Toronto, Canada’s new political orphan
Paul Wells was first out of the gate with the bull’s eye analysis of Monday’s by-election results, which is that Toronto is becoming Liberaler and Liberaler. It’s echoed this morning by the Star’s Chantal Hébert. In federal politics, Toronto increasingly agrees with itself yet is increasingly at odds with the rest of the country. And it is so convinced of its correctness that it is prone to dismissing other views for their obvious failure to see things the same way it does.
I used to live in places like that. One was called Quebec. The other was called Alberta. Both retreated into parochial regional politics—the Bloc in Quebec, the Reform Party/Canadian Alliance out west. Toronto still backs a national party in the Liberals. The question is whether the Liberal party is in the process of becoming a Toronto-based rump with no political grasp on its hinterland. The party has, through the 1990s, remained pan-Canadian for its ability to retain seats in urban Vancouver and Montreal, but the results in Outremont last year and Quadra this week suggest that those strongholds are eroding. A poll from last month showed the Tories gaining ground in Ontario, too. Here is the anecdote Wells offers up to illustrate Toronto’s political detachment:
When I told somebody in Toronto book publishing my book about Harper would be called Right Side Up, she said it was a great title but that her preference would be something along the lines of Stop Him Now. This transformation of Toronto into a Liberal enclave appears to have deepened since then.
We’ve all heard the old joke that Northern Ontario begins at Bloor. During the Mike Harris years, that punchline became a political reality at Queen’s Park, and the city suffered greatly. The same may yet happen federally. I’m not arguing that Torontonians need to change their political views. I am arguing that they need to stop talking exclusively to like-minded neighbours and relearn how to export their politics beyond the shores of Lake Ontario.