06.16.2010 06:27 AM

Two vs. one

B.O.F., favourite of the bureaucrats, here, versus two super-smart women, here and here.

In my books, aways go with the latter.


  1. Marc L says:

    Frances Russell a super-smart woman? You’re kidding, right^ All I’ve ever read of hers is dogmatic left-wing rants. You guys are getting really desperate.

  2. Cam says:

    Unite the Centre-Left, please…

    “Ryan made some surprising findings. The Conservatives finished just 12 ridings short of a majority government with the support of only 22 per cent of Canada’s 24 million eligible voters because voter turnout dropped to an historic low of 59 per cent. The record low turnout also meant the Conservatives won 19 more seats than their 2006 shaky minority despite capturing 168,737 fewer ballots.

    Conservatives also benefited from vote-splitting on the centre-left. Ryan found the Conservatives captured 51 of their 143 seats with less than 50 per cent of the vote.”

  3. Steve T says:

    Oh my, Warren, your judgement is in question. As a Winnipegger, I can tell you that Frances Russell is hardly a “super-smart woman”. As Marc L above notes, she regurgitates the same left-wing baloney week after week. You could take any one of her columns, photocopy it, and re-run it five years later. I haven’t ever seen an original thought, or careful moderated consideration of an issue, from her.

    As for the merits of the NDP/Liberal cooperation, what do you think of the Libby Davies incident? Is this really a party you want to hitch your wagon to?

    • Warren says:

      Oh my, Steve, you Cons sure seem to be critical of the progressive side of the spectrum getting together – as you and yours did in 2004.

      I wonder why that might be?

  4. JStanton says:

    heh, heh. I guess the “idle minds” comment cut deep.

    You are right about Ms. Hebert though – she is by far the best political columnist in the country. And, to be fair, Mr. Simpson, as dismissive as he may be, is almost as good. One can’t fault him on his logic. A merger is in fact a non-starter. A new party of Liberal-Democratic dissidents perhaps, but not a merger of the old stalwarts. The fundamentalists, reactionaries and dead-wood will never let go of their familiar pulpits, from which they derive the credibility that they themselves do not have.

    • Warren says:

      He hasn’t had an original thought in 20 years. If he says do something, do the opposite. You can’t lose.

    • Dennis says:

      You’re right; Hebert is tops, while Simpson is quite good as well. The key here, of course, is that Simpson disagrees with Warren’s stance, and thus is a boring old fart.

  5. Michael Behiels says:

    Widespread discussion of a possible Liberal/NDP coalition and merger are a good thing. Harper’s Conservative merger was a political game changer. A Liberal/NDP coalition, with the prospect of a future merger, will also be a game changer. Three veteran journalists, Jeffrey Simpson, Chantal Hébert and Frances Russell, offer highly original and enlightening insights into the predicament faced by Canada’s two centre-left parties when confronted with this issue.

    Simpson is right when he points that the central problem facing the Liberals is the ongoing civil war between the Blue Grit Turner, Martin, and Ignatieff faction and the progressive Trudeau, Chrétien, Dion faction. Simpson is also right in arguing that a Liberal-NDP merger is not in the cards at the moment. What Simpson fails to mention is that a dominant and popular leader, either Liberal or NDP, is a sine qua non for any successful merger. Neither Party has within its ranks such a leader at the moment. Yet, a merger is not a “stupid measure” as Simpson foolishly suggests. The conditions are not yet ripe for a merger to become a reality. The Liberals and the NDP will have to lose the next election and Harper will have to win a majority. Then both sides will be compelled to set aside their profound differences and work out a full merger of both parties, hold a leadership race, and select a new leader with new and imaginative centre-left policies that respond to a rapidly changing Canadian economy and society.

    A condition for a successful process of cooperation, pre-election or post-election, between the Liberals and the Dippers is the termination of the destructive and divisive internal Liberal civil war. The Liberal caucus and Party stalwarts need to go on a long retreat this summer in order to work out a truce between their competing factions. The Blue Grits, central to the Party’s connections with corporate Canada, and the progressive liberals, central to the development of the social service state, represent valid but competing interests within the broader liberal-minded electorate. Chrétien was a successful PM because he managed, for the most part, to keep these two factions within the caucus and party working together. Paul Martin and his entourage pushed out the progressive liberals and fueled the civil war between the two factions much in the same way that John Turner had done, 1974-1990. It now appears that Ignatieff has turned to the Martin faction and has pushed out the Chrétien faction. Progressive-minded Liberals have two options in the next election. One, they can stay home and not vote as hundreds of thousands did in 2008. Two, angry and frustrated Liberal voters can protest by voting Conservative, Bloc, NDP or Green. This would ensure the rout of the once dominant Liberal party.

    Chantal Hébert’s makes a very strong argument for the case that a Liberal/NDP coalition would be a game changer in Quebec because the merged “Liberal Democratic” Party would steal urban and suburban seats from the long entrenched Bloc Québécois. She argues that a merger is necessary in order to prevent a complete rout of the Liberal Party. This rout would ensure the election of a majority Conservative government and, just as importantly, the strengthening of the Bloc Québécois by allowing it to become the official opposition party as in 1993.

    She warns NDP that this development would further marginalize an already weak party. She contends that a majority Harper Conservative government, in the context of a strengthen Bloc Québécois and the re-emergence of a PQ government, would create the perfect political storm leading to a third referendum on the secession of Quebec. In her view, this possible and even probable scenario makes it imperative that the Liberals and NDP work out, at the very least, a coalition before the next election. I am not convince that “les Québécois et Québécoises,” especially those in the generation under thirty, want to flirt with the prospect of a divisive third referendum on secession. This time out, thanks to the 1998 Supreme Court Reference re Secession of Quebec decision and the Chrétien government’s Clarity Act, the referendum question would have to be on outright secession and the referendum vote results in favour of secession would have to be substantial in order to trigger secession negotiations with all the various stakeholders, Ottawa and all the provincial governments, the official language minorities, and the Aboriginal communities.

    Frances Russell demonstrates that a non-compete pact among all three federalist centre-left parties is the only option for progressive-minded Canadians who are determined to defeat the Harper Conservative government and thereby prevent it from dismantling the social service state and imposing conservative social values on Canadians. Russell refers to research on this issue undertaken by retired University of Winnipeg political geography professor, John Ryan. A non-compete pact would, according to Ryan’s credible analysis of the 2008 election, would produce a Liberal/NDP government with at least 173 seats while reducing the Conservatives to a possible 92 seats. For Ryan, a merger is not in the cards for historical and principled reasons. This view is supported by most Liberals and NDP caucus members.

    All Liberal MPs, their current leader Ignatieff, and all the party militants and advisors should put an end to their longstanding civil war. They should put the interests of Canadians ahead of their respective interests or the once dominant national Liberal Party will be reduced to a marginal rump in the House of Commons much in the same way that the Diefenbaker/Mulroney Progressive Conservative Party was reduced to a hapless rump of two MPs in 1993. Canadian voters need and deserve a viable centre-left national party. Get on with it, or get out of the way!

    • Warren says:

      Thanks. There is no “civil war.” There are people who supported various leaders over the years on all sides of this vigorous – and healthy – discussion.

      You will be seeing the proof of that soon enough.

      • Paul R. Martin says:

        Feeling feisty today Warren?

        • Warren says:

          Better, I guess. Yesterday was rough, as June 15 always is. And there is plenty of other stuff always going on in Warren’s life. It’s never dull, etc.

      • Bill Templeman says:

        Warren, not to pin you down, but does this mean that you think we are going to see the LPC announcing actual policies and positions in the next few months? Is the new banner going to be run up the flag pole and are we at last going to find out exactly who will salute?

    • Michael Bussiere says:

      I’m always puzzled when I read about Ignatieff described as being right or blue Liberal, or Martin or Turner for that matter. Versus what exactly? Supporting the Pearson/Trudeau paradigm of foreign affairs and Canada’s role in the world? Upholding the legacy of one Paul Martin Sr.? Eliminating a deficit while defending social programs under dire fiscal conditions do not make you blue/right. This is a ridiculous differentiation of Liberals being Liberals and governing from the centre. BTW I recall Ignatieff standing in front of a room full of people in 2006 and stating his views that Liberals should position themselves at the centre leaning left on social issues. Father was Pearson’s pal, by the way, so how about we put away the blue brush for good?

  6. Michael Behiels says:

    Thanks Warren,

    I surely hope that you are right about the ‘civil war’ coming to an end very soon. Brooke Jeffrey’s new book, Divided Loyalties: The Liberal Party of Canada, 1984-2008, to appear in December 2010, reveals the full extent of this longstanding ‘civil war’ in Canada’s national Liberal Party. The University of Toronto Press website has this blurb. The book will be blockbuster.

    “The Liberal Party has governed Canada for much of the country’s history. Yet over the past two decades, the ‘natural governing party’ has seen a decrease in traditional support, finding itself in opposition for nearly half of that time. In Divided Loyalties, Brooke Jeffrey draws on her own experience as a party insider and on interviews with more than sixty senior Liberals to follow the trajectory of the party from 1984 to the leadership of Stéphane Dion in 2008.

    Riven by internal strife, leadership disputes, and financial woes, the Liberal Party today faces unprecedented challenges that threaten its very future. Conventional wisdom attributes the origins of the disarray to personal conflict between Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin. However, Jeffrey argues that this divisiveness is actually the continuation of a dispute over Canadian federalism and national unity which began decades earlier between John Turner and Pierre Trudeau. This dispute, as evidenced by recent leadership crises, remains unresolved to this day. An insightful examination of the federal Liberal Party, Divided Loyalties sheds much-needed light on an increasingly fissured party.”

    Hopefully all Liberals will read what she has to say and draw the appropriate conclusions.

    As I said, Canadian democracy needs a healthy and viable centre-left party and the sooner the better.

  7. Michael Behiels says:

    Yes, the civil war must come to an end.

    I have been saying this to all Liberals since Chrétien won the leadership race in 1990 but few have listened. The Liberal Party has had to stand on the precipice facing a fall to its death before well positioned Liberals understood the need to come to terms with the crisis withing their own ranks.

    Don’t misinterpret my intentions! I am not a PR guy for anyone’s book. I simple call the shots as I see them and lead readers to the evidence that will allow them to make up their own minds about such crucial issues.

    Brooke Jeffrey’s book will compel all recalcitrant Liberals, most of whom have been in denial for two decades, understand that the longstanding civil war must come to an end!

    Generals in the Liberal Party’s civil war must stand down and let the rank and file of the Liberal Party decide the future of their party. This once illustrious party does not belong to the leaders, the advisors, or the MPs. The Liberal party belongs to liberals.

    • Warren says:

      Agreed. But you are making a big mistake to simply accept that the current debate is the consequence of the “civil war.” It isn’t. It’s people, from myriad defunct “camps,” disagreeing on some very important questions. And that’s natural and normal and to be expected.

    • Namesake says:

      Hmm. With friends like these…

      Sure, there are and have been divisions in the Lib. party. Just as with the NDP (the proverbial ‘Left eating itself’ is likely a major factor in its limited growth) — it’s just not as well publicized since the tall-poppy-syndrome press isn’t as preoccupied by them.

      But if Prof. Behiels is trying to be helpful here by assuming a family therapist role, I gotta say, the Libs. should get a second opinion, not just on the diagnosis but especially the treatment.

      Where he counsels a more Psychoanalytic approach — let’s step back and dredge up all the old conflicts and break down all our defenses & unseat the superego(s), and, sorry, we’ll have to hit rock bottom, and it’ll take at least five more painful years before we’ll finally accept the marriage is doomed and we can move on to form a new family (and presumably the outcasts will have to join the rival family or retire from politics altogether) —

      I’d much prefer a Cognitive Behavioral approach that hones right in on the current dysfunctional, self-defeating patterns of thinking & behavior and devises a way to correct them w. the aim of salvaging the best Q. of life for everyone involved ASAP. (Viz., what others are calling a non-aggession pact to stop the vote-splitting.)

      There also seems to be a fundamental inconsistency in his position: both that the party belongs to the grassroots, and “[the] Generals in the Liberal Party’s civil war must stand down and let the rank and file of the Liberal Party decide the future of their party,” _and_ his official prescription that, “The Liberals …will have to lose the next election …[then] set aside their profound differences and work out a full merger …with new and imaginative centre-left policies.”

      Trouble is, an awful lot of the rank & file have indicated they are pretty PO’d with the latter, General-like proclamation from on high, and they don’t _want_ a merger (i.e., the dissolution of their exiting party), even if they _are_ left with a Joe Clark-sized rump party in which they can express their undiluted views.

      Is your message to them that, in that case, that is what the Liberal party should do, or is it as you also said here, that they should “get out of the way!”

      • Michael Behiels says:

        Yes, Namesake, whomever you are, there are any number of valid ways of analyzing the ongoing crisis within the national Liberal Party.

        All the various approaches shed additional light on the crisis and no one approach is less important than any other approach.

        At the end of the day, what really matters is that the Liberal rank and file exercise some agency based on their own understanding of the crisis. Instead of cutting and running, Liberals need to pressure their MPs and their Leader to reunite the Party, propose some policy initiatives, and then begin to engage in earnest by opening their wallets and offering their time in the upcoming election.

        These are truly dark days for the national Liberal Party and for Liberals. But this sort of crisis is not unusual if one understands the very long history of the National Liberal Party going back to the Confederation era. Difficult challenges, if confronted and overcome, can make for a better and stronger centre-left party for all Canadians. And, Canadian democracy and its institutions will emerge stronger and more effective.

        • Namesake says:

          Yuch. Nce platitudes, but given your overall views, it seems you’re as bad as any old-world General in advising the rank & file not to “cut and run” and to gamely go off & valiantly fight the next election … believing as you do, that they’re going to get slaughtered and end up losing their party to some new left rough beast that will need to rise from the ashes, anyway. It may be necessary for them to carry out that exercise in futility, in your view, as part of some sort of historical or Hegelian dialectic or something, but it sure is unattractive to see up close, if that’s where you’re coming from.

      • Michael Watkins says:

        If Liberals want a Joe Clark/PC Party lookalike rump party, it’ll be delivered to them in the next election and then those remaining will learn as we PC’s did what low expectations really mean. That’s not a swipe at Clark but a recognition that Canada had moved on. Many of us did not recognize that at the time, myself included. It took years.

        If riding the horse to oblivion is the inevitable conclusion and inescapable vortex sucking in Liberal leaders and members, with any luck the process will start sooner with the formation of a wholly new party that can steal the lions share of centrist progressive support away from all the centre centre left parties, including from the BQ.

        Such a thing would be a high risk move to be sure, but it certainly played out for Reform. It’d be lovely if formation of his borg-like entity through to running in an election and winning could all transpire in a matter of months, but that’s a likely a pipe dream, if a pleasant one. Hopefully with the benefit of hindsight those involved can at least figure out how to avoid an intervening 14 year drought and compress the healing and building time to at most one parliament in opposition, preferably a minority parliament at that.

        Hey look, shiny thing! (Iggy and Dosanjh are off to China in a couple weeks because gosh knows, Canadians will bring back Liberals based on their stand on China. Oh and why Dosanjh? The latter won by only 22 votes against a total unknown in ’08.)

  8. Michael Behiels says:

    Ah! Now we get to the nub of this crucial matter!

    Canadians, but especially Liberal Canadians, need to see hard evidence that the ‘camps,’ as you designate them, within the national Liberal Party are now ‘defunct’!

    Liberals across the land would delighted and highly grateful if this were the case. There has been little hard evidence that the two camps have come to terms with and respect one another. Indeed, the evidence available appears to point in the opposite direction.

    And yes, there are very crucial issues to be settled internally before any coalition can become a realistic and achievable option. If, as you state, the current internal debate within the Liberal Party and caucus, is limited to the ‘nuts and bolts’ of a possible and probable Liberal and NDP coalition arrangement then this should all be done quietly behind closed doors. Once the ‘nuts and bolts’ are thrashed out to the satisfaction of all concerned then, and only then, should the arrangement be made public for everyone to discuss and debate.

    It bears repeating:

    Generals in the Liberal Party’s civil war must stand down and let the rank and file of the Liberal Party decide the future of their party. This once illustrious party does not belong to the leaders, the advisors, or the MPs. The Liberal party belongs to liberals.

    The Liberal rank and file have had little or no effective input into Liberal Party Policy or, just as importantly at the moment, into the discussion pertaining to a possible or probable coalition with the NDP. Ignatieff’s accession to the position of the leader of the party still rankles a great many card carrying rank and file Liberals.

  9. Michael Watkins says:

    Michael, it is pretty clear that the only people who really matter, voters, don’t care who the Liberal party “belongs” to. The didn’t really care who the Conservative party “belongs” to, either. If they did, they’d have run away screaming. They didn’t run away. For proof please see elections 2004, 2006, 2008.

    I’ve been saying for days here that some new arrangement in the centre – centre-left would be massively appealing to Quebeckers and yes, I have noted that Gilles Duceppe and Quebec has been utterly absent from the discussion so far. Certainly he is not one to souffrir en silence. You will see responses to the threat, in fact we probably have already.

    A united, or more united, centre-centre-left federalist party is not only a big threat to him, it is the *only* conceivable threat to him at this point in our history. Maybe some “wipe the slate clean” thinking is in order again to bring Quebeckers back on side with the Liberals and if it takes a Liberal-Democratic party or alliance, is that a bad thing? No.

    Duceppe is under attack every day this discussion carries on. Its a threat to his sovereigntist agenda, and ultimately to his career which would be all but done he and the Bloc are largely replaced with some new force as the centre-progressive representation for Quebec.

    Such a movement would be a huge threat to Stevie-baby of course.

    So expect to see Duceppe try to out-do the NDP (yesterday was an example) and continue to attack the Liberals (yesterday gave him some fodder, too). His recent “we are ready” letter to heads of state is one volley across the NDP and Liberal bows as much as it is another step down the road he’d like to travel. Expect Harper to work with Duceppe directly or indirectly as they have a common goal – their own survival.

    Let the discussions continue. Talk is good. Think BIG. Build something that would appeal to the maximum number of Canadians and they will come.

    What could be better – deal Harper and Duceppe out in one fell swoop? Now that’s BIG.

    • Michael Behiels says:

      I agree, well said.

      Let the discussions and debate continue.

      It is necessary if Canadian democracy is to remain healthy and truly competitive.

  10. James Curran says:

    Quite frankly, who gives a shit it there’s camps or not right now. The “Leader’s Camp” currently in charge of this party failed most Canadians this week and Parliamentarians in general with the approval of the budget and the “deal” on the documents. And, they certainly failed the environment for at least a generation to come. So much for the party of Kyoto.

    Of course their are also many Liberals that are fond of Iggy’s new stance on Canadian soldiers sticking around in Afghanistan. NOT!

    Several of my Liberal card carrying friends are set to resign over this lack of principle Liberal MPs seem to have developed (As in they have none). Don’t believe me? Watch and see.

    Simpson is right about one thing. A merger is damn near impossible constitutionally by either the Libs and Dips. So a memorandum of understanding of strategic voting may, in fact, be the best anyone could hope to achieve before the next election. Especially since both parties don’t have conventions even sheduled until June of next year. Harper will have his majority by then so this will become a debate we can all argue about for the next 4.5 years.


  11. Riff says:

    Namesake please meet James Curran.

    Your “Cognitive Behavioral approach that hones right in on the current dysfunctional, self-defeating patterns of thinking & behavior and devises a way to correct them w. the aim of salvaging the best Q. of life for everyone involved ASAP” just might help Card Carrying Liberals who are distraught at the Liberal MPs’ abject lack of principles on the budget and the Afghan detainee issue and hunkering after the resorting to ‘failed’ soft power in Afghanistan.

    Have fun with this!

  12. Andy Morkel says:

    Lovely blog! I really like it.

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