The polls for the current election are showing something that is quite surprising, but somehow at the same time, something that makes sense. Canada is divided again. It wasn’t that many years ago that Canadians divided over the notion of two nations within one nation – a Québecois Nation and a Canadian Nation. Today the divide is based on ideology, or so it seems. Canadians are either holding fast to ultra conservativism (CPC) or racing to jump on an ultra left bandwagon (NDP). The Liberals, a centrist political party, has almost been abandoned.
How does this make any sense politically? Canadians aren’t extremists by nature. Canadians are a people who steadily work and live a life on the middle road, caring for their families and neighbours while working hard to pay their bills. I will try to find sense by looking at the phenomenon through the lens of human psychology, particularly that of the personal and collective unconscious. But first, some background.
The Liberals, the centrist party of Canada, lost its way because of being too long in power. Canadians trusted the Liberals and that trust became taken for granted. And the abuses, the scams became bigger. Along came the PC under the leadership of Brian Mulroney to avenge the Canadian voters. Mulroney quickly showed Canadians that they had placed their trust in the wrong man and the wrong party and the Liberals were returned to power. The old Liberal ways returned telling Canadians that the Liberals had not learned their lessons and again needed punishment. A new version of the conservative party, the CPC held a hope for real change, after all its leader Steven Harper had promised transparency, accountability and honesty – values that seemed to have disappeared in the Canadian political world.
Five years later, and Canada is in shock. Not only did the CPC not deliver its promises, it took abuse to a new level and added a new element, contempt. The electorate was pummeled by attack ad after attack ad that sought to redefine the political world in black and white terms. Invoking an evangelical template, the CPC placed themselves on the right hand of God in battle with the evil forces of darkness which they defined as any who opposed the CPC. Most Canadians are believing Christians though not evangelical. The constant bombardment of this war of good versus evil disturbed and shook the worldview of the average Canadian. Fear began to appear, but not a fear that was easy to define, just a vague fear of the darkness, the instability of the place called home, Canada.
Steven Harper, knows what he is doing, he knows the power and value of fear as he tries to con Canadians to vote for him to be the leader of Canada. There is no pretense that Canadians are voting for local candidates. It is all about voting for Stephen Harper or against Stephen Harper. I don’t believe that the Steven Harper that goes home each night to his family is an evil man, but the man we see as the leader of the CPC is a man possessed. His hubris feeds on the collective unconscious. And that, is what has come to scare most Canadians who have unconsciously known they couldn’t trust the man completely. In this election, the stakes are higher.
And Canadians are in a panic. Anyone But Harper! Anyone but conservative (ABC) has resulted in a fleeing from the extreme right – a fight or flight reaction – not a reasoned response. Reason would tell Canadians to go back to the middle. But the wounds inflicted by past Liberal governments, betrayed trust, have Canadians frantically scanning the political spectrum for a new safe place, as far away from Harper as they can get. And the NDP are there, waiting for them with open arms trying to assure these Canadians that they can provide accountable, transparent and honest government.
Can the NDP deliver? Personally, I don’t think so. They aren’t a party of the centre and they will end up acting out of their extreme, non-centrist nature. But, perhaps . . .