Regardless of the election results and what party or parties form government, the election campaign demonstrated how far Canadian politics has shifted to the left of the political spectrum. It also showed that the concerns of farmers don’t rank very high on the political agenda.
The Liberals have long been the middle-of-the-road big tent pulling in some free enterprisers as well as many social activists. Rather than governing from the centre, the Liberals under Justin Trudeau have continued to usurp many policies that used to be the exclusive domain of the NDP.
Meanwhile, the NDP under Jagmeet Singh has in turn become even shriller in its opposition to the energy sector and any expansion of pipelines. And even though it doesn’t elect many MPs, the Green party under Elizabeth May has become a force by advocating anti-business policies.
Logically, this move to the left should have created a vacuum for Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives to capitalize upon. The Conservatives have made some big campaign promises, but they’ve also promised fiscal responsibility. Whether they could actually deliver this as government is an open question, but at least they acknowledge that the country will be in trouble if it runs big deficits indefinitely.
Unfortunately, most of the Canadian electorate doesn’t seem to view deficits as a big issue. They want more and more from government, believing that all this requires is heavier taxes on the rich. They’re convinced that wealthy Canadians don’t pay their share. Many Canadians, particularly young Canadians, demand action on climate change and again they want the rich to pay.
Over the past four years, Trudeau and his government generated numerous high profile scandals and ethics violations that could have spelled electoral defeat. However, the Conservatives have been unable to fully capitalize on the blunders.
As the Conservatives tried to appear more moderate in the hopes of electoral success, themselves edging to the left, space opened up on the right side of the spectrum for Maxime Bernier and the People’s Party of Canada. Bernier espouses many policies that appeal to the Conservative base but are not said aloud by Conservatives courting broader voter appeal.
The prairie provinces have not been the main election battleground and agriculture certainly has not been a major issue. All the parties except Bernier’s pledge unflagging support for the supply-managed sector, but that’s a policy to appeal to the strong dairy lobby in Quebec and Ontario.
In the one debate on agriculture held early in the campaign, the farmer vote wasn’t courted as much as the urban vote as it pertains to agriculture and food issues. At a time when trade issues with China and India have created serious headwinds for export agriculture, this garnered very little campaign discussion.
This campaign has been particularly notable for the resurrection of the Bloc Quebecois under Yves-Francois Blanchet. How many people outside of Quebec had even heard of him before the campaign started? Hadn’t the Bloc and the separatist movement become irrelevant?
Due to the influence of the Bloc, any incoming government will be forced into policies that appease Quebec, creating a huge danger that western alienation will continue to grow.
If you became tired of the election campaign bickering over the past six weeks, don’t expect peace, harmony and stability to suddenly unfold. The election was just the start of many battles yet to come.