It's struck me that at this point in Canadian political history, none of the four major political parties are making any waves among the electorate. The fact that we're mired in constant minorities with fairly unstable government is an obvious sign. That the two traditional government parties can't seem to rise above 35% or 30% in the polls respectively, because the minor parties (NDP, Bloc, and Greens - especially the last one) all take up strong positions, is another sign of this. Generally low turnout across the board in provincial, municipal, and federal elections (with some exceptions), and disinterest by the electorate to the issues politicians say are important, but no one ever really cares about. Even taxation is a relatively "meh" topic I find.
People are disillusioned with the leaders of all the parties, because none of them present something new, different, or exciting. There's a basic stalemate going on right now, and the smaller parties are not helping to break it, because they're taking their own share of votes, protest or not. What does this say about the future of Canadian politics?
One obvious thing a lot of politicos point out is that the electorate is simply waiting for a "messiah," someone that can get them excited and will inject some fascination and sensibility back into their politics. Obama is an obvious example of this, but Nenshi, Ford, even Bob Bratina are domestic examples. They break the mold, not seemingly apart of the old establishment, and say they'll change the way things work in government, usually after years of stagnant, boring, and sometimes pointless politics and policies. People see someone like Nenshi or Ford, compare them against people like McIver or Smitherman, and vote for the guy they think that will provide something new, someone to shake up City Hall. Obama received the sentiment down south.
Some of this can be blamed on a poor economy, some of it on the idea of tired, old dynasties, and some of it on corruption. Almost every election features some sort of charismatic figure, but not every election is one where they get support from the electorate. Only in tough times, when people see the establishment is not enough or not doing its job, do these figures rise up like some sort of rockstar. The same can apply to parties, where back in 1935, MacKenzie King's Liberals were re-elected, but both the CCF and the Socreds arrived on the scene, taking huge bites out of Western support for the Conservatives. Or, obviously, we can look to the 1993 election, with its huge Liberal majority, but the collapse of the Conservatives and the arrival of the Reformers and the Bloc. Then there's 1921, which would have regulated the Conservatives to third-party status, if not for the fact that the Progressives didn't want to be the Official Opposition. If you can detect a pattern here, it's usually the Conservatives that end up collapsing and splintering, while the Liberals maintain themselves for the most part.
But now we see in 2010, both the Liberals and the Conservatives are more or less holding their support, as are the other main parties. Until a big, big scandal hits the Conservatives, its likely to stay this way. The Greens are polling big, but they're not overtaking anyone, and Lizzy May is out of the news a lot more than she is ever in it. Layton is charismatic, but he can't lead his party to better than 20% in polls, even when the Liberals are feeling the pinch. Heck, he's having a hard time staying over 16% sometimes.
This is a prime situation for something new to pop up and overshadow the traditional parties and leaders. Much like Quebec or Alberta, where it's a reality, or BC, where it could very well be, the parties are stale and old, with uninspiring leaders. Voters are looking for something, anything, new to park their votes with. The Greens are the obvious beneficiaries of this right now. But they're still underwhelming in terms of support and even ideas. Like the NDP, they'll quickly become part of the establishment sooner rather than later, and we'll be right back to where we started.
Where does this leave us? It may not be the next election, but something is going to happen eventually to cause the rise of another party, or group, or figure, that will severely challenge the traditional parties in this country. It may be a Tea Party, it may be an Obama, but something will happen to change how Canadians look at their federal parties. History shows us that its usually the Conservatives that break apart when something like this happens, however there's no guarantee of that. It may even be that one of the traditional parties gets a boost, or is torn apart, after all, the next election is more likely than not to be the last for at least three of the five main parties. Layton and Duceppe are the oldest leaders, and after 4 and 6 elections respectively, are going to resign fairly soon. And depending upon who gains or loses in the next election, Harper or Ignatieff are going to be replaced. Maybe even both. It's prime ground for someone new to come out of the woodwork, to either lead the party to victory, or tear it apart on ideological or tribal grounds.
So that's my basic prediction: things will be shaken up, somehow, some way. It's going to hurt the traditional parties, though, in some way. The establishment is not going to be the same after it occurs. It could be another 1993 with the Conservatives torn apart, or the Liberals could end up being the ones who collapse. Or, maybe, Duceppe really will be the last notable Bloc leader, and Quebec will rejoin the rest of Canada politically. I'm not sure, but something is going to happen. The conditions are just too right for it not to. History shows us that every single time there's a similar time, someone or something new arrives on the scene. That's almost every decade, too. Heck, you can list them - Progressives in the 1920's, CCF and Socred in the 1930's, PCs in the 40's, Dief in the 50's, Pearson/Douglas in the 60's, Trudeau in the 70's, Mulroney in the 80's, Reform/Bloc in the 90's, Greens in the 00's. What will it be this decade?