The Americanization of Canadian Party Politics

(Graham Hughes /The Canadian Press

Justin Trudeau, the potential next federal Liberal leader of Canada, is thought to be employing similar methods used by President Obama during the president’s extremely successful bid for democratic nomination and, ultimately, his election and re-election.

Though the political systems of Canada and the United States are fundamentally different and have vastly different ways of electing party leaders, the Canadian system appears to be taking a page out of the American system’s playbook. Historically (and currently for the Canadian Conservatives and New Democratic Parties), the selection of a party leader in Canada has been to hold a vote wherein only the registered party elites may partake in the selection of the leader. In the United States, however, it is through popular vote of registered party members to determine the leader of the party.

The Liberal party has seemingly abandoned the elitist route. With the creation of “supporters” (any registered voter in any district regardless of affiliation or dues), the Liberal party may be able to follow the Obama campaign’s footprint and garner huge amounts of early popular vote before the April leader selection and the October 2015 federal election.

Where this plan is different, however, is that the Obama campaign recognized that they would never win the elites (who were loyal to the Clinton clan), so they turned to the popular vote and excited young people, minorities, and many others. There is no such evidence, to date, to suggest that Trudeau is going to have the same difficulties with winning over the elites. The idea is nevertheless genius as it creates early excitement, draws people out to the polls, and gives the Liberal party the attention and commitment it has been sorely lacking as the third party out.

The faltering Liberal party needs a leader who can re-ignite its constituents. The Liberal middle party is set between the Canadian Conservatives and the NDPs. It claims to hold middle ground, but lacks a supporter base in its current state. Whether it is an ideological overhaul, new leader or unexpected plan from the Liberals, they Liberal party of Canada needs something to become relevant once again and occupy their historically held place as either the dominant or opposition party in Canadian politics.

Source: Team Trudeau: Taking a Page Out of Obama’s Playbook, Globe & Mail

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