestrated Tony Abbott and effectively orchestrated a Black Hand, two-steps-to-the-left manouevre.
Want an example? Take the patently biased public broadcasters in both countries. The current Canadian Tory leader Erin O’Toole (ex-military, lawyer) won the leadership promising to do something about the CBC, even suggesting a 50 per cent cut to its budget. That was never going to happen.
But the Conservative party manifesto or platform, released at the start of the campaign a few weeks ago, promises to protect the über-cheap radio service while reviewing the whole English language CBC TV service to assess whether all competition with private broadcasters and digital providers can be stopped. That is some threat! If only a fifth of something like that were to happen, it would put our impotent, do-nothing-about-the-patently-biased-ABC Coalition government to shame.
Oh, and O’Toole and the Conservatives are promising to balance the budget. That may be easier in Canada as even Trudeau spent way less per capita during the pandemic than Mr Frydenberg. And it no doubt is built on optimistic projections. But hey, there is a clear, promised time limit for getting it done. Massively better than here you say? I couldn’t possibly comment.
Will the Tories in Canada beat that smug, self-righteous Boy Trudeau who was still parading around in black face at the age of 29, who is the virtue-signalling King of the World (Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand is the Queen), and who trades in form over substance? I hope so. But I’m not sure. To win the Tories will need to get about five per cent more of the popular vote (see above) than the Libs. Even then it will just give them a minority government. But the mood of Canada’s voters has certainly changed and it’s possible. The other left-wing parties dislike Trudeau and the Liberals almost as much as they dislike the Conservatives. The NDP leader openly moots supporting a Conservative minority government if they win the most seats. So we’ll see.
Until then keep your fingers crossed and expect the CBC to keep firing all of its ammunition at the Tories. That’s what ‘wholly impartial, unbiased broadcasters’ staffed exclusively by those on the Left do. Right, Ita?
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