Bitter and Bewildered: The Sad Plight of The Disillusioned Left-Wing Canadian Voter

Do you ever feel like you're a rock 'n' roll fan stuck in the eighties? Or a science teacher at a Republican education convention down in the Southern States? Or an environmentalist in oil sands-ravaged Alberta?

Well, if so, then you're quite possibly a left-wing Canadian voter. Because feeling discouraged, depressed, dejected and downhearted is all part and parcel of being a progressive voter here in this country these days.

In fact, this must be what it feels like to be a Toronto Maple Leafs fan after a while.

It might even be close to how a young Stephen Harper must have felt growing up here in Canada, a place he once called "a second-tier socialist country" and "a northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term".

Not since the days of Brian Mulroney's consecutive majorities have things seemed so bleak to those of us on the Left here in Canada.

It is, of course, wonderful that Harper and his Conservatives haven't been able to win a majority in parliament and, therefore, haven't been able to ram through their right-wing agenda; but, nevertheless, this feeling of despondency remains.

Cynicism and Apathy

Last year in a speech in Toronto Harper said "Cynicism and apathy is the last thing Canadians, especially young Canadians, should feel, about politics or about anything else about this country".

However, I'd say that unless you belong to the minority of Canadian voters who are right-of-center, how can you possibly NOT be feeling at least somewhat cynical and apathetic?

The fact remains that a vote for the Greens here in Canada means no representation whatsoever in parliament, even if they were to get 15-20% of the national vote. And that's simply undemocratic.

Then there are the Liberals - never all that progressive at the best of times - who are presently led by Michael Ignatieff, their most right-wing leader in decades. Someone who not only supported the Iraq War, but also Guantanamo Bay and the enhanced interrogation techniques (that is, torture) that went on there. Who the hell wants someone like that leading our country?

Then we've got the NDP, who after years of mocking the Liberals for propping up the Conservatives in parliament are now doing the exact same thing. They say it's because they support the Conservatives' employment insurance reform bill, but in reality it's pretty obvious that it has a lot more to do with their rather dismal standing in the polls right now. Presently sitting at around 15% or so, they face losing seats if an election were held today and they have therefore decided to try and avoid an election at all costs. Even if it makes them look completely hypocritical and pathetic.

So, what's a poor lefty to do?

Obviously, the worst case scenario would be Stephen Harper and his Conservatives remaining in power, or, worst of all, gaining a majority. That would clearly be downright depressing. But, still, do any progressive types really want to see Michael Ignatieff leading this country? Once again it comes down to the lesser of two evils instead of a government to actually feel excited about.

What I Really Really Want

Personally, I know exactly what I want and it's called electoral reform. Specifically, what this country really needs is a form of proportional representation (P.R.). See my earlier piece on that topic here: What Canadians Need: The Canadian Election Rant (Part 2)

The way I see it, Canadians are generally quite a progressive lot and many more would undoubtedly vote both Green and NDP if they actually saw a possibility of them winning power and didn't view such a vote as "wasted".

Presently, many admit to voting for the Liberals not because they support them, but simply to keep the Conservatives from winning a majority. Under a P.R. system that would never be a real concern, since I can't see the Conservatives ever winning anywhere near a majority (50%) of the votes in this country.

You may call me crazy, but under a revamped - that is fair and truly democratic - political system I someday see a Green-Left coalition governing Canada, just like the one that governed Germany in a stable coalition for years up until 2005.

But until then I guess I'll just keep "wasting my vote" and hoping for anyone but Harper and the Conservatives to form the next government. Though I can already envision feelings of dread and dismay when I first hear the words "Prime Minister Michael Ignatieff".

Well, at least it won't be quite as bad as being a rock fan back in the mid-eighties.

Mike Cowie (Oredakedo)
Friday, September 18th, 2009



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Another 35 comments

You can read another 35 comments posted in response to this piece on The Georgia Straight's site here.

Need to heal some of the fractures on the left

The problem is that left of the political spectrum, everything is fractured. You have the NDP who are really good for progressive social issues, but have a terrible understanding of economics. Then you have the Liberal Party who are very good at handling the economy, but pussy out on a lot of key progressive issues (or it takes a long time for them to change anything). And finally the Green Party, great for environmental causes, but hold absolutely zero power.


The right-wing doesn't have this problem.


If you want to see a left-wing government any time soon, we're going to have to heal some of these fractures. Election reform is all but a pipe dream until this happens.

No way!

The response to this problem is most certainly NOT to "heal these fractures." The left of centre parties have different platforms for a reason - people have different priorities. The only logical result of reducing the number of political parties to fix "fractures" is a two party system, or potentially even a one party system; we've seen how well a two party system works in the US and how well a one party system works in . Proportional representation encourages political diversity, while the current system discourages it.

The problem is that electoral reform is almost certainly not going to happen under EITHER of the major political parties - it hurts them while helping the more minor, currently sidelined parties.

t. ferch

You've got a point

You've got a point, I know whether I vote or not my riding will go Liberal. The only thing that keeps me voting on election day is that fair party funding is based on total number of votes, not number of seats.


I think alot of people view the system as fundamentally broken. For example in the 2008 election we had: BQ: ~11% Popular Vote --> 51 Seats, NDP: ~18% Popular Vote --> 37 Seats, Green: ~7% Popular Vote --> 0 Seats. The NDP had over a million votes more than the BQ but ended up with 2/3 of the number of seats; the Greens got a million votes but not a single seat. The system as it stands right now does nothing more than enforce the status quo which is great if you're a 50 year old white man, but sucks for everyone else. This will become even more dramatic if Harper gets his way and eliminates fair party funding.

Old politicians

"However, I'd say that unless you belong to the minority of Canadian voters who are right-of-center, how can you possibly not be feeling at least somewhat cynical and apathetic?"


I'd extend that to include anyone under the age of 30. Quite frankly, these old politicians grew up in a different world than our own. They just dont understand the consequences for their actions and they act as if the long-term (read: my future) doesn't exist at all.

The disillusioned Voter

Can one blame the Political Parties entirely for what has become of this Country? I have campaigned for the NDP for a lot of years, years ago.I guess I share the blame, as do most Canadians, some of us care, but quietly, respectfully, and not publicly , unless an issue comes knocking on OUR door. . The NDP always was known as the party of "The Little Guy", the Working person. We need a leader, someone with Fire in their belly,shouting in the Microphone, and meaning it ! ( I wonder what Barack Obama is doing after he gives up on the losers in the US ?) No one wants to get involved any more. They want the Government to solve their problems, and when they aren't solved they sulk, and open a beer. Apathy is killing this Country, and allowing our Canadianism to be stolen away .We were Peacekeepers, now we are killers, we were rescuers, now we need rescuing. If there is any hope for this Nation WE have to take part in that rescue, not stand on the bank watching as our Country drowns.