Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Well said

While the Cons are trying to get one last rerun out of their anti-coalition hysteria (featuring the least threatening attack graphic ever), Fred Wilson points out some lessons actually worth learning from last year's events:
I think we learned why progressives should favour coalition politics over the “big tent” strategy. In every case that I know of where social democratic or Liberal “big tents” have formed governments, they have implemented neo-Liberal policies, marginalized progressives, and shattered the hopes of social change activists. The coalition brought forward a program developed explicitly in opposition to the neo-liberal agenda at that time, and provided major roles and real influence for progressive voices. Yes, it is possible to achieve political breadth without eviscerating everything you stand for.

We also learned that Canadians are very open to coalition politics, provided that parties are open and transparent with them. One of the noteworthy analyses of the coalition was that original hostility to the coalition turned more favorable after a period of public discussion. Strategic Counsel polls for the Globe and Mail on December 5, 2008, showed 58% opposition to the coalition and 38% support. By January 15, support for the coalition had increased to 44%. An EKOS Globe and Mail poll published January 21, six days before the budget, showed support for a coalition government at 50%.

Unfortunately there are some lessons we didn’t learn, and for me chief among these is the centrality of Quebec for the future of the Canadian left. I was excited by the coalition, because it included the Bloc Quebecois. The coalition did not envisage Bloc ministers, but it did contemplate a working relationship towards shared social and economic goals.

There are some who see the relationship with the Bloc as the achilles heel of the coalition -- but I believe they could not be more wrong. First, there was no coalition possible without the Bloc’s support. Second, 80% of Bloc supporters in Quebec supported the coalition and showed by their support the possibility of a new unity between English and French progressives, and ultimately the basis for a truly representative bi-national Canadian government.

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