When Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario won the majority of seats in Ontario, many of us were stunned. In 2019, most of the provinces in Canada may just be run by Tory governments. Most of the economic policies Tory governments are pushing through are not new: tax cuts for the wealthy, less corporate regulation and environmental protection, privatization of public goods, undermining labour, and espousing different types of trickle down-ism when they give speeches.
However, with the rise of Trump’s MAGA movement and the Ford brothers’ Ford Nation style of populism, the rhetoric, cultural politics, empowerment of racists and xenophobes has become a route to victory. Politics is about a winning strategy, even if that strategy is morally reprehensible, based on lies, and destroying the lives of vulnerable people.
The worst part is that winning strategies are also quite contagious. Now, the policies adopted by Doug Ford are also being proposed by politicans in other parts of Canada. In this Activist Toolkit entry, we’ll take a look at some of those threats from coast to coast. Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and Alberta have elections coming up this year. Nova Scotia will hold elections by next year. The Tories are gaining steam in every one of these provinces. New Brunswick and Quebec have just elected the Tories and the Coalition Avenir Quebec, a new rightwing party. This troubling trend puts a lot of what we hold dear as progressives in danger. Please send us tools you are developing and the Activist Toolkit will help amplify your work, support local struggles, and fight back.
Where do things stand in each province?
Newfoundland and Labrador: In 2015, the Liberals took power from the Tories, winning 31 of the 40 seats in the legislature. There will be an election in 2019, currently slated for October 9, with a new leader in charge of the Tories, the son of veteran Tory politician John Crosbie, Ches Crosbie. Crosbie is known as independent and a “firebrand” and is currently narrowing the gap with the ruling Liberal party. The Liberal party is bracing itself for the fight and calling for people to trust them.
Nova Scotia: In 2018, the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservatives elected former Tim Houston, Pictou East MLA. Houston was a chartered accountant who advised many corporate clients while living in Bermuda. His platform was vague, mostly about listening his way to winning, but he has already argued for scrapping the carbon tax and addressing the provincial health care crisis by, again in vague terms, reforming health care to focus on acute care. The current Liberal premier, Steven McNeil, is the most unpopular premier in Canada. So, the question is will the Conservatives capitalize on McNeil’s unpopularity when elections are called, possibly in the spring of 2020?
New Brunswick: In New Brunswick, the Progressive Conservatives defeated the long-serving Liberals to form government in alliance with the People’s Alliance. The province split along Anglophone versus Francophone divisions on the issue of service delivery in Canada’s only officially bilingual province. In 2018, unions beat back the initiative to contract food and cleaning in hospitals to global outsourcing giant Sodexo, however, privatization efforts will likely ramp up under the Tories. The provincial Conservatives have already signed on to the federal Tory efforts to challenge the carbon tax and have also stated that they want to lift the ban on fracking. The People’s Alliance campaigned on changing the province’s language requirements.
Prince Edward Island: The current PEI Tory leader, James Aylward, was elected at the end of 2017 but is stepping down in February 2019 when a new leader who “can better connect with people in the province” is elected. The Tories gained five seats in the previous election and need six more seats to defeat the Liberals. The election will occur on or before October 7, to comply with the fixed election date provisions of the PEI Election Act.
Quebec: The win by Coalition Avenir Québec brought the first avowedly centre right government to power in Quebec. Right now, the government is moving quickly on the issue it used to galvanize voters: banning public employees from wearing any religious symbols. The CAQ also included vague mentions of to healthcare and education in its campaign strategy. Making vague promises and not submitting a costed out budget for campaign promises seems to be the new winning strategy.
Saskatchewan: The Saskatchewan Party has won three consecutive provincial elections and has decimated a lot of the policies and systems the progressive governments of the past had built in the province. There is an election slated in 2019 according to the Saskatchewan Election Act, and hopefully under leadership of Ryan Melli, the NDP will start to make inroads.
Manitoba: In 2015, as part of the Tory wave which swept through the Praries, Brian Pallisters and the Tories formed a majority government. The fixed date for the next provincial election is on October 6, 2020. The Manitoba NDP is working to remake itself into a more inclusive, more progressive, more urban party. Let’s get the strongholds of Canada’s progressive movement, the Prairies, back!
Alberta: Rachel Notely’s win in Alberta was something many progressives across Canada celebrated. But with elections looming in 2019, the United Conservative Party led by Jason Kenney is rebuilding and gaining steam.
British Columbia: The British Columbia New Democratic Party just won a minority government, supported by the province’s Green Party. The next election will be held on or before October 16, 2021.
Yukon: In 2016, the Yukon Liberals formed government after defeating the rightwing Yukon Party. The Yukon Party has an interim leader, Stacey Hassard, who was appointed after the elected leader lost his seat. Like Nova Scotia, Yukon has no fixed election date law, so an election must be held before 2021.
Nunavut and the Northwest Territories do not have partisan provincial legislatures. Federally, Andrew Scheer is gaining strength and in a dead heat in polling against Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh is fighting for a seat in federal parliament.
As the fortunes of the rightwing parties continue to rise, we will continue to see the mimicking of the xenophobic and racist tone of U.S. right wing media by Canadian right wing media, and the fringe ideas of people like Ezra Levant become viral and almost mainstream. After this initial survey of upcoming election dates, the Activist Toolkit will continue to work with movements across Canada to fight against conservative attacks on workers rights, affordable housing, universal public health care, accessible education, and other public services we hold dear.
Conservatives of all stripes like to paint themselves as “of the people.” But their policies have always been the same and have always hurt the vulnerable. Let’s organize and fight back.
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