Analyzing the ‘new face of Canadian politics’


In one of the concluding sessions of the CPSA Conference at Wilfrid Laurier Univeristy on Wednesday, professors from varying realms of the country gathered in a roundtable to evaluate the recent Canadian federal election. Each presenter had a distinct specialty, providing insight through a variety of perspectives.

The success of the New Democratic Party (NDP) was analyzed in terms of how the party managed to attain its unparalleled level of support across the country, as well as whether it would translate to long-term trends in Canadian politics. Anna Esselment, an expert on campaign strategies who teaches at WLU and Western, claimed that the debate was central to a change in forward NDP momentum.

“They were able to shift the focus to leadership issues, where Ignatieff was not going to win,” she remarked, noting the Liberal party leader’s inadvertent tendency to appear aloof and disconnected from voters.

The NDP so far overtook the Liberals that “… even among Conservative voters, the NDP outstripped the Liberals more than two to one among Conservatives who were expressing their second choices,” added Wilfrid Laurier professor Barry Kay. This potentially bodes well for future growth in NDP support.

However, others noted that the gains were disproportionately acquired in Quebec, which may be problematic for numerous reasons. Frédérick Bastien, a professor at Laval University, cited a Quebec newspaper, Le Devoir, that polled people on reasons they selected the NDP. “I’m tired of other parties and wanted a change,” was the answer from forty-five percent of participants. A minimal portion voted NDP due to ideological or policy reasons, which could make it difficult for the party to retain seats in the next election.

The University of Carleton’s representative at the roundtable, professor William Cross, argued that Quebec’s voting tendencies are generally “unrelated to national politics,” something which he described as “disconcerting.” However, Cross also recognized that the move away from the Bloc may create friction within a typically Anglophone-dominated NDP. “I think there’s possibility for real tension in this party as well between the parliamentary caucus dominated by francophone Quebecers,” he commented, “And an extra-parliamentary party that’s going to be dominated by a very different demographic.”

The new face of Canadian politics is one which has baffled many, and provided endless topic for political scrutiny. This highly appropriate concluding discussion was one which audience members were reluctant to part, and will undoubtedly continue to be a stimulating topic for many CPSA conferences to come.

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