Avoiding U.S. Style Political Polarization
The harmful effect of such polarization carried to an extreme is all too evident in the sad situation we see south of the border. In a recent article Susan Delacourt quotes an American study that found that Democrats and Republicans not only disagreed with each other’s policies, they refused to accept facts when presented by the other side. They disapproved of each other’s lifestyles, avoided each other’s news sources, and acted more like members of alien tribes than rival political parties. There are still significant differences between the Conservative and Liberal parties on various issues, and these differences generate healthy debate and provide choices for voters. But the fact that the Conservatives have leaned back toward the centre rather than shifting even further to the right reduces the risk of Canada plunging into the totally divisive political scene found in the U.S.
Whither the NDP?
If the Conservatives had strayed too far to the right under the leadership of Stephen Harper, the consensus is that the federal NDP moved too far to the centre during last fall’s federal election, in an attempt to reassure voters of its moderate approach. As a result, it was outflanked on the left by the Liberals and their commitment to stimulus spending and deficit budgets. In response, the party is now contemplating a sharp left turn with the LEAP Manifesto (calling for a swift end to fossil fuels) that was narrowly adopted at its conference in April 2016. To some extent, this calls to mind the shift to the left promoted for the NDP almost 50 years ago by the Waffle group and its manifesto for an independent socialist Canada.
The Moderate Middle
Welcome back, Progressive Conservatives. Don’t stray too far away, NDPers. Moving to the fringes of the political spectrum may allow parties to differentiate themselves more clearly but democratic debate is more respectful and more productive with political parties that overlap in the moderate middle rather than acting like alien tribes.