With an election behind us, Canada is becoming more politically & economically polarized than ever before

Less divisive politics will require change from voters and party leaders

Canadian federal politics are headed towards division and alienation.

Canadian federal elections have slowly become more polarized and divisive, and candidates have become less appealing. As this change has occurred, voter turnout has decreased since the mid-1980s.

Although voter numbers have fluctuated since then, they have stayed consistently under the 75 per cent recorded in 1984 and fallen to as low as 60.9 per cent in the 2004 federal election. There’s no one specific answer for this low turnout, but there are certain societal changes that can potentially shed light on this phenomenon.

Sometimes the biggest reason for changing voter turnout and election polarization is party leaders. Currently, the major party leaders are Jagmeet Singh of the New Democratic Party (NDP), Erin O’Toole of the Progressive Conservatives (PC), and the current Prime Minister under the Liberals, Justin Trudeau.

Although the three major federal parties used to represent very specific values, they’ve changed over the last few decades. They’ve arguably become more jumbled and confusing from an ideological standpoint.

Many citizens see the casting of a vote as a metaphorical dedication to a party, and a devotion to a leader that will use the power they have to create a positive democratic society. Parties that are confusing or populist can cause voters to feel alienated or as though they have no true leader they wish to cast a vote for, causing a lower turnout.

The NDP has been historically regarded as the “socialist” party in Canada—the most leftist of the three major parties—and a party focused on the middle and lower classes of society. The current leader, Jagmeet Singh, has struggled to gain a following because of a slow start to campaigning and voter alienation among important groups.

Justin Trudeau is another leader who’s preached about truly being for the people but carries a dishonest and shady past with him. From the SNC-Lavalin affair to his unclear and contradictory relations with China, he comes across as a wishy-washy and unreliable leader.

O’Toole is potentially a more viable candidate as he’s been pushing the conservatives towards a more centrist stance. He has claimed “there is no place for the far right” in his party while also expressing values one wouldn’t usually hear from a Conservative leader in the past.

With this said, Trudeau began much in the same way. In my opinion, he seemed like a refreshing new leader, someone to truly make a difference in Canada after the Harper years. Looking at him now, it doesn’t feel as though he fulfilled these expectations. This makes it difficult not to wonder if O’Toole, or any Canadian politician, for that matter, could follow the same trajectory.

Politicians can make a plethora of promises and vows to Canadians, but these promises aren’t always fulfilled once they’re in office.

As a neutral and centrist voter, I believe a truly positive leader would be one who balances the social needs of society, but also factors in the genuine economic and logical concerns of the nation. Simply put, a leader that’s a hybrid of the three that currently exist.

Political parties are made by citizens to create a society that’s a level playing field, but these same parties end up widening the same socioeconomic gaps they vowed to shrink, creating a sad paradox.

While this political mire slowly divides Canada, those who rely the most on the government are being left behind.

Canadians who experience financial hardship deal with a precarious job market and uncertain futures. In Canada today, the lower class is barred entry to the higher tiers of society.

Socioeconomic disparities can be linked back to the election because the government is ultimately the only entity that can make a difference. Unfortunately, after COVID-19,  we seem to be going in a direction that will only further divide society both ideologically and economically.

Canadian politics seem to be less about what’s right and more about who’s the loudest. In the same way majority populations crowded out minorities in elections in past decades, we now have majority groups of upper-class “activists” who focus their politics on what will make them most popular in their socioeconomic and social groups.

In the age of performative activism, where posting on your story about how you’re making a difference is far more common than genuinely making a difference, elections have turned into popularity contests and shouting matches as opposed to what they were first created for: true democracy.

The future of democracy and our country depends on younger generations and their participation in shaping the Canadian government. With so many politicians and parties causing people to feel alienated, one can hope that this will lead our generation’s youth to speak up and take action.

Hopefully, this vacuum that’s been created will open the gates for a new era of leaders who focus on truly making a difference for all of society instead of pursuing the interests of a select few.

Dante Caloia is a third-year political studies student.

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