That is the title of a very interesting piece by Michael Valpy in today's Star that is well-worth reading. His thesis offers something of a challenge to a post I put up the other day talking about the fact that our core values as Canadians managed to survive 10 years of dark rule under the Harper Conservatives.
While admitting the recent election was a rejection of a policy direction that was simply alien to most Canadians, Valpy notes that it was the participation of a certain demagraphic that tipped the scales against Harper:
What shifted on Oct. 19 was the appearance of three million more voters than in the previous election of May 2011 — most of them young and wanting to declare that the Harper government was alien.Citing pollster Frank Graves' analysis of the election, this past election differed from the one in 2011 thanks to values and emotional engagement,
What shifted were the significant numbers of small-l liberals who had voted NDP in 2011 and large-L Liberals who stayed home, but not this time. As well, in the last days of the campaign, what shifted was a significant chunk of the over-65 vote from Conservative to Liberal.
values that said Harper’s-Canada-is-not-my-Canada and an emotional engagement largely absent in centre-left voters in 2011. Emotion is what gets people to the polls.However, Valpy points out that there is another side to this picture:
Whether it was tough-on-crime, the passivity toward climate change, the diminution of the federal state to an unprecedented 14 per cent of GDP, the shuttering of research and evidence-based decision making, or a much more militaristic foreign policy with an unblinking pro-Israel stance, collectively those positions were increasingly disconnected from what the majority of Canadians considered their country’s core values and the public interest, says Graves.
The popular vote that gave Harper his majority in 2011 — 39.6 per cent — was almost identical to the popular vote that gave Trudeau his majority in 2015: 39.5 per cent.That assessment will likely not be made of the Liberals, Valpy suggests, because theirs are values represented by a larger proportion of Canadians. However, the fact is
Harper’s absolutist approach to government with the backing of not much more than one-third of ballots cast (and the support of only 24 per cent of all Canadian voters) was branded a debasement of democracy.
the roughly one-third of voters who stuck with the Conservatives on Oct. 19 are real people, with a very distinct profile in terms of both demography and values. Conservative Canada is older, more likely to be male, less educated, rural, and focused to the west of the Ottawa River.Valpy concludes that
there are two Canadas, each with seemingly irreconcilable values, maybe bringing us to the necessity of seeing the country in a new light — as a modern, pluralistic society with no national consensus, with only limited harmony at the political level, with tensions and contradictions cemented into the basic operating DNA of the country.
It means that while the positive response to the new Trudeau government is the highest this century, the idea of common values in Canada is a chimera, a fantasy.While his last sentence may be a source of discomfort for some, and certainly challenges my notion about Canadian core values, the tension between opposing visions is also something that should remind all of us of the importance of political engagement and the nurturing of our voices and values. It should also prompt an acknowledgement that a competing vision and competition for our vote is an absolute necessity in a healthy and dynamic democracy, preventing to a degree both governments and voters from taking things for granted.