As we covered a few days ago, political parties are pretty important. Not as important as the candidates themselves mind you, but still pretty important. It’s critical to the democratic process that we understand the parties that are out there.
So today we begin our coverage of the 2019 Election in earnest with the TTC introduction of the parties. In part 1 we will meet the two biggest parties, the current government and Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition (the runner up gets the cooler title). Obviously, anything negative that’s said about the party you support is not true and also, I won’t be hard enough on that party that you love.
Stay tuned for part 2 where we will discuss the other major parties and for part 3 where will have some fun looking at the also rans.
The Liberal Party
Who they are: Depending who you ask, they’re either Canada’s “natural governing party,” or the greatest threat Canada has ever seen (this is a bit of a theme). Historically, the Liberals are Canada’s most successful party. They have this habit of winning and then not losing for decades at a time (hence the natural governing party title). Obviously, their supporters love this, and their detractors hate it. The Liberals of today are very different from their forebearers. Today they are a party that is mostly centre left, although on social issues they have become more progressive since the 70s which began under their current leader’s dad. That is exactly the message that the party pushes – fiscally responsible (whatever that means) and socially progressive. They usually say that they are not a party of “big government” while simultaneously saying that government has the answers to all of your problems.
Why people love them: The Liberals try hard to hammer home the message that they represent the middle class. That’s a good strategy since everyone thinks they are part of the middle class. The Liberals won four years ago by promising tax cuts and programs for this middle class, while saying that the fact that we are spending more than we are bringing in is not a problem. We’re going to stay away from the economic debate about whether that is true (it’s not… mostly), and instead focus on the fact that for most people who are receiving more money and more stuff, the issue of who pays for it doesn’t rank high on the priority list. The Liberals have welcomed refugees with open arms and have increased immigration in general. Many people see this as the embodiment of the Canadian promise. The Liberal party has also staked out the environment as a major issue during this election. They are promising to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and continue implementing and raising their carbon tax. Ultimately, people love them because they are seen as the “reasonable” progressive choice.
Why people hate them: Well, the guy who runs them has had a pretty rough year (we’ll get into that when we introduce the leaders). To be fair, most of the people who hate them already hated them and their leader (we’ll get to that when we talk about entrenched voting). Remember the increased immigration and acceptance of refugees? Many people view this as a threat to sovereignty and a danger due to crime (these people are wrong). Also, those environmental promises? Turns out they’re less “promises” and more “an on-going dialogue.” I’m a super nerd and even I don’t know what that means. As with any party that seeks to carve out a space in the centre of the political spectrum, the real reason that people hate them is that they are simultaneously too conservative and too progressive… sometimes on the same issue.
The bottom line: The Liberals swept to a majority government four years ago on a campaign promising hope and change. But after a few major scandals, the change that many people were expecting didn’t materialise. The Liberals are now in a dead heat with the Conservatives in the polls with people split between wanting stuff from the government but also being concerned with how it’s getting paid for. Barring a major development, the most likely scenario is that the Liberals either just achieve or just miss out on a minority government.
The Conservative Party
Who they are: The Conservatives are Canada’s only non-progressive party. Well, at least the only one that isn’t totally crazy. Just over a decade ago, it was actually two parties. One that was hardline conservative and was more popular, and one that had the not at all oxymoronic name of progressive-conservative which was the only other party to form government in Canada. As seems to be a trend with Conservative parties, these two right parties “merged”. In reality the more fundamentalist party took over the more centrist party. It worked. The Conservatives formed government 3 times and for almost a decade. Then, as sometimes happens when people want to beat you, they lost. The guy who was their first official leader and had been one of Canada’s longest serving Prime Ministers stepped down launching a divisive leadership campaign that was actually more about the future of the party itself. The leadership race basically came down to a philosophical difference over what it means to be conservative. The guy who won was seen as the boring, more “reasonable” choice and he has led the party more toward the centre than his main opponent. The guy who lost took it really well. Just kidding, he went crazy and started a party for other crazy people. The Conservatives are trying hard to sell people on the idea that they are the right economic choice and that they’re not scary.
Why people love them: They’re the only noncrazy Conservative option… maybe. There’s this psychological phenomenon where people think that changing their leader will fix their problems. Maybe it’s because that leader usually tells us that they will fix our problems…? All those programs and spending that the Liberals did? People are starting to realise that at some point we have to pay for it all and think the Conservatives will do that. Why do they think that? Cause… reasons. But mostly people love the Conservatives for two reasons: pipelines and taxes. You may have heard about this one particular pipeline that everyone either thinks will save the oil industry in Canada or literally burn Canada to the ground. The Conservatives are promising to build that thing. They’re not saying how they plan to do anything different than the Liberals, just that they will. Details are everything in politics. Also, in Canada we have these things called taxes. You may have heard of them. Conservatives are planning on cutting them. They’re saying they’ll cut them for that ever present middle class, but also for rich people. Turns out rich people tend to hate taxes as much as you and I. They just do it while… look I don’t have a joke here. I’m a pastor. I’m poor even in my dreams.
Why people hate them: Their conservative history mostly. The reality of conservatives in general is that they always think society is moving too fast. And so, whenever you look back at the things they stood for, it’s not a pretty picture. The Conservatives are fighting against their record on things that are now accepted by a plurality of Canadians. Things like equal marriage, abortion rights, and a more generous immigration policy. Conservatives of today will tell you they don’t want to roll back any of those things, but the fact that they fought against them in the first place is troubling and haunts them. Also, remember all of those environmental promises the Liberals made? The Conservatives think that all they do is hurt business. Also that climate change is fake and God causes hurricanes cause of gay marriage. I’m kidding… mostly. The reality is that when it comes to climate change, the Conservatives think Canada is already doing enough and that we should pressure other countries to do more. There may be some truth to that, but it’s easy to paint them as indifferent – which many people do.
The bottom line: This election will be a defining one for the Conservatives. Remember that leadership campaign we talked about? Many Conservatives still feel like this incarnation of the party is too moderate. If they can’t pull off a win next month, they will no doubt be in full blown identity crisis mode. A victory is not guaranteed but is ripe for the picking given the current Prime Minister’s tarnished brand. So if moderate conservatism can’t beat him now, it stands to reason that it never will. If Andrew Scheer and his merry men can eek out even a small minority government though, it will go a long way in convincing the hardliners that there are more votes in being more centrist.
Check out part 2 here.