The left is back—and that could change the face of Canadian politics for years to come
Despite Donald Trump being elected U.S. president in 2016, there are plenty of signs of a revival of the left in North America and Europe. And it's been gathering momentum in 2017.
An early sign of a left-wing renaissance in Canada occurred in May 2015 when Rachel Notley's provincial New Democrats won a landslide victory in the formerly conservative fortress of Alberta.
Then in October 2015, the federal Liberals won a majority government with a campaign that outflanked the New Democrats from the left on fiscal policy and on personal-income taxation.
Meanwhile in Greece, Syriza came to power by opposing financial austerity being imposed by the European Commission. The same year, the Scottish National Party won 8.6 percent of the seats in the election in the United Kingdom.
In Spain, the anti-austerity and populist Podemos party has captured the imagination of well-educated young people, winning 21 percent support in the 2016 election. The extreme anti-immigrant right has made few inroads in that country.
In this year's French election, unabashed leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, came fourth in the first round with 19.58 percent, missing the second round by less than two percent.
In the second round of the French presidential election, the right-wing candidate, Marine Le Pen, was trounced, barely winning more than a third of the vote.
This year, the far more left-wing Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn campaigned on the slogan of "For the many not the few". Its hard-hitting call for equality and an end to oligarchy ate into the Scottish National Party's support, resulting in Labour winning 40 percent of the vote.
This left Teresa May's Conservatives with a minority government, which had to be propped up by right-wing Democratic Unionists from Northern Ireland. The right-wing U.K. Independence Party didn't win any seats.
In this year's Dutch election, the anti-immigrant Party for Freedom, led by Geert Wilders, didn't fare nearly as well as it had hoped, only winning 13.1 percent of the votes. The greatest gains were made by the left-wing Green Party, led by 31-year-old Jesse Klaver.
The next big test will be in the German election in late September. This spring, the Social Democrats enjoyed a resurgence in popularity under a new and more left-wing leader, Martin Schulz. However, they've since fallen back in the polls.
But whether centre-right leader Angela Merkel can keep the chancellor's post is still far from a sure bet.
Fourth-wave feminism and the left
Meanwhile, the term "fourth-wave feminism" has been used to describe how social-media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are being marshalled to advance gender equality and social justice, and to promote an intersectional perspective.
Intersectionality refers to how people can face overlapping forms of discrimination based on gender, race, class, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender expression, et cetera.
This has spawned a predictable backlash from right-wing, white-male journalists bleating about so-called "political correctness", "identity politics", and "Twitter mobbing".
But the left's march forward continues in a world where Big Media wields far less clout than it used to.
The ground is shifting in the United States where Trump became the least popular new president since these types of polls were taken.
A searchable database called Progressive Punch tracks U.S. politicians by their voting records.
Its progressive scorecard of U.S. senators lists Maryland's Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, in first place, followed by Kamala Harris, another Democrat, of California.
In third and fourth place are Massachusetts Democrats Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, and fifth is Cory Booker from New Jersey. They're all from states defined as "strongly Democrat" in 2017.
The most progressive senator from a swing state is Minnesota Democrat Al Franken, who came sixth. The former Saturday Night Live comedian is well ahead of Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, who ranks 11th.
All of them, including Sanders, received an "A" grade.
Franken had the highest score on a "progressive versus state tilt" index on the website. Keep an eye on him as a possible contender for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.
Hillary Clinton's vice presidential pick, Virginia's Tim Kaine, fares very poorly on the Progressive Punch scorecard. He was one of eight Democratic Party senators with an "F" rating.
A case can be made that Clinton lost the election because she was too obsessed with winning the support of Republicans and was blind to rising support for the left among young voters.
This is the first generation, from youth, to have significant numbers embracing the concept of keeping fossil fuels in the ground. Young climate activists are forcing college and universities to divest from companies that make money by increasing the planet's greenhouse gas emissions.
It's also a generation that feels dealt out of the housing market. They sometimes have to remain in their parents' homes into their 30s or round up a bunch of roommates just to be able to afford a one- or two-bedroom suite.
They're sick of the status quo and they're in a mood for transformative change.
What does this mean for Canada?
In Vancouver, there's a growing list of left-wing candidates for an upcoming council by-election. Their primary concern is the high cost of housing.
In the B.C. election, the right-wing B.C. Liberals recently lost power to the NDP, which will be supported on key legislature votes by three B.C. Green MLAs.
NDP premier John Horgan campaigned on a platform of making life more affordable for British Columbians. It was a softer message than Corbyn's declaration that he would wage war on inequality.
It's an open question whether Horgan might have won more seats and generated greater turnout among young people had he campaigned more vigorously from the left.
The next big test of the left's strength in Canada is the upcoming federal NDP leadership vote.
In the party's 2012 contest, Manitoba MP Niki Ashton was probably the most left-wing candidate in the race (though some might argue in favour of Peggy Nash). Ashton came dead last out of seven candidates, capturing only 5.7 percent support on the first ballot.
She's running again this year on a platform that looks at the body politic through an intersectional lens.
"We must work tirelessly for true reconciliation with Indigenous people, for the protection and preservation of our environment, for working Canadians, for women, for people living with disabilities, for racial justice, for justice for transgender and non-binary people, for LGBTQ+ justice, and for the right to be who you are, and to love who you want to love," she writes on her website.
"We must build a political movement that connects with the many Indigenous, racialized, student, environmental and labour movements that are driving progressive political change," Ashton continues. "We must move ahead with a positive agenda that tackles rising inequality and climate change.
"We must build a movement that has the strength of the people at its core," she declares. "We must unite, and build people-centred policy as our foundation. As a party, we need to embrace the thousands of activists across this country who have paved the way for our movement. Their fight is our fight, and together, we are stronger."
Ashton knocked on doors for Sanders while he was fighting for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. And her campaign for NDP leader is by far the most anti-establishment of the four candidates in the race.
In the early going, it appeared as though Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh was best positioned to occupy the outsider's role. But the backing that he's received from long-time party insider and former Hill + Knowlton strategist Brad Lavigne has undermined that perception among some New Democrats.
Like Sanders, Ashton has not received endorsements from high-profile members of her party. It's a people's campaign with a seemingly endless number of personal appearances in communities across the country. She's kept up a relentless pace while expecting a child later this year.
She's clearly the insurgent in the race with a message that's not being welcomed by more centrist party elites.
Ashton hasn't received anywhere near as much media attention as Singh. Yet as of this writing, she remains out front of a Georgia Straight online poll asking readers whom they prefer as the next NDP leader.
If Ashton wins the NDP leadership, it will catch many pundits by surprise. It would also transform her party in the way that Corbyn's victory radicalized the British Labour Party.
The fourth-wave left has woke up in Canada. And politics may never be the same again.