02.18.2012 12:23 PM

Is Canada more right wing?

Of course it is – sort of.  So sayeth this pollster:

Some Canadians believe that the country’s values have shifted over the past decade, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll conducted in partnership with L’Actualité has found.

In the online survey of a representative sample of 1,006 Canadian adults, more than a third of respondents (37%) believe that the values of Canadian society are more right-wing now than 10 years ago, while 22 per cent report no change. Only 15 per cent of Canadians think the country is now more left-wing oriented.

Almost half of Canadian men (48%) think the values of Canadian society are more right-wing than ten years ago. Only one-in-ten respondents over the age of 55 (9%) say that Canada is now more left-wing oriented than a decade ago.

More than half of Canadians (56%) believe the Federal Government has an important role to play to redistribute the wealth and intervene in the economy, even if it means increasing taxes.

…and so sayeth me, in this heretofore unrevealed bit from Fight The Right, coming out in the Fall:

“Conservatives, whether we progressives like it or not, now dominate our politics in Canada, the United States and Europe.  And they haven’t done so by being dummies.  They’ve done so by being smart.

Now, as James Carville and others have cautioned, liberals and progressives too often dismissed conservatives as red-necked, mouth-breathing knuckle-draggers.  (I’ve been guilty of it myself, and more than once, too.) But that’s been a big, big strategic error, for a couple of reasons.  One, it plays into the conservative strategy to depict progressives as snobby, latte-sipping elitists who profess kinship with ordinary folks, but wouldn’t want to actually live next door to any ordinary folks.  It validates the conservative narrative that they, and not pointy-headed liberals, are the real populists.  They are the ones who are closest to the hopes and aspirations of average citizens.  Not liberals, who are out-of-touch and high and mighty, and who mock the everyday concerns of Joe and Jane Frontporch.

It’s a big mistake for another reason: it underestimates our principal adversary.  We should never underestimate the power and effectiveness of the conservative propaganda machine.  Ever.”

The survey finding that despondent progressives should keep uppermost in their minds, however, is found in that last sentence: “More than half of Canadians (56%) believe the Federal Government has an important role to play to redistribute the wealth and intervene in the economy, even if it means increasing taxes.

See that?  That means that while they suspect that things are more conservative, they still believe that government needs to act as a progressive force for good.  Even conservatives believe that – including, I’ve found, Tea Party conservatives.

What they despise, not matter what their partisan affiliation or personal ideology, is lack of authenticity and unfairness.  It’s always been thus, but none so more than in The Year of Our Lord 2012: if they sense you’re a phony, and that you play favourites, you’re a goner.

That’s why Stephen Harper hugs the Tim Horton’s meme like his political life depends on it:

His political life does depend on it.


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    Greg says:

    All this survey does is show that Conservative voters believe the country is more right wing. Thanks to the magic of first past the post, they are now able to live that delusion at the majority’s expense.

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      frmr disgruntled Con now Happy Lib says:

      I agree that the first past the post system needs to be dispensed with if we are going to have any semblance of fair representation of the make-up of Canada’s electorate….but in order to do so, that silent majority also needs to get off its ass and get out and vote……
      In the meantime, Mr. Harper and his cabal are having a field day making Canada over in their own image…..{{{shudder}}}

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    Heric says:

    The conservative class has done something that we have forgotten.

    Known thyn enemy.

    The have all sorts of methods to research, target and pander their demographic.

    While we still fight about insignificant things. We worry about supprters versus members and weither we have single day vote.

    Meanwhile they are gathering information on all suspected leaders, increasing their share of the media and strengthening their donations.

    We can’t even get a competitve research institute off the ground becuase of various political reasons

    They have a very strong one for years.

    We need to graduate to the big leagues or we will lose or friends to the NDP and cons.

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    Harrison Jordan says:

    Canadians are by and large selfish. Gone is the Charter era. By that I mean Canadians want the most dollar and cents back in their wallets that they can get, along with a strong economy. Harper campaigned on both those points, promoting his tax cuts and the shape of our economy as compared to other EOCD countries. If upholding democratic values and promoting equality — things that we tout as Liberals — mattered to Canadians, the Conservatives wouldn’t continually have stable public support in the high 30s/low 40%, and the public wouldn’t continue rating Harper far ahead of the other party leaders in competence, trust, and responsibility.

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      Dan says:


      What rights are you complaining about?

      The Charter has expanded rights for gays, women, aboriginal minorities, religious minorities…

      Is that what you “individual Canadians” are “fighting”?

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      dave says:

      I think that it is in THE GERMAN IDEOLOGY, or a title like that, that Marx goes after the American debates in THE FEDERALIST PAPERS where they talk about making liberty dependent upon having private property. Marx repeats the obvious point that this excludes those with no property from full liberty. But he also argues that basing liberty on private property erodes citizenship. He suggested that if I own property my liberty is only connected only to what I own. My liberty is cut short by your property ownership, or by any other rights of other property. My sense of citizenship is diminished.
      I think this would be an example;
      A few decades ago, a grey green cloud of effluent flowted over Southeast Calgary about 4 AM one summer morn. Some people who breathed the effluent became sick. Someone called the cops. 2 cops who investigated also became sick and were hospitalized with the others. teh hospital staff asked what was in the effluent. A fertilizer company, at first, denied it was from their plant. When it was clear that it was from their plant, they admitted so, but refused to say what was in the effluent, claiming it was private property of theirs to keep from their competitors the secrets of their craft.
      I think that Edmonton ran up against a similar problem when they tried to deal with fires but could not get from gas companies the maps of their underground pipelines.
      We might cause ourselves too much grief if we put property in our Charter.

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    Cynical says:

    It occurs to me that there are several reasons why the Cons have advantages:
    1. They’ve been working on this for decades, realizing in the 70s that playing to wedge issues yeilds results.
    2. They are funded by the rich (no, really!) and there are think tanks and lobbying organizations (sorry, Warren) that support their policy people when they are out of power.
    3. Since they are, and are funded by, the rich, they network well. Think cruises and retreats for US conservative activists, with Canadian guests, not to mention the various think tanks whose output masquerades as research when it fact it is partisan propaganda.
    4. They are smart. Rich people can afford to send their smart kids to good schools, where they can hang out with other smart, rich kids. I don’t know if they are smarter than liberals but smart and organized beats just smart.
    5. They lack conventional scruples. Most people would not make up and publicize the kinds of lies and half-truths that get spread almost daily, campaign or not. See your quotation from Mr. Ignatieff below. The treatment of Mr. Dion was sickening. They’d have done the same to Mr.Layton if he had not been ill, and if Mr. Rae leads the party they’ll do worse to him. In your book you say that the first essential element of an attack ad is that it be based on truth. Cons don’t feel this obligation. They have voluminous files and the next folks to lead the party are already in the crosshairs.
    6. Their opposition sits on their thumbs between encounters. The length of the NDP leadership campaign is a joke, and the LPoC is not doing itself any favours by waiting so long to determine its next leader. My opinion, anyway. If the round is lost, the party has to get up fighting before parliament is convened again.
    7. Fundraising, fundraising, fundraising.

    The purchase by the LPoC of the campaign management software used by the Democrats in the US is a good start, I suppose, but there is a lot left to do. I am old and gray, so it is up to you younger folks to make the changes. There are lots of dynamic young potential leaders on the progressive side. In my opinion the best thing the LPoC could do is to replace people of my generation and older with young fresh leadership, and build the team. The best teams are grown, not bought, as any coach can tell you.

    Best to you in your efforts, and I look forward to the book.

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    DL says:

    Canada must be getting more rightwing…McGuinty’s right hand man Don Guy and flown to BC to join forces with Ken Boessenkool – Stephen Harper’s righthand man – so they can conspire to save the rabidly rightwing provincial government of Christy Clark.

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    Michael S says:

    It means Canadians are more populist, which means the Liberals have a REAL problem.

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    dave says:

    To me, the flaw in all this is in the unexamined premise to the sentence quoted: More that half of Canadians (56%) believe…role to play to redistribute the wealth…”
    To me, it is capitalism that artificially redistributes wealth.

    I have mentioned this before, but, as capitalist advertising and propaganda tells me, repetition works like sixty.

    Ball, Tyler and Wyclif were on to something in the late 14th Century. We are born into a common wealth, that common wealth being air, water, sub soil, soil, flora, fauna, our experience, our history and traditions, and our intelligence and ability to cooperate. Through history, various classes, priests, warriors, nobles, tyrants, capitalists, and, today, capitalist corporations, try to privatize the commons for their own exclusive use. Their propaganda always argues that it is the necessary, even the only way to arrange things.
    The main aim of the capitalist system is accumulation of wealth. Historically that has been accumulation in private hands, but we also see state capitalism models.

    So, in political and economic thinking:
    Conservatives think capitalism is the divinely sanctioned way of life, – the divine right of capital. In power, they accelerate the accumulation of wealth into private hands.
    Liberals (as in the 56% in the quotation) figure this too, but they try to modify the distribution of wealth.
    Lefties, social democrats, figure capitalism artificially redistributes wealth and try to keep more of the wealth with the commons.

    Not surprisingly, Conservatives see Libs and lefties as an affront to the divinely sanctioned order of things.
    Libs see Conservatives as right, but, hey, there is lots for us all.
    Lefties see both as mistaken about where the artificial distribution of wealth happens.

    Unfortunately, a lot of our discussion of politics and economics goes the way Conservs and Libs want it to go, personal triumphs and flaws – rather than on the system itself. We live in a capitalist system. It would do us better to figure out how to use our system as a tool, rather than pouring our resources into personal slanging, and ensuring thereby that we continue to be tools of our system.

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      dave says:

      We see things differently.
      I have oft read and heard the shibboleth, “Everybody knows that the private sector is more efficient than is the public sector.’ I see the private sector(capitalism’s) efficiency as being efficient in accumulating wealth. I see too many examples of private sector inefficiencies in producing wealth and distributing wealth. The main aim of a business to make money, and the larger the business, the further away from its labour, resources and customers, the more likely that making money is its main preoccupation. The common wealth, through governments at all levels , have had to subsidize private business (oil industry is the most subsidized activity on the planet, even aside from military support – altho, financials must be getting clase to being tops).
      Government aim is to provide goods and services, not make money. CBC radio, and Trans Canada highway, might be examples of how this can work – when it works.
      You mention that Conservs ‘think’ that capitalism is most efficient, but I think that this ‘thinking’ is grounded in faith. To believe that Li Ka Shing, Soros, Gates, Zukerman,Carlos Slim, Vlad Lisin,et al have contributed anything close to humanity compared to what the capitalist system has enabled them to take out requires a level of belief far beyond the level of belief demanded by any religious sect that I know of. What capitalism does is allow these fellows to rake off the wealth produced by years of experience and creativity of thousands of people.

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    G. Babbitt says:

    What I find the worst type of mockery of Joe and Jane Frontporch is when people like Ignatieff try to identify emotionally `ordinary people` I actually got personally upset when Ignatieff implied that during his student days that he was worried about his future pension. It is fine to listen and understand the issues of the middle classs rationally, but don’t try to say I was just as emotionally attached, because it takes away from their identity. I always thought it would have been cool if he walked into a Tim Hortons and said “Frankly, I think this coffee is swill, but I’m not running for top chef, and everybody to their own thing. I can’t change a lightbulb without a hiring a handyman, but I’ve spent my life in the world of ideas and politics and I just don’t buy a society where everybody should pursue there most greedy impulses, so I am trying to create a society which is better for a growing middle class who provide stability for a society and sure people making over $100,000 may have to buy fewer toys, but maybe some people under $20,000 will be able to buy more.”

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      Philip says:

      Absolutely. It’s about being authentic. Ironically, this is Harper’s vulnerability and the reason why his communications staff work overtime to come up with performance pieces to give the impression he actually can relate to regular people.

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    fred says:

    Ignatieff didn’t connect with Mr. Frontporch either emotionally or intellectually. It sounds like you guys are trying to rationalize what just
    happened. Meanwhile the Harphuns are pillaging our social institutions and laying waste to the Canadian dream. Stop talking about the
    past and do something now.

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    kre8tv says:

    The biggest change we’re going to see in this country over the next 25 years is politics that caters to a growing gap between the haves and have-nots in our society. That’s going to define everything from how we address an aging population to taxation. Today, the Cons are showing that they are very adept at capitalizing on this. But the trouble for them is going to come when a good chunk of their constituency gets older and finds themselves in that have-not group as a direct result of what these guys are currently in the process of dismantling in this country.

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      Lawrence Stuart says:

      Oh jeezus. Who in their right mind ‘surrenders’ their retirement to the promise of the CPP and OAS? Most people live hand to mouth, Mr. Populist Conservative guy. If they aren’t topping up the RRSP it’s because they choose between that, and rent (or car repairs, or clothes for the kids, etc.).

      As to the ‘left’s’ solutions, they are pretty much those of the ‘right’ (well, the right that actually can get itself elected, i.e., not loons like Paul): balance growth, taxes and expenditures.

      We have different tactics, sure. The right still hold to supply side mojo, the left loves to show its bleeding heart. But I think Warren is dead on with this post: a majority of people in this country believe in the need for state redistribution. In fact, I’d argue that the left’s biggest problem is not ideology (that’s an issue for you righties, I think). Our Achilles heel is the fractured nature of the liberal demographic in this great nation. Not an easy nut to crack.

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    Torgo says:

    Funny, I don’t like lattes, I make an average wage and I consider myself a progressive. I guess I could counter back with some kind of cowboy/redneck stereotype about conservatives, but I think I’ll refrain.

    Paul already beat me to the punch on the use of the Weekly standard as a reference point; I’m guessing you’ll then allow me to use Mother Jones in a similar way?

    Lastly, you might want to look up the voting patterns of lower-income people in the U.S. – they traditionally have the highest rate of voting Democratic amongst income groups.

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      Torgo says:

      Didn’t really see any ‘facts’ in the article (which was really more of an opinion piece).

      There was a reference to a pricey fundraiser, which, given the current amount of money required to run for office (especially in the US), is a sad reality of American and Canadian political life.

      From there, the writer leapt to the conclusion that the existence of this fundraiser means the Democratic party is now the party of the elites.

      No references to actual policies that indicate liberals to be ‘elites’, and no context given to the state of the overall political system and the role of money in it.

      Also, are you suggesting that the Republicans/Conservatives don’t have expensive fund-raisers and don’t take money from ‘elite’ billionaires and corporations? Are you seriously suggesting that?

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    Lawrence Stuart says:

    If there is one thing I think we on the left need to play up in our pitch, it’s teleology. The goal of tax or social policy is not simply ‘better service.’ The goal is a more rational distribution of wealth in society. Reversing the current trend towards the concentration of wealth in the top percentile is something that we need to make the laser focus of our political narrative. Not because we resent wealth, or want to smash capitalism or something. Rather, a more equitable society is a more prosperous society, where prosperity is measured in terms of quality of life, not just GDP growth.

    There is a real appetite out there (and this is just my impression) for addressing quality of life issues.

    Hmm … balancing restraints imposed by the recession with the need to improve quality of life … will be interesting to see how McGuinty manages to address the Drummond report.

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    William says:

    If running constant deficits, buying automakers, and supporting universal health care is conservative, then yes I guess Canada is conservative.

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