A political tsunami hit Canada last week, foretelling what is to come right here in Texas.
The left of center Liberal Party, with Justin Trudeau at the helm, won a resounding victory and will take over the bilingual country’s government. The party took 184 of the country’s 338 total seats in parliament, a stunning increase from its previously held 36. The outgoing Conservative Party, headed by prime minister Stephen Harper, was ousted from power. Harper and his allies ran the country since 2006 and the country saw the election as an opportunity to bring about change to our northern neighbor. Furthermore, the Conservatives are left without a leader, as Harper has announced that he will step down from his role as the head of the party.
It is important to note that in Canada and much of the world, even the right of center party is typically to the left of even most Democrats in the United States. For example, during his 9 year reign, the conservatives under Harper did not dismantle Canada’s famous national healthcare system, one that is much more expansive that America’s Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Furthermore, leading up to election night, politicians from across the political aisle proposed increasing taxes on the wealthy to fund a slew of social programs across the country.
Nevertheless, Canada shares many similarities with Texas. For example, before the collapse of crude oil prices, both economies resembled those of petro states in the Gulf, rather than democracies in the west. When oil collapses, headlines like “Canada is No Longer a Petro-State” dominated the papers as its number one export was overtaken by more traditional products. In the case of Texas, the fall in prices caused banks like JPMorgan Chase to issue dire warnings of a looming statewide recession.
Alberta, home of the Canadian tar sands oil fields, is often referred to as the “Texas of Canada,” with a long history of conservative activism, a western gun culture, religious participation, and reactionary political leanings common to other petro-states in the Middle East. Earlier this year, in a troubling sign for Texas, a left-wing governor swept to power in Calgary, something that would have previously unheard of in the country’s most conservative province. Edmonton based political reporter Johnny WIlson notes “Alberta is Canada’s tea party country. This isn’t just your establishment type of conservative more often seen in Ontario. It’s where you have your serious mailing list, big money operation conservative movement here.”
Further compounding the problem for Canadian conservatives, and by extension Texas, is that Liberals dominated the suburbs in last week’s election. The big metro areas of Toronto and Vancouver saw a remarkable shift. Liberals went from 2 to 19 seats in Vancouver metro, and from 7 to 40 seats in Toronto metro.
Much of Texas’ population growth is in its metro areas. The political clout of more rural, more conservative, and more oil dependent towns will continue to diminish, as suburban Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin continue to grow in population. The Canadian election shows that these voters will not be as connected to the area’s oil economy, and in time, will be hungry for change from Texas’ current conservative leadership.