Monday, December 12, 2011

Ibbitson: Laurentian Consensus is "dead"...let's wait and watch before concurring

Speaking on TVO'sBig Ideas this weekend, john Ibbitson, Ottawa Bureau Chief for the Globe and Mail, described the May 2nd election of 2011 as the defeat of the Lautentian Consensus.
He defines the Laurentian Consensus this way: for the history of Canada, the politics and policies of the country were the result of elites in academia, culture, media, the arts from the cities of Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and the smaller centres along the St. Lawrence. Their focus was primarily to Europe, to European immigrants, to relations between Quebec and the rest of Canada; Immigrants to Canada voted primarily for the Liberal Party. And the west was virtually excluded from the "inner circle" of the discussion.
The Laurentian Consensus considered it axiomatic that in order to win a majority government, a political party had to win majorities in both Quebec and Ontario.
Now, according to Ibbitson, the voters of Ontario have aligned themselves with the voters of the west, and question of Quebec no longer dominates our political discussion or debate. Increasingly, immigrants have been recepting to the "family values" policies of the Harper Conservatives, and have voted a majority government without Quebec, and now, instead of looking to Europe, Canada, led by the perspective of westerners, look to the Far East, to China, Japan, Singapore, the Philippines, as potential trading partners, and Ontario's voting pattern, led by voters in this province in both the 905 donut and the small towns and villages have joined to give their support to Harper. Additionally, Ibbitson points out, poignantly, that the previously manufacturing "have province" of Ontario is now a recipient of equalization payments from Ottawa, while it is also the largest contributor to that national fund.
With this thesis, Ibbitson considers the May 2 vote both significant and historically important for Canada, although he concedes that there are many variables that could reverse the process. Some of the variables he lists include:
  • the rise of a political force in Quebec, potentially even the federal Liberal Party to prominence
  • the collapse of the NDP in Quebec
  • the rise of another separatist or sovereignist party in Quebec
  • a shift away from the Harperites among urban dwellers in Ontario
  • the potential of the Conservatives to self-sabotage
  • a new, united progressive political party to challenge the Conservatives
He points out that "patriotism" of the "heart-on-your-sleeve" variety was anathema to the Laurentian Consensus, whereas under Harper, patriotism is declared with both volume and vigour, including the word 'royal'.
A self-styled conservative columnist in the Globe and Mail, Ibbitson is clearly trumping the victory of his 'team' over the previous and despised Liberal governments.
Does he believe that the current government is about to dismantle the "good" that made this country Canada, previously accomplished by the Liberal governments of the last 150 years? No.
Does he worry that social programs will be gutted under the Harper government? Again, No.
Is he right about the demise of the Laurentian Consensus? An interesting political theory and analysis of voting patterns, especially where the conservatives picked up seats from the Liberals in ridings where the immigrant vote reaches the mid-forties or higher.
We will all be watching to see if the Ibbitson 'theory' is validated by the next few years of Canadian cultural and attitudinal shifts as demonstrated by shifting voting patterns, shifting national agendas and shifting power blocks.

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