“You won’t recognize Canada when I’m through with it,” Stephen Harper said in 2006. By now, we have seen that he meant it. Harper and his Conservatives have been implementing their right-wing agenda ever since — and now, with a majority government since 2011, there’s been nothing stopping them from taking it even further. And they have.
The “vote-splitting” phenomenon between NDP, Liberal, and Green candidates allowed Stephen Harper to form two minority governments in 2006 and 2008, but it was after the 2011 election in which vote-splitting allowed the Conservatives to win a majority government with only 39.6% of the popular vote that Canadians really began to rise up in protest against unfair representation in Parliament. Grassroots citizen advocacy groups against Harper and his agenda, and in favour of one-time electoral cooperation and/or electoral reform quickly came together and have grown substantially. We applaud their work in encouraging the Liberals, the New Democrats, and the Greens to come to the table in good faith to cooperate in the best interests of the Canadian majority. That’s what’s most important.
The Libdemo Movement believes that centre-left inter-party cooperation must continue after the 2015 election so that the new Parliament can get
right to work tackling the issues that matter most to everyday Canadians to undo Stephen Harper’s damage. We need collaborative, pragmatic, and progressive solutions to do this effectively.
Our hope is that successful policy cooperation could lead to progressive unification. We believe that Canada needs a strong, viable, and unified progressive alternative to the Conservatives’ regressive policies and dangerous right-wing agenda. A unified party would be able to effectively lead Canada into the twenty-first century, while tackling the most urgent problems that face us, such as climate change, the economy, and strengthening our social programs. We need a government that understands the realities of the present while looking to the future, rather than one that governs based on ideology.
The highly progressive Millennial generation, who currently make up the 18-to-34 demographic, has come of age and will soon be taking its place in public affairs. It’s likely that they will favour policies based on scientific evidence, not stale ideology. And they would probably want to do this as part of a unified progressive party. We’re arguably already heading towards future progressive unification — so we think the parties should start talking about it sooner rather than later.
We wanted to see if a hypothetical unified party that had won the combined Liberal, NDP, and Green vote — the consolidated non-Conservative vote — in the 2011 election would have made a difference in the makeup of Parliament. We know that simply adding these parties’ votes cannot predict support for a unified party since there are many important variables involved, such as some of the more partisan voters who wouldn’t support the new party.
However, we did this addition deliberately not controlling for these often intricate variables, because we wanted to see what the consolidated non-Conservative vote would have looked like in the House of Commons — kind of like a photo negative. We isolated the ridings in which the Conservative candidate (or, in four ridings, the Bloc Québécois candidate) won with a minority of the popular vote, with the Liberal or NDP candidate coming in second due to the vote-splitting phenomenon. We then added the Liberal, NDP, and Green vote for each of these ridings.
What we found was remarkable: in 57 ridings, the consolidated Liberal-NDP-Green vote would have defeated the actual Conservative winner (in 53 ridings) or the actual Bloc Québécois winner (in 4 ridings). Had the consolidated Liberal-NDP-Green vote gone to a single unified party, this party would have formed a decisive majority government of 195 seats — 29 seats more than the Conservatives won in 2011. These results demonstrate the electoral potential of a unified party.
We then used these results to create visual depictions. The first is a map of Canada showing the 57 ridings that could have been won by a hypothetical unified party in addition to the 138 ridings the three parties actually won. The second shows graphs depicting a typical vote-splitting scenario in the riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore, as well as the overall results this party could have won.
Download the Excel file we used to create the tables. By Alexandre Duquette.
As well, we have prepared a document (PDF) outlining common ground between the policies of the three parties on some of the important issues that matter to Canadians, and contrasting these with the policies of the Conservatives. By Peter Nicoll.