“Parties may be facing a new political landscape” (The Toronto Star)

Michael Valpy (The Toronto Star):

For those Liberal and NDP supporters feeling distaste for the let’s-vote-together campaigns calling on them to team up strategically to bring down Stephen Harper’s government, there may be an enlightened way of reasoning through their squeamishness.

Yes, for many Liberals, the New Democrats are the unpleasant “Left” (which has to be put in quotation marks because, for Left New Democrats, the party hasn’t been Left since the leadership of Tommy Douglas).

And, yes, for a lot of New Democrats, the Liberal Party is home to conservatives in hipster hats — offering Harper’s same government-by-gerontocracy, supporting Bill C-51 and parading around prize candidates like Eve Adams and former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, of G20 civil liberties-trashing fame.

But there is strong evidence that’s a misreading of the current political and cultural landscape in Canada.

Regardless of what their party leadership is doing, most Liberal supporters no longer sit at some midpoint between the Conservatives and NDP, says Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research Associates, one of Canada’s leading polling firms:

“The distance between Conservative and Liberal voters by values and issues is way, way wider than the difference between Liberals and supporters of the current NDP, many of whom are the same people.”

In other words, says Graves, there may once have been a time — and it may come again — where the centre is the most attractive spot for Canadians: a pragmatic, non-ideological spot which is where most voters were at the close of the last century.

“But I don’t think that’s where it is now,” he says. “The sweet spot for the non-Conservative vote has drifted to the left and I think that’s a dialectical response to being governed by the hard-right for the first time ever for the past nine years.”

Canada is in a culture war, something the overwhelming majority of Canadians have never experienced before and something which the Liberal Party leadership, as opposed to its members may not adequately recognize.

Or in Graves’s words: “The public don’t just want the old natural governing party that blends left and right into some mushy centre. They want the political yang to Stephen Harper’s yin, and I don’t think the Liberals have understood that properly.”