from Romeo and Juliet W. Shakespeare 1592
The federal election is being waged largely based on issues of leadership. And certainly, the policy distinctions between the two leading parties are not dramatic, except for variations related to managing climate change and domestic energy production.
The Liberals are mostly center left; believing programs and government intervention will lift the “middle class and those working hard to join it”. The Conservatives message is that smaller government will allow the middle class to “keep more of its hard-earned money”. Their visions of the future of Canada are not very different.
The primary marketing tactic is to paint the other party’s leader as untrustworthy and harbouring secret dark plans. Trudeau claims the Conservatives are running the dirtiest campaign ever. But Liberal fear-mongering that Scheer is ‘just like Ford’ and is anti-abortion rights makes it hard to believe they are not equally culpable.
So, with mudslinging and no distinct big policy differences; the politics of regions is rising. Quebec has lost faith that the Liberals or Conservatives will protect their interests and appear to be turning to the Bloc Quebec’s ‘Quebec First’ agenda. Quebecers might worry that the main parties will force a pipeline through Quebec. Two-thirds of Quebecers support the secularism law aimed at limiting public servants from wearing hijabs, turbans, crucifixes or kippahs. Meanwhile two-thirds of the rest of Canada see the law as intolerant of religious minorities.
The Prairies, particularly Alberta, turn to conservatives to protect their interests. It isn’t lost on most Albertans the Liberal’s unspoken climate change strategy is to curtail the oilsands. Nor have pork and canola producers seen government react with the same vigour as when the steel industry or the dairy industry faced trade barriers. Added grievances include an equalization formula that primarily benefits Quebec and a carbon tax that Western politicians claim kills jobs. Meanwhile much of the rest of Canada find it hard to feel sorry for Alberta’s woes.
In BC, many Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island residents are preoccupied with pipeline issues associated with their coastline and climate change. There are heated battles among all the parties in these ridings with no clear favorites. The Green Party is showing some strength in BC. One wag suggests the best way to understand the Green’s rise to prominence is to consider it Vancouver Island’s version of separatism. Meanwhile a majority of Canadians support pipeline access to the west coast.
It seems likely that the electorate is going to withhold a majority from the two major parties. If regionalism now trumps ‘pan-Canadian-ism’ we can expect the Premiers to even more aggressively champion their regional interests.
At some point this has to stop! Although it seems unlikely that the current leaders, so badly partisan and damaged by this election will be able to call a halt. Severely normal Canadians should hope that the public, once we have tested the limits of regionalism; will recognise that we truly do have a crisis. Perhaps new leadership will emerge and begin to look for the compromises, accommodations and grand bargains that have been thwarted in the past.