11.01.2010 08:04 AM

Dobbin: How to avoid political groundhog day

The future, for the foreseeable future.

As found in the Tyee and the Hill Times this morning:

When will the Liberals and the NDP get it? Without some kind of accord between these two parties, the country is locked into a kind of political version of the movie Groundhog Day — doomed to repeat the same depressing, cynical and destructive politics day-in, day-out until our democracy is so damaged that no one will bother voting.

I don’t agree with everything he says – the throwaway line on Israel rankles the most, and is inconsistent with the policies of both the Liberals and the NDP – but there’s some food for thought on the broader issue, perhaps. Comments are open.


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    Dave Roberts says:

    We saw the same movie when the PC’s and the Reform/Alliance kept the Liberals in power for 13 years. Neither situation is a healthy one.

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    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    With respect for all those who hold the contrary view, here’s the order I prefer to do it in: resolve comes first, election comes right behind it and then other options are explored, if necessary — or if they have suddenly become imperative due to the election results.

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    Steve T says:

    Good analogy with the PCs and Reform/Alliance – and let’s recall what happened there. Most former PCs believe that the “merger” was actually a sell-out of the PCs to the Alliance. Now, the policies of the new CPC are actually much softer than their Reform/Alliance roots (to the chagrin of Reformers like me), but nonetheless it was perceived as a takeover by the Alliance.

    Also keep in mind that, just like the Reform party had its nutbar fringe element, so does the NDP – perhaps more so, one could argue. Many of the relatively senior people in the NDP say some pretty goofy things in public. Do the Libs want to hitch their wagon to that?

    Now, I must be in a charitable mood, because as a CPC supporter, I would love nothing more than for the Libs and Dippers to get together. I can almost write the CPC attack ads in my head.

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      Namesake says:

      “almost write”? Come on, those ads have already been written — and produced! — and the Cons. have been doing their “Subliminal Man” routine virtually every day in QP and in every speech reinforcing the idea that there’s ALREADY a coalition, as have the Tory calumnists like ol’ Cut&Paste Spector.

      So as the saying goes, “Might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb”*:

      i.e., the Libs. are already going to take a big hit in the election over this allegation that they’ll ‘team up’ with the NDP, and there’s really no (principled, realistic) way to reverse that in this prolonged ‘Groundhog’ season, so…

      Hell, yeah, maybe the Libs & NDP bloody well _should_ form an accord explicitly around the idea of implementing proportional representation, as I & various other folks were suggesting back in June, esp. since there really hasn’t been much forward momentum since then, and the clock’s running out before the next election.

      * explication of phrase here:

      BTW, that Dobbin article rings true about elections being won & lost on perceived values rather than particular facts, promises, or policies, as I mentioned in the other thread vis a vis the Lee Atwater bio & the US experience, and as George Lakoff discusses in “Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate–The Essential Guide for Progressives.”

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        The Other Jim says:

        Namesake – Elections are won and lost on perceptions, not just perceived values.

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      Cameron Prymak says:

      “I can almost write the CPC attack ads in my head.”

      Yep, pretty much sums it up for the CPC.

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    Paul R Martin says:

    Well said Steve T. There are certain Dippers such a Libby Davies who are probably toxic to the majority of Canadians. Many people do not like Olivia Chow either as she seems to be to the left of her husband. Given her marriage, a merged party could not neutralize her. As far as the article is concerned, the writer is obviously a Liberal supporter and is quite biased. As along as the Liberals focus on Harper and do not pose a viable alternative, they will remain in opposition.

    By the way Warren, is it true that Ruby Dhalla has been shuffled aside by Iggy?

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      Namesake says:

      Murray Dobbin’s obviously a… _Liberal_ supporter?!

      Razor-sharp observations like that kinda put your other pronouncements in perspective….

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      The Other Jim says:

      Ummm, hello?

      Dobbin took the NDP to task in the article for moving to far to the centre! To describe him as a Liberal supporter seems rather silly…

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    nic coivert says:

    I often cringe when I hear either Layton or Ignatieff lashing out one another. As a Liberal supporter who has supported the NDP at the federal level on occassion, it does depend where you live, I have no problem with this, however others may, and it is those others that the vile CPC will whip up into a froth. It is my advice to do this, reach an accordance, but don’t say so, just stop attacking one another and create a united front in voice. Neither party would have to read from the same policy book but it would be understood that in voice and character the two parties are against the goose-stepping Harpercrits.

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      Tim from Alberta says:

      Lying by omission…..how very liberal and eastern of you.It is no accident that liberal support stops at the western border of Ontario. .

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        nic coivert says:

        Your’re correct. Harper has much better strategies for lying, that’s why he enjoys power in the western oil rigged electorate.
        Democracy is a coalition, despotism is Harper.

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          Paul R Martin says:

          Liberals like nic coivert have such nice caring, balanced, even handed, generous, sypathetic, and balanced personalities – NOT!

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            nic coivert says:

            The Conservative Party as it now stands has made a complete break with its historical past, so much so that they aren’t even fiscally conservative anymore. They have dispensed with the grassroots policy making that Preston Manning choreographed with the reform party and have turned conventions into fund-raising events instead. I miss the old style conservatives, truly, none have stooped as low as Harper. Mulroney may have taken cash kick backs in paper bags but he cared about the environment and he believed in government. Manning may have had some opinions I didn’t share but at least he had respect for democracy, for Harper is democracy is very inconvenient. Its about time people woke up to this, Harper will stop at nothing to gain and sustain power. As Tom Flanagan said, “his judgement is flawed.”

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            Paul R Martin says:

            Calling Harper names is a losing strategy as it only turns voters off. It also makes you look small. For example, the vicious attacks on Mayor elect Ford probably helped him more than they hurt him. Despite the attempts to demonize Mike Harris, he handily defeated the Liberals in the two elections in which he faced them as the Ontario PC leader. Saying that Harper is a liar is also useless. I have to point out that Trudeau campaigned against wage and price controls and Chretien promised to eliminate the GST. Dalton McGuinty promised that he would not raise taxes. I must add that while I was pissed off by the tone of your previous comment, your latest comment is much more reasoned. I disagree with your analysis, but your analysis is not petty.

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    nic coivert says:

    Public Works for Layton?

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    Namesake says:

    Well, he could take over seamlessly from ‘Taliban Larry’ as Minister of Foreign Affairs in negotatiating peace in Afghanisatn


    …and I think he’d do a damn site better than Cannon in having actual diplomatic relationships with our actual Allies and actually take meetings with their Ambassadors …instead of bungling the files to the point that it costs us a military base (in the UAE).

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    JH says:

    Personally I would be quite happy to go to the polls and to decide between the Tories and a Lib/NDP coalition that is supported by the Bloc. Just so long as there is no subterfuge and it is made clear these are our options. I think the majority of the country would be quite happy to have the opportunity to cast a ballot on that choice as well. Let’s do it!

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    Pedro says:

    many are beginning to get tired of repeating this…
    it’s not the lies and bullshit policies the Cons, the Libs or the Dippers keep pushing.
    It’s the taxation, size of government and the asinine spending.
    It’ll take a long time for the Libs to convince voters they’ll be any different than the Cons (yes, I’ll submit, Chretien and Martin used their political capital for good not evil – McGuinty had plenty of political capital and sqandered it while our progressive brothers to the south doU5 DC the same)
    Ford won ‘cuz of the taxation and absurd spending not ‘cuz of some undefined anger at elites.
    The tide against ever growing government is rising.
    The Libs and Dippers better unite so either doesn’t disappear altogether.
    And yeah, the Cons are no better

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    The Other Jim says:

    Warren – I’m sorry, but this Dobbin fellow seems rather clueless as to what has led to Liberal electoral success in the past and to (relative) Conservative success in the present. The following is line is particularly telling:

    “Home heating? Are they kidding? Sixty per cent of Canadians say they are a couple of paychecks (note – nice American spelling, BTW) from financial disaster, they are over their heads in debt, many are just a couple of percentage points away from a mortgage default, work stress is so severe they have no family lives, their kids are obese from eating junk food, advanced education is beyond their means and they are terrified at the prospect of the global changes they know are coming — climate change, another economic meltdown, peak oil. And the NDP expects people to rush to their party over heating costs?”

    Yes, home heating. The average voter doesn’t worry about peak oil or climate change*, and they don’t blame the government for the stress of their jobs or the crap that they shove down their kids’ throats. They do, however, worry about a cost of living that seems to be spiraling out of control, and their monthly utility bills are a visible, painful reminder of such. The massive public backlash (spurred, I suspect, by some deliberate monkey business on the part of large retailers, but I digress) to the Ontario “Eco Fees” was a particularly telling lesson in this regard.

    Honestly, Dobbin comes off like the myriad of (pre-October 25th) anti-Rob Ford editorialists did, completely misreading the mood of the public, ascribing the “other side’s” popularity to mean/petty/foolish/selfish politics, demeaning voters who “fall for” such politics, and so forth. Heating bills? Pffft, the average voter should be far more worried about Palestine! I’m sure that if we just keeping telling them what they should be concerned about, they’ll eventually realize that we knew best all along. Ask Smitherman and Pantalone how that worked out for them.

    Yes, I do realize that Dobbin has a Very Big Brain and a Very Huge Heart and talking about those mean old “extrinsic” right-wingers versus the damn near angelic “intrinsic” progressives is wonderfully high-minded stuff. That and $1.50 will buy you a coffee in a Tim Hortons. While you are buying that coffee, however, those in line with you are being relentlessly targeted by Harper’s micro-tax cuts which don’t actually accomplish anything but make everyone feel like they have something in their stocking. That, of course, translates into votes. Duh. But hey, tut-tutting at the dumb proles who vote Conservative is easier than getting your hands dirty!

    Leave the clap-trap for the chattering classes. Come up with a reasonable plan to govern this country more effectively than the Conservatives have done over the past five years. Present that plan without treating the voters** (ever so slightly) to the right of you as crazed, racist, gun-toting, barbarians intent on keeping women barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. Do so and you will probably win the election, because Harper has been an unqualified mediocrity in office and is ripe for the picking.

    It really does seem that simple, but what do I know, I’m just an undecided voter!

    *I don’t mean that in a crazy “it’s all a big fraud/conspiracy” type of way, just that the average mom or dad doesn’t lie in bed at night fretting about a 0.01% increase in ocean levels or the current extant of the polar ice cap. Perhaps they should, but they don’t. They do worry about how they are going to pay for the huge hydro bill that arrived in the mail that day, or how much more everything seems to cost this month than it did last month.

    **Seriously, just stop with all the nonsense about Harper’s “base” as if they are some alien group worthy of disdain. There is a subtle difference stigmatizing a leader (or even a party) and demeaning the very voters that you need to vote for you. Chretien got it (ask Stock Day), but it seems like many of today’s “Progressive” leaders don’t. Even a Liberal/NDP coalition would need Conservative voters to win the election. There will be a significant bleed of former NDP votes to the Green party and, as the Canadian Alliance/Conservatives learned, riding wars will lead to independent candidates, floor-crossing nastiness, and for some dedicated party workers to sit the election out. 1+1 does not equal 2 in this scenario, and if you don’t appeal to voters like me, Stephen Harper will be the Prime Minister for the foreseeable future.

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      Namesake says:

      All that anti-elitist anger. Sure you’re undecided?

      But reading b/w the lines about the way Dobbin got your back up for dissing the ‘Kill the home heating HST gambit,’ it sounds like you’re saying the best way to reach the hearts of undecided voters like you IS thru their wallets…

      and that you CAN be bought by “micro-tax cuts” — as long as they’re sufficiently large;

      even tho’, in this case:

      – it only amounts to — wait for it — a little over $100 a year for middle income households (who spend b/w $2K & $2,400 per year on home heating: links below)

      – it really only applies to people in ON & BC (other prov’s either have no HST yet or have already waived it on home heating);

      – it actually benefits the rich much more than the poor, since the former spend about a third more a year to heat their larger homes;

      – it discourages conservation measures like better insulation (or sweaters!) and so can drive up prices AND frustrate combatting climate change;

      – it ignores the fact that the NDP seem ridiculously hypocritical, having voted against a whole series of other tax cuts which are now allegedly saving the average family near $3,000 a year


      which is continued at:




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        The Other Jim says:

        Yeah, except that I’m neither angry nor anti-elite. I am anti-condescension, perhaps too subtle of a difference for you to notice.

        I’m undecided and have no idea how I will vote. I’ve been incredibly unimpressed with the Harper regime, primarily due to their irresponsible spending, but also because of head-bangingly stupid moves like killing the long-form census. The Liberals, however, haven’t done anything to convince me that they’d do a better job.

        I’m in the same boat provincially. I voted Liberal last time around (despite my fondness for John Tory) but I’ve found their second term to be a disappointment. I’m pretty impressed with Horvath, actually, but I don’t think that I can reconcile myself with the more fringe elements of the NDP caucus.

        I’m pressed for time but hopefully can respond in greater detail later.

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    eattv says:

    Personally, I don’t see the problem as being “pro-Israeli policies” so much as being “pro RIGHT WING Israeli policies”. However, there’s no particular reason to single out Harper’s support of right wing Israelis more than has support to other right wing political groups here and abroad. Social conservatism is a problem no matter its geographic location.

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    allegra fortissima says:

    @Con – sistent:

    There won’t be a merger, even though Conservatives love to spread the word! The “merger tale” is nothing but Conservative spin to diminish voters’ confidence! There is absolutely nothing “confusing” about a coalition – except for the Conservatives, of course. Canadian voters are intelligent enough to realize that the Liberals and the NDP will have to negotiate and compromise, and that the results will be in the best interest of the people and the country.

    The Green Party with Lizzy May? They won’t be invited to the table, trust me. Both Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton are way too smart to send out this invitation. Compost barrels and wind turbines don’t do the trick, and Lizzy May is not exactly a Petra Kelly!

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    Sean says:

    I’m a long time Liberal volunteer… One of those “lick the envelopes, hammer in the signs, knock on the doors” type guys. As a true Liberal, I really, really hate F%&KING losing. I’ve never seen a situation more brutally obvious than this. The entire federal landscape has fundamentally changed with a merged right, the presence of the BQ and major changes in fundraising which automatically set us at a huge disadvantage. However, there are too many Liberals who are deluded into believing that Ignatieff can win with silly conferences and meaningless bus trips. He can’t. Its over. It is time for a full blown merger. However, I don’t think most Liberals are there yet. It will take at least one more pounding at the polls, maybe two more to get us there.

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      Paul R Martin says:

      Good luck Sean and keep up the good fight. It is nice to see a partisan who does not dump on Harper as a person even though you fundamentally disagree with him and his policies. When I was active in the PC Party, I went through a similar time in the wilderness. I gave up knocking on doors before the last election, due to some health issues.

      As far as fundraising is concerned, I am puzzled that the Liberals remain so far behind. Rossi was making some headway for you, but after he decided to run for Mayor of Toronto, it appears that your party may be falling behind once again in its efforts. Frankly, I would like to see some improvement in your fundraising combined with a higher donation limit and a corresponding elimination of the federal subsidy to the Bloc.

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        James Curran says:

        There was no majic to Rocco’s fundraising. It was easy. Even you Paul R. Martin could have done it. Here’s how:

        1. Call for a leadeship. 1000s of memberships start to get sold.
        2. The main party takes 1/3 of all riding membership sales away. Don’t get me started about why all the ridings are broke.
        3. Have an acclamation party in Vancouver that idiots like me will pay to go to because we think one member, one vote was important enough to be there for.
        4. Call 100s of nominations and agms in a single year generating more membership sales. Membership goes from 48000 to roughly 120000. Do the math on that.
        5. Break open the Iggy leadership database out of the vault and let everyone know it’s okay to give again. No law firm is left untouched. And voila! Money in the bank.

        But there’s cetain members of the party that don’t feel membership matters. I’d mention his name but he’d get whiny and act like a crybaby and appear here on the blog and piss everyone off just by his presence and I’d end up telling him to f@ck off again.

        Anywho, for what it’s worth…..MEMBERSHIP MATTERS!

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    allegra fortissima says:

    The Liberal Party of Canada and the NDP are two parties with totally different backgrounds and traditions. A merger? Don’t even mention that word. It takes years and years for a new party to establish itself. You know what will happen? Liberal and NDP voters will lean back and watch. Many voters won’t even go to the polls for a considerable time. Except for the Conservatives, of course. The Conservatives will laugh, vote Conservative and win more elections. Doesn’t sound too good, does it? Time s running out and there is absolutely no time for bizarre merger experiments. Nothing will help the Conservative Party more than a Liberal/NDP merger. Forget it!

    How do you get the idea that Michael Ignatieff’s bus trips were “meaningless”? Did you attend one of the events? The Liberal Express Bus Tour was highly appreciated in our town, and people really connected with Ignatieff and listened to him. Here the Liberal Party leader had great success!

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    Steve Gallagher says:


    I am opposed to the Bloc but son of a gun we have to fund the gang because this is
    a democracy etc. etc.

    Always respect your thoughts on things in general but we can spare the gang a dime.

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    Erik says:

    Groundhog Day? You were great in that movie, Warren!
    That -was- you, wasn’t it?

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    Namesake says:

    Split down the middle? hardly. Most of the commenters on this thread aren’t Lib. supporters at all, & are just running interference &/or taunting.

    But among those who are, apart from one who was just expressing dissatisfaction with the party leadership (which earlier disavowed any type of advance cooperation) and one who just expressed a similar discouragement about the chances of anything getting done (again, due to the continued denial up top) who didn’t really ‘vote’, it was something like:

    3 in favour of an advance- (but not nec’ly publicized) electoral accord, and one in favour of a post-electoral accord (if, um, necessary).

    As for the ‘Ha, ha, the NDP is going to overtake the Libs in fundraising’ taunt that’s been erupting this past week:

    that’s based on a rather selective reading of the fact that the NDP had a decent 3rd quarter of $1-M while the Libs’ dropped from $1.9 to $1.5-M compared to the same quarter last year;


    but w/o more data, that doesn’t show there’s any monumental shift:

    in fact, the same article indicates that the NDP raised $4-M for all of 2009, so… 1M per quarter doesn’t show an increase for them;

    and as we all know, the Libs’ primo fundraiser from last year had taken leave of that position to run for Mayor, which could account for their shortfall…. and word is, he’s available again…. so, gee, maybe he could be put to good use and that’ll be the end of that latest Chicken Littleism.

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    Derek Pearce says:

    What I don’t get is this– before the 1990s when the right was split, there was a united Tory party, a healthy NDP and a healthy Liberal Party. I’m genuinely asking this– what is the difference between now and pre-1993? Why is the only salvation of the Liberals to merge with the NDP? First of all, Dippers despise Liberals even more than Tories so any “merger” would be in name only and an instant-left party would spring up (or the Greens would go more explicitly left and then surge somewhat in the polls). Obviously the Bloc comes into play here, but if they are somehow stamped out (say with an end to public subsidies) then their vote would split right and left. Enough Bloc votes would shift to a merged left to make a difference maybe? I’m stumped though. Go ahead and try with a merger I guess, but I don’t think it’s the answer.

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      kyliep says:

      I think it may be the answer, Derek but I agree that it’s unlikely to come to pass. Witness the recent Toronto election, where the unofficial NDP candidate still managed to pull in 12% of the vote and his supporters were actively badmouthing the unofficial Liberal candidate, tweeting and retweeting Ford talking points about Smitherman, up until the date of the election.

      Perhaps, more importantly, the Liberals should try to merge with the Greens, who are polling 10% nationally and are probably a better fit overall because they have had, at various points in time at least (specifically, under their previous leader), far more market-oriented policies than the NDP. Green party voters have actually, inadvertently, helped propel Conservatives to victory over Liberals in Atlantic Canada and BC in recent elections so bringing those voters into the fold would make sense.

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      Namesake says:

      BTW, it’s probably a myth / wishful thinking that eliminating the vote subsidy would kill off the BQ — at least, that’s what Duceppe told unEven on Power & Politics. Just because they’ve slacked off on fundraising lately since they didn’t need to doesn’t mean they couldn’t do it quite handily again if they had to: they did so just fine for their first 20 years or whatever _before_ the subisdy.

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    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Call me a tad too charitable — maybe — but I’m for letting the guy grow into the job. After all, look what shoes he is trying to fill.

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      Namesake says:

      who, Evan Solomon? No, he’s way too much of a fan-boy of the Harper-Cons, to the point that they don’t even need to send a representative to most of his panels of MPs, since he represents their talking points so well & gleefully (or with a hurt tone, when even he senses his attempts to drown out his guests aren’t working). With Newman, the goal was “The Spin Stops Here,” but with UnEven, it starts _and_ stops there.

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