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How can the state of politics in America inform Canada's forthcoming election?

How can the state of politics in America inform Canada's forthcoming election?
Written by
Senior Vice-President, Public Affairs

Kevin Macintosh

Senior Vice-President

Written by
Content Lead and Webmaster

Rachel Moncada

Content Lead and Webmaster

It is an understatement to say the United States is ideologically split down the middle. The divide of the two solitudes only grows deeper as the country’s November election looms.

While Canada has competing visions, priorities, and approaches to politics, our pre-election discourse rarely reaches the rhetoric and vitriol found in the US. Though, no question, it can get awfully close at times.

As the November election approaches, growing uncertainty has descended on our American neighbours. Voters have grave concerns about both Biden and Trump. It is hard to imagine who the doubting voter will pick when neither campaign seems prepared to reach out to anyone who doesn't buy into what polarized opposites are selling. In an increasingly split landscape, the nuanced perspectives of moderate voters are overshadowed by the dominant voices advocating for more extreme positions. This shift turns the focus from seeking common ground to intensifying efforts to recruit support for one's distinct viewpoint. The politics of subtraction, so far, is the politics of the day.

In contrast, the recent passing of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney reminds about the power of the politics of addition. In 1984, Mulroney at the helm of the Progressive Conservatives won the election in a landslide, picking up 211 seats. It was the greatest election victory in Canadian history, pulling together a winning coalition of soft Quebec nationalists, urban, rural, Atlantic, and Western Canadian voters. He did it with one message: “Jobs, jobs, jobs”.

It is that sort of inclusive message that can speak to the widest cross-section of Canadians, that Prime Minister Trudeau, Mr. Poilievre, and Mr. Singh need to think long and hard about. Think bigger and wider rather than doubling down on the kind of division that is so rampant south of the border.

The forthcoming elections are shaping up to be quintessential "pocketbook" elections, where the economic concerns of citizens are at the forefront of the political battleground. In these elections, the everyday voter is not just a passive spectator but an active participant whose daily struggles with escalating food, gas, and housing prices are bound to drive their electoral choices. These voters, who have directly felt the sting of inflation and the pressure on their finances, will be looking for a leader who not only understands their plight but also presents a credible plan to alleviate their financial distress.

The leader who can convincingly promise to stop the economic pain and offer a beacon of hope, much like former Prime Minister Mulroney did, will be the one to garner the trust of the electorate. But it will require a political strategy that is inclusive and expansive—the politics of addition. It's about extending an open invitation to the electorate, signaling that everyone's concerns are valid and that no one will be left behind or ignored. It means rolling out the “Welcome” mat to voters from all walks of life, assuring them that their voices will be heard, and their problems addressed.

To achieve this, political leaders must put away the proverbial "Do Not Enter" sign that signals exclusivity and division.

Kevin Macintosh worked in the governments of Brian Mulroney between 1985 and 1993. Rachel Moncada has a background in political science and has previously worked in the federal public service.


Written by John Parisella

Brian Mulroney, Canada, and the United States
March 21, 2024