On Monday night, Canadians made their voices heard and reelected a Liberal government. The numbers might have changed – the liberal majority in Parliament turned into a liberal minority and the minority conservative party won the most votes – but the signs of deep voter discontentment and lack of trust in the major parties (Liberals and Conservatives) was clear in much the same way the elections of 2016 and 2018 reflected the same deep discontentment in America.
But, first, the top-line details. The Liberals won around 157 seats with 33 percent of the vote while Conservatives settled around 120 seats with 34 percent. Smaller parties such as the NDP settled around 20 seats, the Bloc Quebec (which does not contest seats outside Quebec) won over 30 seats while smaller parties such as the Greens and populist parties won the remainder of seats and popular vote.
The fact the Liberals won the most seats is not surprising. The stark difference between vote total and seat allocation is surprising, though First Past the Post systems do not work well in Single Member District multi-party systems. The Liberal vote total raises significant questions about how the Liberal minority being able to govern even with the most seats (when only a third of voters support you how can you say your vision is right for the naton). More importantly, it is where the divides were significantly massive which tells the tale.
Let’s just take a look at the Canadian election results shall we. As we can see from the image below the geographic divide in voting is massive.
The Liberals dominated in metro Toronto (in seats won, not vote totals), did decently in Quebec and split some smaller provinces. The NDP victories were scattered in urban areas while the Bloc surged in Quebec. But what is most stunning is the fact the Liberal Party did not win a single Riding outside of urban Toronto in Ontario.
Move beyond Ontario and Liberal MP’s disappear. Conservatives dominated exurban and rural areas but utterly crushed the opposition in resource rich Saskatchewan and Alberta and split British Columbia. Does this map and the voter disillusionment sound familiar? It should. It is America.
The same results occurred in the 2016 and 2018 elections. Trump’s dominance in rural areas -shown below – gave him the White House and showcased a similar geographic divide in America. By the same token, Democratic gains last year came in districts like those in urban Toronto. Democrats did not win a bunch of rural districts last year.
The issues that created the divide are also similar. In Canada, the Liberals lost any hope of winning the West by their imposition of a Carbon Tax. In the US, former President Obama’s harsh environmental policies turned formerly Democratic and industry heavy areas away from the party.
The vote divide by region in Canada paints a grim picture for a resolution. Shocker, similar to America. The absolutely dominating performance of the Conservatives in the Western provinces, running up 40 to 50 point wins in some places places speaks to just how alienated these voters are from the Liberal government. From the perspective of Conservative voters in Alberta one wonders how a Liberal government centered in the suburbs can represent their interests?
This similar divide was readily apparent in 2016 in the United States. The urban/suburban/rural divide is real. Note how major urban areas are dark blue while virtually every other area beyond these urban cores is slightly red. Now, to be fair, Democrats made major gains in 2018 relative to 2016 but the Liberals massive wave in 2015 was never going to be repeated this year. Likewise, Republicans weren’t going to excel beyond their 2016 totals.
But, it should be noted, beyond the electoral system differences and multi-party nature of Canada compared to the US their is a deep and enduring divide between different parts of both countries. On issues such as climate change, energy policy, abortion, cultural issues (ie. LBGTQ rights) and more lip service solves nothing.
Indeed, on election night Prime Minister Trueadu stood on stage and said he hears and would represent the interests of Western Canadians. The question is how when your entire party’s coalition is from a different part of the country not just regionally but economically? Likewise, after 2018, Nancy Pelosi stood on stage and said her party would look after the interests of all Americans despite the majority of her majority hailing from districts which derive the majority of their GDP from non-energy and manufacturing sectors.
The answer is you can’t and paying lip service to honoring the wishes of those who don’t vote for you is insulting more than anything else. You cannot understand something if you actually have no first-hand knowledge of it. This is the equivalent of an IT expert saying they know how to be a farmer (I am scratching my head too). Love or hate him, but Trump’s brash style and rhetoric is arguably the biggest difference between the US and Canada with the President being honest about the divides here at home.
Ultimately, the same issues which are driving Canadians apart are the same issues driving Americans further apart. If one can get past the different electoral system and individual characteristics of the parties and candidates, the Canadian elections are a mirror image of America’s.