What now? - Macleans.ca

What now?


Dan Gardner considers.

In a matchup between the Conservatives and NDP, particularly at a time when voter turnout is appallingly low, the electoral math may show that moving to the centre to grab some of the dwindling number of Liberal voters is no longer the smartest option. The more effective strategy may be to identify, engage, and energize the party’s base.

That’s done two ways. One, demonize the opposition. Portray them as extreme. Call them a threat to all the base holds dear. Two, move away from the centre: Conservatives to the right, NDP to the left. If that were to happen, Canadian politics would become increasingly polarized and nasty. And Canadians would increasingly be asked to choose between two options which do not reflect the centrist views of the population as a whole.


What now?

  1. The mythical and magical "center".

    The holy grail of the Liberal party.

    "I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries." – French Soldier

  2. I'm also skeptical about the mythical center, because many of the polarizing issues have no moderate option (you can only choose option A or option B) or are based around how you earn your daily bread. It is no accident that each party has specific professions among its supporters.

    A lot of how people feel about how we should organize or what rights we should recognize is based around ideology, but oddly enough it is an ideology that fits in nicely with how we live and work.

    So what makes a centrist? Usually, its "people who think like I do" and "people who have a lifestyle similar to mine".

  3. Tom Flanagan explains Median Voter Theorem:

    What keeps democratic politics focused on the centre? Not the existence of a centre party but the workings of the “median voter theorem” (MVT). Think of voters as points spread out along a line – on the left, on the right, in the middle. By mathematical necessity, there is a median position, with half of voters to the left and half to the right. The median voter sits at the winning position in the democratic competition of political parties.

    The proof is simple and elegant. If Party A moves to the left or right of the median, it allows Party B to locate itself closer to the majority of voters. The MVT predicts that Party A and Party B will tend to converge on the median because they cannot afford to let their rivals cut them off from more than half the voters.

    • And then goes on to cite the centrist convergence of Republicans and Democrats as proof — disregarding the voluminous literature showing greatly increasing polarization in American politics.

      • While I'll freely admit I'm a bit behind on my US politics compared to what I used to know, my understanding of US politics was that the polarization was the result of wedge issues that were used to create the appearance of distance rather than actual substance. Abortion, gay rights and the like get played up horribly and drive votes regardless of what other policies are on the table.

  4. Well now that we've polarized and no longer have a reasonable rational center, we'll see 4 years of real screaming and fighting in Ottawa.

    You always need a center to move the country forward.

  5. I don't agree with this assessment for lots of reasons. The primary one, though, is that the Conservatives have been governing from the Centre for their entire time in office. There were lots of reasons the Liberals couldn't move the Conservatives (leadership, on the ground organization etc.), but one of them is because the Conservatives have been governing like centrist Liberals since day 1.

    In my opinion, that's still the sweet spot in Canadian politics. If the Conservative move right with a majority, the Liberals will have space in the centre. If they don't…than Conservatives have permanently become Liberals and the Liberal party is likely dead until it merges with the NDP.

    • Yes, the Conservatives have been remarkably centrist. With a Liberal official opposition. Question is whether the collapse of the latter changes the former.

      • Agreed, it's the million dollar question! Or perhaps $55 billlion question. Hidden agenda or no? Change of course or no?

      • I don`t believe the Conservatives are centrist in either practice or theory. They managed to emulate a centrist party while angling for their majority but they continued to pursue their more idealogical aims by stealth the entire time. I expect they will continue along the same path. A lot of the Conservative voters I know are expecting – with grim anticipation – that Harper will very quickly rip off his sheep`s costume and start raping and pillaging their favourite targets. They`ve been waiting for years and they feel it`s their due.

    • The real losers are the people who vote Conservative expecting conservatism. Liberals can be consoled that though their party lost, their policies largely will remain.

  6. Anyone who talks about a merger of the NDP and Liberals, comparing it to the merger of Reform and the PC, doesn't understand politics.

    Reform came about because of a regional split with the PC over some relatively minor policy issues – issues that still haven't been resolved. Their merger really did not change the fundamental nature of either party.

    The NDP and the Liberals are very different beasts. On fiscal matters over the past 7 years the Libs and Cons have been quibbling over minor affairs, with the Libs generally opposing just to oppose. ( I never said the Libs were smart.)

    NDP fiscal policy is very different from the Libs, and people who dither between Libs and Cons over fiscal matters would likely never support a Lib-NDP merged party.

  7. Wow, two polarizing options. Can't have that in Canada!
    How ever does Quebec survive?

  8. Since when hasn't Canadian politics been nasty, and since when hasn't our so-called greatest "centrist" party in history, the Liberals, been in the habit of demonizing its opponents?

  9. While polarization may be the long term effect, it seems to me that in the short term it is pretty likely that the NDP, at least, will move to the center to try and consolidate their gains at the Liberals' expense and I suspect the Conservatives will do the same. I can't see them risking a Liberal resurgence as I don't think either is secure enough in their current positions.

    If the Liberals end up completely crushed next election, sure, we could see polarization but that's still a few years off yet.

    • Given how long the PCs held out, hoping for the Libs to skulk quietly into the night is pretty hopeless. I mean, the Lib Dems in the UK are still around 80 years after their rout.

      • The last thing I want, personally, is for the Liberals to disappear. As implied by Mr. Gardner, they improve the level of discourse in the country simply by existing.

  10. I think it's a good strategy. Poking the CPC in all the sore spots where they went with expediency over good policy. Say supply management.

  11. The Liberals have been demonizing the Conservatives for years, with steadily diminishing returns. Why would it work any better for the NDP?

  12. If that were to happen, Canadian politics would become increasingly polarized and nasty. And Canadians would increasingly be asked to choose between two options which do not reflect the centrist views of the population as a whole.

    IF that is true, Dan Gardner has just predicted the resurrection of the Liberal Party of Canada, to arrive in the nick of time to gather all these ripe centrist votes.

  13. "…And Canadians would increasingly be asked to choose between two options which do not reflect the centrist views of the population as a whole…."

    Candians are polarizing excactly because "centerism" is a joke.

    Canadians are in this position now,?
    It's either "Corporate-RIGHT" (aka needs of corps' and f the ppl)-aka CONservative
    Sociia' LEFT, but I call it the RIGHT thing to do – (aka needs of the ppl, becuase they ARE the corps too) -aka NDP

    Liberals, want to be happily, and safely in the middle. Those days are gone. Find something the ppl really need, and NOT what you want Canadians to fit into.
    What don't you Liberals get ? -you have been decimatingly told this May 2nd, 2011

    Trudeau himself, in the day, built many foundation(s) on a "social" outcome, better healthcare,…. ahh forget it _I ain't gonna spell it out for you. Trudeau did what the NDP didn't have the power to do, at that time.
    Liberal ?
    It's a different era Liberals. There is NO CENTRE fence anymore, like the 90's with Cretien,…, you're either pro-ppl, or you are pro-Corps. and Trudeau, may I remind you, was not a pro-Corps kinda Leader, now was he now ?!
    This is not new, and it's not radical.

  14. Check out Centrist Party of Canada on facebook and help create a new party that is centre to centre-right. Since Canada has no moderate conservative party I feel it is needed now more than ever. The party would try to especially attract those in the centre who are red tories and blue liberals who are dissatisfied with both the two major parties. I feel if we followed the traditions of moderate conservative parties around the world the party would be successful.

    The party would try to grow the economy using moderate tax cuts, and it would focus on growing the middle class as well. The party would be centre to centre-right and would want a moderate social safety net, protecting health and education for the most vulnerable and all Canadians and for making sure our social programs are there for future generations.

    That is something moderate conservatives, one nation conservatives and those in the centre we believe most people would want.

    Thank you and remember the site to find out more about the party is on facebook and the name of the party is called the Centrist Party of Canada. Centrism does not have to end but if parties focus on certain areas then it is not death but they need to adapt.