Despite what happened in Edmonton two weeks ago, progressivism is finding new life across the country. Ed Broadbent, Michal Hay and Emilie Nicolas point to a string of issues which are now front and centre in Canada:
Across the country, the fight for a $15-an-hour minimum wage is picking up steam. In Toronto and Montreal, Black Lives Matter and Montréal Noir are successfully pushing for public consultations and independent inquests in recent police shootings and are raising awareness about persistent systemic anti-black racism. Meanwhile, Indigenous rights activists have followed suit with widespread actions to draw attention to chronic underfunding and injustice.
The Alberta provincial budget’s determination to reject austerity and instead protect core public services, invest in new infrastructure and enact new climate protection measures is being widely applauded. The Supreme Court of Canada has rendered two historic verdicts, one dismembering the Harper government’s dubious criminal justice legacy, the other extending important new rights to Métis people.
Roiled by Liberal fundraising scandals, the Ontario and Quebec governments are in full-on damage control mode to rid politics of corporate and union contributions – a long-standing progressive demand. Finally, the federal government’s announcement of a process to reform our voting system is imminent, opening the door for Canada to join the majority of democracies with more effective electoral systems based on the principle of proportionality.
And the Right -- as underscored by last week's verdict at the Duffy trial -- is in retreat:
What’s not on the public policy agenda? Well, with few exceptions across the country, the hoary canards of the political Right: government retrenchment, “tough on crime” legislation, restrictions on civil liberties, and old-tyme climate change denial, are rarer than Canadian hockey teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs. In fact, both the Ontario and Manitoba Progressive Conservative parties have recently come out in favour of carbon pricing.
What are the causes? Well, the Great Recession has caused people around the world to re-evaluate the smug certitude of Conservatism -- Canadian or otherwise:
Why is this leftward tilt in our political discourse and public debate happening? One reason is certainly that in the wake of the recession, and with rising inequality, environmental degradation and flagging employment impossible to deny, the political Left has momentum around the world and Canada is part of this tide.
This increasing progressivism takes different forms in different countries. In Europe anti-austerity parties like Spain’s Podemos are gaining ground powered by record engagement of young people. In the United States, the unlikely candidacy of Bernie Sanders has captured the imagination both of aging hippies and tech-savvy millennials.
How it will all shake out is still uncertain. But you'll notice that Stephen Harper is nowhere to be seen. That's no accident.