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ANDERSON: No sympathy for split in Canada's political left

Image Credit: Contributed by author
June 09, 2015 - 8:17 AM

This is turning into my favourite political summer in a long while.

I was a small-c conservative on the heady evening of a late spring election in 1993 when a Reform wave swept across western Canada, painting the west in Reform green and driving a deep wedge into the heart of Canadian conservatism. I remember that evening well because the resulting loggerhead between grassroots Reformers and Progressive Conservatives rendered conservatism pretty much unelectable in Canada. The "right" was split from that moment on.

The future at the time seemed bleak indeed for conservatism. The Canadian electorate with typically Canadian moderation usually embraces centrism, and with a split between two conservative parties, how would either get elected? And the resulting marginalization of conservatism began to seem permanent, as things always do once we get used to them.  In fact at one point years later - with Canada still under an historically dominant left-leaning-centrist Liberal government - there were even semi-serious maunderings in the media about formalizing a single-party Liberal regime in Canada. 

The split in the right that seemed forever lasted a decade, more or less. The mighty PC party, with deep historical roots reaching back to confederation, simply faded away.

I took two lessons from that period of frustrated Canadian conservatism. The first came in 1997: even bastions of Canadian political culture that seem as enduring as the Rockies, aren't.  Political parties can be swept away by surprise and sometimes more conclusively than we at first think possible. The second revelation came with as much surprise as the first, in 2003, when the ragged remnants of the PC Party were amalgamated under the banner of a new Conservative Party. The lesson? No trend in contemporary Canadian politics is forever. 

"History doesn't repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes." ~ Dan Abnett

I'm a small-c conservative on the eve of a fall election in 2015, and what promises to be a battle between a united conservative front and a liberal/"progressive" movement that's been fairly evenly split since 2011. With the fall of the once mighty Liberal Party and the rise of the ankle-biting NDP, the federal political scene looks a little like a mirror image of 1997. 

Justin Trudeau has for all intents and purposes become the Liberal Party, and although its fortunes at first rode on his name, its survival will ultimately ride on his ability. Only time will tell if he takes the party into resurgence or oblivion, but more and more it seems his intellectual stamina has trouble keeping up with his incandescent persona, resulting in frequent oratorical eggface and astonishing philosophical gymnastics. Add to that a sharp veer to the dictatorial left and a promise to raise taxes, and the future appears dim for the Liberal Party of Justin. 

The NDP, for its part, is tacking toward the moderate center because it smells real power for the first time in its federal history.  And, for perhaps the first time in history, it has pushed above the Liberal Party in public opinion polls. Yet for all its recent glitter in Alberta, the NDP is, well, still the NDP, with decades of experience in telling Canadians what's wrong and not a whit of experience fixing it.  Canadians will think twice before allowing the NDP to drive the federal ship.

And so things have come full circle...the "left" is truly ruptured and the right is united and from the perspective of a small-c conservative it's hard not to gloat.  But even as I look forward to what I hope will be another decade of conservative hegemony and economic sanity, I've got one eye on the political horizon, because no trend in contemporary Canadian politics is forever.

— Scott Anderson is a Vernon City Councillor, freelance writer, commissioned officer in the Canadian Forces Reserves and a bunch of other stuff.  His academic background is in International Relations, Strategic Studies, Philosophy, and poking progressives with rhetorical sticks until they explode.

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