The Big Shift? Or Wishful Thinking?

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Following up on the release of a new book called The Big Shift by John Ibbitson and Darrell Bricker, Gerry Nicholls is in The Hill Times this morning to boil it down for us:

Harper's majority victory in 2011 was no fluke.

Rather, the Conservative Party won because its emphasis on low taxes, balanced budgets, law and order, and a strong military, resonated not only with voters in Western and rural Canada, but also with Ontario's suburbanites.

This is the big shift: voters in suburban Ontario now share many of the conservative values of their rural and Western compatriots.

The Conservatives went into the last election with not just the usual incumbent advantage but with the benefit of unprecedented use of taxpayer resources for self-promotion and fundraising. There was also the overwhelming endorsement of the corporate media which had previously done an excellent job of reinforcing CPC narratives at crucial points — remember the coalition of socialists and separatists? And with all of that, the Conservatives still couldn't manage 40% of the vote.

Getting complete control of the agenda with that kind of support certainly is a fluke — it's a quirk of a badly broken electoral system. Being able to ignore all of that and spin the Conservative victory as representing some fundamental shift in Canadian values demonstrates a remarkable ability on the part of the spinners to see the world the way they'd like it to be.

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If Ibbitson really believes that then he is a bigger idjit than I earlier imagined!

Spinning wheel got to go round...

Unfortunately for the purveyors of snake oil that wish to sell us this shift, the evidence suggests otherwise

I'm having a great deal of difficulty in NOT mentally subtracting the "f" from "The Big Shift".

Obviously, I need help.

I hate to blow my own horn on this, but I read the original talk Ibbitson gave to TV Ontario's "Big Ideas" on this topic. I then wrote an extensive rebuttal wherein I pointed out several of the flaws in Ibbitson's analysis:

Among other things, I point out that the gap Ibbitson perceives between Westerners and other Canadians has never been as big as people like him like to depict. My own province of Alberta, for instance, has shown some of the same traits and behaviour that our Eastern kin do.

Nor have our overall values shifted as much as Ibbitson likes to pretend. A lot of our values and accomplishments cut across regional and party lines. Ibbitson makes a big show about the "Conservative coalition", but the fact is that coalition-building and unlikely allies finding common ground is as Canadian as the beaver and maple syrup, and goes back not just to Confederation, but to a century or more before it.

Ibbitson's correct in noting that political and economic power has shifted to my neck of the woods in the West. But we cannot, we must not, make the mistake of thinking our region of Canada is the only one that matters. That's exactly what many Albertans perceived elites in Ontario and Quebec is doing, after all, and we can't afford to think the same thing.

Ibbitson's correct in noting that political and economic power has shifted to my neck of the woods in the West.

To a certain extent but that isn't necessarily permanent. Resources booms eventually bust. This one will too.

But the big bone of contention for me is the values argument whether it comes from Ibbitson or Harper. It's nonsense. And FPTP masks how precarious Conservative support really is.

In Alberta's defence, not all of us are as inclined to crow as Ibbitson is about how we're now permanently in charge.* The Canada West Foundation, for one, acknowledges that Alberta could be back on the outside looking in if power shifts again in Ottawa:

With B.C. and Ontario getting new seats, it'll be interesting to see how things develop with British Columbia's opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline, even among Conservatives, and whether Harper can hold on to his gains in Ontario.

Even here in Alberta, Harper lost the riding of Edmonton-Strathcona to the NDP, and in last year's byelection in Calgary, Conservative Joan Crockett won with a mere 37 percent of the vote, just four percent ahead of the Liberal candidate, while the Green candidate got 25% of the vote.

In regards to the electoral system, FPTP makes it look like there are greater regional divisions than there actually are. Back in the 1990s, the Reform Alliance was actually getting a respectable share of the federal vote in Ontario, but it was never concentrated enough to lead to more than one seat east of Manitoba. The Liberals put up similar percentages on the Prairies, but aside from rare exceptions like Ralph Goodale's riding their only ridings were in large urban centres like Edmonton.

My province's values, in many respects, aren't as different from those of Central or Eastern Canada as people like Ibbitson like to pretend. If you read the article I posted on IPolitics, you'll see a number of examples of where Alberta's demonstrated many of the same traits as other parts of Canada.

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This page contains a single entry by pogge published on February 25, 2013 9:35 AM.

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