Our progressive neighbors to the north seem to be veering to the right -- sharply
Canada’s election results are historic on two fronts: Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party won a majority of parliamentary seats for the first time in his five years governing the country, and the Liberal Party — a powerhouse in Canada for over a century — slipped to third place behind the left-wing New Democratic Party.
Centrist parties have historically done well, but this election seems to have created a new model that benefited a right-wing party. We spoke to political scientists at McGill University to understand what the results might mean for U.S.-Canadian relations, and for Canada’s reputation as America’s progressive neighbor to the north.
“This is the first Conservative majority in a very long time, and the first with a party that has originated in fiscal and social conservatism,” Professor Antonia Maioni, the director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, told Salon.
Maioni emphasized, however, that the Conservatives’ success should not be read as a Canadian shift to the right across the board. “We now have a social democratic opposition… To see the NDP become opposition; that’s a huge deal,” Maioni said, noting that NDP’s rise signifies a massive protest vote against a conservative majority (this was particularly forceful in Quebec, where the NDP went from one to 58 parliamentary seats).
“Maybe we’ve salvaged some of our progressive reputation with that,” she said.
Maoni’s colleague in the political sciences at McGill, Professor Eric Belanger, emphasized that “the right-wing Conservatives’ strength now calls for a strong counterbalancing force on the left (or at least the center-left).”
He told Salon: “It currently appears that it is now the NDP who is seen by left-leaning Canadians (including Quebecers) as this counterweight. This campaign may have marked the end of the ‘liberal consensus’ in Canada and opened a new era of left-right opposition at the national level.”
Maioni pointed out too that a Conservative parliamentary majority does not mean a majority of Canadians adopting a right-leaning bent: “This Conservative majority, it is only a majority of seats, not necessarily votes. This means that what Mr. Harper does going forward is not necessarily reflective of the body politic in Canada, and certainly not in Quebec.”
As far as U.S.-Canadian relations go, Maioni doubted the changes in Canadian government would have any major effects.
Professor Christopher Manfredi, McGill’s dean of the arts, suggested that the new makeup of the Canadian government might actually serve to strengthen relations between the U.S. and Canada, especially when it comes to negotiating border and trade issues.
“The Conservative Party is more open to the U.S. than previous Liberal policies have been,” he said, adding that Harper and Obama have a strong personal relationship, since they come from the same generation and share “similar political styles.”
And, of course, one of Canada’s strongest claims to being America’s progressive neighbor to the north has long been its healthcare system. The principle of universal healthcare in the country was at no point at issue in the election — something Canadians can continue to boast.
Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email email@example.com. More Natasha Lennard.
More Related Stories
- Is the Environmental Defense Fund ruining environmentalism?
- Top 5 investigative videos of the week: "Winning" Afghanistan
- Jester clowns Westboro Baptist Church
- GOP: Party of crybabies
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Guantánamo prisoner on hunger strike cries for help on Twitter
- 3 possible solutions to international tax avoidance
- “I just want the U.S. to send my father home”
- Army weapons engineer tied to white nationalist organizations
- Ted Cruz against the world
- David Vitter's hypocritical, punitive, horrible new amendment
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- Could hackers destroy the U.S. power grid?
- Democrats may be even worse than Republicans at regulating Wall Street
- Eric Holder versus journalism
- A progressive defense of drones
- There's no substitute for government disaster relief
- Holder signed off on search warrant for reporter
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- Closing Gitmo is not enough
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11