Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A brief note on Bricker and Ibbitson's The Big Shift

Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen cited yesterday The Big Shift: The Seismic Change In Canadian Politics, Business, And Culture And What It Means For Our Future, by Canadians Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson. Their thesis?

The political, media and business elites of Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal ran this country for almost its entire history. But in the last few years, they have lost their power, and most of them still do not realize it’s gone. The Laurentian Consensus, a name John Ibbitson coined for the dusty liberal elite, has been replaced by a new, powerful coalition based in the West and supported by immigrant voters in Ontario. So what happened?

Great global migrations have washed over Canada. Most people are unaware that the keystone economic and political drivers of this country are now Western Canada and the immigrants from China, India, and other Asian countries who increasingly are turning Ontario into a Pacific-oriented province. Those in politics and business have greatly underestimated how conservative these newcomers are, and how conservative they are making our country. Canada, with an ever-evolving and growing economy and a constantly changing demographic base, has become divorced from the traditions of its past and is moving in an entirely new direction.

In The Big Shift, John Ibbitson and Darrell Bricker argue that one of the world’s most consensual countries is polarizing, with the west versus the east, suburban versus urban, immigrants versus old school, coffee drinkers versus consumers of energy drinks. The winners—in politics, in business, in life—will figure out where the people are and go there too.

(The quote that caught Cowen's attention was a projection: "In Toronto, 63 percent of the population will be foreign born by 2031…In Vancouver, the foreign-born population will be 59 percent." That figure doesn't sound off.)

I haven't read the book, so I can't comment authoritatively. What I can say is that the thesis isn't obviously wrong. The Conservatives have had significant success in breaking the traditionally close relationship of the (in my opinion) slowly dying Liberal Party's support among recent immigrants, while the traditionally more centrist and left-wing central Canadian region has been relative decline as Alberta--as we've noted here for the past seven years--leads western Canada in experiencing very strong economic and population growth. My two May 2011 posts reacting to the 2011 election (1, 2) could be read as suggesting some sort of ideological polarization of the country between a Conservative-leaning west and a NDP-leaning centre. At the very least the book seems worth a look.


ba.ldei.aga said...

Will it remove French/English opposition?

Randy McDonald said...

To the extent that Quebec's weight within Canada will diminish, maybe.