ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Canada Rejects the Politics of Extremism

The resounding rejection of the Conservative Party in Canada's federal elections last month was a vote against the extreme legislative measures that the 10 years of the Stephen Harper government had introduced in trying to refashion the multicultural fabric of Canadian society.

Canadians heaved a sigh of relief as Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party were voted out after a decade in office in the federal elections in October. Quite a few were also disappointed that the New Democratic Party (NDP) led by Thomas Mulcair would not fare as well as the polls had indicated, but most were excited at the fact that Harper was out and Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party would govern for the next four years. No Canadian elections had ever aroused such hostility towards an incumbent Prime Minister (Klein and Barlow 2015). In many cities bright red “Stop Harper” signs were to be found at many public intersections and just a day before the polling, an elderly jogger sporting a “Running against Harper—Bring more refugees in” T-shirt was spotted on the streets of Toronto.

Much of this unprecedented hostility and anger had to do with the dramatic institutional and ideological changes that Stephen Harper’s 10 years in power brought about in the country. While the Conservatives had been in power before, their governments did not deviate too much from an overall progressive social framework. There was some shift from a hybrid of centrist and left of centre policies under conservative Brian Mulroney who replaced Pierre Trudeau in 1984. Mulroney brought Canada into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) framework and introduced the Goods and Services Tax. However, this transformation was nothing compared to Harper’s determined attempt to impose market-friendly policies as soon as he became the Prime Minister.

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