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, , , ,

Let’s talk – please?

The Alberta Liberal Party has decided to boldly go where the federal Liberals wouldn’t dare – on bended knee.

Go here to see it in full.

Generally kind of odd, no, to do this as an “open letter” in a newspaper? Clearly, they aren’t actually hoping the Albertan NDP leader’s just going to happen to see this ad over coffee and toast, shed a single tear, make a phone call and get the ball rolling.

Rather, Alberta’s Liberals have tried merger talk in the backrooms, and have been rebuffed. So now, they’re hoping that media interest in this bold new concept will produce editorials and TV chatter, which will then froth-up the grassroots and get people campaigning for it, adding weight to what is apparently a moribund merger concept between the progressive provincial parties.

Will that work, or just embarrass them?

I’ve no idea, not having lived in that fair province since I was 4 years old. But, at least it gives the Alberta Liberals a veneer of “no backroom deal, we like frontroom deal”… Whatever that means.

There is a logic in Alberta for progressive merger, I do believe that. The right is splintering between the withering Progressive Conservative party under Stelmach, and the upstart Palin-esque Wildrose Alliance. Maybe someone said “Look, what a time for our left to coalesce!” All rational things to say – but this aimed externally, and it betrays a lack of traction between party leaders themselves on the topic.

Of course, progressives in Alberta are so incredibly far from power, that there is just nothing for them to lose. Some people (Kinsella and I suppose any supporter of LPC-NDP merger at the federal level) will talk this up as “quite interesting,” but really, tactics like these are unthinkable at the federal level. The LPC and NDP cling to (faint) hope that they don’t need formal cooperation, and as bad as Ignatieff’s Liberals are, many in the party must rightly think the problem is the leader – so, creating a new merged party could be a grave over-reaction.

Plus, the Harper Machine and CanWest and friends would laugh Ignatieff right out of the country if he published a letter like the above.

All that said, I do think people generally respect ballsyness more than obfuscation from their politicians. If/when the progressive federal parties begin to pursue an “agreement on togetherness,” they should be up front and unashamed about it, in public, answer questions with a brave face and with conviction that this is the way forward. That could do wonders. But an ad asking for help… can’t say it inspires confidence.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , ,

On the subject of marriage…

These are apples I could like.

…though with qualifications 🙂

As Jack Layton is the most successful NDP leader since Broadbent, and the first in yonks to poll decently in Quebec, I’ve got no reason to suggest he leave his post. Nor do I have any reason to suspect Thomas Mulcair would do a better job.

But, between the Greens and NDP, we do have a much more coherent coupling, and genuine space to end up with a progressive party that gets both votes and seats – enough, if spread right, to outgun an independent Liberal Party, no less.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , ,


Andrew Steele has come out firmly against the idea of a Liberal-NDP merger with the logic that most Liberal voters actually don’t prefer the NDP as their second choice, nor do most NDP voters automatically default to the Liberals for their second choice – at least, so says this March EKOS poll. So, a Canadian “Lib Dem” party would be an example of 1+1=less than 2.

Though not famed for my math skills, I agree with the above – though for me, it’s only half the argument. I’m a big supporter of coalition talks and party cooperation – but merger talk is a non-starter. Not only because 1+1 equal less than 2, as Steele argues, but it’s also clear that one of the Liberals’ biggest problems is internal disunity. Martin, Dion, and Ignatieff aren’t in themselves the “problem” – what leader could possibly hope to unite the disparate factions from the party’s left, its right, its Chretienite, etc.? (The only thing that can really unify Liberals, it seems to me, is the immediate prospect of electoral success – a collective “don’t cock this up” mentality takes over, and the internal rivalries subside).

Complicating the left by trying to create a big-top circus-tent “progressive” party would exacerbate these problems – we’d end up with a big broad party which is more internally factionalised, vaster-and-vaguer with lowest-common-denominator policies, and less able to define itself through an “elevator pitch” than today’s Liberal Party. (Plus, I could never advocate reducing the number of options on our ballot papers!)

Better than this merger talk would be the Liberals accepting the NDP position that we need electoral reform, which could lead to progressive votes, from Green to Liberal to NDP, going further and being accurately reflected in the House – plus we’d be protecting a vibrant multiparty democracy, rather than slipping towards bland, bipartisan centrism.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , ,


June 2020

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