Tim Belford: Short Takes On Life
Tim Belford
Tim Belford
CBC logo
Tim Belford is host of Quebec A.M. -- CBC Radio's popular English- language morning show (91.7 FM, 6-9, Mon.-Fri). He also is said to know a thing or three about wine.

Posted 08.14.02
Quebec City


Canada's political parties: all you ever wanted to know and then some

It struck me the other day, now that we're picking new leaders for two of the federal political parties, it might be a good time to sort out the New Age political spectrum.

Not only will the Tories and the NDP soon have new hands on the helm but the Canadian Alliance already has a new person in charge. You know, good old what's-his-name.

The Liberals, meanwhile, are somewhere in the middle of act one of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and when the knives are all accounted for, they'll likely have a new chief as well.

Oh yes, and the Bloc Québécois? Well, the Bloc, in an ironic twist, is providing the only example of Canadian leadership stability.

Anyway, back to the political spectrum.

A lot of us seem to have become confused over what is left and right anymore.

It's understandable.

Bill Clinton was left wing in the States, which meant he was on the far right in Canada.

Britain's Labour prime minister, Tony Blair, is supposed to be on Britain's left but he's a great backer of George W. Bush and the only thing left about Bush is his two feet.

Joe Clark is leaving as head of the Conservatives, ostensibly a right of centre group. But Clark is a "Red Tory" which makes him a sort of Mackenzie King liberal.

In the beginning it was relatively simple.

In the French National Assembly of1789, where all this comes from, the reactionaries sat on the right, moderates in the middle, and democrats and extremists sat on the left.

Their policies were relatively easy to keep track of.

The reactionaries wanted to keep their king, their wealth, and their heads.

The democrats wanted the reactionaries' wealth, the king's head, and a piece of the proverbial pie.

And the moderates, as ever, just wanted to wait and see who was going to come out on top so they could end up on the winning side.

Luckily, in Canada, it's pretty simple to sort out. But you'll have to listen carefully.


The Canadian Alliance under Steven Harper occupies the far right of the political spectrum, except for the left wing of the party which is right fiscally and in the centre socially, which puts them to the left of the right wing of the liberal party dominated by Paul Martin, which is right fiscally and nowhere socially.

The left wing of the Liberal Party, however, is to the right of the NDO fiscally and to the left of the Conservatives socially except for the Red Tories, which are to the left of the Martin Liberals socially and to the right of the left wing of the Canadian Alliance on fiscal matters.

Still with me?

The NDP is to the left of the Liberals with the exception of the moderate wing of the party which wants to discard these kinds of labels entirely in order not to have to explain themselves.

Sven Robinson is to the left of everyone on everything.

Meanwhile, the agricultural wing of the party is to the right of the liberals, who don't give them enough subsidies, and to the left of the Canadian Alliance, who wouldn't give them anything.

Which leaves the Bloc Québécois,who try to walk a fine line between socialism and nationalism, leaving them outside the political spectrum, where they prefer to be anyway.

So there you have it. Right, left, and centre.

The only problem, to be consistent you may have to join more than one party.