Canada's upcoming elections: Coke vs. Pepsi political taste challenge

Derek Monroe
Derek Monroe is a writer/reporter and consultant based in Illinois, USA. He has reported on international and US foreign policy issues from Latin America, Poland, Japan, Iraq, Ukraine, Sri Lanka and India. His work appeared in Foreign Policy in Focus, Alternet, Truthout and Ohmynews, and has been published in over 20 countries.
Conservative leader and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper pauses while speaking during a campaign event at a factory in Stittsville, Ontario September 13, 2015. © Chris Wattie
The obsessed world of American political coverage features a clown contest for the non-existent soul of the American right (Republicans) vs. establishment of pragmatic liberalism that stands for nothing (Democrats), but there is one place completely ignored.

It is a complete and unnerving conspiracy of silence on upcoming elections taking place just north of the border in Canada. The Oct 19th elections to be held in the world's second largest country appear on the surface to be a sea change in politics as usual.

As the outcome is predicted to be largely influenced by the end of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's conservative wet dream of creating a new petro-state, the project of building oil sand castles confronted with vagaries of the global oil market turned out to be a pipe dream without the pipeline. Canada's Conservatives suffered their biggest foreign policy defeat when the Obama administration decided not to approve the climate killing Keystone XL pipeline that on an economic front would help them end their reliance on the US market as its sole customer.

The proposed alternative of building a pipeline to the west coast and financed by China's Sinopec was effectively vetoed by US pressure, making Canada look not only less sovereign but economically more integrated into a system that knows better what is good for it. The cynicism of Canadian public opinion was further reinforced by tragedy in Lac Megantic in Quebec where a US-based rail company's negligence resulted in town destruction due to an industrial accident that took 47 lives and was completely preventable.

On the political front, the Conservatives are watching a farcical play of political scandal over expenses that exposed their 12 year rule as an economic Potemkin village of a huge real estate bubble, declining real incomes and diminishing international stature.

Harper's nonsensical stand with Israel and cooperation with the US in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as War on Terror's extraordinary rendition program destroyed a largely positive image of Canada on the international stage. Its newly proposed law curtailing dissent while using hate speech legislation is not only unprecedented but it would put Canada on a list of countries violating its citizens and media freedoms while achieving just the opposite.

Demonstrators gather protesting against high housing prices for single family homes in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, May 23, 2015. © Jim Jeong

While dreaming of a "special relationship" with the US, and not unlike illusions of the same between the US and the UK, Canada effectively became a member of a new commonwealth based on forced pragmatism as practiced by the "Coalition of the Willing" set up. Its national and economic interests took a second seat to the projected windfall that is often contrary to what was originally set out leaving its members holding the bag as is the case with the current migrant crisis in Europe.

Traditionally Canada’s parliamentary system mimics the American duopoly as the power was passed on between the Liberals and the Conservatives. However due to worldwide watering down of what liberal or labor traditionally meant and its resulting migration to the right of center, the Canadian system increasingly mirrors the US in spirit and increasingly in essence. For the first time the money became the controller of the electoral cycle while Harper’s home base in Alberta reinforced with oil money shifted the Canadian politics to the right.

As a result, the economic downturn resulted in a rude awakening to the country that almost overnight found itself reeling from a triple whammy of lower oil prices, a drastically declining industrial base and a real estate bubble just about to pop.

In the growing public sentiment of “enough is enough” with the duopoly, the new and improved “left" of The New Democratic Party emerged as leader in the political horse race. As it originally emerged from its Western origins of socialist and social democratic groupings, it went mainstream with promises of turning left when it comes to corporate taxes and other social agendas while dropping the unfashionable title of "socialist" in the process.

However, when it comes to major economic policies including money's influence over the political system i.e. the oil and special interest money, the NDP is basically a reincarnation of the previous liberal failure to present a coherent vision of change that works for ordinary Canadians. It rides a widely held sentiment of an ABC approach ("Anything-but-Conservative") but whether this sentiment can last until Oct 19th - it remains to be seen.

Unlike their counterparts to the south, the Conservatives are more consolidated and are more coherent ideologically than either Liberals or the NDP. Harper plays on dominant fears and ideology that deal with the politics of identity such as ideas that mass immigration is stealing Canadian jobs while appealing to the base of older, whiter and richer, all demographics with higher voter turnouts.

The left is disunited and in affect the ABC approach leads to further fragmentation which is a recipe for failure in a country with electoral politics based on a colonial and settler foundation as its core.

As the recent victory of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK shows, the party leadership does make a difference in shaping the central narrative and policies. Unfortunately in Canada the quality of personality recognition, despite its obvious downsides, is currently in the conservative camp and if the Canadians won't look beyond the marketing, it will make the Harper administration the longest serving in Canada's history.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.