Working together: a good start
“Stop bickering and start cooperating!” has been the main sentiment we’ve encountered in our social media interactions with Canadians. Indeed, the necessity of the Liberal, New Democratic, and Green parties to come together in order to assure Stephen Harper’s defeat in 2015 has become clearer and clearer as he and his Conservatives have wielded their Parliamentary majority to unilaterally implement their right-wing agenda.
After Stephen Harper united the right through the 2003 merger of the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative parties, he and the new Conservative Party won two minority governments in 2006 and 2008. Many Canadians began to see the writing on the wall: unless the centre-left parties (the Liberal Party, the NDP, and the Green Party) came together to cooperate in some way, Stephen Harper would remain Prime Minister for a long time.
Harper’s false majority
But it was after the 2011 federal election when Canadians got a stark picture of the result of vote-splitting on the centre-left, when Harper and his Conservatives won a majority government with only 39.6% of the popular vote. Voters cast ballots for their preferred party’s candidate, to be sure, but this 60% majority voted to reject Harper and his right-wing agenda at the same time.
Many citizens’ advocacy groups sprung up to promote centre-left inter-party cooperation in subsequent elections, through measures such as strategic voting or the parties running only one candidate in each riding. These groups continue to grow their support.
While the Libdemo Movement advocates for unification of the Liberal Party, the NDP, and the Green Party, we are realistic and understand that this isn’t going to happen before the 2015 election — at least any accord involving the Liberal Party. While NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and Green Party leader Elizabeth May have indicated their openness to some form of inter-party cooperation, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has categorically rebuffed and dismissed the concept.
Even without the Liberals, though, we still think unification of the NDP and the Green Party is something these two parties should consider, and could be achieved in 2014. Both parties are strongly committed to environmental concerns and believe that these should take precedence over business interests (unlike the Liberals who, for example, support construction of the Keystone pipeline). Given the Green Party’s precarious standing in the polls, by joining forces with the NDP it could continue to contribute its ideas and strategies on environmental protection, but as part of a larger party with more influence in Parliament, while stimulating a stronger and more vibrant commitment to these issues among the caucus.
Still, we agree with these other citizens’ groups that the best way to assure Stephen Harper’s defeat in 2015 is for the three parties to pursue some kind of electoral cooperation. Many ideas and plans have been proposed for how this could happen, such as through primary elections between the parties in ridings where a single chosen candidate would easily defeat the Conservative candidate. However, while we support electoral cooperation for 2015, the focus of Libdemo Movement remains on progressive unification, and so we have no specific or unique proposals for how inter-party electoral cooperation might work.
We think presenting a single candidate per riding is a good idea in principle, but we are concerned that such an endeavour could be unduly difficult for the party leaders and riding associations, since for each riding they would have to mutually agree on a single candidate to run — with two of the three parties having to forego running their own party’s candidate. This could also cause discontent among some voters who might feel their choices have been reduced.
2015 and beyond
We are, however, concerned by the notion that electoral cooperation would be implemented principally to displace the Conservative government in order to enact electoral reform to a system of proportional representation, without much consideration to what would happen after the election in terms of policy and governance. Inter-party cooperation should not be viewed as a one-time election deal after which the parties would return to their usual partisan bickering and ideological stubbornness. What Parliament needs is a sincere fundamental commitment to rethink how to govern effectively and pragmatically. The Libdemo Movement believes that post-election inter-party cooperation in the House of Commons is needed in order to tackle the most pressing issues facing us — and undo Stephen Harper’s damage.
Open inter-party cooperation in government would show Canadians — and the parties — that they can work together in spite of their differences and past disputes. The three parties could agree on those important issues that are best suited to a cooperative, collaborative, post-partisan approach. We need effective, pragmatic, and progressive policies that address the realities of the twenty-first century, such as climate change and income inequality, not policies based mainly on ideology, like those of Stephen Harper and his Conservatives.
What’s more, a new spirit of cooperation would signal an end to the dynamic often seen in coalition governments in which the ‘junior’ partners extract difficult concessions from the ‘senior’ partner in exchange for support in Parliament. This kind of situation leads to tension between the parties which put the strength and viability of the government at risk.
We believe successful inter-party cooperation in policymaking would be the first step towards centre-left unification later on. Once the parties realize that ideology and partisanship are stand in the way of real progress, the effectiveness of their new cooperative approach will make unification a desirable option to move forward.
Think of it as like a couple living together before getting married in order to test their compatibility and adjust to being together, while ironing out any kinks, before getting married. We think that the parties can do the same — though this ‘marriage’ would between three partners!
We are confident they can do it, especially if they are able to put the interests of Canada and Canadians ahead of partisanship. The Libdemo Movement will continue to advocate for inter-party cooperation, especially since we believe would put the Liberal Party, the NDP, and the Green Party on a promising and exciting path towards unification that would ensure stable progressive majority governments to lead Canada forward, not backward.
Libdemo Movement / February 2014