It appears left-wing parties in countries undergoing demographic change face a dilemma. Move right on immigration and risk alienating your activists, or tack left and lose elections. The one major exception to this rule is English-speaking Canada. While Quebec elected the populist-right, anti-immigration CAQ to provincial office in 2019, Canada as a whole returned the Liberal Justin Trudeau to power in the federal election the same year. Trudeau is overtly pro-immigration, post-nationalist, and “woke” on gender, aboriginal, and sexuality issues. Ordinarily, this would be a recipe for failure. So what’s different?
Essentially, English Canada lost its loyalist cultural tradition with the decline of the British Empire, creating a vacuum which 60s progressivism, in the guise of official multiculturalism, was able to fill, redefining Canadian identity. The Anglo-Canadian electorate thereby leans left politically by a 60-40 margin whereas most other western countries are evenly split. However, Canada is undergoing an unprecedented cultural and political polarization. The share of Conservative voters who approve of Justin Trudeau has hovered between just three and six percent since June 2019 compared to 90 percent among Liberal voters as of January 2020. Immigration attitudes differed by only 10-15 points between the Conservatives and Liberals five years ago, but the gap is now around 50 points. This is similar to what I found in the United States between 2012 and 2016 where Republican voters became more restrictionist while Democrats moved in the opposite direction, creating a 50-point divide over whether immigration should be reduced.
The ethnic change that is transforming western societies makes cultural issues more relevant, benefiting the Right while harming a Left that finds itself hemmed in by progressive norms, unable to adapt to new electoral realities.