Guest Commentary

Angus Reid

Party A Versus Party B

(Editor’s note: no federal party in 35 years has won an absolute majority of the popular vote. Pollster Angus Reid in a 1996 book Shakedown predicted an “age of discontinuity” in Canadian politics. “Today’s electorate is polygamous and volatile,” wrote Reid: “A country full of independent-minded voters not only makes it more difficult to project the outcome of an election; it also makes elections much harder to choreograph.” In a September 7, 2011 interview with Blacklock’s publisher Holly Doan, Mr. Reid expanded on his views. Following is a transcription of his remarks)

The world today has a more fractured electorate. We have a media system that reinforces that level of fracture. It is now hard to see, barring some major crisis, a situation that would lead to fifty percent of Canadians supporting one leader.

There has frankly not been a leader in Canada in recent memory, with perhaps the exception of the late Jack Layton, who really so fired up Canadian emotions that he’d lead people who were normally sitting on the sidelines, somewhat confused and complacent about politics, to go out and vote. How many people really believe the difference between Party A and Party B is really going to be that big anyhow?

There is a lot of cynicism, that ‘my vote is not going to count because no one out there is actually speaking to my issue.’ We’ve gone through many periods where people have governed this country with less than forty percent of the popular vote, and I suspect that’s going to continue.

The smart money I think suggests that in a more fractured world, we will see more fractured parties, and with more fractured parties we’ll see more coalitions. The level of political identification has really dropped. People will say, “Well, I’m not sure what I am. I’m an independent! It depends.” The level of long-term political loyalty really declined in the 1990s and I think it has stayed low since then.

In those years we had this electorate on the edge. People were in a bitchy mood, if I can use that term, and really prepared to quickly grab onto things, but also drop them. I think that was expressed in the politics of that entire era.

I remember graduating as a young sociologist in the 1970s. Everyone wanted to go off and work for the government, because you were doing God’s work there and would make the world a better place. Government was going to be the answer to everything. I think those dreams began to evaporate in the 1990s.

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