Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Left vs. Right since 1867

Since the days of the French Revolution, politics has been a conflict between left and right. While that might be a bit of a generalization, it is nevertheless true that over the years of our Canadian democracy politics has usually been divided into two general world views, one that is called the left and one that is called the right. These can be most easily summed up by the names of the two main Canadian parties: liberal for the left and conservative for the right.

Obviously, since 1867 the parties have changed and re-branded themselves. But, nevertheless, I thought it would be interesting to look at the voting behaviour of Canadians since 1867 as regards to those two poles of the political spectrum.

For this exercise, the left has included parties like the Liberals, Labour, CCF, NDP, Greens, and Bloc Québécois while the right has included parties like the Conservatives, Progressive Conservatives, Reform, Canadian Alliance, and Social Credit.

What we get is a picture of how left or right Canada has been since it's inception (which, by the way, is an awesome movie I saw last night).

Looking at the chart below, we see that Canada has, for the most part, voted left-wing with brief interludes to the right.From 1867 to 1930 it was a close-run contest, with either the left (at the time epitomized by the Liberals) or the right (epitomized by the Conservatives or Liberal-Conservatives) garnering the most electoral support. Until 1917 we can even say that the right had the advantage.

But things turned to the left's advantage in the 1920s and 1930s, with increased awareness about labour issues and the impact of the Great Depression. Mackenzie King's Liberals dominated during the 1930s and 1940s, with the left (now included the CCF) topping 60% until 1957.

From then until 1962 it was the right that held the advantage, but from that point until 1984 the left was in clear control, garnering anywhere from 55% to 65% support. Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservatives changed things in 1984, but since then the right has been in steady decline as more varied options appear on the left. Left-wing parties have earned more than 52% support since 1988, and have not been below 60% since 1993. Their vote, however, is declining a little, from a high of 69% in 2004 to 61% in 2008. The Conservatives, now alone on the right, have not had more than 38% support since 1988.

If we wanted to average things out in terms of epoch, it breaks down as follows:

From 1867 to 1882, when (at least Wikipedia's knowledge of) full results were spotty, the right averaged 37% compared to the left's 33%. This was the time of John A. MacDonald.

From 1887 to 1911, our pre-First World War period, the right still led with 48% support to the left's had 47% support. Our minds weren't made up at this time.

From 1917 to 1926, the post-war (yes, I know the war ended in 1918) and pre-depression period, the left dominated with 52% support to the right's 45%.

From 1930 to 1940, the depression era, not surprisingly the left increased it's lead to 55%, while the right garnered only 41%.

From 1945 to 1965, which I'll call the "good old days", the left held firm with 55% to the right's 42%.

From 1968 to 1980, the Trudeau years, the left absolutely dominated with 60% to the right's woeful 39%.

From 1984 to 1988, the Mulroney years, the gap narrowed to 50% for the left compared to 48% for the right.

From 1993 to 2000, the era of the split right, things got better for the left, with 61% to the right's 37%.

And from 2004 to 2008, our current time period, voters have sided with the left to the tune of 64% to Stephen Harper's average of 35%.

Food for thought. Obviously, in our system of first-past-the-post and multiple parties, this is really only academic. The right has formed government for a greater period of time than they have led public opinion. And, of course, the Liberals are more of a centrist party than a left-wing party. But, if Canadians are divided into two poles, it is interesting to see how they fall.


  1. Interesting Eric, thanks

    It also indicates, I think, that if we do go with some form of Prop Rep the country will shift significantly left ?

  2. Yes, but after the first election their could be a backlash as people see how the PR system works.

    And, as it will cause minority governments, the two main parties will be more likely to work together. That means that Canadian politics could instead be drawn more to the centre.

  3. Agreed to a point.

    I'd suggest that the left shift would be fairly constant under Prop Rep as the two main parties would realise that they have to cater to that left inclination. Indeed we could see the centre shift left which would accommodate your point.

  4. Eric,

    I'm not sure you can properly characterize the Liberal party as being a party of the "left", given that, throughout most of its history, it was the party of big business in Canada (which fact was reflected in the way it was financed).

    While one might point to the Trudeau era as being an example of left-wing Liberalism, it's not clear that the Trudeau-era Liberals were particularly left wing relative to the politics of their time (when, as Nixon put it, everyone was a Keynesian).

    Similarly, one would be hard-pressed to characterize the Liberal party of the 1990's and early 2000's as being a party of the left (since, at that time, they were arguably to the right of the old PC party). What was the description of the Chretien-Era Liberals: "campaign on the left, govern on the right".

    I think the problem with right/left characterization in Canada is that the Liberal party was always such a "big tent" party that it covered both the right and the left of the political spectrum.


  5. I think the problem with right/left characterization in Canada is that the Liberal party was always such a "big tent" party that it covered both the right and the left of the political spectrum.

    True enough Carl but it was always viewed, I'd say by a majority of the public, as being to the Left of the PC party. With the exception of the Mulroney era I think that is a pretty accurate description. Note I'm not saying left of centre which is a different thing to us.

    The other thing which is important is to point out that the Canadian centre is distinctly to the left of the US centre and really almost aligned with the old Labour Govt in the UK of the 60-80's.

  6. Eric has Quebec followed the same left-right path as Canada over the years ?

    Its certainly one of the most to the left these days.

    Interestingly for what's seen as a province on the left its the most supportive of abolishing the census in the new Ipsos Reid poll.

    Is abolishing the census a left wing issue ? Do Quebeckers not like giving information to the feds ? Is there a streak of Bernier style libertarianism in the province ?

    Either way one wonders if Harper has finally found a way to connect to voters in the province!

    Look to see the privacy arguement taking front and center for now on. This has turned into a winning issue for them.

  7. Shadow,

    I imagine Quebec's high rate of support for abolishing the mandatory long form stem from sovereigntists and other nationalists unhappy with giving the information to Ottawa.

    If the question was about a census done by the Quebec government, I imagine the result would be different. But I could be wrong.

  8. Here's how things were explained to me during my poli sci courses:

    In the early years of Confederation, the main divide was not Left-Right, but pro- or anti-US. Conservative support was drawn from people who were attached to the Empire, and from Quebec Catholics who distrusted the secular nature of the US. The Liberals were the party of free trade and closer ties to the US.

    Both parties had their left-wing and right-wing factions (which is why the term 'Red Tory' actually made sense at one time.)

    The classification of parties along left-right lines is really only relevant since WWII.

  9. I generally agree with you, but extended it to 1867 for giggles.

  10. A better way to get Canadians closer to centre IMO, would be for a Liberal/NDP merger. If we had only two major parties we would soon see who's really on the left vs. right.

    I think Carl sums up pretty well why the left/right dichotomy is not easily measured in Canadian politics, but it was an interesting post anyway Eric.

    IMHO we have no need for electoral reform. What we need are two clear choices, that battle over the centre. That would be best for Canada.

    (I forgot an added benifit of such a merger. The Bloc becomes more irrelevant then it altready is!)

  11. Peter,

    But saying the Liberal party is "left" of the PC party (a debatable proposition, at least during the heyday of red-toryism) doesn't make it a Left-wing party, which is I think what Eric's chart suggests.

    Part of the problem with Eric's left/right analysis is that it really doesn't work in a first-past-the-post system. In other political systems you can form governments with explicitly ideological parties (which is why European parliaments are usually filled with motley collections of communists, facists, nationalists, environmentalists, to say nothing of more mainstream conservative, liberal and labour/social democrat parties. In that case, it's pretty easy to hive off the "right" parties from the "left" parties (though, you still have a judgement call as to where to put the "liberal" parties - though in most European parliaments, they'd probably be on the right).

    In FPTP systems, though, that doesn't really work. Ideological purity is a recipe for political irrelevance because you can't get MPs elected (witness the fate of the NDP and the reform parties). Instead, in our system, successful parties have to put together coalitions of different groups BEFORE an election. And the best way to do that is to push yourself towards the center of the political spectrum in your country. That has always been the Canadian experience, it's always been the US experience (notwithstanding their rhetoric, there's often remmarkable continuity between the policies of the Republicans and the Democrats), and the UK experience (the UK is a bit odd in that the Labour party started out as an indeological third-party, to the mainstream Liberals and Conservatives, much like the NDP, and only slowly gravitated towards the center - although it has now made that transition).

    Given that, it's often hard to characterize members of those parties as being right or left. (Is John Manley a "left-winger" or David Orchard a "right-winger"? What about Blue-Dog Democrats, are they "left-wing" by US standards? Or are Rockefeller republicans - to the extent they still exist - "right-wing"?)

  12. Another problem with counting only the popular vote for left/right leanings is that for much of the last 50 years, excluding the Reform/CA era, the left has had a 2-1 advantage in the number of candidates, and in the amount of money they can spend.

    This is one reason I found the popular vote argument so weak during the coalition debate. If one side gets to run twice as many candidates, and spend twice as much, it stands to reason that they would win the popular vote.

    I'd like to see this broken down by % of seats in the HoC. That might paint a clearer picture.

  13. But saying the Liberal party is "left" of the PC party (a debatable proposition, at least during the heyday of red-toryism) doesn't make it a Left-wing party, which is I think what Eric's chart suggests.

    I thought I covered that with the remarks about the Mulroney era?

    Plus you have to read more carefully. I didn't say the Libs where to the left of the PC I said the public viewed them as being. Two different things IMO.

  14. Interesting analysis.

    I did something similar last year, but grouped the left as NDP+Green+Bloc from 1972 to present and compared it to economic ups and downs. Using that grouping, the left vote jumps considerably starting in 2004 and reaches a high point in 2008.

    That post is here:

  15. Peter, note, I didn't say that you said that the Liberals were a party of the Left, I said that Eric's chart suggested that. And it does.

  16. The modern Liberal party is a left-wing party only in the eyes of CPC supporters (and sometimes not even then). Not since Trudeau stepped down can the Liberals truly be said to have been a left-wing party.

    This analysis is specious.

  17. Right vs. left is all relative, Ira.

  18. And, anyway, this post is full of caveats. If you read the whole thing it's obvious I'm not drawing any serious conclusions. It's merely a comparison of the parties that are to the right and to the left of the political spectrum.

  19. Eric: "It's merely a comparison of the parties that are to the right and to the left of the political spectrum."

    Well, really it isn't, it's a comparison of parties that encompass the left through center-right of the political spectrum with parties that encompass the right and center (or center-left, at times) of the political spectrum). And while I realize you aren't drawing any serious conclusions on this point, some people seem to think that they can, since that was the thinking (such as it was) behind the merger talks between the NDP and Liberals that flared up (and out) last month.

  20. Carl

    I didn't say the Libs where to the left of the PC I said the public viewed them as being. Two different things IMO.

    Again somebody on here tries to twist my words. I'm getting a little fed up with the "spin" we seem afflicted with.

    Carl that statement refers not to Eric's work but to public perception assisted by the current CPC.

  21. I think that it would be safe to characterize todays Liberal Party as left-of centre. It's in the Chretien years that this notion doesn't hold up.

    That being said, there are probably quite a few Liberal voters that could be considered right-of-centre. These could be picked off by the CPC, were it not for fears of the dreaded "hidden agenda".

    Harper is somtimes a liability with these types too. He's starting to get quite a long record of mistakes/heavy-handedness.
    (accomplishments too, of course)

  22. Peter:

    "The other thing which is important is to point out that the Canadian centre is distinctly to the left of the US centre and really almost aligned with the old Labour Govt in the UK of the 60-80's."

    It is one thing to say that the the centre in Canadian politics is to the left of that in the US. That much is obvious. To even begin to compare the the centre in Canada with the British Labour Party of 1960-1980 indicates a profound ignorance of the facts.

    The British Labour Party of that era was a creature of the unions who ran it. It was economically inept and had to resort to currency controls to maintain some control over it exchange rate. The Labour party of that era advocated and did nationalize major industry like steel. Canada's centre as represented by either the Liberals or Conservatives has never advocated those kinds of policies. The closest we came to that kind of intervention was price and wage controls which were also featured in the US at approximately the same time.

    I agree with Carl that the Liberals can't be called left wing. If we go back through Canada's history we have two centrist parties who changed places from time to time. On occasion the Liberal would govern more from the left or the right. The same might be said of the Conservatives.

    The current Conservatives are hardly hard right either in social or economic policy. In each budget they have increased program spending far in excess of the rate of inflation. They have not significantly changed any social policies and have agreed to end the Afghan mission in 2011. The Liberals are having considerable difficulty producing different policy and have had to be content with attacking the current government around the margins.

  23. A former Deputy chief-of-staff to Stephen Harper with some good advice on the census issue.

    Nice smackdown Earl. I'm sure many Canadian conservatives have a big soft spot for the Iron Lady.

    Maybe soon David Cameron might get added to that list.

  24. The Labour party of that era advocated and did nationalize major industry like steel.

    Conveniently forgetting Petro-Canada, NEP and a few other things, eh?

    I agree with Carl that the Liberals can't be called left wing.

    Again you can't read. I said the public perceives them as Left. That's way different from the actuality.

    That said the Libs are at least in social policy to the left of the CPC. In fiscal policy they are to the right.

    The current CPC, not having a majority, have to tread a careful line. Give them a majority and watch the social policy reverse drastically, the financial policy become a Mike Harris nightmare.

    But if that's what you want, go for it.

  25. Peter - I would suggest that the government would shift left regardless of the voters' preferences if we had proportional representation. PR would produce more minority governments, and minority governments tend (there's tons of historical data on this worldwide) to be bigger governments as they constantly pander for votes.

    And that pandering will generally serve to make government bigger. A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul.

  26. AJR79 are you kidding ? Keith Beardsley's advice on this is way off.

    He's plainly contradicted by this poll:

    Tony Clement has bungled the communications surrounding the census issue but that's not necessarily his fault. He's the minister, not the communications team.

    Instead of biting the bullet and reversing themselves they should amplify the libertarian argument about the gov't not having the right to force people to answer personal, private questions.

    49% of people support this decision, including Quebeckers and young people!

    Those are people way outside the Tory base. This is a great chance to reach out to new voters.

    Note: I'm only discussing the politics of this, not the substance of whether or not I think its a good decision. I suspect Beardsley think its a bad decision and that's clouding his political judgment.

    He's listened too much to the elites and not ordinary Canadians.

  27. Petro Canada was a state owned oil company that bought out several privately owned oil companies at often inflated prices. Petro Canada competed against privately owned oil companies. Canada didn't nationalize any industry, unlike Labour which did nationalize steel and others. Even the NDP no longer wants to nationalize industry. Canada's centre is uniquely Canadian. The only secret agenda is the minds of Harper haters who imagine some vast conspiracy to alter Canada. As Mike Harris demonstrated so well, bad decisions are easily undone. Dalton McGuinty is now demonstrating the same thing.

  28. Peter,

    I think your reference to Mike Harris only proves my point. Tell me, when the Ontario Liberals took office, did they reverse any of Mike Harris' tax cuts? (Answer: No, but they did cut corporate tax rates). Did they reverse his welfare cuts (Answer: No. They increased welfare rates last year, but only after letting inflation eat away at them for 8 years. In real terms, welfare rates in Ontario are the same as they were in 2003 and lower than they were when Mike Harris was in charge). The Mike Harris example just proves the point that, in many respects, the ideological differences between the Liberals and the Tories are one of style not substance.

    As for the claim that the public perceives the Liberals as being left wing, what's the basis for that proposition?

  29. "The Labour party of that era advocated and did nationalize major industry like steel.

    Conveniently forgetting Petro-Canada, NEP and a few other things, eh?"

    .... Petro Canada is one company.... with a relatively small market share in petroleum (and even less in the west) as compared to the UK nationalizing most of the steel....

    And as for the NEP. The Liberals still haven't recovered in the west since then. In the last election the green shift was compared (rightly or wrongly) to the NEP. The liberals took only 7 seats out of 92 west of Ontario (which arguably benefited form the NEP).... 5 were in Vancouver, and the other 2 in the biggest cities of sask and manitoba. That is hardly a ringing endorsement of the people for the nationalization of companies.

    (whoops there was another 1/3 in the north that depends on local politics I don't know about)

    So how left wing are Canadians, Peter, when with a program like the NEP you can take from the few to benefit the many??? And then get only the votes of those you benefited/bought?

    Now that I think about it,... that is the definition, isn't it? I guess I will have to yeild on this one then.

  30. Shadow,

    I don't have any strong feelings about the census change. If that poll is correct, I wouldn't mind them sticking to their guns.

    I do think it's a bit of a silly change, (costs more for less valuable information), but also think it's critics have overblown its effects.

    I know that conservatives are not universally applauding the move, but the demographics break down of that poll is interesting. I can't imagine that this will lead to a break-thru in Quebec thou.

  31. We also see the problem with the left/right characterization with the Bloc. On one hand, if you look at many of its policies, you have no trouble characterizing the Bloc as a left-wing party. Then again, it was largely founded by former conservative MPs. And nationalism has often been the domain of the the hard-right. Part of the drop in "right-wing" support between 1988 and 1993 was because the people who voted for "right-wing" conservative MPs in 1988 voted for "left-wing" Bloc MPs in 1993 even though, in some cases, those were the self-same MPs. Now you can either argue that those MPs were not "right-wing" in the first place or that the Bloc really doesn't fit neatly into the left-right spectrum (being a socially-democratic nationalist party) or that a bunch of Tory MPs had a change of heard and became lefties, but none of those argument are really all that plausible. (Granted, since 1993 many of the conservative elements of the Bloc have since left, making it far more distinctly a "left-wing" party, although there's still one or two old Tory Bloc MPs kicking around).

  32. Re: Carl
    "As for the claim that the public perceives the Liberals as being left wing, what's the basis for that proposition?"

    I don't think anyone's ever bothered to make such a poll. But is anyone here willing to make such a claim? Or point to evidence that shows the broader public believes something that they themselves don't believe? If not, it ought to be a moot point.

    Re: Barcs
    "So how left wing are Canadians, Peter, when with a program like the NEP you can take from the few to benefit the many?"

    That's pretty much what this is really about. Not about Liberals. (Or the Bloc) The advocates here are objecting to the blog post by saying that the public does not see parties that are to the left of their preferred party as being either left, (Or even to-the-left) of the CPC.

    That way you can say that the larger public is not to the the left of their government, hey choose to vote for.

    I'm pretty sure I'm usually found to be arguing that the Liberals are in the center in Canada, and that I'm usually arguing this point against Conservative supporters. (Thanks for switching things up Eric!) I'd also say that their are a variety of concerns that aren't ideology driving votes for parties.

    But outside of Charest/Cretien comparisons, I have trouble seeing points in modern history where anyone could say that the PCs were actually to the left of the LPC. (Pre-Trudeau, sure)

    Still, I do agree with many of the points raised. I don't think the graph really reflects much about the issues in Canadian politics.

  33. The problem here is that the "left" was often successful when it governed from the centre. Mackenzie King (this analysis could apply to Chretien too), for instance, was probably one of Canada's most conservative prime ministers. He was a pro-American free trader who opposed big government (government spending was lower in 1948 as he left office than in 1921 when he first became PM, despite the Depression and WWII).

    Canadian politics has not historically been about left and right. It has been about core vs. periphery and English vs. French.
    The Tories were the party of protectionist core interests (eg. Southern Ontario) that preferred to trade with mother England. The Liberals were the party of peripheral interests that preferred trade with the US (they used to do better than the Tories in the west).

    A key reversal of these roles started with Diefenbaker, who brought westerners decidedly into the Tory tent. The result of this was that the Tories became increasingly pro-American and less red Toryish (ironic because Dief was a red Tory). This culminated in the 1988 election, which saw the Tories run for the same proposal they had opposed tooth and nail in the famous 1911 reciprocity election.

    Your definition does not give left and right a stable meaning over time, and as such, is not useful. I propose a different measure. Consider right to mean support for less government, and left to mean support for more government. Use the Queen's Historical Macroeconomic dataset and discuss its evolution over time.

    You see stability from 1871-1910. Borden and Meighen expanded the size of government considerably from 1911-1921, but Mackenzie King rolled some of this back.

    There was a second surge in the first half of the Depression under Bennett, followed by a decline as Mackenzie King returned to office once again. Of course WWII put an end to that.

    In the postwar era, there was consistent growth in the size of government under every Prime Minister. The dataset does not include Chretien, but the graph below does. Chretien reduced government modestly, but it began to rise once again under Harper.

  34. One alternate measure you might consider would be government spending as a % of GDP. Support for small government could give you a stable metric of the right. While such a measure doesn't directly measure public opinion, it certainly does so indirectly. Governments need to get elected, after all.

    The Queen's University Historical Macroeconomic Dataset has the relevant data going back to 1871. They stop in 1994, but you could probably continue the series with OECD data (though I don't think the two are 100% comparable).

    If you are curious about the post-1950 series, this is it in graph form:

  35. "But outside of Charest/Cretien comparisons, I have trouble seeing points in modern history where anyone could say that the PCs were actually to the left of the LPC. (Pre-Trudeau, sure)"

    There are a number of instances where the Tories ran to the left of the Liberals, even post-1968. Off the top of my head, the following comes to mind:

    1. The FLQ crisis
    While Trudeau didn't care about a few bleeding hearts, Stanfield sure did. He joined the NDP in criticizing the attack on civil rights.

    2. Wage and Price controls
    This was the big issue of the 1974 election. Stanfield was for 'em, while Trudeau was against "zap, you're frozen!" (although he implemented them while in office).

    3. Decriminalization of marijuana
    Joe Clark ran on a platform that included the decriminalization of marijuana... IN 1979.

    4. The GST
    While sales taxes are regressive, and the GST was a replacement of the MST, the language employed by the Liberals in the GST debate was certainly one that came from the anti-tax right.

    5. Healthcare cuts
    Charest promised to reverse Chretien's deficit-cutting (when in Canadian history has a government ever engaged in this kind of fiscal austerity).

    In many ways, even under Harper, the Tories are sometimes on the left. Think about the income trust debate (the Liberals advocated lower taxes on income trusts in 2008); the Liberals advocated for regressive income tax cuts over progressive sales tax cuts in 2006; alternately, Ignatieff appears more supportive than Harper of extending operations in Afghanistan.

  36. Kevin Sutton I think the Liberals are seen as a bit more "left" than you're letting on.

    Second choice polling indicates that the NDP is prefered for Liberal voters far, far more than the CPC.

    Dion was seen as shifting the party left (although the trend started under Martin who spent more freely than Chretien.)

    And the coalition agreement was seen as an agreement amongst a progressive majority with a shared agenda.

    Ignatieff was believed to be more in the center and for awhile he tried to pull the party back to the middle by doing things like defending the oil sands.

    However, he's now seen as being held hostage by the Quebec caucus after the immigration reform debacle.

    The CPC is seen as having occupied the center of Canadian life and shifted it to the right a little.

    That's just the opinion of the media pundits i'm repeating.

    As you say nobody has done any public opinion polling on the question "where on the politcal spectrum to the liberals fall, left, right or center ?"

    But the elite opinion seems to be that the Liberals are a progressive party. I'd wager a lot of the public sees things the same way.

  37. AJR79 i'll freely admit the census situation isn't optimal.

    Most of the increased costs come from a public education campaign to get people to fill out the census.

    Meanwhile the Tories are running a political campaign to discredit the census.

    Kinda contradictory eh ?

    Scrapping the education campaign would be a good idea.

    Keep the mandatory requirement for people to fill out the census would be good too. If people don't want to answer a question they see as instrusive every line should include the option of:

    "I choose not to respond".

    That way everyone is still filling out the census, no education campaign is needed, and nobody is forced to answer questions they don't want to !

    Spending more is just plain silly and these public education campaigns are always of extremely dubious value.

  38. Great job for putting all the numbers together. There's one thing however that's not there - the "none of the above" line. In 1993, voter turnout was 75% - and that's when we had 2 new parties (the Bloc and the Reform) emerging. By 2008, the turnout plummeted to 61%, so the actual numbers were ~38% for the left, 23% for the right and 39% - none of the above.

  39. >It also indicates, I think, that if
    >we do go with some form of Prop Rep
    >the country will shift significantly left?
    It will, but not that significantly. With vote splitting no longer a factor, we'll see some of the non-voting right coming back and resurrecting the Reform while on the left, it will be the same voters merely switching their allegiance from the Liberals to the NDP and the Greens. So, while the legislature will be dominated by the left it's not going to be 60:40, but rather 53:47 or so.

  40. Eric,

    I would point out another couple flaws in reasoning, but I'll attempt to not rehash what others have said.

    First - in a First Past the Post system, people will often vote for a candidate regardless of the party affiliation. This may skew the data.

    Second - as others have noted, neither the Conservatives or the Liberals have been consistently right or left over time, and as such would give unreliable results in your graphing.

    Third - I would point out that people do not necessarily swing right or left as hard as your graphic seems to suggest, leading to the conclusion that your graphic would be suspect.

    Fourth - My last point is that in the US, self-identified conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals 2 to 1, with the remaining 40% not self-identifying (the poll was approx 40:20). GOP vs DEM usually comes out around 50/50. While Canada is not exactly the same as the US, I think that it's fair to say that many people in the centre are unaffiliated and as such will swing depending on "throwing the bums out" or the leader at the helm of a party. This too skews your data.

    What would be more helpful is if a pollster did the same analysis in Canada without using "conservative" or "liberal" to find out where the country actually is. I'm sure it would surprise us both.

  41. Given that the posts and analyses I read here are usually of high-quality, I'm rather disappointed by this one. This analysis seems to be based on the flimsy premise that "everyone left of the dominant conservative party at the time = left-wing." To group the likes of Chretien's Liberals and McDonough's New Democrats together under the heading of "left-wing," while grouping the likes of Clark's PCs and Day's Alliance under under the heading of "right-wing" gives an impression of a bankruptcy of nuance and understanding of the true nature of Canada's political parties, their evolutions and ideologies. I know that this isn't true of Éric, but this examination of Canada's left and right is a rare miss.

    Peter's assertion that this analysis is valid because "that's how the public perceives it" is also laughable. Most Americans probably regard Republicans as fiscally responsible and Democrats as big spenders (though for the past half-century, the opposite has been true), but that doesn't mean that we should base what is *supposed* to be sound political analysis on public perceptions that are flawed and uninformed.

  42. Daniel, I'll agree there are some problems with this post, but I wouldn't call it an analysis. I explained, I think, pretty clearly how this had to be taken with a big grain of salt.

    But I'll also admit that I was searching for something to write about, and thought this might be fun. I'm sorry it didn't meet your expectations.

    However, I was reading in a G&M article today how Liberal leader St. Laurent used to call the old CCF "Liberals in a hurry". So the idea that those two parties have more in common than Conservatives (and their forebears) is nothing new.


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