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You thought I was crazy? Another Strategic Proposal for NDP-Libs

November 3, 2009

Well, my last post suggesting that the Green Party strike a strategic deal with other parties to get their fair share of the votes generated a lot of good discussion.  Most of you answered my final question “Am I crazy?” with a decided “Yes, Mark, you are, now go play.” Fair enough, I can take it, maybe it is a crazy idea. We worked out some more plausible ideas in the comments where the Greens don’t give up so much. Well, today an atom bomb of an opinion piece in the Canadian #fairvote community by UBC Poli.Sci prof Michael Byers.

In the article in yesterday’s Toronto Star Byers suggests that the NDP and Liberals declare a “ceasefire” in the next election composed of two main promises:

  1. Each party would retract candidates from ridings where the other party beat them last time to increase the chance of electing a non-Conservative party member.  This deal could also be extended to the Green party in about five federal ridings where they came in second last time in exchange for their withdrawal from other ridings.
  2. A promise from both parties to introduce legislation to have a referendum on instituting proportional representation

Whew! Go Michael! Go UBC!

Now I know as well as you do that the chances of this deal occurring are very low.  Personalities seeking power are very wary of giving it up to benefit an enemy.  This is part of the problem that Byers is addressing, the NDP and Liberals treat each other (and sometimes themselves) as such bitter enemies that the Conservative party barely has to do any work tearing them apart themselves.  For progressive-centrist voters this is a horrible period for Canada where we have a more conservative government than the US, we’re behind on environmental issues and a party that doesn’t believe in government solutions is recklessly spending all the government’s money on superficial ‘solutions’ to the economic crisis rather than on bold, social programs and development that Canada needs such as universal daycare, high speed rail and green technology other than carbon capture and storage.

Voters get the final say right? Well they don’t, when the two or three parties they might trust to represent them can’t stop fighting amongst themselves rather than cooperating for the common goals they should have.  That is what Byers is getting it. Even if his proposal is laughed off the stage in the next  24 hour news cycle (come on @andrewcoyne, you can at least bring it up in the panel this week!) it will serve a purpose in opening people’s minds to crazy ideas.  We need to think big to literally get out of this box of minority governments being formed by the left over conservative voters restuling from a split centre-left.  Conservative voters are split too, they just decided to swallow their pride (or sell it, in Peter McKay’s case) and unite into one megalithic party to get power.  Because that’s what our messed up voting system rewards! Byers’ proposal is much less megalithic, and purposely temporary.  After such a deal results in a Liberal minority government with Green and NDP support they would institute some program of public education on Electoral Reform followed by a series of Referenda on 1) Whether we need to fix the system and 2) How to fix it.

This would take years but it would be worth it to have everyone actually represented in this country by who they voted for, even if it wasn’t the first choice they voted for. So good for you Prof. Byers, I hope we hear more crazy ideas from you and other in the future.  The crazier the better, some day one of them is going to stick and we’re going to fix this thing.

Related links and news.  If you are on the twitter take a look at these lists that FairVoteUBC has created :

Update : Here’s another great opinion piece on the need for a coalition at the Department of Culture.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Silvaine Zimmermann permalink
    November 9, 2009 10:20 am

    It’s one of the better strategies I’ve heard – but the follow up you propose would be way too slow – we need to get the leaders of the progressive Parties to cooperate once, get elected as a progressive alliance with a promise to reform the system before the next election so we get pro rep, and then, start having democratic elections. If we don’t get this done in one swoop we won’t have much left to save on our planet by the time we get around to having real democracy. But who am I kidding – ego-maniacs co-operating for the common good? The last time politicians threatned to co-operate the media made minced meat out of them. Gawwwwwd……….

    • November 9, 2009 6:33 pm

      Silvaine, I couldn’t agree more, but my initial proposal was considered already too aggressive, I suspect most ‘reasonable’ people in the media and politics would say the same for my updated proposal or yours. There is a common wisdom that quick progress is impossible and that all steps should be small ones. But sometimes I fear that taking small steps will lead to go nowhere at all. But right now this approach seems to be winning out, and if you look at other issues, there is some evidence that it works if you play it just right. Frankly I’m not excited about waiting 30 years to get a fair democratic system. And you have a good point that if really wait that long then it may be too late for it to have any useful effect on our environmental policies if there is not environment yet to preserve.

  2. Vi Madder permalink
    November 21, 2009 11:01 am

    This is ridiculous.

    The only way for the progressives to regain control of the government is to do what the ‘regressives’ did a few years ago — join the parties together. The Liberals are floundering just as the PC’s were before merging with the Canadian Alliance, lost in their own self importance and dismissive of new ideas.

    If the Liberals joined with the Greens and or the NDP they could capture a near permanent majority, with, lets hope, a more progressive value and policy direction to the torture and war supporters currently in office.

    • November 22, 2009 11:34 am

      I know what you’re saying, and mathematically its hard to disagree with. If the Liberals and NDP merged and IF their voters stuck with them them a majority would be easy. The reason that seems just as unlikely as my proposal is a difference between conservative voters and centre/progressive voters. Conservatives have a wide range of beliefs but they have a desire for unity and certainty that lets them stop debate and get behind someone even if they don’t agree with them. Conservatives respect a simple, unified voice and see debate and disagreement as weakness, so they stifle it. Meanwhile, progressives and liberal voters (small L there) value diverse opinion, debate, disagreement. They aren’t going to accept your ideas if they disagree with them but they also don’t usually claim certainty over their own ideas. They accept that debate and discussion are needed to try to convince people of your beliefs, but you can’t impose them on others. You can’t, so paraphrase a certain prime minister, “move the country towards your values”. The whole idea of making the country more conservative or more progressive, surreptitiously and without the country knowing, is anathema to most of us.

      If your ideas are powerful and true then people will be convinced. This belief is fundamental to liberal democratic thinking. Whereas conservative thinking seems to be happy with manipulating the debate and the context so that your ideas win out without having to go through the trouble of “convincing” people. Conservatives need to take that tack in Canada because their ideas are the minority.

      So getting the two largets wing of the centre/progressive majority in this country to give up their identity and tow a party line is very hard. But I admit, so it getting them to enter a bargain with their competitors that only benefits them collectively, not individually as I propose. I’m just saying, this approach seems more in line with their acceptance of compromise and debate.

  3. November 30, 2009 9:30 pm

    Liberals are regressive – look at Iggy’s stance on tar sands and HST. The Liberals have never supported PR.

    On that grounds alone this proposal ought to die.

    Further than that though, in politics, 2+2 does not equal 4 and there’s evidence against the fact that people would switch between the two parties (some Blue Liberals might vote Tory).

    If anything less choice = less democracy = more voter apathy = less voter turnout.


  1. Andrew Coyne’s Modest Proposal « Pop The Stack

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