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The Left Rises in the Anglosphere

Walter Russell Mead

The last couple of years have seen a rightward drift in the Anglosphere, with Australia, New Zealand, and the UK all having elected center-right governments. Even in the U.S., the GOP dominated the 2014 off-years, and is now by many measures at its strongest in almost 100 years.

But there is another trend—of the left going further left. In the UK, the Labour Party’s leadership race has taken a leftwards turn with the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn. And in Canada, the left-wing New Democratic Party has been outperforming the Liberals and stunned the nation by winning the last election in Alberta. Now Canada’s ruling Conservative party is trying to retain power over rising opposition by enacting the country’s longest election cycle (78 days) since Queen Victoria. The NYT reports on Conservative PM Stephen Harper’s decision to start campaign season early:

By law, Mr. Harper had to hold a vote in October. But he broke with Canadian political tradition by formally opening the campaign in the middle of summer during what is a holiday weekend in most of the country. The move appeared designed to give the Conservative Party an edge in campaign spending […]

Recent polls have placed the New Democrats in the lead, slightly ahead of the Conservatives, although the three major parties have been roughly tied over the past few months.

In a country where summer can be all too brief, it is rare for politicians to call elections early unless forced to do so.

“It’s against all the folklore of Canadian politics to call an election in the summer,” said C.E.S. Franks, a prominent parliamentary scholar and professor emeritus at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. “Doing that when people are on their docks, not thinking about politics — I can see it being about as welcome as a root canal.”

Harper’s bid for a fourth term as prime minister will show what to expect of the political climate in Canada going forward. Though the NDP presently enjoys a small lead in the polls, the picture is mixed. In both Canada and Australia, a long period of economic strength has been sputtering to a close as the commodity cycle turns negative. Canadian and Australian dollars have both gone from parity with the greenback in 2011 to $0.76 and $0.73, respectively, this morning—and Canada is one more month of contraction away from entering a technical recession. The country’s economy will surely be on Canadians’ minds as they take to the polls.

So Americans trying to read the tea leaves for 2016 should watch Canada for clues: does the NDP continue to outpoll the Liberals? Do the Conservatives stage a comeback? One thing we can envy in our neighbors to the north is a short campaign season: that the two-and-a-half month run-up to the elections is the nation’s longest in over a century makes our season look especially long.

Like Australia, Canada is a rising power. Its population is growing—and it’s attracting smart and well-educated immigrants from around the world. Its extraordinary natural resource base will make it an energy superpower in the 21st century, even as that also puts the country front and center in the climate debate. And as more attention turns to the Arctic, Canada has a huge stake in, for example, relations with Russia.

Whoever wins in October, look for Canada to continue to build a larger international profile. From a U.S. point of view, the rise of Canada, like the rise of Australia, is a good thing. Even though we may disagree on some issues, Canadians and Americans, overall, see eye to eye on many of the world’s most important questions.

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