FRAGMENTATION ON THE LEFT: WHAT WAS ONCE A PROBLEM WHICH AFFLICTED THE RIGHT HAS NOW BECOME THE SCOURGE OF THE LEFT IN CANADA.
There was a time, not too long ago, in the wake of the collapse of the ill-fated Meech Lake Accord of 1990, when the political right in Canada, heretofore led by Brian Mulroney’s PC Party, split into the Bloc Québécois in our Province and the Reform Party out west, leaving the PC forces much weakened, thereby allowing Jean Chrétien’s Liberals to come up the middle for the better part of over a decade between 1993-2003.
This disunity on the right pretty much guaranteed that the right wing vote in Canada would be split between Reform/Alliance and PC candidates in the west, allowing mostly Reform/Alliance to carry the day. In Ontario, where the PCs had traditionally been strong in the 20th century federally, it being Loyalist country, the PC vote collapsed as Mr. Mulroney’s departure from the federal scene left a gaping hole in the central-Canadian pro-business vote market.
Jean Chrétien however, fresh from his stint at Gordon Capital in Toronto, having made a name for himself amongst the business community of vote-rich pro-business Ontario, arrived just in time as a viable solution for voters to support, not to mention in defending Canada against the re-nascent separatist element, personified by the candidates of the Bloc Québecois, which had emerged out of the Québec wing of Mr. Mulroney’s PCs, in the wake of the failure of Meech and its much-ballyhooed ‘Distinct Society’ clause for Québec.
So by sweeping Ontario, getting some Anglo West Island seats in Montréal, and a smattering of other Liberal ridings in the west and Maritimes, Mr. Chrétien was able to rule Canada with three consecutive majorities in ten years. However, all this fell apart as soon as the internal power struggle over leadership between Mr. Chrétien and Paul Martin rose to the surface and, combined with the Sponsorship Scandal, wherein Mr. Chrétien’s government had been caught in an elaborate party-financing kickback scheme with taxpayer’s money on a series of pro-Canada government sponsorship campaigns run by various advertizing firms, which were designed to raise Canada’s ‘brand-name recognisability’ in Québec in the wake of the nail-biter victory in the 1995 Québec vote on secession, support for the federal Liberal Party soon collapsed.
This opened the door for the right to unify. As the Liberals flailed around with their leadership woes and problems with ideological existential identity in the face of a growing shift to the right in western civilization, the Conservatives got their act together and essentially merged the PC and Reform/Alliance Parties in what amounted to a takeover of the rump of the PC Party, which had survived somewhat in various parts of the country, by the Reform/Alliance Party to form the newly-minted ‘Conservative Party of Canada’, discreetly dropping the ‘Progressive’ moniker in the process.
This new Party, led by Stephen Harper, eventually won a minority government in 2006 and another minority later in the decade before winning a majority in May of 2011. They worked hard at re-defining themselves as a distinctly Conservative party, with a focus on some socially-conservative policies, and maintaining their option of continuing deficit financing during the economic crisis of 2008-09 and onwards. They really worked hard at targeting swing ridings in Canada where they thought they had a chance at winning and tailoring their message of the issues to suit the concerns of those ridings. It worked. Along with U.S.-style attack ads with highly controversial and negative messaging against their opponents, they managed to master the new, U.S. style of Conservative-dominated ‘wedge politics’, which both Liberals and Conservatives in the U.S. now practice.
With these methods they have managed to get Canada’s first majority government since Jean Chrétien’s day in the early days of the 21st century. We had lived through a Paul Martin minority in 2004-05 and two Harper minorities thereafter. People were fed up of the instability in Parliament and the division in public opinion, but nobody on the left, given our ‘first past the post ‘electoral system, and dearth of a credible left-wing leader, could form a credible opposition to Harper and help the majority of public opinion in this country, which is NOT Conservative, unite and speak with one voice.
So essentially, Stephen Harper and his Conservative party, through a concerted and well-organized process of communications, manipulation of media messaging, not to mention of the deficiencies in our existing electoral and Parliamentary institutions of civil governance, have essentially ‘solved’ the problem of the fragmentation of public opinion on the Left and it’s inability to govern, by cobbling together a majority government with roughly 40% of the popular vote. This 40% however is based on a low voter turnout of 61, 4% of eligible voters casting their ballots.
So Canada is now being governed from the right by right-wing demagogues who garnered 40% of the 61, 4% of those eligible to vote. So, according to my calculations, Mr. Harper was elected with about 24, 4% of the total number of persons eligible to vote. So basically, three quarters of Canadians either didn’t vote for him, or abstained because they’re totally fed up with the whole process!!!
This leaves the silent majority of Canadians who either voted for one of the various center-left parties, of which there are many, or who didn’t vote at all. First there are the Liberals, who’re the traditional center-left party, who basically governed for most of the 20th century by co-opting the ideological space occupied by the CCF-NDP Party (Social Democrats). Then there’s the NDP, (New Democratic Party), the successors to the CCF (Cooperative Commonwealth Federation).
They’ve actually gained ground now that Liberal and Bloc Québécois support has collapsed. They swept the province of Québec in the May 2011 election, and got a lot of seats elsewhere in the country as well. There’s the Green Party as well, which will hopefully go somewhere if environmental issues can get some traction in Canada.
So basically you have four parties on the left, all sharing a very broad ideological spectrum of ideas and policy proposals, none of whom wants to talk about merging with the others to form a common front to face down the Conservatives. So essentially, we’re in for a long period of Conservative rule in Canada. What was once the affliction of the right is now the scourge of the left.
Hmm… Where’s the big bad old Soviet Union when you need it? In the meantime, I’ll say a prayer for the fellow travellers of this earth who long for something better: Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your country’s credit rating!