Former Ontario NDP premier Bob Rae cast his first public -- but unofficial -- pitch for the federal Liberal leadership yesterday, suggesting that Canada's progressives must consider joining together to win a majority in the Commons...
But he told reporters he is worried about "what a Harper majority government would do" and suggested that it is time to unite the left in Canada to win power.
"I think it's important for people who call themselves progressive to really think about the situation.
"There's a progressive record that's shared by a majority of Canadians, but so far, we have not succeeded in becoming a majority in the House of Commons, so we must think a bit about how that can happen."
The obvious implication of the need to unite progressives is to do so under one party banner. Rae accurately assesses the current political makeup, wherein conservatives are a distinct minority, yet are able to thrive because of a divided center-left. This problem wasn't a serious concern until recently, when the conservatives recognized there own need for a merger to enhance their relevance. I hope Rae does decide to run for the Liberal leadership, because I think he is uniquely positioned to articulate the need for a formal rethinking of the political system.
Unquestionable, by any measure, Canada is decidedly a center-left electorate. Unlike the American political system, social conservatives don't have the numbers clout to dictate policy, except in a scenario where the center-left remains divided and they can exploit the split. Rae doesn't come right out and argue for a merger of the NDP and Liberal Parties, but he sure implies it and this idea deserves serious consideration.
I can see how many NDP supporters would resist any blending with a Liberal Party that is prone to stray and only exhibits progressive tendencies during election campaigns. However, any synthesis would necessiate a shift to the left, simply as a result of bringing a strong progressive voice into the fold. The centrists, and the marginal moderate conservatives, who inhabit the present Liberal Party would be marginalized in any formal policy planks. The left-wing of the Liberal Party, coupled with the mainstream NDP would essentially rule the roost and progressive ideals would become the party mantra.
You could argue that the Liberal Party could lose the soft centrist vote to the conservatives with any formal alliance with the NDP, but I would suggest the political landscape still allows for some erosion, while still maintaining enough support to govern. If you did a detailed analysis of each riding in the last election, you would find a circumstance, wherein even if you were to slice 5% of the Liberal tally and give it to the Conservatives, you would still have electoral success. Another by-product of a NDP/Liberal merger would be a Conservative Party which would be forced to completely abandon their extremist tendencies if it were to have any chance at success.
I haven't addressed the idea of proportional representation, although it could be another avenue to get us to the same place, without the formal blending. The more I think about it, the more I would like to see Rae jump into the race, if for no other reason than to bring the issue of divided progressives to the forefront. Canada can't afford to let a minority dictate policy simply as a function of a splintered majority.