Monday, September 22, 2008

Just Imagine

Despite what some argue, the vast majority of Canadians don't care for Stephen Harper, the Conservatives policies aren't representative or supported. And yet, here we are, the prospects of a further reign likely, in a sense the current political dynamic almost coronates the Conservatives by default. If you embrace the notion of compromise, a belief that any alternative can't encompass your views in totality, then you see a path towards a new center-left paradigm.

I've voted Green, I've voted NDP, I've voted Liberal, I suspect I'm not alone. Today, and in the future, I will always vote Liberal, because I've made the internal calculation that there are only two options, in terms of implementation of policy, better to be on the inside, express my voice, than essentially protesting or exercising dissent by supporting theoretical alternatives.

The Liberal Party still irks me, so much unseemly nonsense behind the scenes, in a way nothing seems to change. There are many partisans, more interested in personal ambition than actual philosophical conviction, and this dynamic is a decided turnoff. That said, the Liberal Party is essentially what you make of it, it can become whatever people want, should the grassroots organize and expand to affect change. That reality leads me to a basic point- just imagine if all the Greens and NDP party members collectively joined the Liberal Party? The suspicion of the Liberals, as offering progressive policies in principle, abandoning them in practice, is one of the chief reasons why people search for alternatives. However, if all those same people did as I've done, embrace the party and try to have an influence from the inside, we would see a reconfiguration, we would see a progressive agenda. There would still be compromise, because a big tent demands acceptance of differing opinion, but if you can accept a practicality, you can see more is achieved by an internal influx, than a fractured center-left.

Hebert has a column today, which details the "fractured" opposition, and it highlights a basic point- divided we fall. A few days ago, I heard a representative from the David Suzuki Foundation, commenting on the various environmental plans. Quite diplomatic, the person went to great pains not to overtly endorse any party plan, merely pointing out that all four opposition parties have received good marks, only the Conservatives fail. That's fair, but really it's too passive. For anyone that cares about global warming, there really are only two practical alternatives, so people have to forget the politically correct niceties and back the only plan that has a chance of implementation. Having the environmental vote scattered across different parties, simply allows Harper the "laggard" to win, it allows for the worst case scenario, where none of us win, instead stuck with bitching from the sidelines. I see no logic in that reality, partisan defences aside. But, we all have our "teams", we've all invested in different paths, but the simple fact, the minority conservative vote salivates at our purist intentions.

It's time for compromise, it's time to think beyond our limited self-interest and embrace a united alternative. That alternative becomes more attractive if people engage, because their presence actually changes what they resisted in the first place. Imagine if every riding association was inundated with former Green and NDP workers, does anyone think that wouldn't change the Liberal Party, does anyone think a progressive voice wouldn't be stronger, does anyone think the party wouldn't morph into something else. So long as nobody assumes absolute adherence to old doctrines, it would be the first and biggest step to taking back our country, the minority conservatives put in their rightful place, electoral obscurity, apart from a rump here and there. It's only the lesser of two evils if everyone is scattered, if we were to unite behind one party, I suspect it would seem far more credible and accountable, so that the principles do become practice, give and take aside.


Anonymous said...

It would be awesome. And we could create the most progressive/left party that ever was -- the true Canadian party.

Greg said...

However, if all those same people did as I've done, embrace the party and try to have an influence from the inside, we would see a reconfiguration, we would see a progressive agenda.

Ask former PC's how much influence they have inside the Conservative party.

Greg said...

And have you ever considered electoral reform as an option?

Anonymous said...

It's also pretty despicable that the party leaders haven't got 'round to extending the Dion-May pact in other ridings. There MUST be places in the country where either the Liberals or the NDP are completely and utterly hopeless.

northwestern_lad said...

"The Liberal Party still irks me, so much unseemly nonsense behind the scenes, in a way nothing seems to change. There are many partisans, more interested in personal ambition than actual philosophical conviction, and this dynamic is a decided turnoff."

Careful now Steve. You keep talking like that and Cherniak will decree that everyone should stop taking you seriously too ;)

cls said...


I've pretty much come to the same conclusion as you; stuck a Liberal sign on my lawn and wrote them a cheque.
I've been wondering if the new election financing laws tjat seem skewed towards grassroots funding might actually be good for the Liberal party and make it less of a hostage to monied interests. Any thoughts on this?

Sean S. said...

I can do without a two party system...just look south for the possible consequences of such a decision. I'd rather have a system where all parties are proportionally represented, than let the parties learn how to work with each other. No more false majorities, no more "unworkable" minorities, everyone gets their proportional say in policies and legislation.

Why on earth would we want to limit our choice to just 2?

Sean S. said...

CLS, one only has to look at the quarterly donations for the Cons/Libs/NDP to realize that the Liberals are in deep trouble money-wise. They have suckled the big business tit so long they don't know how to do grass-roots. This more than anything will be their downfall if they can't get their act together.

Anonymous said...

Hooray! So well written, Steve! Kudos to you. Must have been the canoe and Mother Nature...


Anonymous said...

Homelessness and rips in social safety net in Alberta show the effects of rampant Harpernomics. Federal priorities are being shifted to military, privatized prisons, privatized health and crisis environmental and economic management. Harper is transforming Canada into an energy satellite state of the U.S. Anyone who favors maintaining a progressive society and independent international policy would favor a center-left coalition.

susansmith said...

"Anyone who favors maintaining a progressive society and independent international policy would favor a center-left coalition."

Except a large portion of the liberal party and brains behind the throne support SST or deep integration.

Similarly, in the past liberal party was against NAFTA, GST, for example, but when elected, well those promises too were empty rhetoric.

I just don't see Greens and NDPers wanting to expend any energy in a liberal makeover. This dog won't hunt.

Tore up liberal card in 1993 and never looked back.

Dame said...

This is the only way out now.
We are Fools if we /the left of center / can't talk to each others and make sense ..
Good post .


Greg said...

This is the only way out now.

Sorry that is not true. Liberals have to get over their aversion to electoral reform.

liberazzi said...

Quickly off topic. Nanos:

CPC 35
Lib 30
Dip 22?

liberazzi said...

You could call them the Green Liberal Democrats. Some of the Libs on the right side of center would migrate to the CPC, but otherwise you would be guaranteed at least 50% of the vote. However, the main obstacle to overcome would of course be the egos involved. Layton today was already musing about a coalition. Moreover, when the Libs and Dips worked together in the, those govts passed the most progressive and important legislation in our history. Even in Paul Martin's era, the Dips and Libs worked well together on that first budget at least.

I would say it is not a matter of if but when. I think it is an exciting prospect, but like I said its the egos that will get in the way.

Anonymous said...

Well, to those who argue against Steve's argument, which is also mine by the way, I suggest that wishing for a coalition of the three federal left-leaning parties is just that, wishing. Wish away. In fact, if wishing will work, then I wish the Green Party would siphon votes from the Conservatives and split their side in two; they lean to the right after all. Saying the Greens actually lean left is a misnomer. For those who lent their votes to the NDP last time around, what exactly did you get? Nothing. In fact your programs went into the red, and that SSP that has some so frightened, well we are a little closer to implementing that, aren't we? I sure heard shades of that in Harper's promise to open Canada to more foreign investors. Let's play WHRM, which is sell off to American companies. How convenient, just as they ramp up the nuclear dinosaur and take over western provinces where they mine uranium. And Layton? Oh, he is busy holding hands with Harper watching one progressive program after another either shut down or cut to oblivion. Where was Jack on that?

Crickets chirping.

In fact, we just got more of Jack's hurling insults for two yrs at the one other credible centre-left leader, Dion. How did that help us? Well, it hurt us actually. It certainly wasn't a coalition-like situation was it? We shouldn't be looking at tight polls after Harper's mismanagement team's display of mismanagement. We certainly did not get Layton willing to work with Dion. Dion, by the way, if you actually care to take a look at him, is an honourable man with actual principles. He is perhaps the most left-leaning leader the Liberal party has ever had, hence their discomfort with him. But he has given us a platform that begins to address most of the concerns of the left - poverty, childcare, Aboriginal living conditions, education, reinstating the Status of Women and the Arts funding, the environment, where the chief concern for those of us who are serious on this file is the corporate polluter tax cut subsidies that encourage more of the same which the green shift specifically addresses, as opposed to Harper/Layton and their "cap and trade/system for shifting responsibilty and changing nothing but leaving the people with hidden costs and no income cuts to offset the burden" plans. Why don't they try to explain that to us?

Crickets chirping.

In fact, Harper has his locked in an office somewhere until after the election and Layton hasn't costed his. I know a lot of people on the left-left and they have rashes at the thought of looking at a budget. They readily admit they did not enjoy math. Fine, they are caring people with laudable goals. Goals need to be paid for and managed. That is what Liberals do. That is why people nearer the centre vote for them. What about provincial NDP, they follow budgets and have a record to prove it? Yes, and they govern from the centre, just like the Liberals do, don't they? Would I vote for Roy Romanow? Yes. But he is not running.

As for this deep integration, well I have heard Dion speak to this publically at least once, so he is aware of it and I have heard him talk several times about protecting our water. Try emailing and telling them your concerns. If Canadians actually did this, they would listen more closely. He is also a loyal Canadian and this is there in his record - he took on the separatists directly and he united the provinces as intergovernmental affairs minister. He has publically stated that he is a federalist. A federalist is one who understands this is a very large, very diverse nation and that it takes courage, guts, determination and leadership skills to hold it together. We are a strong country but fragile because we do tolerate such differences from region to region.

Harper is not a federalist. I actually don't know what he is. He favours the dismantling of Ottawa, hates federal powers. He seems to hate the law of the land, so much that he fought his way to the PMO's office so that he could unmake them. He seems to think he is above Canadian law, looking down on this with contempt. Well, a lot of humble, hard working Canadians spent decades and generations of time, energy, and money to build this nation of laws which has an international reputation for fairness. What is hateful about that? Why the insane desire to dismantle it? In fact, that is not Canadian, that viewpoint sounds very Republican to me and that is American.

- Blackstar

Anonymous said...

If one believes the most conservative-biased pollster - Strategic Research Council, the CPC have 38%, Liberals 24%, NDP 17%, Greens 12% and Bloc 9%.

There is not a whole lot of substantial difference on the general worldview of all of the parties, except for the Conservatives. Although the CPC isn't exactly the old Reform Party anymore, they are still "center-right". The others are arguably "center-center-left".

Adding up all the numbers of the four parties, besides the Conservatives, over 60% of the Canadian voter has not bought into a right-wing agenda, similar to that of the Republicans in the USA.

Split the undecided vote in half and add that, and we have over 2/3 of Canadians embracing a progressive worldview.

I guess the question about a merger begs the most important question when it comes to politics:

is it more important to be right, or more important to be effective?

Steve V said...

I don't think the "down south" example really applies. The Americans are far more conservative than Canadians, which means the Dems have to play to the center to have any chance. In Canada, if you had the progressives under one tent, you could afford to ditch the center-right Liberals, you wouldn't have to coddle them, like the Dems do, and that means the left wing could thrive. It's an entirely different dynamic here, rather than the fringe, the left could be the core.

James Bow said...

I wish people would stop seeking to take choices away from me, and that's what this "unite the left" movement is about. It's undemocratic. People wouldn't necessarily migrate to the Liberal big tent, either. Note that the Conservatives STILL haven't polled the combined total of the Canadian Alliance/Reform and PC numbers from the previous four elections. You take the NDP or the Greens out of the equation, a lot of people simply won't vote.

We have a good thing going in Canada where there are more voices out there giving voices to those who otherwise wouldn't be heard in a two-party system. Let's preserve that with some form of proportional representation. Let's not insult the intelligence or integrity of third party voters and tell them to vote your way, or else.

Steve V said...


I don't think we have a good thing going anymore, it has become so fractured, it hands it too the Cons by default. All you have to do is look at the environment, four parties competing for those inclined, while you have choice, you have such a diluted vote, that the party that wants to do nothing wins the day. Craziness.

Steve V said...

All you have to do is ask yourself one question- how would Stephen Harper react? EXACTLY.

Anonymous said...

a system of preferential voting, such as Australia uses, would prevent a minority from defeating a divided majority.

Anonymous said...

Does Harper believe in social science? We know he didn't believe in global warming science until recently. He presents policy without a single reference to independent studies supporting him. Another Harper government and tackling poverty will become an insurmountable problem. Will Canada will be recognizable after another Harper government?

Anonymous said...

I've organized coalitions between different parties and what I saw was that the more powerful partner subscribed to the credo "what's yours is mine, and what is mine is mine too". Any coalition would simply end up like the PC-Reform coalition---the one side being eaten by the other.

And as for the rise of the Green Party, no one deserves the blame for that other than the Liberals and NDP. They had two options: put into place proportional representation or take the environmental crisis seriously. Neither did, so they basically forced the environmental community to build their own political party.

Once people make the effort to build a political party from scratch, they forge permanent allegiances. The Greens will not fold up their tents and join the Liberals overnight. So the Liberals had better get used to them and make some effort to deal with the vote splitting problem by either dramatically changing the Liberals or putting proportional representation into place the first chance they get.

I suspect that there is fat chance of either taking place.

Anonymous said...

I think this is one of many useful discussions on Liblogs at the moment, but definitely one of the most important. Especially when we see this platform today which speaks to such a broad swath of what is truly Canadian.

Thanks, Steve, for putting it out there and if I could I would underline and then circle your replies downthread. Especially the one at 3:49 pm; imagining the left thriving. Yeah, I am imagining it right along with you. We need it. That would truly represent this country.

I noticed, as did someone else on another blog, that Rae has been put out there to talk frequently about NDP'ers thinking carefully about who they plan to vote for. He is the perfect guy to do that.

Emailing friends and family is working. I am being careful to send the best I find and not spam them. There have been expressions of sadness that the facts are not being reported. So people who watch only TV see through a lot of this. Another reason to be more trusting of Nanos poll results. I was polled the other night for the first time ever and I enjoyed stating proudly that I will vote Liberal.


Northern BC Dipper said...

Well, I think Steve's idea doesn't go far enough.

I think all of us progressives, NDP, Liberal, and Greens, should go join the Conservative Party.

I mean, just imagine! The combined forces of NDP, Liberal, and Greens members going to the Conservatives enmasse would allow us to change Conservative policy into something that is more progressive and fair to Canadians. Sure, there would be compromise, but that's to be expected.

And we wouldn't have to worry about vote splitting any more. In fact, all of Canada's seats are sure to be ours (maybe except for Arthur Andre's, but who cares, we'd have a majority!)

It's time to put our self-interest behind us and do what is right for Canadians.

Just Imagine!

burlivespipe said...

BC dipper -- hilarious!
While I feel for Steve's idea, it is one that for but a thin margin of people, won't fly. The Liberal party, for better or worse, is a well-known brand. While Dion is someone who should be able to unite people from the centre-left and left, it hasn't happened just yet. There is still time to make the argument and present the case, but as the CON-republicans are masters of befuddling their rivals' message, it is a tough task. The debate will be a major factor.
Harper's push to make juveniles equal to adults in the eye of the law should just be another step towards opening some eyes. While it appeals to the Jerry Springer crowd and his own base, certainly many lefties and lefty-centers can see where this is taking us -- south of dixie. How is their crime rate by the way?
I'm all in favour of some form of electoral reform, but up til now Dion has rejected it. If he threw it out there, he'd be accused of going 'hail mary' at the last minute.
Let's hope that the issues are reported better these final weeks.

liberazzi said...


Off topic again, but this is the note I received from Nanos on my Facebook:

"Some who follow the CPAC-Nanos tracking have seen my numbers show the Conservatives ahead but a tighter race than some of my polling colleagues. Embedded in this message is a link to what I consider a fair article in today's Ottawa Citizen explaining the difference.

Also of note, if one accepts a big margin (i.e. 16 points) one should expect a "Harper-mania" type scenario. With about one of every four Canadians being unsure who choose none of the above as the leader they trust, think is the most competent or has the best vision, I think this is unlikely (possible but unlikely).

Check out the article if you are interested. Cheers, NJN

Methodology explains higher support for Liberals in Nanos poll
Ottawa Citizen - Ontario, Canada
A recurring head-scratcher of the campaign is the divergence in polling
results offered by Nanos Research and all the other pollsters in the field."
Last night on CPAC, he also disputes how other firms are presenting their questions. Nanos presents an open ended question, not a leading question, such as will you be voting for party A,B or C. Hopefully, Nanos is on the ball again.

Steve V said...


I think NANOS gets it right, because the way he questions gives us likely voters. If someone can't name the Green Party, because they aren't prompted, then they probably aren't paying attention, the probably won't vote. It's not a tough question, so anyone who can't articulate independently isn't engaged at all, that's the difference, and that's also the secret. The cell phone angle is also relevant.

liberazzi said...

Another point Nanos made was that the other polls have the Libs at a 140 year historic low. Which would mean that there is a Trudeau-mania type effect going on. Do you see any evidence of Harper-mania? Once again Decima has the Libs at 24%. In my opinion, these polling firms are going to have a lot of egg on their face again when election day comes. It still looks good for a Harper minority, but there is no way the Libs are at historic lows.

Ben (The Tiger in Exile) said...

All you have to do is ask yourself one question- how would Stephen Harper react? EXACTLY.

That's seriously high praise.

Just like the way that the Harper PMO apparently has the line, "What would Chretien do?"

Wheatsheaf said...

This post simply shouts the arrogance of Liberal supporters. Partisan Liberals simply have no understanding why others do not want to support a party that is only interested in power.

If I only have two choices - I choose the edible ballot. I suspect I would not be alone - leaving the New-Centre-of Harper coalition simply competitive.

Möbius said...

don't think we have a good thing going anymore, it has become so fractured, it hands it too the Cons by default.

Exactly what happened when we had a fractured right. Chretien year-after-year. I do sympathize.

Möbius said...

Another Harper government and tackling poverty will become an insurmountable problem.

Brilliant analysis. Poverty was so on the way to be solved before Harper came into power.

Anonymous said...

If the idea of this post is to "unite-the-left", then surely Liberals should also consider joining and voting for the NDP, shouldn't they? The polls seem to point to a race for second place between the Liberals and the NDP with the NDP trending upwards (with a more popular leader) and the Liberals trending downwards (with an unpopular leader). I image your response will be something along the lines of "The Liberals are the only party with a chance of winning", but I don't think that is the case anymore. 11 points separate 1st from 2nd and only 6 separate 2nd from 3rd. If the ultimate goal is to prevent a Harper majority, perhaps now is the time for Liberals to appeal to their own to "fall on their swords" instead of trying to convince others to make sacrifices. Please note, I haven't decided who to vote for yet.

Anonymous said...

Hm, so let me get this straight.... everyone who votes NDP, Green, or Bloc needs to compromise and vote for the party that you support. Sounds like a great, and truly Liberal idea to me!

I'm not really anti-Liberal (though I do certainly believe they need at least another term out of office to figure themselves out), but I do read over your post and wonder why you can't muse about "Liberals and NDP workers joining with the Greens", or "Liberals and Greens joiining with the NDP". The best compromise for you is for everyone else to fall in line.

The idea is appealing and has obvious, clear merit, but your take on it is no different from the NDP feeling we'd be better off if everyone folded in under the orange tent. Would you support that, Steve? If not, then why would NDPers want under your tent? Why would Greens?

If we want to be serious about uniting the left (which in itself a totally worthy idea that you're absolutely right to get people talking about), we'll need a better solution than "let's everybody just join the big-business lying-liars party".

I'm with Greg (electoral reform (which the Liberals oppose, due to their power-hunger) is a far, far better answer) and James (please don't take my choices away - Liberals are not progressive enough for my vote, and I don't want to be forced to vote for the Marijuana Party). Greg and James are onto a very workable, democratic solution, in my personal opinion.

Anonymous said...

I see that James Bow suggests strategic voting. This is a vastly better idea than limiting our choices as voters -- you may already know about it, but facebook has a group now devoted to matching up wanna-be strategic voters who are opposed to Harper. If you don't know it, say so and I'll look up the name of it for you.

Anonymous said...

Oh heck, I'm on facebook already -- it's hardly the electoral reform we need, but here's that group's name if you're at all interested:

Anti-Harper Vote Swap Canada

Steve V said...


Yes, lets unite behind the party who sits FOURTH in seat totals, and finished THIRD in 275 ridings in the last election. Come on.

Now, if the NDP ever did usurp the Liberals as the alternative, than I'd be all for it.


These characterizations of my view are hilarious, as though I'm the typical Liberal, fall in line. As I've said over and over, I'll bet my voting history is more diverse than you, this isn't a Liberal thing, it's a best way to stop Harper thing.

BTW, if I were a Con I'd be smiling ear to ear listening to some of these responses. Comforting in the ideal, irrelevant in the practical, they deserve to win.

Jacques Beau Vert said...

Sorry Steve, but "everybody vote Liberal or you're just helping the enemy" is, actually, a quite typically Liberal mindset -- so the shoe fits you more than well enough for my taste! :)

I can't imagine anyone has a more diverse voting record than me, actually - although I can't say I've ever supported the Bloc. So, I'm quite comfortable calling you out for the closet partisan that you are.

And hey, be proud of who you are - don't succumb to my or anyone else's slurs! Just be yourself, and you can be or do anyone or anything you want to!

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve

I don't really see how current seat totals or the results of the last election negate the fact that in THIS election campaign, the Jack Layton and the NDP seem to have at least some momemtum and Stephane Dion and the Liberals appear to be slipping steadily in support. Add to that the fact that the Liberal brand is still tarnished in much of the country (vilified in some regions), predominantly because the party is seen as being arrogant, and your call to rally around the Liberals just seems ridiculously unrealistic.

That's why I suggested that you should perhaps be appealing to your own ranks to make the sacrifices you're requesting others to make.

That being said, I'll be voting strategically, at least until we get some meaningful electoral reform in this country.

Steve V said...


You're still dealing in the theoretical, and we've seen an NDP surge before, only to fall back come election day. Let's wait and see, then maybe the dynamic changes.


Hippo yawns.

That guy said...

it has become so fractured, it hands it too the Cons by default

I'm sorry, but I just don't see that. If this had been happening over a longish period of time, that would be one thing. But this is really short-term stuff: Harper won ONE election with an incredibly weak minority, and may win another ONE, and that at a time when the Liberal Party is in serious disarray.

Long-term, the LPC has dominated Canadian politics, and always in the context of a multi-party system. The NDP didn't stop Chretien from getting multiple majorities; it's didn't stop Trudeau from getting elected multiple times, or St. Laurent, or King. If the Liberal Party is in trouble now, then it needs to repair itself internally, not try to "fix" everybody else.

Steve V said...


I hear you, but now you have the Greens too, which is far different from your historical examples. We now have too much overlap, this is an entirely new dynamic and it won't change moving forward.

Québécoise ambulante said...

This voting strategy is precisely the kind of practice the two big parties encourage, so that votes continue to swing between the two of them. To me, you are expressing a voice that has been manipulated by mainstream political rhetoric. Worse, you are reproducing that rhetoric yourself.

If your strategy gives you the possibility to « win », it does not, in my mind, express something very significant. Until Canadian voters allow themselves think outside dichotomic discourses (French/English, Quebec/ROC, Liberal/Conservative, etc.) the theoretical alternatives you are referring to will remain, well, theoretical. It's time for a little more courage.