Opinion | Federal Elections Bring a World of Deeply Polarized Politics to Canada’s Gates

Is there a man in Canada more obnoxious than Justin Trudeau, whom Canadians re-elected as Prime Minister on Monday? Well, maybe Erin O’Toole, whose party got a solid second place and seemed headed for a virtual tie in the popular vote? And definitely Maxime Bernier, whose party came to dominate the debate in the last month of the campaign.

Hello Canada, welcome to the world of the deeply polarized “negative partisanship“In the era of right-wing populism: a state where everyone votes based on fear and hatred and no one gets what they really want.

It is a situation that has become familiar in the United States over the last decade and one of the key stories of this Canadian election.

You can draw some of these conclusions, at least, from voter sentiment in the final days of the campaign. On the weekend, pollster Angus Reid tweeted an observation: “The two biggest parties are run by guys who are equally unsavory (65 percent each).” Abacus Data too in your final survey, if Trudeau actively disliked more Canadians than he did (44 percent negative versus just 39 percent positive), a margin of unpopularity exceeded by O’Toole (43 percent negative versus 31 percent positive). ) and by Bernier, who was considered negative by a majority of 51 percent of those surveyed compared to only 12 percent positive.

Jagmeet Singh, the most beloved of the national party’s top leaders (a net positive 21 percent) was on his way to placing a distant third in the vote. Of course.

Nobody got what they wanted here. Abacus says 69 percent of voters wanted change, and the result appeared to be emphatically more of the same. Trudeau wanted a majority, which is why he called the elections, which according to Monday’s results seemed out of reach. O’Toole wanted to form a government and did not succeed. Singh wanted a breakthrough, but seemed stuck in the same range of seats as before. The voters of Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada wanted to vent their anger, and they did, but on Monday night it didn’t look like they were going to win a single seat.

Still, it was Bernier, and his belligerent and highly visible supporters, who shaped the election story, giving Trudeau (who called an election in search of a reason) a bogeyman to rally against. O’Toole, who had gained a growing lead early in the campaign, ended up trapped between thrown stones and a smug face.

O’Toole’s conservatives clearly wanted to walk a fine line: present a mild and harmless centrist public face without saying much to publicly alienate the anti-vaccine mob or the howling wacko on the conspiratorial right who together form an anti-vaccine vote. Trudeau ineligible but powerful. block. Ekos Research pollster Frank Graves told me late last year that Trump-style “orderly perspective” populism represented the foundation of Conservative support and the greatest opportunity for the party to gain support. However, it also seemed unlikely, especially as that bloc of voters rallied around anti-vaccine sentiment during the resurgence of a pandemic, that it would be enough to win every election. So O’Toole wanted to count those far-right chickens while working to incubate moderate support.

Bernier mobilized at least a large part of that bloc of populist voters and forced O’Toole’s hand. The stone-throwing caravan of anger blocking the hospital made them a useful adjunct to the Liberal Leader, while forcing O’Toole to either hug them or condemn them (he did neither convincingly). Issues like abortion and gun control place O’Toole in an equally awkward middle ground between popular opinion and basic conviction. When Alberta’s Conservative Prime Minister Jason Kenney was forced to admit defeat to his own policies regarding COVID restrictions late in the game, he presented the same situation, and O’Toole responded by basically hiding from questions from the press about it while transmitting his message. in a one-note strategic vote call for potential Bernier voters.

O’Toole had to carry the luggage of the COVID denier crowd, while Bernier collected a large chunk of their votes.

It did a lot of good to Bernier’s party in the seat count. The results were delayed by long lines, and it would probably be at least a day before all the local votes by mail are counted and we know the exact composition of the new Parliament. In a minority situation, it will be longer before we know how the ruling dynamic is unleashed.

However, the outlines of the campaign, and the popular vote, show that the big loser of the elections in Parliament, Bernier, could also have led the most successful campaign. The PPC went from 1.6 percent of the vote in 2019 to threatening to challenge the Green Party’s all-time highs and look like a potentially viable splinter party for the CCP.

Furthermore, being the only party willing to fully embrace the right-wing populist positions and angry street tactics represented by the Trump coalition in the US, they managed to make the elections on them. They mobilized a seething fury and resentment in a way that became difficult to ignore. As I recently wrote about the California election results, the forces of resentment on the right may not be able to win an election right now, but they can effectively own the political debate.

In Canada, it has led to a politics that is more polarized and angry than ever. And to confront that rugged terrain, another seemingly minority government, an opposition suffering a leadership and identity crisis, and an empowered populist movement that likes to force clashes in the streets.

Everyone reacts to what they hate and fear. Nobody gets what they want. Seat totals make it look like not much has changed. But the campaign also did not suggest that our policy can remain the same.


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