Friday, May 28, 2010

Coalition Now? No!

Its time to throw some cold water on talk of an NDP/Liberal Coalition. Lets start with blogger Dan Arnold, expanding on pollster Frank Graves' claim that an NDP/LPoC merger would not be "perfectly efficient"--that is, not all NDP or LPoC supporters would migrate over to the new political entity:

I'd say "not perfectly efficient" is a gross understatement. When the Alliance and PCs merged, they managed to keep a whopping two-thirds of their 2000 vote (from 44.3% combined in 2000 to 29.6% in 2004)...this, despite being given the gift of Adscam. And remember, that was a reunion - this ain't. By Graves' own numbers, just 37% of Liberal voters list the NDP as their second choice, while 35% of NDP voters list the Liberals as their second choice.

Let's run a quick experiment on the 2008 vote totals. Let's say 80% of the Liberal vote decides to vote for the new Liberal Democrats and their catchy Red and Orange colour scheme, 10% votes Conservative, and 10% stay home and watch American Idol. For NDP voters, I doubt the transfer would be quite as fluid - after all, the new party would be led by a Liberal and if NDP voters really cared about stopping Harper or being in power, they'd just vote Liberal in the first place. So, maybe half of them go along with the deal, a quarter vote green, and a quarter stay home. In terms of popular vote, that would actually work out to a 73% vote transfer to the new party...above the Alliance-PC merger rate.

Another point: negotiating a merger would be a long, fraught process. A race for the new party's leadership would be required, and a convention, and etc. etc. Lots of money, lots of of time, and no reason for Harper not to drop the writ at an inconvenient moment. If you worry about preventing a CPoC majority more than you worry about the fact that after a mere four years on the outside, some Liberals are jonesing uncontrollably for a return to power, then this is a mess to be avoided. Remember, the Reform/Progressive Conservatives occurred in the shadow of a majority government; they had plenty of time to get their act together. Our new entity would not have this luxury.

Crafting an NDP/LPoC working arrangement should our next election give these parties the largest block of seats in the HOC would be something I could get behind. But why worry about it now? People talk about the recent partnering between the U.K.'s Cameron and Clegg; remember, however--this did not become a viable option until several weeks into that particular election campaign. None of the major U.K. parties were willing to assume and prepare for their own defeat in advance.

Finally, lets assume (and its a pretty good assumption given the current state of the polls) that our next parliament looks pretty much like this one. That is, a Tory minority, probably with a few less seats than they currently hold. What happens then?

Well, most likely Stephen Harper retires. Jack Layton too; he's been NDP head for a long time, and the party's support with him in that position has most likely peaked. He has also been fighting cancer. Most intriguingly, there have been rumors that, should Elizabeth May not win a seat in the House (and she won't, given that her opponent is Garry Lunn), she will step down as Green Party Leader. That leaves Michael Ignatieff as the last person standing (assuming Liberals don't panic and dump him, or he doesn't quit and retreat into academe) and the other parties in some turmoil. Green voters would be especially ripe for plucking because, lets face it, after Lizzy May they're back to a gang of aging hippies raising money by selling dream-catchers and holding salmon bakes.

In short, for the Liberal Party of Canada, patience may bring opportunity. Panic inevitably precedes a rout.


Unknown said...

OK ... here's a suggestion: if you're not interested in a coalition, I understand. You're as intolerant and inflexible as the SoCons.

And once you come to that realization, please do us all a favour and step out of the way so that we (the progressive and centre majority of this country) can lay claim to what's ours instead of letting a very small population of Christian zionists and nihilists run the show.

bigcitylib said...


Frank said...

The big winner from a lib/dipper merger would be the Green Party. With the enviro movement the world over moving to the radical left the hold over NDP marxists would take over the GP faster than you can say Che Guevara.

Greg said...

Ok, if you are not for coalition, how about electoral reform?

bigcitylib said...

Electoral Reform, sure. Probably won't happen.

Greg said...

It really won't happen if Liberals continue to believe that a majority is theirs for the taking. Have you read Chantal Hebert today? I would be interested in your take.

bigcitylib said...

I agree with it. But the next election will be fought under the current rules. I'd also say the Libs should push for a national ref on the issue (prop. rep.). Not that I think it would attract/repel many votes.

DivaRachel said...


Greg said...

Well BCL, if you are for electoral reform then you are not against coalitions per se. If we do get PR then coalitions will become the norm. Stop clinging to the idea that a Liberal majority is just around the corner. Hebert is right, this configuration in parliament is likely the new normal. If you don't want to talk specifics or coalition at least be open to the concept. Iggy could say, "We are fighting for a majority but will live with the house as it is made by the voters. If there is no majority, then of course we are open to forming coalitions with any party that shares our policy goals".

Brent said...

An agreement of some sort is going to have to be made. For all his talk, Michael Ignatieff is simply too weak to hold the government accountable (i.e., do his job) and the caucus is too weak to go over his head.

A majority government will not be possible until the LPC's entire leadership is replaced.

Ian said...

I put far more stock in Ignatieff stepping down in the revolving door that has become the LPC leadership than Layton stepping down as the NDP's performance and seat count have continued to rise.

Yes, Layton may have (a beatable) cancer. But at least he doesn't have that arrogant natural-ruling party attitude that infects most of the Liberal caucus.

Tof KW said...

Right Ian, attack the Grits and let Sweaterboy rule indefinitely. I secretly wished Harper could win his majority in 2008, just so he could crush every element of Canada's social safety net that the dippers hold dear. Maybe then you'd learn something about who your natural political enemy REALLY is.

As for a merger, I'm definitely against. This Red Tory never followed firebrand-populist Harper after the PC's were taken over by the Alliance. Likewise I will have nothing to do with a party that incorporates lefty-populists like Layton. If that ever happened I would probably switch to the Greens, I have a couple of ex-PC buddies actively there now since 2003 (yes there are Green Tories - believe it).

However I have no problems with a working governing arrangement between the two such as Ontario's 1985 government, or how the UK Tories and LibDems are working together in Britain.

I am also beginning to look favourably towards a preferential voting system.

Unknown said...

Gary Lunn won by less votes than the NDP candidate who dropped out recieved.
Speaking of which, does anyone know if there was there ever any kind of investigation into the sleazing phone calls that were being make to voters in his riding?

bigcitylib said...


the invesitgation never went anywhere.

Scotian said...

A merger of the Libs and the NDP would be doomed to fail, pure and simple, BCL is quite right on that for the reasons he cited. Something a lot of people tend to forget is that the Liberals tend to be centrist economic conservatives with mild to moderate social justice progressiveness pragmatists that incorporate whatever tends to work whatever its ideological basis be it conservative or progressive, while the NDP (at least pre-Layton) are committed to strongly progressive/"lefty" views economically as well as socially. There is a reason why there used to be such a strong element in the electorate that could swing between PCPC and Liberal, what really saddens me is how many of these swing voters have yet to understand that the Harper CPC is nothing like the PCPC of old and that currently their only real choice is the Libs.

Now, an alliance of the Libs and the NDP for coalition government in a minority situation, that I see as viable (although far less likely than it once would have been thanks in no small part to Layton's clear preference to attacking the Libs at every turn instead of staying focused on the real threat to NDP values as opposed to seats the Harper CPC) indeed almost inevitable given the current political environment. That however does not need to be dealt with until and unless we actually have an election which produces that result.

The only reason why I have been so ardently in favour of ABC this time out is compared to Harper's CPC the Libs and the NDP really have little to differentiate themselves unlike when it was the Libs and PCPC. That in comparison the Libs and the NDP share far more values and policies than either does with the Harper CPC, and that the Harper CPC has every intention of doing all it can with power to make it harder to pass progressive legislation once they are gone from power. That is why it has always been in the NDP's best interests to work with the Libs despite their historic and actual current disagreements, because at least the Libs will occasionally listen to the NDP and use their ideas, the CPC will never do so on anything significant and indeed will do all they can to reverse any and all policies that the NDP core values favour.

We live in a time unlike any other in Canadian federal political history, and it is more than time people started to realize this, especially Dippers, because as much as they may dislike/distrust Libs at least they can do business with each other and have some values in common, the only value the Dippers and the Harper CPC share is their hatred of the Libs. The fact Layton has clearly chosen over the last 4 years to spend more time aiding the CPC in keeping the Libs down than in aligning with the Libs to stop the Harper CPC shows which side of that equation he prefers. Dippers have to decide which matters more, their principles or their seats, they can't defend both in the current reality no matter how much they like to act as if they can.