The NDP & Quebec - should we be surprised?

The 41st Canadian Parliament is about to get underway, after the election in May 2011. In that election, the New Democratic Party(NDP) won a landslide victory in Quebec, Taking many seats from the Liberal Party and Conservative Party of Canada, and all but eliminating the Bloc Quebecois, leaving them with only 4 seats.

This came as a massive surprise to almost everyone, but after a few weeks and some thinking, it's easy to understand why this happened.

The NDP is the furthest left on the political spectrum of all the major parties in Canada.  Because of this, their policies in general reflect certain things.  They believe in bigger government, more spending on social services, and more control over businesses.  They want more government regulation on industry, and believe that the increased degree of control they want will improve the economy because it ensures a more level playing field for all, and doesn't allow one company to get too big and control too much of any market.  NDP budgets, or election promises, are usually higher than most other political parties because of this.

Now, let's take a look at Quebec.  As a province, they have more independent social programs and government programs than any other province.  Things like the Quebec Pension Plan and redundant services the province supplies that are also offered by the Federal Government.  Quebec has many crown corporations for the province, and is more regulated than other provinces, especially those in the west.  Quebec also receives more monetary assistance from the other provinces in the form of equalization payments from the Federal Government.

Now, let us combine those two thoughts.  When we do, it really does seem like Quebec and the NDP are made for each other.  Quebec, in general, wants bigger government and more government services, and the NDP is a party that wants to provide a bigger government, as well as more regulation and control.  Sitting back and really thinking about it, It does kind of boggle the mind how this was the first time that the NDP have had any success in Quebec.  Taking all of these concepts into consideration Quebec should be an NDP stronghold, and should have been for years.

So the question is, why hasn't it been?  That's a much simpler answer that goes back to Confederation, and the issue of separatism.  Quebec has had deep roots in the Liberal Party, which has existed since Confederation and have historically been very strong in Quebec.  In the recent past, the rise of the issue of Quebec separation brought in the rise of the Bloc Quebecois and the Parti Quebecois, which have dominated politics in Quebec for many years.  In the last 20 years the Liberal Party and the Parti Quebecois has struggled for power in provincial politics, and the Bloc Quebecois has won the majority of the seats in Parliament for Quebec.

That changed in the 2011 election.  I think that it has more to do with the people of Quebec finally giving up on the Bloc Quebecois and their tired message, and being fed up with the Liberal Party under Michael Ignatieff.  So, when the people are sick of the separatist party, and sick of the Liberal party, who can they turn to?  The options left are the Conservative Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party, which are the two parties furthest apart on the political spectrum in the country.  And again, based on the concepts of what the NDP stands for, compared to the Conservative party, which is a right leaning party, the choice was pretty obvious.

In the end, I'm still very surprised to see the NDP landslide victory in Quebec.  Quebec going NDP is a logical choice based on the general beliefs of the voters and the party.  I'm still surprised that the people of Quebec have finally had enough of the Bloc Quebecois and are done with the issue of separation.  That in itself is as big a shift in politics in this country as the actual rise of the NDP to second party status.  Either way, there was a seismic shift in Canadian politics in the 2011 election, probably the biggest shift ever that did not involve a change of government.  I make the argument that the shift finally brings politics in this country to where they logically should be, but regardless it will make the next few years of Canadian government and politics very interesting, and I can't wait to watch. Let the 41st Parliament begin.