Politics Shifts Right, Heads West in 'New' Canada

Winnipeg Free Press, March 2, 2013 | Go to article overview

Politics Shifts Right, Heads West in 'New' Canada


There's nothing like a good political conspiracy book to fire up political junkies.

For the record, this is not a political conspiracy book (the authors use the term "polite provocation"). But hard-core members of what Torontonians Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson label the "Laurentian elite" will likely view it that way. Those who feel it's their divine right to rule react harshly when their power is threatened.

They should resist overreacting. Acting upon the authors' advice might save some of their power and influence.

Bricker is the CEO of Ipsos Global Public Affairs and has been with the Ipsos-Reid Corp. since 1990. Ibbitson is chief political correspondent for the Globe and Mail.

They argue the Laurentian elite is composed of the political, economic, media, cultural and academic leaders who have run Canada for most of its history. They hail from the St. Lawrence River watershed -- mostly Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal -- and belong to the "Laurentian Consensus," which assumes it runs Canada and knows what's best for it.

But their long run is over, Bricker and Ibbitson write, and the official end came May 2, 2011, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives won a majority government.

The authors argue Harper's majority came from a new, and permanent, alliance of conservative western voters combined with suburbanites and mostly Asian immigrants in the Greater Toronto Area and its suburbs (traditionally Liberal voters).

These Ontario voters no longer identify with the big government, nanny state ideals of those who live east of Canada's new dividing line -- the so-called "Ottawa River Curtain."

Suburban Ontario voters feel economically threatened, are afraid of crime and are tired of sending their tax dollars to prop up Quebec and the Maritimes.

They view fast-growing Western Canada as their natural partners in ensuring a prosperous and secure future for themselves. (The authors never say whether Manitoba, a huge net recipient of federal transfer payments and equalization, ought to be considered as symbolically east of the Ottawa River Curtain.)

The Laurentian elite won't like the "new" Canada. They prefer the old model with its obsession with pleasing Quebec and uniting the country through national projects such as railways, roads and social programs. To them, Harper and his Conservatives are illicit barbarians who will be thrown out once Ontario voters wake up.

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Politics Shifts Right, Heads West in 'New' Canada
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