03.18.2012 12:00 AM

In today’s Sun: colour me frustrated

And so, three years later, the farce that is Canadian progressive politics continues apace. Liberals and New Democrats persist in fighting amongst themselves, while Stephen Harper’s regime giddily reaps the benefits. Even with the blossoming Robocon scandal, Harper retains the loyalty of the 30-plus percent who classify themselves as hardcore conservatives.

Progressives, meanwhile, remain powerless — despite the fact 60% of the electorate favour them. The sad saga continued last week. Speaking to a group of students in Victoria, Liberal MP Justin Trudeau said this: “… If by 2015, with the election approaching, and neither party has gotten its act together enough to shine and to be the obvious alternative, then there will be a lot of pressure for us to start looking at that.

“I think there is not anyone in Parliament, outside the Conservative Party of Canada, that is willing to risk seeing Stephen Harper become prime minister one more time.”


  1. J.A. says:

    What does “that” refer to in JT ‘s quoted words “for us to start looking at that”?

  2. Fred Webb says:

    Fuck I wish you were wrong

  3. Allisntwell says:

    It certainly would be interesting to see what percentage of the Liberal vote would hold their nose and vote conservative if a merger were to happen.Liberals that occupy the right side of the Liberal spectrum have far more in common with the average Conservative supporter than they do with the NDP. Think Paul Martin vs Libby Davies.Almost impossible to see those 2 occupying the same cabinet table and for good reason!!

    Both Paul and Libby could be considered “progressives” yet I am not sure those like Paul could stomach being in the same camp as Libby and her ilk.

    To suggest that the trait “progressives” is the primary adhesive that would bind the 60% is quite premature. The substantial bleed of that 60% to “center right” may be far greater than anticipated.

  4. I’ll believe this from you when you demonstrate a willingness to work with New Democrats.

  5. David Imrie says:

    Maybe you can tell some of those in the NDP to get with the program. Layton’s campaign style – going after Ignatieff – was Stephen Harper’s best asset.

  6. que sera sera says:

    Here’s a very interesting re-post on 404system.com suggesting where the collaboration should start:


    Why should we continue to pretend that we have a participatory democracy with representation in the House when in reality we are all only props for abuse by an illegitimate government in denial about its obligations to the House, to Parliament, to democracy and Canadian citizens.

    • que sera sera says:

      I suspect the worldview on Planet Conservative is a tad limited, one note only – you & yours should step out into the real world to see what people actually are doing and thinking and saying.

      Here’s a tip: Canada doesn’t orbit around Harper & the Conservatives.

      But keep going – you’ll be made aware of your irrelevance soon enough I suspect.

  7. Sean says:

    I think this stuff will come to a boiling point shortly after the next election, when Harper wins his fourth mandate, second majority, with 35% of the vote. Right now, the Libs are just going to try to unseat the NDP as O.O.. The NDP is far too arrogant and still believes it is actually on an upward trajectory, even without Layton. Lets not forget that it took the Cons three election losses, including one failed attempt at merger, before they finally got their shit together. An even then, it still took one more election loss before Canadians took them seriously.

    • Graham says:

      It would be very hard to win a majority with just 35%.

      The Conservatives had 37.5% in 2008 and were 11 seats shy.

      Remember, Chretien won a majority with just 38.5% of the vote in 1997. Warren will probably know the exact numbers, but IIRC none of Chretien’s majorities had over 42% of the vote.

      Three elections and a failed merger before the Conservatives “got their shit together?

      They merged in 2004.

      2004 election – Took the Liberals down to a minority.

      2006 – won a minority, increasing there seat count by about 20

      2008 – won a stronger minority, increasing their seat count by about 20

      2011 – won a majority, increasing their seat count by over 20.

      • Philip says:

        “2011 – won a majority, increasing their seat count by over 20.”

        I guess the ends really do justify the means. The 2011 election will forever have an asterisk after it, nice work Conservatives.

        • PaulTen says:

          It may have an asterisk attached for those who need the CBC/Ottaw Citizen to do their critical thinking for them, but to most Canadians who can manage to do a little of their own critical thinking, this is a manufactured issue.

          • Philip says:

            I wish it was a manufactured issue, I really do but it isn’t. Your Conservative Party spent a lot of effort and money to make this happen. That’s not made up, Paul and try as you might you can’t wish this one away.

            Do you really think Canadians are OK with cheating? You might want cast your mind back to sprinter Ben Johnson. How did but it isn’t that end up?

      • Sean says:

        lost in 93, 97,failed merger in 2000. lost again in 2004

  8. “But like the libertarians the hyper-enviro-socialists have no party that has a ghost of a chance of winning anything..”

    The same was said of Manning’s big C social followers until their merger was consummated.

    And a move to the right brings you to where? Mr. Harper is the biggest promoter of a market economy, pushing basically a libertarian agenda of removing the federal government from practically all aspects of engagement with the exception of the military. Moving to the right would re-centre the centre of Canadian politics, as has happened in the Republican primaries. There the 4 remaining candidates are tripping over themselves to be the most conservative.

    Nice try but no thanks.

    • Romney’s super hard turn to the right will likely doom his chance with the Independents.

      His pandering to the Tea Party with $2/gallon gas raises the same credibility issues with Independents, Plus, his non-existent rebuke of Limbaugh will erases any hope of attracting support from women. His polling already shows this.

      For a guy who supposedly has such a strong organization I am amazed that he’s not done better. You can count on Santorum’s shoe-string organization getting the vote out, can’t say the same for Romney because he’s not winning.

  9. Realist says:

    The LIbs are still spooked by the negative reaction to the Dion coalition talk, and the NDs figure they don’t need to talk about co-operation anymore because their star is now on the rise. My guess is that both the NDP and the Libs will continue to make ritual noises about how they will never, ever co-operate until right before the next election, at which point the prospect of another Harper majority will cause the scales to fall from their eyes.

    Or, alternatively, it may take one more election, in which the NDs will lose half their seats in Quebec (if not more), and will suddenly realize they aren’t all that far from where they always were, and if they ever want to make it any further, co-operation will be essential.

  10. Pat Heron says:

    Perhaps it is time for some bright knowledgeable writer/intellectual/academic/whatever — perhaps you Warren — to lay out publically just what could/should/would transpire between the Grits and the Dips to work together to bring down the Cons. My understanding is that a merger of the two to become one party is what happened to the Tories and the Reformers; a coalition is what happens after an election when two parties agree to work together to form one government. But there must be more to it than that, not just an either/or but a spectrum. There are probably lots of papers on this subject hidden away in university libraries, but we the public need to know more now if we are to support any sort of meld.

    • Graham says:

      The merger between the Tories and the Reform party was a much different case than a merger between the Libs and NDP.

      1) They merged before an election and let the members from both parties vote on it.

      2) the ideologies of the Tories and Reform were much more inline with each other than are the ideologies of the Liberals and NDP.

      • Michael says:

        Also let’s no forget that the Reformers were once part of the Progressive Conservatives. They split due to their grievances not being addressed during the Mulroney government.

        The PC/Canadian Alliance merger was a re-unification.

  11. Graham says:

    Good morning Mr. Kinsella:

    Quick question:

    Don’t you think the “progressives” who suggest all that is needed to defeat Harper is to join the Liberal and NDP either formally or informally, is really too simplistic?

    They are assuming that those 60% of Canadians who vote for either a seperate NDP or seperate Liberal party (you could probably even throw the Greens in there too) would automatically be inclined to vote for a merged New Liberal Democrat party.

    That is simply not the case.

    I work with several who are to the left of the political spectrum. I asked them all if they would vote for a merged NDP/Liberal party or even one that had a formal or informal coalition/working arrangement.

    Granted the sample size was only eight people, but all 8 said no.

    As for the “blossoming robo con scandal”, well, the pettals are quickly falling off of that blossom for the oppsotiton parties.

    Those 31,000 CONTACTS (NOT COMPLAINTS as many in the media claimed) Elections Canada received, only 700 turned out to be real. The rest were robo-emails generated by extreme left groups like leadnow and Avaaz.

    Those 700 will be reduced even more when the “they called me late at night” kind of complaits are thrown in the garbage bin.

    Even after Elections Canada stated that only 700 actual complaints have been received (2008 has over 1,300) and after EC also cautioned EVERYONE against jumping to conclusions about those 700, the oppsition CONTINUED to jump to conclusions in the House and in the Media.

    “Elections Canada today said they have 700 complaints of confirmed election fraud…..”

    Ummm, no, actually they didn’t.

  12. Jim Hanna says:

    Sure the Tories have a 30% base – but so did the Liberals once upon a time. Over time this could diminish; morever, it doesn’t mean their base will vote.

    We’ve had these three parties for more than 60 years, whats differnet now? I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, they are so fundamentally differnt.

    Warren, are you prepared to fight for a party, that repudiates the Clarity Act? That will enforce Bill 101 on Federal institutions? Because I don’t see the NDP willing to jettison those positions for any merger.

    Can you imagine, for a second, the way that “founding convention” will go down? It won’t be a love in, as polices get tossed aside. The sound bites from that will fuel Conservative attack adds for a generation.

    A merger is Harper’s wet dream. We may have another 6 years of him now; merger will give him a generation.

  13. Cynical says:

    He really does live in an alternate universe, doesn’t he.

  14. William says:

    Politically, you may have a point.

    Economically, you’re lost at sea. Your supposed fiscal conservatives have been anything but.

    So at the end of the day, you support a government who is in power for the sake of being in power.

    Nose spits face.


    • Michael says:

      Harper has been PM for six year, why is this his first conservatove budget?

      Oh yeah, I forgot, he was forced into increased spending by those mean Liberals.

    • William says:

      The first one was five years ago.

      Harper’s a big spender…Ander Coyne and Gerry Nicholls have both called him out.

      Keep your blinders on, you wear it well.

      • William says:

        Andrew and Gerry have both walked back much of what they said since the last election. They will walk it all the way back after the budget.

        Bullshit aka GordSpeak

  15. dave says:

    I am not so sure Cullen is talking aobut a merger, such as Reform and Progressive Conservatives merging to become Conservatives.
    I thinkhtat he is talking aobut cooperation inthe next election to ensure that the ND’s and Libs win the right to govern.
    Then Cullen says his 1st order of business woudl be to modify our election system, to drop the universal ‘first past the post’ system, and replace it with at least partial proportional representation.

    I am pretty sure that he is interested in proportional rep, becuase he saw what happened here in BC: most of us wanted something more representational than ‘first past the post’ gives us; but hte academics talked our Citizens Assembly into offering us a sytem that a lot of people did not understand, so the referendum on change did not succeed. (Adriene Carr’s attempt at a referendum in 2002, based on partial proportional rep came closer to passing.)

    So, I support Cullen partly because his plan seems workable: cooperate with the slippery Libs to get power, then change our election system to something with more accurate representation.

    • Graham says:

      Unless I’m mistaken, his specific plan is to come together with the Liberals, look at all 308 ridings, then decided to run EITHER a Lib or NDPer, BUT NOT BOTH in each riding.

      And it is funny the Liberals supporters complaining about our electoral system now that they can’t seem to be able to win within it.

      None of them had a problem with Chretien winning majorities with far less than 50% of the vote.

      • Michael says:

        Harper went to town demonizing a coalition as being undemocratic. What do you think he would do with the Cullen proposal.?

        • Jordyn m says:

          Actually, Harper’s logic was that it was an UNFOUNDED coalition — no one talked about becoming one in the last elxn, yet suddenly, they were discussing ruling WITH THE BQ in a coalition gov’t.

          Cullen’s proposal is smart — it implicitly says there may be a coalition, but it will be out in the open. You know if you’re voting for the LPC, you get the NDP. Vice versa.

          The BQ is a non-starter for the plan. There goes Harper’s “dangerous separatist party” angle. Though the NDP does have its Quebec caucus…

      • Tim Sullivan says:

        National campaign spending limits is based on how many candidates a party has. Reducing the number of candidates gives the Cons the upper hand (like they need more reasons to spend more than others).

  16. pomojen says:

    “he/she would have to contend with a very public party revolt – there are so many inflexible members – many of whom who joined the party just so they could be outcasts (bobby would be right at home) ”

    You know so much about the individual members of the NDP, and their motivations for what they do, Gord. I am in awe that you’ve had time to know them so very well that you are able to make these broad pronouncements about how they will behave. Truly, as a long time NDP voter and general helper-outer, I am amazed…it’s just like looking in a mirror. Except…it’s nothing like looking in a mirror. Unless it’s an opposite-land mirror.

    Thanks for the insight, as usual, Gord.

  17. bluegreenblogger says:

    I do not think that a merger is the panacea that you seek. You simply cannot add up all the NDP and Liberal votes and say: “See a majority Government.” Look what happened to Alliance plus PC vote, if 1+1=2 in politics than they would have had an instant majority.
    The Tulkasurus dropped a wee red herring above about how to hive off CPC supporters, by turning the Liberals into neo-conservative pond scum. It would be much easier for the Liberal Party to actually defi9ne properly, and stand up for what they have always stood for, instead of flailing around for the flavour of the month at every election. Fiscal Conservatives who pay attention must be pretty uncomfortable with the fact that their government is so bad at managing the nations finances. Mulroney cranked the defecit into record territory, the Liberals eliminated it, then Harper came in and cranked it into the stratosphere. Make him accountable and stress the Liberal track record.
    The Green Party is finished as a force, and without any specific actions on the Liberal Party’s part, Liberal will pick up about 35% of the green voters who shift their votes in the next election. Set about winning those voters, and you will do better. You may shrug off 2% of the electorate, but it is a significant part of the reason for the CPC`s success.
    Get you Party’s shit together in voter targettinmg, outreach, fundraising, and data collection and management. The CPC have the opportunity to target and suppress the vote on a massive scale because they know more about your supporters than you do. Plain and simple, you can pray for some kind of Air War miracle, but you do not have the tools to win in the trenches. Bloody well acquire those tools! It isn’t very hard you know, just takes an action plan, and a sustained effort. And demonstrate a little patience. Formulate the plan, use the 3 years you have in hand to develop those tools, appeal to voters on the issues that matter to them, narrowcast your message, and reel in the money and supporters one at a time.
    The Liberal party has failed Canadians by navel gazing, and sharpeneing their knives for one another rather than recognising and working towards the common Liberal Interests.

    Nobody has ever adequately defined what the Liberal Party actually stands for to me. I That vagueness was useful enough in the day. You could be all things to all people, but the world has moved past that. The most succesful political party in the last decade has been the CPC, and they won power a single voter at a time. Guess what… IT WORKS. Learn or die, but do not expect hand wringing, and sleight of hand to save us from the `harpercons`without a sustained effort.

  18. VH says:


    You’ve been on a tear recently and so you made me want to review and revisit this ‘debate’. Which meant I went back to your post on Nathan Cullen and took a listen, *again*, to his CBC interview you had linked to. In fact, listened three times just to make sure.

    Here’s the bottom line: the argument for combining parties is an implicit acknowledgement that both parties suck. Because if you felt that even just one of the parties didn’t suck then you’d believe that the situation would resolve itself because that good party would drink the other party’s progressive milkshake over the course of the next few years as their winning message would draw the other party’s voters like moths to a flame.

    So there’s two paths to take: one road leads to doing the hard work to make at least one of the parties not suck. The other road leads to ways to game the system by working to remove voter freedom and taking away choice at the ballot box.

    In Nathan Cullen’s words, he wants the two parties to collude during an election whereby each party agrees to not run candidates against the other in many ridings across Canada even though they haven’t formally merged. It’s ironic that a leading left-wing politician wants to disenfranchise voters that way even while many of his very own supporters simultaneously complain about a ‘democratic deficit’.

    Yes this would probably work. Why you think anything good would come from this, I don’t know.

    For non-politicians, the best solution is having parties that don’t suck rather than parties that trick you in order to stay in power. Take the Cons. Please. Has anything good come of their Reformatory alliance? Of course not. But they do have a message on how the economy works to allow you to get ahead in life: tax cuts and cutting “wasteful” gov’t spending. And cut regulations to allow business to create wealth. And yes, for the record, it’s all a scam on their part.

    Now, it would be better to have a progressive party that showed an alternative path to a vibrant and successful economy. But nooooooo, both ‘progressive’ parties continue to ignore the #1 struggle in life and instead want to talk about inside baseball political tactics.

    In Nathan Cullen’s interview he says he wants affordable child care, affordable housing, and a restoring of Canada’s “reputation”. Also he says the “next economy” is built on retrofits, more energy efficient city, urban transit and a carbon tax because climate change is a “clear and present danger”. All admirable goals. Missing from his list: any thoughts about *how* we create the wealth to pay for it while enabling people to get ahead in life without crashing the economy.

    A party has have to an answer for three: wealth creation, stable economy & getting ahead in life.

    If you’re not going to talk about how to make the economy work for the average Joe when you are not in power, chances are the economy isn’t going to work for the average Joe when you get to be in power.

    I can’t lay this out any more clearly; if you guys on the ‘progressive’ left show any signs – *any signs at all, even a tiny little one* – of wanting to go down this path, you wouldn’t have to talk about mergers and you’d find lots of enthusiastic people to help out with that. Canadians need a new deal.

  19. william smith says:

    Bollocks just look at the LibDems in the UK to see how power corrupts in a coalition. No merger will cure all the factions thare has to an equal coalition of interests, the blue libs on one side of the centre and the red dippers on the other. Handled properly with a non-rigid party discipline governing would work.

  20. @VH: Hear Hear! Sums it up neatly. BTW, the word progressive means exactly what…. NOTHING. Worse than the Conservatives, at least Conservative only breaks down into two schools of thought, revolutionary neo-cons, or reactionary political Conservatives. Progressive sounds really nice, beats the hell out of being regressives, but you cannot build a political community around fluff and meaningless buzzwords. Just wait until you try and define common interests between progressives in the NDP camp and the Liberal camp. You will see that they have very different expectations and objectives.

  21. Scott Ross says:

    There is little difference between the two parties now, and the differences that do exist are strengths the other needs. Merge and surge.

  22. Shawn says:

    I don’t know Warren. I understand your basic logic, but it seems to me the Liberals and NDP operate very different places on the Canadian political spectrum. Just because they are both to the left of Stephen Harper doesn’t mean they are occupying the same space.

    The best way I can think of to describe that is to say that I’m sure most NDP supporters would criticize the Chretien government’s strategy for dealing with the economy. Do you think there’s a chance any NDP government would have made those tough decisions to cut as much as the Liberals did to get the financial house in order? Agree or disagree that just isn’t their MO.

    Meanwhile, most Liberals are fiercely proud of that government. The balance of having a good relationship with the US while still making our own foreign policy decisions. Making difficult cuts but still maintaining the key social programs we believe in. Balancing sensible fiscal policy and balanced budgets with progressive social policy.

    The Liberals are centrists. Are they really progressives? The other two parties have staked their place on one side or the other for years. The Liberals are the party that swings a little bit each way depending on the needs of the country.

    Many Liberals would prefer an NDP government to a Conservative government… but many also _wouldn’t_ so where do you go with that?

    Frankly I’ve talked to a number of federal Liberal supporters living in BC and Saskatchewan over my last five years who find the provincial landscape in those provinces frustrating. There is no middle ground. It’s left or right. Lots of Liberals don’t vote for them because they’re supposedly “left wing” they instead see them as the party less about slavish devotion to ideology and more practical.

    I just don’t think they come from the same core value system.

  23. GPAlta says:

    This is one case where leadership will actually make or break the liberals and the ndp. To find the balance between the two parties, or to lead to a merger, while at the same time putting some intellectual pressure on the Conservatives, which they have both failed to do for years, even in the face of ridiculously intellectually weak conservative policies, both parties will need great leaders.

    The sad thing is that there is no sign that a great leader is on the horizon for either party. If the Liberals could find a great leader, they would have no problem winning the next election, even if it does require a merger, I think a great leader could make that merger happen. A leader is truly all they need. So job number 1 has to be finding that leader.

  24. Judy Farrant says:

    Thanks, Warren. With all the brain power and goodwill that I’m confident exists in both the NDP and LPC, I don’t get why collaboration and cohesion don’t seem like the obvious next step. I’m all for getting on with it -we have today and tomorrow, not yesterday, to work with – rebuilding a just society is this voter’s number one priority. Let’s start mitigating the inequalities and injustices while demonstrating (also tried and true!) fiscal responsibility, and then amend the legislation that is harmful and costly to society and our pocket books. We have today and tomorrow – all this attention paid to ‘they won’t vote for __ because, and they’ll never agree to ____ because…. look at what we have in place because of over-thinking who was ‘votable’ instead of who were the most intelligent, wise, experienced, balanced and compassionate choices? We keep hearing ‘collaboration’ is the best way to do business…. so, onward.

    • Tiger says:

      Tulk exists. Seen him at conventions. And the CPC doesn’t have enough money to pay its grassroots to wander around in political fora.

      (Mind you, do _I_ exist?)

  25. Cromwell says:

    You’re right, it would be more democratic to have less parties. In fact, we should go the whole way to achieve true democracy – a one party state.

  26. kenn2 says:

    Liberal party is AWOL, Rae is an important voice, but not PM material (and no, Harper isn’t either but here we are), and a Liberal-NDP merger is not a panacea.

    Now is the winter of our discontent, progressively speaking.

    Oh well, sailing season is almost here.

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