How Diminished Trust in Canadian Government Threatens to Bring a ‘New Nation’

The movement that brought John Diefenbaker’s Progressive Conservatives to power in 1957, was not motivated by platform promises. People were motivated by their lack of trust for PC opponents. In the absence of Liberal Louis St. Laurent, Quebecers had to choose which anglophone to trust with Francophonie advancement and those in the West had to decide who would champion their values given the diminishing nature of the Social Credit party. Having to choose when there is no party to be trusted led to a system of diminishing trust in the twentieth century and has plagued our electoral process in the twenty-first. There is no guarantee that those who are governing nor those who stand to govern will abide by the plans they put forth. This has ostracized the public from the electoral process and resulted in diminishing voter turnout. Canadians have been left uncertain as to whether their government will deliver for them but when Canadians are certain is deciding the time for a government to go and they have consistently demonstrated this at the polls.

Whenever historic levels of voter turnout have been achieved, it would has not favoured the incumbent. This proved successful for Joe Clark’s minority government in 1979, Brian Mulroney’s majority in 1984 and Harper’s minority in 2006. Each time there was a significant rise in voter turnout it resulted in a change in government. However, while the rise in voter turnout had increased from the respective previous election it did not achieve the level of the last major change in government. 1979 had a 75.7 percent voter turn out followed by 75.3 percent in 1984 and 64.7 percent in 2006. While Canadians voting in mass still vote for change the electoral utility of the ‘mass vote’ is diminishing. While the Liberal victory in 2015 benefited from a 68.3 voter turnout, a 7.2 percent jump in voter turnout compared to 2011, it remains vastly diminished compared to Canada’s largest voter turnout, 79.4 percent, that occurred in the 1958 election that brought Diefenbaker’s super-majority to power (data provided by Elections Canada, Voter Turnout. 1867-2015). 

As more Canadians opt not to cast ballots, they are embracing an ostracization from the electoral process, leaving them outside the system that determines their governance. If we consider Fascism as a revolutionary form of systemic revolt there is no need to depart from the arguments of Gilbert Allardyce’s “What Fascism Is Not” and Federico Finchelstein, “Introduction: Thinking Fascism and Populism in terms of the Past”. Both authors asserted a form of Fascism that is obsessed with newness, a breaking of the past and as Roger Griffin (quoted by Finchelstein) pointed out “a longing for a new order, a new nation, not just a reformed old nation”.  If Canadians can not trust the current system to work for them then calls for separatism that has taken hold in Quebec and will continue to evolve in the West in the form of ‘wexit’, will remain the only means of breaking from tyranny.

It is not enough for those that form government to declare that despite the distribution of votes government will deliver for all. While that is a necessary part of the democratic process, it should not permit parties to play regional favourites as we have seen in the 2019 election. The decision of parties to build trust in certain regions as the Liberals have done in Toronto, the Bloc Quebecois in Quebec, and the Conservative in the West fragments the country. Regional nepotism allows for our governing process to pin Canadians against each other and force some to live under the tyranny of the policy priorities of the other. It is this need that fascist ideology seeks to satisfy. The idealist Fascist cause that George L. Moose argued satisfies “a deep need for activism combined with identification,” and Canadians distrusting of the governance process to deliver and driven outside the electoral process will need both if government does not get into the business of trust building in through the process that bring them to power. Political parties favouring vying for power rather than building trust will only further divide the country until regional actions are so distinct that the formation ‘new nations’ is unavoidable.


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