On the weekend I started the annual ritual of reviewing the year that was, as I posted my two-part view of the winners and losers of 2019. It’s become part of what we do at the end of the year, looking back to reflect on what’s happened to see what we’ve learned for the year to come. But this year end is unique, in the sense that it’s also the end of a decade.
The 2010’s has been a big decade when it’s come to our politics and a lot has happened over this 10-year period that has had a big effect on us all, for better for worse. We’ve seen some big political figures and big moments that rippled for years afterwards. So in the same spirit as my review of 2019, I felt it made sense to look back at the top 10 moments, people and phenomena of the 2010’s (in two parts as well, you can read about numbers 5 through 1 here). Without any further adieu, here is the first part of this sites review, starting with numbers 10 through 6:
- 10. Elizabeth May and the Green Party: Going into the 2010’s, the Green Party of Canada had never elected a single MP, MPP, MLA, MHA, MNA, nothing at the federal or provincial level. The party was further off to the fringes and hadn’t come close to getting a seat anywhere. When Elizabeth May became federal Green leader, she made multiple attempts to win. She ran in a by-election in London and lost. She then struck a deal with Stéphane Dion to not run a candidate in Central Nova in Nova Scotia in 2008 as she tried to beat Conservative Cabinet Minster Peter MacKay, losing again. As we came into the 2010’s one had to wonder if the Green team would ever have their breakthrough. That finally came in the 2011 Federal Election, with May winning for the first time in Saanich-Gulf Islands, beating Conservative cabinet minister Gary Lunn. While that break through hasn’t brought a flood of Green seats, it did show it could be done and has lead to some Green wins. They now have three MPs in the House of Commons, three MLA’s in BC and New Brunswick, are official Opposition on Prince Edward Island and even elected their first MPP in Ontario. As they go into the next decade, they will go into a leadership race that will have a lot to say about if this growth continues or not, but as we end the 2010’s, the growth of the Greens has had an effect on the political landscape in Canada.
- 9. The State of Quebec’s Sovereigntist Parties: For many generations now, one constant in our political discourse has been Quebec Sovereignty and national unity. There have been moments where it has been a hotter issue, like during the two referendum on the topic in Quebec, but whether it’s been at a high point or low, the main parties that have pushed this point of view had remained constant. The Parti Quebecois has been a force in Quebec politics since it’s creation in the 1970’s, becoming one of two natural governing parties in the province, bringing leaders like Rene Levesque, Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard into greater national prominence. In the 1990’s, we saw the rise of the Bloc Quebecois in Ottawa, the federal cousin of the PQ that was supposed to push for Quebec Sovereignty in the House of Commons for a period of time. But instead of only being there for a short while, they were a fixture in the House for two decades, holding large numbers of seats in Quebec and having a big impact in the math to former majority governments. In the 2010’s though, this changed in a big way for both parties. In 2011, we saw the Orange Wave sweep over Quebec, bringing Jack Layton’s NDP 59 seats in Quebec, reduced the BQ to 4 seats and even saw the defeat of BQ leader Gilles Duceppe. It wasn’t until the 2019 campaign when the BQ recovered to get official party status, but it was nationalism and Bill 21, not sovereignty, that brought them that. As for the PQ, they briefly held a minority government under the leadership of Pauline Marois, but beyond that, the party continued to see it’s numbers fall, both in the polls and seat totals. We saw the rise of parties like the CAQ, which was trying to move beyond the sovereignty discussion, and Quebec Solidaire, which while sovereigntist, put emphasis more on social issues from the left. As a result, by the end of this decade, the PQ has found itself as the fourth party in the National Assembly, without official party status, without a leader and wondering where it’s future lays. In the 2010’s they seismic shifts we’ve seen in our politics in Canada, and in the Province of Quebec, have come mostly at the expense of the Parti Quebecois and Bloc Quebecois and two parties that seemed to be juggernauts firmly holding large parts of the electorate thanks to sovereignty have been the source gains for others.
- 8. The Myth and the Legend of Ford Nation: It’s interesting to see where people that leave big influences in Canadian politics come from and how they come to leave their mark. Going into the 2010’s, no one would have thought that Rob Ford would be one such person or that “Ford Nation” would become a thing, yet here at the end of this decade, it’s hard to imagine it otherwise. So much of politics in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and the Conservative Party came to revolve around the late one-term Mayor of Toronto and the insanity that revolved around him. We saw Ford build a voter coalition that went beyond traditional Tory voters that Conservatives everywhere have been trying to replicate, a populism that has become much more prevalent in the political discourse (not for the better) and a different approach to elections that none of the progressive parties have really figured out how to respond to. Since 2010 and his election, we’ve seen major conservative leaders seeking to have the Ford’s blessing. We saw Stephen Harper as Prime Minister making sure to be seen at the infamous Ford Fest and we saw how Andrew Scheer’s attempts to distance himself from Ford’s brother, Ontario Premier Doug, affected his 2019 campaign. And yeah, while Doug Ford couldn’t ride Rob’s coattails to the Mayor’s seat himself, he did ride them to become the Premier of Ontario, something we’re all feeling the effects of today. We even saw Ford’s widow Renata try to ride them to Ottawa, as she ran for Maxime Bernier’s PPC in the Fall election. Right up to the end of this decade, the battle to show who is the heir to Ford Nation continues, which speaks to it’s effect. If you want to point to a disrupter in Canadian politics, is there a better example that speaks to that term than Rob Ford? Well past his passing the effect of Ford Nation, real or otherwise, continues and seems to be ready to continue into the 2020’s.
- 7. Stephen Harper: We came into the 2010’s with Stephen Harper leading the Conservatives in their second minority government, seemingly blocked in the attempt to get the precious majority. While Harper had consolidated areas in the west and rural areas in Ontario, getting seats in the vote-rich GTA and Quebec remained illusive. But for Harper, getting this far was already an achievement, having united the fractious Conservative moment under one party and holding it together. In the 2010’s, Harper would finally get his majority before going to down to defeat in 2015, but his impact has been felt for the entire decade for reasons that many might not have expected. For starters, he created an international institute to try to spread his views around the World, which has made for some awkward moments. And a lot of his policies have survived his defeat, including his climate change targets that the Liberals attacked for a long time, yet have never moved away from. But maybe the biggest impact of Harper’s legacy is now just starting to be seen in the wake of Andrew Scheer’s resignation. Over his more than a decade as leader of the reunited Conservative Party, Harper managed to hold that coalition together as a united force. Given how that unity seems to be seriously fraying right now and threatens to blow apart in the upcoming Conservative leadership race, that feat of keeping them all together for so long makes that achievement of Harper’s look more impressive. If the last Conservative leadership race was about trying to separate itself from the Harper name and legacy, it will be interesting to see how it’s seen in this one. Regardless of the result, one mark of a successful leader is the longevity of his or her name and their influence. On that score, it’s hard to ignore Stephen Harper.
- 6. The Environment and Climate Change: Going into the 2010’s, many Canadians knew the important of fighting climate change but many questioned if running on it was electorally viable. We saw what happened to Liberal Stéphane Dion when he ran on the Green Shift in 2008 and the debate around policy revolved more around “Cap and Trade vs. Carbon Tax” than anything else. For such an existential issue, it seemed to run into a road block in the voters’ booth in Canada. But bit by bit in Canada in the 2010’s, we started to see that shift. We saw Greens starting to get elected in small numbers, we saw provincial governments run on and win on policies like Cap and Trade and green energy programs (despite the flaws in some of the execution of some of those programs) and by the time we got to the 2019 federal election, the Environment was one of the main issues to the point that the Conservatives were punished by voters for not even trying to have a credible climate change plan. In the span of a decade, things have shifted from people wondering if one could win while talking about the environment to the point where it’s no longer electorally acceptable for a party to not have credible version of a climate change plan of their own. That is a big shift in the span of 10 years and it’s one that’s not done yet.