Canada Political Convergence: The Case of Canada’s Liberal and Conservative Party

by Jason Shaw
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Introduction

Political parties within a democratic system are the expression of free thought, where the allowance of divergent ideological reflection is promoted and enhanced. Logically, the governing coalition would be the one that respects the people’s needs best and understands them effectively. In order to represent the whole population as much as possible, a national political party seeking to achieve power must have a certain propensity to tend to the more popular values of its citizens. Since humans hold diverse and convoluted ideological thoughts, and political parties represent citizens, then it can be concluded with some certainty that there should also be numerous distinguishable political parties representing these intricate ideologies. This assumption however, rather enigmatically, does not hold true. As Eric Belanger lamentably notes.

Political parties in industrialised industrial economies, having common philosophies and political platforms, are becoming less and less distinguishable to the extent of becoming comparable. This claim is especially prevalent in depictions of the Canadian political scene. In comparison, the above finding is mirrored in the low voting rates of electors and lack of interest among the populace in politics.

Canada Political Convergence: The Case of Canada's Liberal and Conservative Party

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About the open dialogue that encourages individualism and free-thought, a one-sided attitude to politics seems to have been embraced by political parties in Canada. The presumed enlightenment of humanity, coupled with economic growth, bewilderingly “advanced industrialization” places morality and ideals on the backbench, arguably what separates humans from other species. There was a lot of speculation with respect to general problems political thinking, and it is important to explore what political parties are what they can be and how they impact the lives of people in order to dig into our upcoming subject. In order to gain a clearer view of the political scene in Canada and greater visibility into the two main political parties in the region, this paper would examine policy implementations adopted by the Liberal Party of Canada and the Conservative Party of Canada. In addition, it will aim to understand that in party regimes there is fusion. Behind the polished rhetoric used by leaders and the various colour differentiations between “red and blue” used as tags by the groups, is their conduct all that different? Acts talk louder than sentences,” as the old adage goes.” As Nadeau says, it is these acts that can truly adjudicate if Canadian political parties are really lamentably indistinguishable.

Development: Understanding Convergence

“It is stated that in a geographical divide there is a “weakness of class and ideological cleavages fragmented society (Canada) while voting for a political party in Canada, kept together by a mechanism of elite brokerage via political institutions minimally influenced by public inputs.” In addition, it is founded that voting in Canada is more affected by short-term involvement in topics exploited by party issues.

Usually, the issues in question will not be black and white however, and will be concentrated most likely at a certain centre of political thought. If one party favours death and the other life, it is quite obvious which party would be victorious. The issues of debate are on issues much closer to the center of the ideological spectrum, minimizing the scope of the debate. Therefore it can be said, that if parties are not ideologically driven, but rather concentrate simply on specific issues then they will usually be rather similar. Some scholarly literature suggests that Canadian political parties “have been electorally-focused organizations whose primary goal has been winning power and the spoils of office” (Landes, 1995, p.424) Landes classifies them as essentially pragmatic parties with a basic non-ideological policy outlook. Being so electorally oriented, they are, essentially, alliances of various political elements intent upon winning elections. Policy appears to be a secondary consideration. Additionally, the organization of the major parties since they are electoral organizations, the party structure is only fleshed out prior to and during an electoral campaign between elections, the party organization is a paper tiger (Landes). Scholarly literature is extensive regarding the Canadian political system as a brokerage system. This outlook suggests that, as posited by Landes, the major parties “lack cohesive ideological visions” and “the parties are flexible and opportunistic because this sort of behaviour is necessary to preserve the fragile unity of the nation.” Due to its large landscape, Canada has numerous regionally distinct groups, however, in order to stay within one’s country they must put those differences aside. On a provincial level however, there are numerous ideological differences.

Not a novel concept is the notion that the two main Canadian parties are close. John A. Scarrow proposed in 1965 that shams was the contradictions between the two groups. While the institutions would lead us to think that there is a good political system, Canada has one of the weakest party systems of any global democracy. As Canadians are not ideological, Canadian groups, he claims, are not ideological. There are weak Canadian parties and a weak Canadian identity is current. Too much Canadian policy-making was expected from Confederation in 1867 onwards to tie the country together. Engelman and Schwartz (Confederations were… organised to integrate different peoples, territories, and values. Broadie and Johnson assume the noble position of fostering democratic cohesion in a fragmented policy; in an effort to forge a sense of national solidarity, Canadian parties have tried to be all things to all people. In federal politics, both the Liberals and the PC share the same moderate ground. Although the Socialists lean slightly to the left and the PC to the right, it is always impossible to say who rules the day’s political agenda. Public services such as the Canadian National Railway, the Ontario hydroelectric organisation, and the Canadian Broadcasting Company were introduced by the PC.

Parties operate as negotiators between the many interests binding the country together in Canadian culture, rather than as centrifugal powers breaking it apart through appeals to class, faith or philosophy (Clarke at al., 1991, 9-10). Both parties are dedicated to national solidarity, by dividend transfers and to an activist welfare state, to redistribution from the affluent middle to the impoverished peripheries. Such redistribution strategies help ensure that Canadian Political Parties have a rich class base (Clarke at all., 1991, 50; Engelman and Schwartz, 1975; Scarrow, 1965, 72) Over time, one federal party has almost succeeded in defining itself as the Liberals’ party of government and national unity. In Canadian politics, the prevailing trend is between majority and minority Liberal regimes” and the line between the government and the Liberal Community has been tenuous” (Meisel, 1992, 342). In 13 of 17 elections since 1945, the Liberals have earned more votes than any other party, and 75 percent of the time they have obtained more votes than all the other parties (Nevitte, 200, 67) T. Minority status (or even mere majority) renders group solidarity important, on the one side. The fragility of a government causes the opposition to imitate the ruling party’s politics. A campaign so deeply invested in ideology will scare off supporters and bring back in control the ruling arty, normally the Liberals. By being far from popular sentiment, groups don’t become preeminent. By opposing the dominant orthodoxy, opposition groups would disrupt the status quo. However there were topics like electricity and commerce that divided the two sides. Provincial politics, though, has an agenda.

National solidarity problems are not at risk, but the gloves are off. Identity of the group is a short-term force in Canada that does not respond to deep-seated cleavages such as politics or class. Instead, partisanship in Canada demonstrates the politics of the day, especially the personalities of party leaders. Reaction to political officials is the most common explanation why citizens shift their vote partisanship (Clarke and Stuart, 1985). The Canadian Liberal Party is not just so liberal. Much like the people who vote for them, they tilt slightly to the right.  Where national solidarity becomes the focus of election campaigns, political instability often accompanies eras. Trudeau sought, first with his oil policy and then through a revised Canadian constitution, to enforce a sense of national solidarity. This led to the demise of the Liberals. Tories were not much more successful. Similarly the conservatives have often advocated increased government regulation of the economy, by Bennett’s Conservative Government in 1935; equally important examples are to be found in the Conservative opposition to the removal of price controls by the Liberal Government in 1950 and the Conservative Governments agricultural price support program begun in 1958. In learning whether the parties suffer from convergence, we see interesting ideals as listed in various publications and texts on the subject.

In an examination of the thirteen separate bills up for debate currently in the Canadian Senate, we find that nearly all of the bills were proposed by the Liberal party and that all of those bills are relative to across the board changes including national holidays, food and drug laws, criminal code laws, conservation and clean water laws, lotteries and income taxes all related to proposals relative to the liberal party or the independent party. Only two would be by Conservative parties and those would be S201 and S202 yet they also coincide with those produced by the Liberal party. All thirteen bills currently before the Canadian House of Commons would be represented by the Conservative Party. Yet, they also would reflect similar considerations to those the Liberal party in the Canadian Senate.

Examining the variety of laws created by the Canadian House of Commons as well as the laws created within the Canadian Senate, we can see that the lines have assuredly been blurred between the issues, the style of politics and the boundaries between the various party lines. The fact that there would be more liberal and independent voices being heard in the separate houses in the realm of sponsoring bills and laws would in fact impact how work is perceived in the realm of government. Other considerations would be the very types of bills being considered by the Liberal and the Independent parties. The reason to pay attention to the types of laws being sponsored by these parties would in fact be for a simple reason. Typically conservative stances are being held by liberal parties in the crime and national policies that are being considered. You see this in S-205 with the National Philosophy Day or with S-207 and the Criminal Code bill before the Canadian Senate.

In an effort to show and exemplify the convergence between parties, consider that a Liberal senator introduced S-208 for drinking water regulations and an Independent introduced S-210 to protect parks in the area. The fact that in the Canadian House of Commons would have so very many laws, all produced by Conservatives, include a federal accounting act, one to work with the international bridges and tunnel regulations, another for public health and yet another for elections. All of these proposed laws would be listed as C-2 through C-5 on the Parliament of Canada website. The fact that the there would be such convergence in the realm of Canadian politics would be quite evident in the formulation of the laws managed and also in the fact that so few parties would be truthfully represented in the creation of these laws.

Conclusion

Determining whether convergence is both evident and obvious in the political landscape Canada has been working with for the past few years cannot be seen easily in the laws created. Yet, also, in the fact that there seems to be a blurring of the platforms between the various parties, we do see a convergence of ideologies in place of what at one time was a definitive line between the parties. It is this we must consider to be something that should be seen objectively. Yet, in point of fact, the convergence of party ideologies would be nearly ignored by those who are working within their parties in government stations within the Canadian Parliament.

Works Cited:
  • BELANGER, Eric; Issue Ownership by Canadian Political Parties 1953-2001
  • PETRY, Francois; The Opinion – Policy Relationship in Canada; The Journal of Politics, Vol.61, No. 2 (May, 1999), pp.540-550.
  • STEVENSON, Michael; Ideology and Unstable Party identification in Canada: Limited Rationality in a Brokerage Party System Canadian Journal of Political Science No.4 (Dec. 1987) pp.813-850
Works Referenced;
  • BELANGER, Eric; Issue Ownership by Canadian Political Parties 1953-2001
  • PETRY, Francois; The Opinion – Policy Relationship in Canada; The Journal of Politics, Vol.61, No. 2 (May, 1999), pp.540-550.
  • STEVENSON, Michael; Ideology and Unstable Party identification in Canada: Limited Rationality in a Brokerage Party System Canadian Journal of Political Science No.4 (Dec. 1987) pp.813-850
  • Jedwab, Jack; Apathy, Protest and Convergence in Canadian Politics: A 2004 Federal Election Post Mortem; October 5, 2004 Association for Canadian Studies http://www.acs-aec.ca/Polls/5-10-2004.pdf
  • Parliament of Canada; Welcome to the Parliament of Canada; 5/16/2006 http://www.parl.gc.ca/common/index.asp?Language=E

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