Empire loyalists - The October 19 2015 election outcome in Canada
* This article is part of a new series at WesternCrisis.com examining significant issues of concern within particular Western nation states. *
This article will discuss Canadians and how the apparent naive sense of 'change' evident among the general Canadian electorate during the 2015 federal election is a social attribute associated with Canadian culture. Whereas the common description of a Canadian will be 'polite', 'nice', and so on, these are vague social descriptions. Significantly, why do Canadians behave this way, where does this behaviour originate, and why does this matter in the political context? In comparison on a global scale (that is, with humans from other societies on Earth) Canadians are timid, risk-averse, and apathetic. Forgive me if you're Canadian and take offence to this comment - apparently even I cannot escape the 'Canadianization' of my psyche. My intent here is not to insult Canadian culture. Instead, I am merely describing what is a fascinating aspect of Canada and Canadians which is often overlooked. Admittedly, it took me 2 years of living and studying public administration and public policy in Australia in order to acquire a mind distant enough from 'Canada' to be able to understand Canadian culture. While my conclusion will not be accepted by some, this is not sufficient enough to argue that my observations are inaccurate. This observation, made apparent while living overseas, becomes quite evident when one examines the election outcome of 2015. My observation is this: Canadian culture is a unique by product of American flamboyance, where Americans are keen to take risks, Canadians proceed with caution. When Americans elected Barack Obama on the basis of political 'change', Canadians elected Justin Trudeau out of caution, safety, namely brand recognition.
* Note: I have since returned from living overseas and was residing in Canada during the October 19, 2015 election.
On October 19, 2015, Canada had its 42nd Federal election. Due to the fact that Canadian democracy is based upon the British system of Westminster Parliamentary representative government, during election period citizens vote to elect local candidates, who are members of political parties, to represent them in Ottawa, the national capital of Canada. Unlike the United States of America, Canadians do not directly elect their Prime Minister as Americans elect their President. Instead, Canadians (are supposed to) vote for local candidates of a particular political party. At the end of the election total votes are counted for each political riding. The candidate in a given riding who receives the most number of votes wins the riding, and the party with the most elected candidates forms the government. If a party has more than half of the total number of seats in the House of Commons, then that party forms a majority government. Interestingly, the Prime Minister is also a local candidate just like every other political candidate. What makes them significant is that they are the leader of their party. So, if their party wins the election, they become the national leader, the Prime Minister - as long as they win the election in their own riding, of course.
The significance here is that many Canadians elect their local candidate based on who they want to be Prime Minister, and not based on which political party they want to govern the country. In this context, Canadians who vote in this manner are actually false voting because their intention to elect a particular prime minister is irrelevant since (let us assume) they are not voting within the same political riding which the leader of a particular political party is running. As discussed above, the leader of a political party must be elected, just like every other candidate, and only if they are elected and their party forms the government will they become Prime Minister of Canada. The interesting factor here is that it is possible, due to the Westminster system of representative parliamentary democracy, for a political party to win a majority of seats and form the government even though their party leader did not win their riding. In the case of an unelected party leader, the party must elect a new party leader who will then become prime minister since the party currently has the most number of seats within the House of Commons. The power a political party has in terms of choosing its leader was recently on display in Australia (also a Westminster Parliamentary democracy) when the ruling Liberal-coalition party chose (as a result of back-room political dealing) a new party leader, thereby removing Tony Abbott as Prime Minister in replace of Malcolm Turnball as the new party leader and therefore Prime Minister.
In Canada, less than one week has passed since the Liberal Party was elected on a majority basis to form the next federal government, replacing the previously ruling Conservative Party. What made this election outcome significant was the fact that the Liberal Party's leader is Justin Trudeau, the son of one of Canada's most renown Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Although some historians and journalists refer to Pierre Trudeau as 'the greatest' Prime Minister of Canada, the adjective 'greatest' is subjective without specific qualifications, and such an in depth discussion will not occur in this discussion. Instead, it is necessary to understand that Pierre Trudeau created a lasting impression upon the Liberal 'brand', and by consequence the Liberal Party left a lasting political impression within the Canadian social psyche. In summary, Pierre Trudeau was a charismatic leader who repatriated the Constitution of Canada and brought in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, while also standing up to Quebecois terrorist separatists, the FLQ. Pierre Trudeau also alienated the Western provinces with the National Energy Program which subsequently led to a western cessation movement - yet that part tarnishes his legacy and the Liberal brand so it's often forgotten.
With the election of Justin Trudeau, there is little doubt that the name 'Trudeau' is what led to the Liberal victory. Notably, as a result of Pierre Trudeau's repatriation of the Constitution in 1984, some have argued that the Liberal Party is Canada's 'governing party' by default, and the Conservatives are therefore the political anomaly (notwithstanding the fact that Canada's first Prime Minister was the leader of the Conservative Party). If the Conservatives are the anomaly in contemporary Canadian politics, then it makes sense why Canadians voted against the Conservative Party during the October 19, 2015 election since they were voting away the change which had occurred within their political society. If the Liberal Party of Canada is 'the governing party' of Canada, then on October 19, 2015 the Liberal Party won the election because Canadians chose to return to their political norm. In fact, by choosing Justin Trudeau, son of Pierre Trudeau, as their leader, the Liberal Party of Canada offered Canadians a familiar political brand: the Trudeau Liberal brand. Interestingly, the Liberal Party campaigned with the slogan of 'real change', and throughout the election campaign Justin Trudeau routinely talked about how Prime Minister Harper's Conservative Party, after nearly a decade of rule, had changed Canada by moving the nation away from the previous decade of Liberal Party policies. Further indication that Canadians did not vote for 'change' on the October 19, 2015 election derives from the realization that the New Democrat Party (NDP) came in third place, and out of the three major political parties they were arguably the one political party offering actual 'real change' by way of political policies, political party, and an over-all political brand. Nevertheless, on October 19, 2015, the Liberal-Trudeau brand was successful because it offered Canadians something familiar: a political party and a party leader they were familiar with, at least by name.
The reason why the election outcome on October 19, 2015 in Canada is significant, is because it revealed Canadian culture for all the world - regardless of whether or not 'all the world' was paying attention. The aspect of Canadian culture revealed by the October 19, 2015 election, is that Canadians have remained the 'Empire loyalists', too timid for change, especially not the change involving revolution from the British Crown. The concept of 'Empire loyalists' derives from those North Americans who fled the 13 Colonies at the time of the American Revolution of 1776. These would be the same loyal subjects who defended British North America from Yankee (American) invaders during the War of 1812. While Canada is the by-product of two nations, the French and the British, it is also arguably the by-product of an oft-forgotten third, the 'loyalists' who did not revolt in 1776, and instead preferred the status quo. In other words, the loyalists were what one historian referred to as the, 'refugees', who fled revolutionary America to remain subjects of the British Crown by residing in British North America (what was to become Canada). If Canadians were truly voting for 'real change' on October 19, 2015, they would have voted for the NDP (or, arguably even the Green party) since out of the three major political parties the NDP's policies differed more from the governing Conservatives than the Liberals differed from the Conservatives. By choosing the Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau, Canadians were not voting for change.
I began this article claiming that, "Canadian culture is a unique by-product of American flamboyance, where Americans are keen to take risks, Canadians proceed with caution. When Americans elected Barack Obama on the basis of political 'change', Canadians elected Justin Trudeau out of caution, safety, namely brand recognition". The greatest difference between the two North American nations, Canada and the United States of American, is that the Americans took a risk and revolted from the British Empire, while Canadians remained 'loyal' to the British Crown. In fact, some have argued that the expansion of the USA in a westerly direction is what led to the necessity of Canada forming into one nation, east-to-west. Interestingly, throughout its history Canadian culture has therefore been described opposite of American culture. Where the USA has been described in terms of asserting global hegemony, Canada has been described as a 'peace keeper'. Where Americans are described as 'loud' and 'rude', Canadians are 'quiet' and 'polite'. While these are of course generalizations, all one has to do is travel the world and ask, in general terms, how citizens of other nations interpret the North American neighbours and all-of-a-sudden what were once mere generalizations hold value and contain insightful meaning.
Nevertheless, the comparisons between Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama end when one recognizes that American voters took a risk and Canadians did not. Differences of Canadian and American political systems aside, Americans took a risk voting for their first black President who promised social change in addition for foreign policy 'resets' and 'pivots'. While Obama had the Democrat Party nomination, his personal 'brand' was new, his brand brought change. With Justin Trudeau, on the other hand, the Liberal Party chose him as their leader due to the fact of his name and the 'Trudeau' brand. It is no surprise the Liberal Party sought Trudeau after suffering three serious defeats against the 'anomalous' Conservative Party. For the 'governing party' of Canada (i.e. the Liberal Party) to win again, it must return to its roots and what better way than anointing as their leader the son of their hero, Pierre Trudeau? Perhaps the greatest irony with Justin Trudeau's 'real change' brand is the fact that out of millions of citizens, the Liberal Party chose as their leader the son of a former Prime Minister. In other words, little change at all. Is this not why Canadians criticized George W. Bush, after-all he was the son of the former President, George Bush. Did Canadians not criticize American democracy for its 'oligarchic' and perhaps even aristocratic lineages? If all it takes to be leader of Canada's 'governing party' is the 'brand name' of a former Prime Minister, is this not anything but aristocracy? Is Canada now governed by two royal families, the first who lives across the Atlantic Ocean in Buckingham Palace, and now a second, closer to home, who claims the riding of Papineau in Montreal as their riding? By returning to the Trudeau royal family, Canadians have once again proven they are the 'Empire loyalists', loyal to the masters they know, afraid of those leaders who would truly offer a change, afraid of leaders who in fact provided change.
This article is not arguing that the Liberal Party under Justin Trudeau will not implement new policies and therefore introduce policy change. Any newly elected political party by nature of it being newly elected introduces 'new' policies and legislation. Instead, this article has argued that Canadians elected Justin Trudeau not because of his promise of 'real change', instead this article argues that Trudeau was elected due to his recognizable brand name. In support of this claim, this article relied on observable evidence from Canadian sociopolitical culture.