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By Robert A. Vella

As a progressive American, I am ecstatic that Canadians rose up and booted the backward conservative ideologue Stephen Harper out of office.  Autocratic henchmen of the aristocracy no longer have any place in this increasingly troubled new century which will test the stability of human civilization like never before.  However, in their exuberance to dethrone him, Canadians fell for the very same illusion offered by Barack Obama seven years earlier.  Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau’s “sunny day” and “real change” rhetoric sounds almost identical to Obama’s “hope and change” meme from 2008… because it most certainly is.

Canada did move to the left;  but, because its conservative government had taken the country so far to the right under the nine years of Harper, this election will give it a centrist government and not a progressive one.  In addition to the sound bashing suffered by the Conservative Party, the progressive New Democratic Party (NDP) and Green Party fared even worse.

From CBCJustin Trudeau pledges ‘real change’ as Liberals leap ahead to majority government:

Now, the Liberals were elected or leading in 184 ridings [Member of Parliament electoral districts for the House of Commons], having won seats in every province and taking the lead in all provinces except Alberta and Saskatchewan. The Tories followed with elected in more than 99 seats, while the NDP was at 44. The Bloc [Bloc Québécois, a partisan social democratic party in Quebec], meanwhile, was elected in 10 seats and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was re-elected in B.C. [clarification added by TSJ]

The Liberals finished with 39.5 per cent of the popular vote, while the other parties took the following percentages of the popular vote:

  • Conservatives: 31.9 per cent
  • NDP: 19.7 per cent
  • Bloc Québécois:: 4.7 per cent
  • Green Party: 3.5 per cent

Tom Mulcair’s NDP moves to third-party status, having also been dealt a devastating blow. At the beginning of the 11-week campaign the party was considered a front-runner, only to see that lead evaporate over the past weeks.

The NDP was on the path to lose 50 seats in Quebec, which in the last election was a significant source of the so-called orange wave. The party had hoped that this election, at the very least, could have resulted in the party’s second-best showing, ahead of 1988 when they won 43 seats and 20 per cent of the popular vote. But for much of the night even that standard was in doubt.

The Liberal Party is roughly equivalent to America’s Democratic Party.  Its initial years in power might look similar to the first two years of Obama’s presidency (2009-2010), although perhaps more aggressive considering the procedural differences between Canada’s parliamentary system and the U.S. presidential system.

From TimeWhat a Justin Trudeau Win Means for Canada:

The incoming Prime Minister is promising significant changes in taxation, spending, marijuana policy and even the voting system

[…]

Who Is Trudeau?
The Liberal Party came out of the 2011 election in third place, winning only a 10th of the seats in Parliament — a historic loss for a party that has produced many noted Canadian Prime Ministers and was viewed as the main rival to the Conservatives. A party leadership race ended in the young, shaggy-haired Justin Trudeau coming forward as the new leader to replace staunch academic Michael Ignatieff, and his interim replacement, Bob Rae. But many doubted that Trudeau had the wisdom — he’s only 43 — or the experience to take the reins of the Liberal Party, let alone run the country as its Prime Minister. He’d only entered politics in 2008 as the member of Parliament for the Montreal riding, or electoral district, of Papineau. He had also previously been a teacher and activist, not a lawyer or a business leader like some of his political peers.

He also has a historic legacy to live up to — his father was Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a Canadian leader of legendary proportions who helped usher in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and official bilingualism throughout the country. While in some ways, this legacy has given the younger Trudeau a boost — growing up famous has made him very comfortable and recognizable in the public eye — it’s also caused inevitable comparisons and criticisms. During the election campaign, some speculated that Trudeau simply didn’t have the intellectual capacity of his father — a lawyer and professor — and wouldn’t be able to lead the nation with the same vision and decisiveness.

Evidently, these qualms were not enough to stop Canadians electing Trudeau as the country’s new Prime Minister. Now, Trudeau has some big promises to fulfill to prove that his leadership qualities have more to do with his brains than his good hair and charm as he plots out his first moves as the country’s leader.

After the 8-year disaster of Republican Party rule in America, President Obama and his Democrats kept the national ship from sinking and managed to get it moving forward – albeit quite slowly.  However, his administration has failed to fulfill most of the big promises it had offered to the public.  Now, Trudeau finds himself in a similar situation.  The Canadian people, who are more aware of the serious global challenges which lay ahead than are the American people, might find their patience running thin much sooner.

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16 thoughts on “Election recap: Canada did move left, but Canadians fell for the ‘hope and change’ illusion

  1. Google/Wikipedia tells me that there are 308 seats in Canada’s Parliament. If you add up the declared winners in the CBC quote, there are many more than 308 or does the 99 attributed to theTories not mean 99 seats? In any event Trudeau’s party (if it got 184 seats, has many more than the majority. This puts them in a much better position than the Democrats in 2009-10, because until Franken took his seat the Senate was not filibuster-proof (under the ridiculous new filibuster rules). Of course Obama took his major right turn between the election and the inauguration with the selection of his economic team which completely fumbled the stimulus and handling the big banks. Trudeau won’t have that make-or-break decision so there is a change (albeit slim) that there will be positive movement there. They will still press for the Keystone Pipeline, however. But probably pull out of the anti-Muslim coalition. I hope the best. They will probably prompt a giant wall across the North in the Trump administration, and they may well benefit from it.

    (BTW, do you know why there is such a small channel to write comments in? It makes it really difficult to proof-read.)

    • Google/Wikipedia must be wrong because there are 338 seats in Canada’s House of Commons. Members of the upper chamber of parliament, the Senate, are not elected by popular vote and are instead appointed by the ruling majority (or coalition).

      WordPress has different editors to write comments in. Please see the help menu for details and instructions.

  2. Robert, I agree with your assessment – similar ‘hope & change’ rhetoric. Trudeau/Canada stance on TPP concerns me.

    I don’t understand what happened to the NDP in the last couple of months, but it is good Conservative Party was voted out.

    • I didn’t refer to it in this post, but in the previous day’s post I made note of the “strategic voting” phenomenon which shifted a lot of votes from the NDP to the Liberal Party. The conventional wisdom of this idea posited that the NDP could never achieve majority status, and that votes for it would be wasted and would allow the Conservative Party to stay in power. Also, we shouldn’t underestimate the effectiveness of Trudeau’s “sunny day” rhetoric.

      • Especially to those of us who (not fearlessly!) voted Liberal in desperation to be rid of Harper: after all, our ‘strategic voting’ in 2011 had failed, giving him a majority!! And now, we allow ourselves to feel hopeful — for the first time in a decade….

      • It was a smart, strategic move. After Trudeau has been in office for a while, it is likely that progressive Canadians will become less enamored with his party. Then, the center-left political divide will begin to reemerge and create a new opportunity for conservatives. It seems like a reoccurring pattern.

  3. Having been a member of both center-left parties, I agree. But it sure feels like a self-defeating pattern of people buying into beliefs instead of compromise “for the good of the whole”. But there’s always hope: e.g. maybe Trudeau’s “sunny ways” will spread 🙂

    • At least you Canadians still have hope. We Americans have largely given up on that warm feeling.

      Regarding “beliefs” vs “compromise,” I’ve written on that political dynamic on this blog which I delineated as “ideology” vs “pragmatism.” Where politicians and voters go wrong is by embracing one or the other to its extreme form instead of finding a healthy balance between the two. Ideology without pragmatic considerations is both obtuse and potentially dangerous (e.g. religious fanaticism). Pragmatism without an anchoring ideology leads to moral and ethical corruption (e.g. technocracy and globalism).

      How do you feel about Trudeau’s proposed political reforms? From the Time article:

      Trudeau has vowed to reform the country’s current first-past-the-post voting system, which has been unpopular with liberal Canadians, whose votes are split between three main progressive parties, but a favorite of conservatives, who tend to vote in a bloc for the CPC. Back in June, Trudeau vowed that, if elected, he would create an all-party committee to pick a more effective national electoral system for the next elections, looking at options including ranked ballots and online voting.

      • Sorry about the long pause! My hope rises more with each passing day. 🙂 However, we are a critical-judgmental culture, so I wonder if we’ll really give him a chance. I agree with most of his campaign promises, and am delighted with his cabinet and all their backgrounds! Incidentally, it all feels as if we’ve finally adopted a more Scandinavian ideology at last: social justice, evidence-based policies, etc…. But I can’t erase a low-grade ‘too-good-to-be-true’ feeling…. I have been looking at alt. electoral systems a little over the past few years, but don’t yet have a favorite. Maybe there’s hope for a really new one, with this crew! Many short video clips: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/11/04/justin-trudeau-cabinet_n_8471274.html (if you’re inclined)

      • I am. Good news, indeed. Your hope is inspiring! How difficult would it be for a 60-year old American retiree like myself to immigrate to Canada? Seriously, I am considering it.

  4. Best chuckle of the week! But about hope — I find myself remembering an interview with Trudeau’s mother (Margaret) in which she basically suggested that it’s not enough for us to feel relieved and hopeful now that we have him. No, we have to stay involved and ‘participate’, send feedback, etc…. I know she’s right, but I’ll see how that translates in my everyday life…. Maybe I’ll post more often now that one huge burden (the Conservatives!) has been lifted 🙂

  5. Pingback: Tactical voting by Socialists appears to be saving France from a Far-Right takeover | The Secular Jurist

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