That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

Matchmaking and minefields

The Commons blog today revisits coalition or merger scenarios, and gratefully, omits the Liberal Party from the speculation. What if the NDP and Greens worked together instead?

I’ve argued the same. The Liberals already struggle with unity inside the cavernous red tent, and adding a ready-made superfaction to that mix would cause any leader difficulties for the foreseeable future. There is common ground already between the GPC and NDP on the environment, of course, and both parties attract disproportionately high numbers of young voters (those who vote, anyway) through an attractive anti-establishment discourse.

Which, in a unity scenario, is one of the problems. What if the anti-establishment party suddenly came within striking distance of becoming the establishment?

As I commented on Scott’s Commons piece, I’d have two main concerns about a GPC/NDP merger scenario.

1) Their vote wouldn’t likely be as big as their combined independent totals suggest. Though the Green and NDP combine for an apparent 27 – 29% of the electorate today, good enough for Stornoway, this would be difficult to sustain once united. They’d struggle to attract from the centre and the LPC, while some hardcore GPC and NDP partisans would feel betrayed and would peel off into the non-voting cloud somewhere. Witness the Conservatives – their support is consistently lower than the combined totals of the Alliance and PC pre-merger.

Also 2) putting the NDP and Greens in a position of real power would stir up lots of unflattering media scrutiny. They’d have to be sure they would be prepared to weather that, clean their closets in advance, and be able to reject people saying “now that they might win, they look too risky,” which would be an inevitable assertion from the galleries.

A “Progressive Party of Canada” (I’ve not trademarked that, so go ahead) would be brilliant in many respects. It would just have to watch its back a lot more carefully as it lunges into quite serious competition with the biggest parties.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , ,

2 Responses

  1. The Jurist says:

    Agreed that (1) is a serious issue that would likely undermine the effort it would take to merge the two parties – in effect the Green vote looks to me to be mostly people who see the NDP as being part of the establishment rather than accepting their populist messaging, and I doubt much of it would transfer over.

    But assuming there actually was some gain in votes, I’d think that being close to power would be more an advantage than a danger. Yes, there might be a bit more scrutiny – but it would also be a lot tougher to ignore the voice of the combined party with the usual “bah, they’ll never hold power” normally levelled at both the NDP and the Greens now. And the sense of being close to power would seem likely to bring over some swing voters from the Libs whose current affiliation is based on wanting to vote for the largest alternative to the Cons.

    • polygonic says:

      Thanks for the comment – my concerns about a hypothetical merger are more like cautions, really. The potential benefits are on balance quite attractive.

      Good point regarding Lib voters who fear “squandering” with an NDP vote, as their main mission is contibuting to Con defeats. Any realistic challenge to CPC is liable to attract votes from the centre leftwards. I’d be curious about the impact in Quebec: federalist voters there tend to be more anti-BQ than anything, and have slid between LPC and CPC with real volatility in the past six years. What a third “big” federalist party would do to that dynamic is hard to know – I’d suspect a merged NDP/GPC, if riding the zeitgeist, could come out quite big in several Montreal ridings. Either that, or split the federalist vote horrifically….

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November 2010

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