Reading Diary: The Big Shift: The Seismic Change in Canadian Politics, Business, and Culture and What It Means for Our Future

Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson's book The Big Shift: The Seismic Change in Canadian Politics, Business, and Culture and What It Means for Our Future is pretty obviously not a science book. Rather, it's a book about Canadian politics. But of course here in Canada these days, it's hard to talk about science without talking about politics at least a little. This book is interesting from a science policy perspective since it endeavors to give insight into the deeper rationale behind the current Conservative government's actions. In a sense, it asks, "What kind of Canada do Stephen Harper and the Conservatives see when they look out the window?"

And the answer that Bricker and Ibbitson give is that Conservatives see Canada as a country where the power and influence is moving from east to west, that the focus of Canada's politics has shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific. What they call the Laurentian Consensus of Montreal/Ottawa/Toronto elites that ruled the country for decades is being replaced by a kind of alliance between newly diverse suburbs, rural Conservatives and Western Canada. This new alliance is not so much worried about nation building but is rather laser focused on economic issues. And is a group that is much less likely to assume that governments are the solution rather than part of the problem.

From the point of view of Canadian science, the idea is that anything to do with the environment or science is a non-starter for this new jobs & economy-focused non-Laurentian constituency. Anything to do with the environment in particular is supposedly part of the discredited previous Liberal agenda. I'm not convinced by any means that Ibbitson and Bricker are correct with the way they paint the Canadian electorate nor with how universally effective the strategies that this worldview entails. But in a very real way, it doesn't matter what I think. It's clear that the Conservatives believe it and are basing their policies on it. To great effect, so far at least.

Which is why this book is valuable to a Canadian science audience. It helps explain the Conservative's underlying assumptions which very definitely can help pro-science and pro-environment constituencies plan their own strategies. And the authors do discuss how potentially a broad progressive coalition could itself take advantage of this new reality to unseat the Conservatives.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Canadian politics. Even though it is a very popular treatment of the topic, academic and public library collections would find this to be a popular item.

Bricker, Darrell and John Ibbitson. The Big Shift: The Seismic Change in Canadian Politics, Business, and Culture and What It Means for Our Future. Toronto: Harpercollins, 2013. 199pp. ISBN-13: 978-1443416450 (


Some previous posts of mine that focus on Canadian science policy:


A couple of related books coming out later this fall that are relevant to this topic:



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