From what I've seen, there are many Canadians who consider themselves progressives by virtue of being somewhat to the left of the Conservatives. It's almost a default laurel. You earn the merit badge not for what you are but for what you are not.
This opening paragraph from an article in The New Republic nails it.
What is the opposite of sex? This is a question that admits of no answer, a kind of Zen koan that brings the reflecting mind to a standstill. So, what if we apply the question to “progressivism,” so-called: Is there an opposite to that? Answer: not if the question refers to the vague, amorphous, undefined progressivism of today. There can be no antonym for a term that is lexically meaningless.Is the modern Liberal Party progressive? No, it's not. It does not embrace any code of progressive principles. Its progressive instincts, fleeting as they are, are at best gestural. Progressivism is just that - a code of principles. Many of them are embodied in Teddy Roosevelt's Square Deal speech of 1910. Roosevelt didn't formulate these principles. They far predated him. Yet laid out in this address is a template for progressive governance. Read it and then ask yourself if you wouldn't prefer to have a progressive government today.
[House Speaker] Paul Ryan ...told Glenn Beck in 2010 that a major goal of his was to “indict the entire vision of progressivism.” He labeled progressivism a “cancer” and identified it as “the intellectual source for the big government problems that are plaguing us today.” The first progressives, he argued, detached “people from the Constitution and founding principles to pave the way for the centralized bureaucratic welfare state,” which in turn fostered “a culture of dependency on the government, not on oneself.”
Ryan further claimed, “This stuff came from these German intellectuals to Madison, University of Wisconsin.” There is some truth to that, but if Ryan knew more about his native state, he would realize that the true culprits were Scandinavian immigrants who flooded into the upper Midwest in the latter part of the nineteenth century. These immigrants brought egalitarian values, derivative of Lutheran Protestantism, that inspired them to organize agricultural cooperatives and to support, in disproportionate numbers, the nascent trade union movement. A communitarian ethos also led them to view favorably the concept of the welfare state, which the Swedes called folkhemmet, or “the people’s home,” implying, contra Paul Ryan, not a dependency on the state per se, nor on the self alone, but rather on each other, as in a family.
Another key source of the Wisconsin Progressive ethos was John Bascom, the president of the University of Wisconsin from 1874 to 1887. Bascom was mentor to Robert (“Fighting Bob”) La Follette, the Progressive Republican who would serve Wisconsin as both a governor and a U.S. senator. Bascom, Kaufman explains, “saw society as a living thing, a type of organism. To maintain its health, the state needed to foster social, moral, and economic harmony. If the rich grew too rich, if workers became impoverished, if women were subjugated, society fell out of balance, and the whole of it suffered.” Though resistant to socialist ideology, he was even more opposed to laissez-faire economics and advocated strong government action to redress such imbalances. Perhaps the most important idea La Follette took from Bascom was the absolute necessity of curbing excessive corporate wealth and power for the sake of societal equilibrium.There is another vital point here. While this may seem, in the current condition, counter-intuitive, progressivism is not the exclusive preserve of any political party provided they are committed to democracy. That is not the case when government succumbs to special interests and corporate influence. Ryan & Company are stalwart defenders of self-sufficiency for the people but they dish out plenty of largesse to the corporate sector. That largesse comes in a host of forms including subsidies, grants, deferrals and deregulation.
This is a contagion that, while well-established in the United States, could easily spread, particularly if you happen to be the next door neighbour.
Recent polls show that American Democrats and independents want a sea change, a shift to the left, an aspiration steadfastly rejected by the Democrat establishment. America may be developing an appetite for a progressive restoration.
As for Canada and the governing Liberals, it is time the Liberals abandoned their Conservative-Lite perch and veered sharply left into a position where they could begin to address the major challenges of the day. When will the Liberal rank and file demand a progressive restoration?