Sunday, September 22, 2013

Seismic Shift?

Some pundits claimed the 2011 election was a political earthquake. John Ibbitson and Darrell Bricker  asserted that it was a Big Shift. Peter C. Newman claimed that it marked the death of the Liberal Party. Andrew Cohen isn't so sure. Canada may, he writes, be reverting to its old three party system -- with the NDP as the third party:

Looking at polls, you could think we have returned to the way things were in Canada before we elected a multi-party Parliament in 1993, when the Reform Party and the Bloc Québécois erupted as regional powers. Now we have become essentially a three-party country again (the Greens and BQ notwithstanding.)

While they may shift positions with each other, the story is about the Liberals and Conservatives. What has not changed much in recent months is the growing marginalization of the New Democrats.

The Dippers will not be happy with that conclusion. But even more controversial is Cohen's assertion that Canadian politics is more about personality than policy:

Today, we are governed by the politics of personality. Experience matters less than character. The Liberals chose smart but weak leaders in 2008 and 2011. Trudeau may not have the same intellect as his predecessors, but he has a winning temperament. He is a master of retail politics who has yet to put a foot wrong.

The problem for the New Democrats is that however substantial Mulcair, however prosecutorial in Parliament, Trudeau is winning the personality contest. This is putting his party back in business, and in the public consciousness.

There is a long time between now and the next election. But, if Cohen is right -- if we care more about personalities than we do about policy -- we may still be in a quagmire after the 2015 election -- even if there has been no real seismic shift.

We have to make a quick trip to Montreal, so I will not post tomorrow. But I hope to be back on Tuesday, or Wednesday at the latest.


Lorne said...

Have a good trip, Owen. Regarding your post, personality, I hope, only takes people like Trudeau so far. Unless he starts introducing substantive policy that offers real choice far before the 2015 election, he runs the risk, in my view, of being dismissed as just a pretty face with an intellect to match.

Owen Gray said...

We've become pretty cynical about empty suits, Lorne.

The elder Trudeau made enemies, but he was not an empty suit. We'll get a chance to see what Justin learned from his father.

Danneau said...

Look forward to the next post. It's become something of a daily treat.

thwap said...

Canadian politics is a vapid sham. I'd feel bad for the NDP if I cared about the NDP as it's presently constituted.

Owen Gray said...

That's encouraging, Danneau. I look forward to the comments.

Owen Gray said...

The parties will move if enough pressure is put on them, thwap. The real question is, "How much pressure is there?"

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, Canadian politics has become more a contest of personalities than a competition of policies. Mulcair, having finished Layton's work of cutting the NDP's ties to the Left and Trudeau, sailing Ignatieff's course to Conservative Lite, how does policy or vision have a chance? Iggy gave us funding for the arts and daycare. JT wants to give us soma. They're all petro-pols and they're all corporatist as hell.

Owen Gray said...

It doesn't make the choice in 2015 anything to be proud of, does it, Mound?

Kirby Evans said...

Frankly, I am not sure what Canadian politics is about. It is obviously not about real issues, that goes without saying. But It is problematic to say it is about personality. Not only does Harper have absolutely no personality, but he has no charisma at all. Furthermore, Harper has run a garrison government. The number of his actual public appearances is surely few than any other Western leader, and he never actually interacts with the public. No, all the evidence is that rather than being about personalities, Canadian politics has become a vacuum of negativity. Though Trudeau, with his haircut and winning smile, can make it about personality, and Mulcair's rather creepy and abrasive manner can keep him out of the loop, it seems clear that we can safely say that a country which elected Harper three times, is not presently harbouring a cult of personality.

gingersnap said...

Policies, platforms and promises mean nothing, in this government. Harper has reneged on absolutely everything, he has said.

Harper's economic and job actions plans, didn't even make it off, the billboard of Hockey Night in Canada. Harper has seriously misled Canadian citizens.

On all of the resources Harper is handing to Communist China? China is permitted to bring over, their own cheap labor. Harper's FIPA deal with China means, China will take Canada over, for a minimum of 31 years.

Harper's Omnibus Bill means? China has permission to sue Canada if, anyone tries to block China's takeover of Canada. Therefore, China sued in BC to take the BC mining jobs. China can even take Canada to court, in the International Courts.

Harper is a traitor to Canada, he belongs in prison or, he should be exiled from Canada.

Owen Gray said...

Exiling him from Canada is a tall order, gingersnap. But we have it in our power to exile him from office.

Owen Gray said...

It would seem, Kirby, that Harper's followers seem to have been overtaken by the cult of the leader -- just as Italy had Il Duce and France had the "Sun King."

As a human being, Harper has the personality of a ham. But, as they used to say in the American South, some people will bestow power on a yellow dog.