Unite The Left & Polarize Politics- Liberals Have A Place

After a crushing defeat for we Liberals in 2011, and unprecedented gains for the New Democrats, many party members became more open to the idea of uniting the left. I think that this would be a mistake. Harper’s stated mission has been to destroy the Liberal party, and in turn, polarize Canadian politics, resulting in ideological battles of closer resemblance to American politics than the more mature debates we have had in Canada, until recently.

If all that matters is winning, the chance of success looks good. In 2011, the popular vote of the NDP was about 31%. Add that to the popular vote of Liberals and we have a popular vote of about 49.5%. That is almost a clean, honest majority. But, as conservatives learned when the right was united, one plus one doesn’t always make two.

Blue Liberals that lean to the right on economic issues won’t be comfortable in the same camp as the dippers. They are likely to hop onto the conservative bus, or just refrain from voting all together. The far left of the NDP will be in a similar position. They won’t be comfortable in the same boat as the Liberals, so they may refrain from voting all together or change allegiance to the Green Party (if they are further left on the environment, but less left on other issues) or another.  The possibility that the far left NDPers will remain with a merged party appears to be slightly higher, since there is not yet an electable party that is further left than the NDP, but it is hard to say what they will do. If the further left does remain with the party, the chances that Blue Liberals will leave only goes up.

In the end, a merger on the left will polarize Canadian politics. Instead of having a party that straddles the centre and can change positions based on evidence, we will end up with two parties that are driven more by ideology than good ideas. It will be a battle of the left versus the right, similar to the two party system in America.  There won’t be a party that can tie together the better ideas of the right with the better ideas of the left. The best we can hope for by a merger is a NDP-lite party against a Conservative party that may take a step to the left.

The concept that Canada would become essentially a two party system, where both parties always travel in opposite directions, ignoring what route is best is a concept that fails to give the electorate fair alternatives.

There will always be a raison d’etre for Liberals, because we are the party of the people, the party of evidence and the party that can do what is best without being limited by ideological constraints.  I believe that Liberal values are the values of the majority because I think that most voters want politicians to do what’s best based on the facts, not some rigid belief system.

The way forward for Liberals isn’t by being consumed by the NDP. The problem isn’t that liberalism is dead or even dying.  The problem is that we haven’t been good at connecting with voters. We need to become the best party at communicating our message and our values.

That is the way forward for Liberals.


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8 Comments

  1. Bopsie

     /  April 21, 2012

    One problem with your analysis is that the Green Party is hardly hard-left. They have some environmental policies that would attract left-leaning voters, but the majority of their platform is more center-right, and certainly nowhere near far-left. I’m not sure they would bleed off far-left NDPers.

    Reply
    • You’re quite right on that, Bopsie. I know I didn’t explain my reasoning very well. Personally, I think that there are likely many NDP voters that are far left with high priority on environmental issues, but aren’t as far left on other issues. If this is true, they may see the NDP as the party that is most likely to form government that will address their environmental priorities. If a merger occurs, they may be more inclined to join the Greens, fearing that the environment won’t be as much of a priority. That was my reasoning behind that, but I realize I kind of generalized when I said far-left.

      I updated the post accordingly. Thank you for your comment!

      Reply
  2. In Britain the centre Liberal Democrats joined the right leaning Conservatives to form a government. The Liberal Democrats have been ruined by that partnership, now people are swinging to anyone that is not part of the official status quo.

    Reply
  3. Agreed – no merger. But electoral cooperation leading to a coalition government of the NDP, Liberal Party and Green Party, with an agreed program and a commitment not to vote no confidence in the coalition government for at least 2 to 3 years (the UK one was for 5 years) would work well to change the represssive and regressive Conservative government to a more progressive one.

    Provided that the first and most important legislative change in the coalition accord should be the introduction at the federal level of a modified proportional representation election system.

    Once we get that in place, the dynamics of such a system will allow all existing parties to retain their own identities, but it will force cooperation in order to get budgets and other policies enacted.

    Reply
  4. I think proportional representation is a good idea, but I have not yet decided for myself what the best way to implement it would be. With what knowledge I do have on the subject, I do tend to favour the preferential ballot, because from what I understand it would allow us to keep our local MPs, while still reforming the electoral system to be more democratic.

    Reply
  5. The modified proportional representation system allows some MPs to be elected to represent specific ridings while others are chosen from a general list – so it provides the geographic link to a riding that the preferential ballot does, while being far more democratic.

    Reply
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