Tuesday, May 01, 2007

On principled dealings

Elizabeth May has been in the news plenty the last couple of days over her weekend implosion. But while there's plenty to wonder about her leadership based on her newfound role as a prophet, she does seem to have managed to figure out at least some of the problems with the Red Green pact, suggesting in the Hill Times that any further decisions not to run Green candidates will originate at the riding level.

Needless to say, it's for the best that May now seems to realize that riding associations can't and shouldn't be taken for granted. But in the interest of seeing whether it's possible to reach some consensus on the principles which should apply to any cooperative electoral effort, I'll take a few minutes to suggest what principles would be needed for this Dipper (and this Dipper alone, as I don't purport to speak for anybody else) to back any formal deal involving the NDP.

1. Likelihood of success - Presumably the purpose of any arrangement among the Libs, NDP and Greens would be to ensure that Harper doesn't remain in power. With that in mind, any deal is a non-starter if it doesn't both involve enough seats to result in a change in government, and stand a strong chance of winning public support.

2. Democracy - While the leaders may well want to be on the forefront of deal-making, that doesn't justify their trampling on the interests of their riding associations and party members. No deal should take effect without formal approval from a party's national council, and any deal should allow both individual riding associations to continue to run a candidate (even if without the usual national-party resources), and a sufficiently large number of riding associations nationally to override the deal if they express disapproval.

3. Flexibility - In keeping with the purpose of toppling the Cons, any deal has to allow for multiple ways of accomplishing that goal - not focus on a single option as a replacement, which could then undermine the entire process based on a single party's failures.

4. Specificity - Any deal on policy in particular should set out specific areas of agreement as well as concrete measures to get there, rather than vague statements about potential cooperation which can easily be interpreted differently by different parties.

5. Enforceability - To the extent that any part of a deal involves policy agreement following an election, the deal should ensure that enough leverage exists to force the parties involved to live up to their commitments.

6. Reciprocity - Any deal should treat the parties involved as equals and provide substantially similar benefits to them, rather than resulting in any one party agreeing to make its interests subordinate to any other's.

To repeat in case there's any doubt, the above is purely my take on the principles which I'd need to see embodied in any deal that I'd be prepared to support personally. And even then it would depend on the specific structure of any deal (particularly since the principles may conflict in some cases), as well as some factors beyond the control of the parties.

I'll post later with a suggestion as to how these principles could be put into practice. In the meantime, though, I'm curious to find out whether other progressives would see this as a framework that can work in a joint effort.

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