05.27.2010 07:20 AM

Thoughtful coalition post

…not by me, but by regular reader Tim.  What do you think of what he has to say?  After what has happened in the U.K. in recent days – and after no less than Stephen Harper did the same thing a few years back – is unity the way forward?

Feel free to comment.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot, lately.



You will campaign, and fail again, to form a stand-alone Liberal government.

Until progressives arrive at the same difficult but necessary decision conservatives did in the 2000s, namely that their narcissistic small differences are less important than fielding a political force capable of winning power nationally, the Tories will win by default. You won a bunch of really easy elections in the 1990s in just the same fashion, Warren. It’s not a coincidence it took the unified right exactly one full election cycle to win power once McKay broke his promise to the PC base and allowed the once-proud party of Sir John A. to be subsumed by the radical Western right.

You just can’t have one half of the ideological spectrum divided 3 ways in English Canada and four ways – if one includes the Bloc – in Québec. Our dysfunctional electoral system simply doesn’t permit it. When you also factor in the massive, permanent cash advantage the Sorries enjoy, their complete partisan control of much of the mainstream media, and their ruthless style of politics, the picture becomes even grimmer.

I’m not even necessarily calling for a merger or formal coalition, but the mentality in both camps MUST change. This is a fundamental prerequisite for any real change in this country.

The days of Liberals laughably calling the NDP ‘irrelevant’ when it wins nearly 3 million votes each election and holds seats, including relatively secure bastions where strong MPs are firmly ensconced, in every single region of the country, in Montréal and Alberta and across Ontario is an offensive joke. Similarly, the days of New Democrats farcically portraying the Liberals as reactionary criminals who’ve accomplished nothing for Canada – suggesting that they’re no different from the Tories must end.

Both are crude, counter-productive and frankly, inaccurate stereotypes. Both parties have contributed in different but immeasurably valuable ways to this country and its evolution. It’s the compassionate society that our respective heroes and heroines, be it McPhail or King, Douglas or Trudeau, Broadbent or Chretien, built together which are under sustained and increasingly effective attack by this Government each and every day.

Politics is a competitive business, and when you’re fishing in the same pool there’s sure to be conflict. I for one, though I am proud of my own party, am damn sick of sniping at other progressives over petty bullshit rather than working towards a government which can actually deliver on the tremendous and enduring promise of this nation, a goal which comes to seem less attainable every day Harper remains in office.

If there’s no mandate to even talk, there should be.

Think of it this way: both Liberals and New Democrats love to secretly envision themselves as inheriting the Canadian mantle of Obama. Thusly, Grits say: ‘clearly we’re Obama. We’ve won national power and, like the Clinton democrats delivered moderate and effective progressive government which cut spending but preserved the most important social programs people need.’

New Democrats, by contrast, think: ‘clearly I am the the Obama. We’re about real change and putting ideas on the agenda which wouldn’t otherwise be there on behalf of interests which wouldn’t otherwise have a voice. We fought the great battles for health care, women’s rights, choice and secure public pensions before it was popular. We’re outsiders who promise to shake up a patently crooked system and deliver change.’

The division between experienced establishment Democrats, represented by Hillary, and outsider insurgent Democrats, represented by Obama in the 2008 nomination fight closely mirrors the divide between Liberals and New Democrats today. They fought it out on experience. They clashed on the issues. They even got personal. At its worst, it was downright nasty.

But once grassroots progressive finally endorsed President Obama’s candidacy, by democratic means, they all focused on what matters: fielding the best possible candidate and winning the national power needed to enact a progressive agenda conducive to the interests of an embattled middle class and the restoration of America’s proud voice in the world. They’re not perfect but imagine the alternative. (read: Palin)

I recognize the differences between our systems and political cultures, but the fundamental analogy holds: if Clinton and Obama, offended as their considerable sensibilities may have been after a bitter nomination fight, had committed to working at direct cross purposes throughout the actual campaign, President Obama would be unemployed and Republicans would still control the White House. No health care reform. No controls on corporate greed. No accountability for BP (debatable anyway.) But they realized the nation’s interest transcended their narrow political interests and personal vanity.

Sorry for the interminable rant, but these questions have weighed heavily on me of late. I know progressive Canadians around the country feel the same way. I close by suggesting there’s a reason Tory hysteria reaches its highest crescendo when talk of coalitions and purposeful cooperation on behalf of the Canadian people arises: it’s because this is what they fear most, and what alone can politically destroy them.

Thx, WK

UPDATE: I’m with Rae. All the way.


  1. smelter rat says:

    Tim is 100% correct. I doubt the leadership of either of the parties on the “left” will listen though. Both the NDP and the Liberals would need to clean house and bring in someone new (maybe not new, but at least different) to lead a unified party.

    • Michael Watkins says:

      Man, this topic sure hits a chord for me.

      I’d be willing to bet that the current opposition leaders can be made to listen to their party’s entrenched establishment if those groups feel merger or coalition is in the best interest of their party and Canada. The real power within a party is much more than who happens to be the leader of the day.

      We saw this dynamic play out in the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada merger with the Canadian Alliance. Did Peter MacKay run on the “I am not the merger candidate platform” knowing all along that his brain trust, the elder party statesmen and women of the party, including Mulroney and his gang of very loyal supporters, would call for merger talks to begin almost immediately? Or did the brain trust not fill in MacKay until after he won? Doesn’t matter, either way he was handed marching orders by the real power base in the party.

      For them it was probably the right move, even though as a PC activist I was very unhappy with the outcome. I believe the party establishment looked at the recent past and into the future and saw no hope of returning to power.

      They looked at the short time the splinter group, the Democratic Representative Caucus (Strahl, Grey et al) who split away from the CA in protest over Stockwell Day (three cheers for that) to join forces for a time with the PCPC. Everyone made that work for as long as it lasted, and no one grew horns. Perhaps the PC brain trust thought they could wrestle control of the new merged entity away from Harper and the West (they haven’t), or perhaps they didn’t care.

      To me this play the opposition parties are engaged in feels very familiar. Each wants the other to disappear, but they won’t. Each is sure the other is the devil. Sure, neither the NDP nor the Liberals are in danger of being decimated like the PCPC, but that doesn’t mean slogging it out will return them to the days of glory (for one) or to markedly increased seats in parliament (for the other). It just won’t happen. It won’t.

      Quite the contrary, if all parties stay on their current trajectories, the CPC will one day win a majority, of this I am certain. And when things look darkest for the opposition, Harper will engineer his own defeat or call for an election, finding some crisis as a convenient opportunity, and come back a second, probably final time. But that will mean Harper will have the opportunity to remain Prime Minister until at least 2015 – 2017 and he is young enough to pull it off easily.

      The CPC has an enormous organizational and infrastructure advantage over all other national parties. Enormous. This information and organizational advantage has translated into communications and fund-raising superiority which they are using to expand their reach, even as the LPC remains under attack as a truly national party.

      I have some insight into this. In the final year of the PCPC I was named national chair of technology and I quickly learned both how poorly equipped the PCPC was, and, once the merger was in process, how many orders of magnitude better the Canadian Alliance (now Conservative Party) was equipped and organized. They are even better organized today.

      While the LPC puts out weak talking points more than a hundred thousand emails were already winging their way around Canada from CPC fund-raising chair Irving Gerstein, warning prospective, current and expired members about (my words) “the coalition menace resurfacing like some socialist separatist monster from the deep, and please send us your $100, $200 or what have you, today, so we can win a majority in the next election and slay this evil coalition monster once and for all.”

      Whenever a topical “menace of the month” shows up on Conservative radar screens, Mr. Gerstein whips out the appeal letters. The data accessible by Elections Canada proves just how successful the Conservatives have been, exploiting key issues, emotions, and the massive data warehouse (CIMS) they have built up, at great expense, over the years, covering members and non members alike, spanning what is probably now millions of voting Canadians and Canadian households. They exploit this took aggressively in between elections, pre-write, and for campaigning. Their riding associations are largely well funded and every single one has access to CIMS, properly secured for their specific local use purposes. With my background in technology and data management I could easily envision how powerful a tool this was and would become.

      There simply is no way you can beat them without having both powerful ideas and messages, and vastly improved organization. I don’t see any of that on the horizon at present, but it sure would be nice to see, because despite my “conservative” history I do not support Mr. Harper in changing Canada to suit his vision.

      Meaningful cooperation between the centre right, centre, centre left and left would suit me much better, and I believe a majority of other Canadians would likewise applaud.

  2. Penny N. says:

    I’m just your average citizen who tries to keep up on politics. I agree with the above poster’s comment:

    “Politics is a competitive business, and when you’re fishing in the same pool there’s sure to be conflict. I for one, though I am proud of my own party, am damn sick of sniping at other progressives over petty bullshit rather than working towards a government which can actually deliver on the tremendous and enduring promise of this nation, a goal which comes to seem less attainable every day Harper remains in office.”

    I’m totally disgusted by the idealogy of this Libertarian government. The more I read, I believe our only hope of maintaining a progressive social society is for the the opposition parties to form some type of coalition with the NDP, and perhaps the Greens, before the next election, with a clear and concise statement of policies.

  3. JStanton says:

    There is little that I don’t agree with whole-heartedly.

    However, the fact that the LPC is moving in the opposite direction, despite the writing being on the wall, despite the interminable losses, despite the ever-shrinking polling numbers, tells me that the necessary change is unlikely to occur from within.

    Franz Fanon spoke of the catharsis of blood. I think it also applies here. The party needs a bloody whipping before the LPC will change; a defeat so brutal that it sweeps away the intransigence, (and the intransigent), and enables a complete re-set of the mandate.

    The sooner the better. One can see the benefit of encouraging Mr. Harper to push the envelope, in order to hasten the inevitable.

  4. Jim says:

    Tim’s post is thoughtful, but misses an absolutely critical point. The Liberals have far more in common with the Tories than they do with the NDP. Both parties would fit comfortably within the the spectrum of Democrats to the south. The NDP holds views that are extreme and antithetical to most Canadians.

    • bc says:

      Absolutely agree.

      Most Canadian’s simply don’t agree with Layton and the NDP. Period. With rare exception, NDP governments usually make a complete and utter mess when they leave office (usually under duress).

      If the Liberals want to re-gain Federal office they need to go back to what made them successful. Smart, charismatic leaders, running a centrist policy base.

      A partnership with the dippers, for no other reason than numbers will be seen for what it is, a desperate power grab from an opposition that doesn’t know how to oppose.

      • DL says:

        Funnily enough the two men who led the classic examples of NDP governments that were flops are Bob Rae and Ujjal Dosanjh – sit in the federal Liberal caucus. The most successful pragmatic NDP premiers like Schreyer, Blakeney, Romanow and Doer have been loyal to the NDP right to the bitter end.

  5. Be_rad says:


    Do you think it will be enough to campaign on a platform that admits the possibility of a coalition by not ruling it out? In effect, that is how the UK election rollled out. Coalition was a possibility, but it wasn’t even clear who would be dancing with whom.

    Or do you think that a merger is the only fundamentally sound approach to provide anti-conservative voters a clear option for a meaningful vote? If so, to get there both sides will have to adulterate their beverages. The Liberals will have to avoid trying to overwhelm the new party by force. In fact, they would do well to adopt many NDP riding practices and party democracy practices. The NDP will have to concede that their more leading edge platform planks will not have the same kind of central focus from their leadership and will have to content themselves with a tolerant leadership that allows for a broad range of opinion and even principled actions from time to time (see first point).

  6. Michael Hale says:

    I totally agree, but the reality among rank and file folks is that our leaders have pitted us against each other for so long that it will take more than good sentiment to overcome the very deep fissures between the NDP and the Libs. Why did it work with Obama and Clinton? Because they had Obama and Clinton. Both of those candidates are remarkable leaders who could push their own supporters into what was, at first, an uncomfortable coalition.

    I’m sorry, but I just don’t see Layton and Iggy as those kinds of leaders. If either of them tried to bind these two parties, it would be seen as a power grab, not a healing of rifts. I wish it were different, but these two men just don’t have what it takes to succeed in this endeavour. Broadbent and Chretien? Sure. Layton and Iggy? Nope.

  7. Tony Miller says:

    I agree Tim. Well said.

    The only road to victory, until the political calculus changes in Quebec, is through either a formal coalition AFTER the election or a stated coalition BEFORE. By before, I mean that both parties have to agree NOT to split the vote in centrist ridings. How counterproductive is it to allow a Tory to win a riding with 31% of the vote, when the Liberal candidate has 30% and the NDP 29%? In many cases, close to 60% of the electorate in a bevy of ridings have voted for progressive candidates….yet a Conservative wins. Madness. And maddening. Furthermore, I don’t buy the notion that a de-facto or de-jure coalition will drive Liberal voters to the Tories. Yes, maybe a few, but they are fence-sitters anyway, and there are easily 65% of Canadians who want progressive government. The time has come to, as Tim says, set aside the narcissism of minor differences and coalesce around the vast common ground that both parties share. The alternative is more Harper. And less democracy.

  8. Dana says:

    Yes, thoughtful post.

    Now stand by for the knee jerk trash talkers from the LPC and NDP.

    I blogged extensively and repeatedly about this and was attacked just as extensively and repeatedly.

    Once Harper has reduced the country to the Canadian equivalent of Alabama maybe the LPC and NDP will realize that something needs to be done but until then I’m very afraid that nothing whatever will.

    Except Canada. Canada will change, indeed already has.

    • I’m a Canadian _in_ Alabama and there are signs that Alabama is getting close to some pretty serious political change.
      Not firmly there yet, but very, very strong hints with strong reform candidates for governor running in both the Democratic and Republican primaries.
      Google Artur Davis(D) and Bradley Bryne(R). Both are angling towards constitutional reform, which must happen before Alabama can finally shake free of it’s past.

  9. timidgenius says:

    As this person puts it, coalitions are about practicality and maturity, and I completely agree.

    However, this suggestion, were it enacted, would indeed lead Canadian politics to look more like the American version, which is sadly inept of ideas and real change (the Obama health care and financial regulation bills have been corporate wrist slaps at best, hardly real change).

    The reason, so far, that the left is divided in Canada (though I don’t really see the Liberals, or in many ways the Greens, as being all that left) is because there is a multiplicity of ideas. Folding into the Liberal tent means letting go of good ideas, agreeing to the lowest common denominator in order to simply get along. The Convervatives are a case in point: in 5 years they haven’t enacted a single piece of thoughtful, helpful legislation despite the fact that the Reform Party was brimming with ideas on how to make Canadian politics more democratic.

    The real solution, the real common denominator, is proportional representation. When each party that has ideas, and Canadians that support them, gets seats in the house, those ideas don’t die. Indeed those ideas are very likely to become legislation because party will have to form either coalitions or trade policy votes in order to govern. Only when everyone’s vote counts, parties are forced to work together for survial and good ideas become law will Canadians re-engage with national politics.

    • Michael Watkins says:

      The Conservatives haven’t pushed any meaningful political reform ideas forward because Harper has no love for a reformed, more democratic, form of representation or government. If anything he’d love to have an all-appointed cabinet, just like the U.S.

      The populist policies of Manning are not what drives Harper. Grabbing majority power drives Harper. Trimming the federal government’s purse, permanently, drives Harper. Regional autonomy drives Harper. Preventing any new national programs drives Harper. Cutting taxes to the bone drives Harper, as long as it doesn’t interfere with compatible, neocon (an informative not pejorative use of the word), objectives such as vast investments in the military and refocussing foreign aid on areas where we can expect more trade rather than focussing aid on areas that might have greater needs.

      Harper isn’t driven by what Canadians might want. Despite all the talk of “Liberal elitism” all these years by the right (which I was a part of), Harper is the ultimate “daddy knows best” elitist. The Tim Horton’s vs Starbucks, man of the Canadian everybody, veneer is a mirage, a fabrication.

  10. Bill King says:

    Go for it. There’s little difference between the Liberals and NDP anyway.

    Rae and Dosanj obviously saw no difference.

    Iggy has no problem moving right to left to right to left on just about any issue.

    After all, it’s all about getting power, right? Even if it means doing a deal with separatists, right?

    So do it. PLEASE!

    Looking forward to voting day.


  11. eattv says:

    I agree with the post, and with JStanton above. It has seemed to me for a while that the Libs haven’t really gotten the fact that Canadians have given them a spanking. I still feel too much of a sense of entitlement to the crown from them, and they’ve stopped looking for ideas.

    I consider myself a red Lib, but the NDP is just as comfortable a fit. More than anything, I consider myself anti-Conservative, as I believe many in this country do. Seeing a clear way out of this horrible government would energize the bases of both parties, come a coalition.

  12. Christian says:

    It isn’t often that I totally agree with postings like these, but in this case Tim is 100% spot on. if progressives ever want to form gov’t they are going to have to put aside their minor differences and get over themselves. Warren, I also agree with your earlier post about the Liberal Party commenting on hypotheticals – dumb, dumb, dumb. Even more stupid was ruling out forming a coalition! Doesn’t that break the other cardinal rule of politics? Don’t box yourself in by eliminating options. What it indicates to me is that the Libs are scared of the Tory attack machine, and is an admission of weakness. In my view a Party that is confident in its message, policies and position should not fear any attack ad but should be eager to take them on. Guess thats not the case with today’s Lib Party. Its unfortunate because until it changes the Libs will continue to flounder in the polls.

  13. matt says:

    1. Tim is right that a pre-writ mandate to consider a coalition post-writ, depending on the election results, makes a lot of sense for the Liberals and the NDP. I’m surprised it took him so many words to say so.

    2. I’m also surprised that he can criticize “crude, counter-productive and frankly, inaccurate stereotypes” of the Liberals and NDP, yet go on to describe the Conservatives as “the radical Western right,” “Sorries,” hysterical, and putting a compassionate society “under attack.” Tim is free to loathe Conservative policies and pour his energies into having a different party/parties form government, but I think the view that conservative political ideas are politically illegitimate (as opposed to lesser options) is corrosive and damaging to society.

    3. While I agree with Tim’s thesis, a lot of the (extra) reasons he provides in support are based on a simplistic left/right spectrum. I don’t think that really applies to Canada anymore in light of our regionalism (ironically, I think Harper would disagree with me and strongly with Tim).

  14. Riley says:

    I have been a card carrying member of the NDP, Greens and Now the Liberals. Why? I hate the lousy Harper government and what it stands for. It’s a phony government and we’re suffering under it because we have a sham democracy. The Liberals, NDP and Green core voters are all deluded. Liberals can’t understand the population is so pluralistic, not enough people support them, they also have some serious weak points with regards to how candidates are selected and how leaders are selected. They simply have no credibility on these issues. There is a hard core of the NDP and Greens who are simply hopelessly impractical. The are fundamentalists and can’t see the country burning around them while they dream of implementing their most radical ideas. It’s time to get together. Look at the radical policies the conservatives snuck into the budget. Don’t worry about current polls. All that matters is the campaign. Join together, agree on a truce in key ridings and lets get rid of the cons just as fast as we possibly can.

  15. JH says:

    This will be the gift that keeps on giving to Harper. He’ll have his majority government. I would say at least 25% of the hardcore Liberal support would move to the Tories. There’s no doubt in my mind that they would hold power then for at least a quarter of a century. It would also probably benefit the Green Party and even the Bloc to a lesser extent.
    The Liberals do this at their peril and would pay the major price.

  16. Elizabeth says:

    This is interesting – video
    Donald Gutstein about his book, Not a Conspiracy Theory: How Business Propaganda Hijacks Democracy (Key Porter Press)

    and makes you wonder if the Fraser Institute is an arm of the government.

  17. Liz J says:

    IMHO, the parties need to each clearly present their vision to the electorate and then let the people decide. Ideally we would get rid of our archaic first-past-the-post system, but regardless of which voting method we use a government needs to gain the support of a majority of MPs to pass legislation. Coalition government should be a carefully considered option for all elected parties. Why on earth would any party that cares about democracy rule it out?

    Mackenzie-King offered Woodsworth a seat in Cabinet if his party would support King’s minority government. Woodsworth turned down the coalition, but did agree to support King’s government on certain conditions and the result was old age pensions and unemployment insurance.

    I say, no to any joining of parties before the election, but after the election when you see the results of the vote and you see how many Canadians supported each party’s vision THEN you sit down and work together to govern in the best interests of Canadians. If the electorate give you a hung parliament then they are telling you to consider coalition. Listen to the people. The anti-coalition forces screaming against cooperation were the conservatives, why?, because they would lose power.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:


      I’m with you. We should proceed with caution. Someone please reassure me how social-democrats can be successfully meshed, in the Canadian context, with Liberals of every garden variety hue. Not as easy as it sounds, is it…

      And please don’t forget that desperate and regrettable eventual “second act”, the selection of a left-wing leader, and we have another Dion all over again for a repeat of 2008. Nothing quite like an NDP-type leader followed by an electoral swandive. No wonder this Prime Minister hopes it happens — and the sooner, the better, from HIS perspective.

      The more I see the rushes for this movie, the less I like the picture, even in 3D.

  18. Toby says:

    The problem with this sort of thinking is that it assumes Canadian political parties are neatly laid out on a one-dimensional left-right spectrum. It assumes that all or most Liberal/NDP/Green voters would vote for a combined party or combined effort. This is simply not true. There are voters in all those parties (even the NDP!) that would vote Conservative instead.

    • Mike Adamson says:

      Second preference would make an interesting polling subject. Twenty years ago I would have agreed with you very quickly but I don’t know how it would shake out today.

  19. Catherine says:

    It would be a risky move unless like has been stated above both parties cleaned house – inside and out. Many Liberals I know in no way would wish to partner with the NDP, no way no how! I see them moving to the Cons. if an coalition occurs between Libs/NDP.

    I could also envision that there are still many NDP totally pissed at Bob Rae to want to follow him into a coalition.

    Jack Layton may figure that he’s doing pretty good on his own and that the Greens may make more of a coalition sense to them – and they can take over the official opposition role.

    If a coalition is driven from the bottom-up and not the top-down it has a better chance of succeeding. That will take time to do right.

  20. B Kuchar says:

    The major problem with the UK analogy is that the UK Tories won the plurality of seats, whereas the Conservatives currently control the plurality of seats in our Parliament. Thus, if we’re going to say that the UK shows us how coalitions can/should work, then the Liberals still need to win the plurality of seats as a prerequisite for any talk of a governing coalition, and it remains to be seen that the party can do that under Ignatieff’s leadership. People need to remember that the Alliance and the PCs didn’t form a coaltion – they merged together to create a new entity (though one can argue that it was essentially just a reformation of Mulroney’s PC party minus the Quebec wing). So when people talk about a Lib-NDP coaltion, lets get it straight: are we talking about a coaltion between two independent parties, or are we really talking about a merger? Unlike the Alliance, which, again, I would argue was just a splinter group of the old PCs, the NDP has always been its own party and holds themselves out as standing for very different things than the Libs, so I don’t see a merger as being particularly likely. The two parties simply want different things: the Liberals want to govern, and the NDP want to be the conscience of Parliament. It can be difficult to reconcile those two interests. So if we’re restricted to talking about post-election coaltions, then the problem of “electoral math” that Tim discusses still doesn’t get fixed (as other posters have noted). As long as Lib and NDP candidates are running against each other, the vote splitting problem remains. The only way to fix the problem is to create a formal agreement to not run Lib or NDP candidates in ridings that could closely favour the Lib or NDP candidate, at which point you surrender an argument to the Conservatives that they’re the only party in Canada that runs 308 candidates – do the Libs really want to surrender that identity to the Conservatives exclusively?

    In my mind, the real answer to what ails the Liberals is simple leadership. Layton has been able to grow the NDP because the Libs haven’t made a strong enough appeal for those votes. Make Bob Rae the Liberal leader, and you’ll get your majority, and you won’t need a formal coaltion agreement to do it (note: I’m not a member of the Liberal party and have never, ever worked for a Bob Rae campaign). Anyone who’s ever read any of Ignatieff’s pre-politics writing knows that the guy is basically center-right (not unlike Paul Martin, one can easily imagine him as the leader of the old PC party), which is why he’s getting totally squeezed out in the current electoral landscape. The Libs need a leader who can speak to the left side of the political spectrum and let soft NDP voters know that he/she basically shares their values, except he/she actually has the will to govern. A Bob Rae-led Liberal party would be Layton’s worst nightmare. And frankly, although Rae is bona fide left, the man is so damn likable and principled that I bet he could siphon away some soft Conservative voters (like me) who have grown tired of small politics like a 5% GST and are ready to take a chance on a larger, more ambitious vision for Canada. You may not like Mulroney but the man had vision, something I think that even many dyed-in-the-wool Conservatives would acknowledge that Harper lacks.

  21. Hugh says:

    In support of Toby …

    Many years ago, after the Hatfield PC’s had been wiped out in New Brunswick there was a new party formed – COR – the Confederation of Regions party. Ideologically, significantly to the right of the current Conservatives.

    A friend of mine did political polling in NB. There were four parties at that time. From Left to Right they were NDP, Liberal, Conservative, COR. As part of the polling she asked what were the voters first preference and second preference. The largest second preference of the NDP supporters was COR and the largest second preference for COR was the NDP. You read that right – the first and second choice for these people were parties at the opposite ends of the political spectrum. Her explanation was that the votes for these parties were protest votes against the Libs and Cons.

    There are also people who overlap – who could vote either NDP or Liberal, or Liberal or Conservative.

    You can’t simply add all the votes for the various parties and assume they will keep them in a coalition. If the Liberals unite with the NDP you will get defections from the right wing of the Liberal party ( and yes, there is one) to the Conservatives by people who are uncomfortable with the left wing moves.

    And the Green’s and BQ … where will they go … not necessarily to Liberals or NDP …

  22. H Holmes says:

    A coalition with NDP will lead a stronger NDP and much weaker Liberal party.
    In Ontario the Liberals were regulated to the wilderness in 1990 by the NDP and didn’t win again until 2002.
    The only reason that the Liberals made a comeback was because Rae and the NDP were mud in Ontario after the whole Rae day thing.

    In Saskatchewan the Conservatives and Liberals formed a coalition in 1997. After that move the Liberals were down to 3 seats. The NDP and liberals formed a coalition in 1999 and now it is almost impossible to imagine a Liberal government here.

    A coalition is a bad idea unless one hopes that the liberal party is weakened even more than it is.
    Since you would have to punt out the centre right of the party.
    Oh well short term gain for Long term pain.

    • Riley says:

      The NDP and Liberals formed a coalition in Ontario and look what happened. McGuinty is doing just fine. There’s not enough data to be reliable. The fact remains, the conservatives are out of the mainstream on so many issues. They can’t — or refuse — to work with anyone. They just need to step aside and let the grownups have a go again. They’ve had over 4 years. They have accomplished nothing except sneak in a bunch of retrograde policy via orders in council. Parliament has done next to nothing since they gained power. Worst of all, they like it that way. They hate parliament because they hate equality and they don’t trust Canadians. They know their policies are not popular so they do things through the back door. They’re a damn disgrace. Want proof? Canada is now ranked 24th for infant mortality. Oh my God. What’s happening? If you are a Canadian born in the next hour, you have a better chance of premature death than you did before the cons took power.

  23. (having skipped all above comments)

    Damn straight. But the Libs will not awaken. If the Greens and NDP put their support together, per today’s EKOS poll, right away they have more than the Liberals. If they were able to do that, they could marginalize the Libs and bleed a good deal of their progressive support off, without having to lose favour with their own bases. The Liberals risk becoming obsolete.

  24. Marc L says:

    I could vote Liberal. If there is an alliance with the NDP, forget it. Never. I`ll even help the Conservatives in their campaign to defeat such a coalition. Letting Jack Layton and his gang of left-wing wackos get their hands on power and have something to say in the economic policies of this country would be disastrous. We are not talking British Labour here.
    Instead of trying to get into power through the back door, why don’t you just give people a reason to vote for you. You have no platform. You have no policies. You do not stand for anything. We have no idea what you would do and where you would bring the country if in power. How about solving that problem first, rather than teaming up with those leftist clowns.

    • Riley says:

      You mean like the leftist clowns who lead Saskatchewan and Manitoba to two of the healthiest economies in Canada? Too bad you voted for Ed Stelmach and those fiscally skilled cons in Alberta. Ironically you moved to Alberta after the conservative Grant Devine destroyed the Saskatchewan economy in the 1980s (again after a string of NDP surpluses under Blakeney) Funny how Harper took a decade of Liberal economic excellence and simply vapourized it — but oh, wait, he’s an economist, so he can be forgiven. Must be that Calgary School new math. Too used to dealing with petro dollar monoply money.

      • Marc L says:

        What in heaven`s name are you talking about? I`m from Montreal and live in Montreal. I’ve set foot in Alberta twice in my life. And, I am no fan of Harper.
        Layton’s party is nothing like the Manitoba or Saskatchewan NDP, believe me.

  25. luke says:

    The problem as I see it as that everyone seems to be thinking of terms of absolutes and majorities, neither of which are likely to be very common in Canadian politics from now on.

    If you go back 30-40 years what you see is a relatively static support for conservative parties, whatever name they may have had at the time. If you go back to 2004 the united Conservative Party only got 30%. I think the reason for that is because Canadians saw them with unease and trepidation. Rightfully so. The question is why don’t they see them that way now? The party hasn’t changed…. guns, abortions etc. We’ve just done a piss poor job on bringing their glorious comments to the forefront and Harper has done a good job at gagging them.

    But there’s another factor in this equation. The Green Party. If we, the Liberal party, can come up with the policies and the public relations strategy to win back ‘red tory’ support and bleed some support from the NDP, we’re likely ahead in the polls, if only by a point or two. But those who are voting Green aren’t voting for the NDP for a reason (since they are both seen as ‘left-wing’ parties). The conservative vote was split in two, a relatively easy reconciliation when compared with the roughly 65% of the Canadian electorate who see themselves as centre-left and split across 3 or even 4 parties (Bloc).

    But lastly I think it’s wrong for us to even be talking about coalitions within this context. We don’t deserve to govern right now. We aren’t ready to govern. Before we claim command of the entire fleet, I think we should right the direction of our own ship.

    Good post on the base of support, from which I have borrowed for this post: http://disgruntledlib.blogspot.com/2010/05/numbers-dont-lie.html

    • Riley says:

      ” Before we claim command of the entire fleet, I think we should right the direction of our own ship.” ———————————- That kind of thinking is exactly the problem a lot of people have with the Liberal party. You assume that you will be in command of the fleet. I think nothing short of a merger — “Liberal Democrats” anyone? — will get people’s heads screwed on straight over this. the NDP, Liberals and Greens simply see the world in different ways. Liberals are all about equality, freedom and compassion and potential, the NDP is all about fighting economic inequality and redistribution of wealth (and justly so) and the Greens operate on a different time scale and dimension — they see everything as an interconnected web. They plan with the needs of the next 7 generations in mind and they realize real change doesn’t happen through tinkering. The whole system has to change — for example, stop taxing the things we want — income, payroll, low energy products, and start taxing the stuff we don’t want like carbon pollution, tobacco, street drugs, gas guzzling hummers, guns, etc. In the end, they all three want equality, freedom and justice. The conservatives want to maintain power for grumpy old white guys — at almost any cost.

  26. Dr.Dawg says:

    Changed your tune, Warren. Good.

  27. northbaytrapper says:

    I’m interested to see how far left the Libs will have to go to appease the Dippers. So much for your moving to the centre, Warren. Any moves to the left with alienate Iggy from the part of the party that actually supports him and will go a long way to ending his tenure at the helm (cue Bob Rae et al.)
    I personally think that the majority of Canadians are fiscal conservatives, and any move to the left that threatens the Liberals credentials on that point will cost them dearly. Look what happened when Dion slid to the left. He didn’t lose the election because he couldn’t speak at a CTV interview…hell…Chretien couldn’t speak well in either language.
    However, Chretien was the best example of what a Liberal leader should look like: he didn’t talk like a Harvard professor, he didn’t dress like a CEO, he was rough, he was often crass, he was belligerent, he was crusty, he was fun, he was intelligent and he liked people to sell him short (like George Bush who won two terms), he was believable…in essence he was like most Canadians and all the while was interesting.
    A good chunk of your supporters as well as your team will jump ship at the first sign of the NDP.
    My 2 cents.
    Final thought: If the PC’s went wildly right when the merger happened, then why are they occupying the centre of the political spectrum right now? Has the electorate moved right or have the Libs moved left?

  28. The NDP has been trying to work with the Liberals for 6 years and time and time again they’ve been rebuffed by the blue libs controlling the party.

    • Green Assassin Brigade says:

      Well what goes around comes around. The NDP would not deal with the Greens under Harris and screamed when the Dion made a deal with May on two ridings,, ya can’t have it both ways. Either the NDP is willing to made deals for the betterment of the country or not. To claim it was an affront to democracy is a joke considering how many paper candidates all parties prop up in no win ridings, how warped our FPTP system works, and the subsequent brutalization of our public institutions since Harper’s last win.

      There was also considerable outrage from some Liberals and many Greens when in reality we should have looking at a larger deal on 30-40 ridings.

      It’s time progressives got their heads out of their asses and decided who the enemy really is, and then deal before a rabid theocracy is rammed down our throats.

  29. Catherine says:

    Looks like Bob Rae’s steering the boat. Good luck with that because Mr. Rae is the dude who sent me packing from the Ontario NDP in the first place. No thanks!


  30. Small correction to Tim’s analysis:

    Peter MacKay made a promise to David Orchard, not the PC party grass roots.

    When we members were offered a chance to vote on the merger, we voted, overwhelmingly in favor of it.

    For right-wingers, Peter MacKay did not betray us or break a promise to us. We remember and give thanks for his courage.

    • Francis says:

      The bottom line is he did in fact promise not to merge with the radical right. He didn`t say `I may do it` or `under the right circumstances`. He said: I won`t. He did so of sheer political opportunism, likely knowing even then that he would break the promise and sell out to Harper.

      Like so many associated with the neo-Tory movement, McKay is pathologically dishonest.

      You`re right… if youre an alliance member. For the radicals it worked out great. For old PCers, obviously that is not and cannot be true.

      Let`s not forget he even rented a dog which even neighbours of the McKay farm say hasn`t been around before or since in order to infer his ex was a b*&%h. Trashy.

      Let`s keep the flailing, partisan defences of terrible ministers from entitled prat backgrounds who attack other Canadians`patriotism in order to justify their own leadership inadequacies in perspective, people.

  31. Cory says:

    A party with both the legacy of Adscam and the fiscal reputation of the NDP…Harper’s wet dream.

    • parnel says:

      Yep, wspecially aft erh the just announced biggest boondoggle ever by the Harpercrites…….. over $1BB for a 72 hour summit. Give your head a shake.

      • parnel says:

        Sorry about the spelling……..

        Yep, especially after the just announced biggest boondoggle ever by the Harpercrites………over $1BB spent on security for a 72 hour summit!!!

  32. James Smith says:

    While I tend to disagree with this Accord stuff, I would prefer an accord to the present situation, (ie. an extreme Right wing agenda being packaged like it’s almost moderate).
    Three points:
    1 There is a window of opportunity with the kerfuffle over the omnibus budget bill – a proper sales job could at least make this more palatable to folks like my dear wife.
    2 If this is to be done, it needs to be done almost right away, the GG’s replacement might end up to be Deb Grey or a failed CFL commissioner & let’s just say this replacement may not accept the arguments of an Accord, & would likely give-in to the angry threats of the present PM.
    3 The Accord should have a time limit, and be at least one year, but one based on the agreed upon agenda not a strict clock.

  33. Michael Watkins says:

    Such revisionism chuckercanuck.

    MacKay indeed made and broke a promise to the membership. His platform featured prominently the promise “I am not the merger candidate”. He portrayed Jim Prentice as being eager to engage in some sort of sell out to the Canadian Alliance. MacKay relied upon the support of people like John “No truck nor trade with the morticians of the Alliance party!” Crosbie.

    The MacKay campaign team continually hammered these lies and mis-characterizations home so that they could con David Orchard should the leadership race come down to the crunch and require his support, knowing that neither Prentice nor Brison would cast their support to MacKay and for good reason. Prentice was the only candidate who acted with honour in this regard, refusing to be say that he was opposed to the idea of cooperation, refusing to rule out avenues for the future. This is one of the reasons I actively supported Prentice.

    Unsurprisingly, MacKay broke his agreement with Orchard and simultaneously broke his campaign vow to every member, by starting secret negotiations within weeks of being elected, without any consultations with the membership. It was a closely guarded secret, unknown until the final day(s) by some members of the OLO itself.

    It was MacKay who was the merger candidate but he was too much a chicken to admit it. You might call it courage, I call it deceit when someone lies to my face all the way through a campaign and then immediately upon election does what he says he will not do.

  34. Perfectly Legitimate Commenter says:

    Warren, the Liberals and NDP have a combined, what, 105 seats? They would need to gain fifty seats to have the barest of majorities.

    Putting your reputation as a smart guy on the line, do you believe that to be possible, even plausible? Of course not.

    They’ll be lucky to maintain their current numbers. Ah, but what about co-operating and not running against each other in some/most ridings, you ask? My response is that when faced with the prospect of a Liberal NDP coalition the needle moved dramatically, with the Conservatives polling an unheard of 52% in Ontario. A lot of Liberal voters will switch to the Conservatives.

    The bottom line is that the NDP and Liberals are too unpopular to win 155 seats and they absolutely need the Bloc’s support to form a coalition. It appears that the new strategy is a “crypto-coalition” with the Bloc. That’s totally not going to fly with the electorate, they’ll see right through it. The Conservatives have an unlikely ally in the media on this one, which hates the Bloc nearly as much as they hate Conservatives, and you can count on Paul Wells and Chantal Hebert and Andrew Coyne and many others to raise hell over any coalition that depends on Bloc support, whether implicitly or explicitly.

    Why not come over to the winning team? A strong CPC-LPC coalition is the only coalition that wouldn’t need Bloc support.

  35. James Curran says:

    Of course, what needs to be said here is that Stephane Dion was light years ahead of his time. He had this coalition thing already worked out to a tee – and tossed in the Bloc as window dressing. But the greedy, self serving bastards entitled to their damn entitlements in the Liberal Party couldn’t have that, coultd they? I mean what about that trip they paid for to Harvard way back.

    Dion, a PhD and enviromental and political genius as PM and Layton and Mulcair in cabinet. Hm. Maybe somebody should make the call to Stephane and ask just how he went about that seemingly overnight while we debate it here for the next few months.

    then again….what do I know…..

  36. Herman Thind says:

    We simply need to “run from the left, and govern from the center-right” as we have always done. Try it. It works. Has worked. Will always work.

    We are centrists. If we move too far left, we will lose some center-right voters. Still, we DO need to scarf down some ideas from the left, make them mainstream (like we did in the case of medicare – thanks Tommy D!), and crucify the right wing for being so right wing. That’s all. Simple formula. Igg-ster needs to continue to get with the program he’s been getting with the past few weeks/months (Donolo?)… We’re heading in that direction. We’re just a little gun-shy about introducing the ideas too early, since Harp’s crew likes to bastardize ideas and steal them… (well, at least the ones which aren’t too far to the center for him)…

    We can win over left votes by making promises which will appeal to the people losing their jobs in these trying times… The working “Joe and Jane Averages” of Canada NEED someone to stand for them. Harper poses in front of Tim Hortons and pretends to care (in an affront to all things decent), while his rich buddies continue to laugh all the way to the bank – and his religious nut-case right-wingers rub their hands together in anticipation of a majority…

    A bit of cooperation is a good idea. Not running in ridings which are looking to go in one direction or the other (NDP or Liberal) is a good basis for this. Not sure we’d want to take it much further.

    Liberal-NDP cooperation has resulted in some of the most forward-thinking policies in this country. It is the basis of how the modern world views us. There must be more we can do to fight Harper – while not fighting each other…

  37. Blair Shumlich says:

    The Libs will bounce back. They’ve been trounced and had comebacks many times.

    • JustinB says:

      To come back, the Liberals will need a new and charismatic leader to lead them out of the political wilderness.

      Do you see that person now .. is he/she born yet …?!

  38. Herman Thind says:


    Not a fan of coalition. I hate the idea of a two party state like the US. Polarizes politics too much. We need to maintain the multi-party state to keep some hope of retaining European-like liberal democracy.

    What I do like is the idea of a “deal” to split up “winnable” ridings prior to an election. It doesn’t even have to be formal… Just something like “whoops… we forgot to run someone in Danforth”, etc., etc. We can also make it look like the Cons’ fault for trying to catch the parties with their pants down by calling an election before we have nominated all our candidates…

    Both parties – right now, should target nominations for the most “winnable” ridings – where we are up against the Con incumbent (for the NDPers that’s mostly on the Prairies; for the Libs mostly in suburban Canada). Let us wait for Harper to drop his writ before we decide what further to do in those ridings where there is NDP or Liberal strength. Worse case scenario, the leaders appoint candidates as they often do… Meanwhile we focus on more winnable ridings.

  39. Emily says:

    You can’t run on a coalition. Voters simply won’t support it. It sounds too temporary, too ad hoc. You’ll end up with majority Conservative that way.

    Merge the two parties outright. Become the Liberal Democrats….. Lib-Dems.

    Act in a professional manner for a change, and spare us the emotional prima donna stuff, because frankly my dears, no one gives a damn.

    Iggy and Layton step down, and a new leader is put in place.

    I suggest Dominic LeBlanc….new, young yet experienced, French but not from Quebec, good name etc….

    In effect, a totally new party….without the baggage.

    Something for the 21st century. Practical solutions to everyday problems, can the ideology, and look to the future.

  40. James Bow says:

    Look at it this way:

    We do not elect a prime minister. We elect MPs. And it is on the basis of the MPs that we elect that we get our prime minister.

    Well, while Conservative MPs won the most seats, they did not win enough seats to hold a majority in the House of Commons. You can argue that Conservative MPs are elected in their ridings with a mandate to install a Conservative Prime Minister. You can argue that the voters in their riding knew what they were doing when they voted for their Conservative MP, so that’s what Conservative MPs are supposed to do. But, what, really, are the opposition MPs supposed to do?

    Opposition MPs were elected with an equally strong mandate by their constituents to represent their ridings, but they have been elected with a mandate to instal a different candidate to be Prime Minister. So, are they roll over just because the Conservatives won a plurality of votes or a plurality of seats (note that sometimes one doesn’t go with the other)? Are they to break their promise to their constituents and fail to represent their ridings’ interest?

    So, Conservative supporters shouldn’t be surprised if, by failing to reach out to at least one opposition party, the opposition MPs decide to work together and topple the Conservative PM. After all, they’re simply doing what they’ve been elected to do. And given that they hold the majority of seats in the House of Commons, you can only say that this is democracy in action.

    Or, to put it another way: if no party is able to win a majority of seats, there is no automatic mandate to govern. When this happens, the mandate falls back to the individual MPs whose first duty is to represent their ridings to the best of their ability. With no party in the majority, it is the responsibility of the MPs to negotiate with each other to come up with an agenda that a majority can support.

    The Conservatives have consistently failed to work with the other parties in order to try and produce an agenda that a majority can support. They’ve shown little willingness to compromise or negotiate. So, their failure to produce a parliament that works is more a sign that democracy is working — but that the Conservatives are failing to work with it.

  41. Steve T says:

    Jerry, I estimate you have used the term “facsist” to describe the CPC about a dozen times in your various replies. It’s getting a bit tiresome. Plus, do you know what “fascism” means? Look it up – I don’t think it represents the type of government you think it represents.

    You may hate the CPC, and there may be good reasons to do so, but throwing around words like “facsism” just for shock effect doesn’t really further your arguments.

    • Elizabeth says:

      But it isn’t for shock effect. It’s really true. A characteristic of fascism is an intolerance for anything different from the ruling party. That’s what we’ve got. And I have no doubt that Harper wants a one-party government. No elections.

      ” Fascists seek to organize a nation on corporatist perspectives, values, and systems such as the political system and the economy.

      Fascists believe that a nation is an organic community that requires strong leadership, singular collective identity, and the will and ability to commit violence and wage war in order to keep the nation strong. They claim that culture is created by collective national society and its state, that cultural ideas are what give individuals identity, and thus rejects individualism.
      In viewing the nation as an integrated collective community, they claim that pluralism is a dysfunctional aspect of society, and justify a totalitarian state as a means to represent the nation in its entirety. They advocate the creation of a single-party state.

      Fascist governments forbid and suppress openness and opposition to the fascist state and the fascist movement. They identify violence and war as actions that create national regeneration, spirit and vitality.

      Fascists reject and resist autonomy of cultural or ethnic groups who are not considered part of the fascists’ nation and who refuse to assimilate or are unable to be assimilated. They consider attempts to create such autonomy as an affront and threat to the nation.

      Fascism is strongly opposed to core aspects of the Enlightenment and is an opponent of liberalism, Marxism, and mainstream socialism for being associated with failures that fascists claim are inherent in the Enlightenment. Fascists view egalitarianism, materialism, and rationalism as failed elements of the Enlightenment. In contrast, Fascists promote action, discipline, hierarchy, spirit, and will.
      They oppose liberalism — as a bourgeois movement — and Marxism — as a proletarian movement — for being exclusive economic class-based movements. Fascists present their ideology as that of an economically trans-class movement that promotes ending economic class conflict to secure national solidarity.

      They believe that economic classes are not capable of properly governing a nation, and that a merit-based aristocracy of experienced military persons must rule through regimenting a nation’s forces of production and securing the nation’s independence. ”


      • Elizabeth says:

        $1 Billion being used on security — it’s more like it’s being used to suppress dissenting voices.

      • Jim says:

        Elizabeth – Your hysterical nonsense drives people away from the Liberal party, not towards it.

        You have “no doubt that Harper wants a one-party government with no elections”? Do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound?

  42. parnel says:

    I think Jack Layton is past his best before date as head of the NDP and his swan song could be to join the LPC and take his members with him. Ed Broadbent is all for a merger into the Libs

  43. What exactly keeps Liberals together right now, except that we prefer the Liberal Party to all others? I think this coalition talk is nothing but dangerous.

    • JustinB says:

      Jason…. You are clinging to a sinking Liberal ship. McKenna, Rock, Manley left and even Kinsella has retreated into Ontario. Desperation breeds delusion and that’s why coalition is being bandied about. What we are now witnessing is the federal Liberal’s suffering going from chronic to acute … and perhaps even terminal.

      What is truly “dangerous” is the thinking that a “coalition” can usurp government without the need for another election. That’s Bob Rae’s thinking.

  44. Rotterdam says:

    A Liberal-NDP coalition would be Harper’s dream.
    He could run against the NDP, take every 905 riding, and every suburb in the 416.

    Centrist liberals would turn to the “good government” Tories.

  45. Glen_G says:

    I think we in Canada need to take a little closer look at the progressive agenda is and ask ourselves if this is really what we want to progress towards? Obama has tripled the national debt, taken over the auto industry and given it to the unions, through Fannie and Freddie they backed 97% of the new mortgages in 2010, are in the process of dismantling their health care system so gov’t can start paying all the bills, has got into bed with Goldman Sachs , GE, Shore Bank to manipulate the financial markets, wants to open up their borders for some strange reason, will not admit that that there are Islamic extremists but rather trys to make on that tea party activists are violent, and finally they want to have a carbon tax so that the CCX (Chicago carbon exchange) can tax air and control 10 trillion dollars a year to fund their extreme left agenda. Check out Crime Inc. for more on this scandal. If we’re going to throw around words does Marxism stand out here? The United States of America, the new Venezuela of the 20’th century.

  46. Glen_G says:

    By the way Canada’s leading progressive, Maurice Strong is up to his ears in this CCX carbon trading scheme, along with other leading progressives like Al Gore, Joel Rogers, Van Jones, aflcio, SEIU, etc. etc. etc. What a scam read up on it here: http://www.libertyjuice.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/CCX-Scandal-Chart.pdf

  47. Tennant says:

    Just seems like everything the Liberals ever do and call themselves thoughtful.

    1) Stephen Harper Conspiracy theory
    2) Compare it to the United States
    3) Talk about US politics and mention some Republican politician.
    4) Say something Canadians generally don’t like is necessary because of a US precedent.

    This sounds more like everything the Liberal party has done for the past 5 years — I don’t mean any disrespect, but for something to be thoughtful on Canadian politics the basis of it shouldn’t have to rely on an American comparison.

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