Tuesday, March 12, 2013

On first steps

I'm skeptical about Paul Adams' argument that some type of electoral non-compete agreement between the NDP and the Libs is inevitable an election cycle or two down the road. But he does hint at something close to the type of cooperation that I could see as useful in the meantime:
(T)here is a very slight possibility that there will be yet another opening to the idea [of a non-compete deal] before the 2015 election. If the Conservatives were to start polling quite a bit stronger — say nearer the 40 per cent mark — and the Liberal and the NDP were deadlocked in the mid-20 per cent range for long enough, there might be internal and external pressures for Trudeau and Mulcair to temper their intransigence about cooperation.

That’s not the likeliest scenario. Much more probable is that the Liberals and the NDP will insist on at least one more election running on their own.

If it comes to that, progressives should at least demand that their party leaders swear off demonizing each other as they compete for support in the common pool of voters from which they draw.
In effect, the first step toward progressive cooperation could be to at least avoid doing Stephen Harper's work for him by echoing and validating the most damaging parts of the Cons' spin. And I'd argue that the messages worth avoiding include not only gratuitous attacks on each other, but also right-wing tropes which feed into the argument that we shouldn't expect our government to be a force for positive social change.

Of course, even that level of non-competition may not be achieved as easily as it sounds at first blush: the Libs' traditional means of differentiation from the NDP involves parroting Con "tax and spend" soundbites which reinforce a reactionary worldview, while the NDP's ethical and trust arguments against the Libs similarly figure to have a spillover effect in generating cynicism about politics in general. And it's far from clear that either party will give up on those familiar arguments without a fight.

But if our existing parties can't even manage the minimal level of agreement involved in shaping messages which don't undermine long-term values for short-term gain, then it's all the more futile to think they'll do better in assembling a complex and time-consuming non-competition scheme. And if it is in fact possible to agree the priority for the next couple of years is to focus on challenging the Cons' plans for Canada rather than other opposition parties, that might go a long way in ensuring that there's an opportunity to cooperate in governing in 2015 and beyond.


  1. Anonymous9:29 a.m.


    What you advocate here (under mistaken assumptions about the electorate & our political culture) would only cripple the NDP & condemn Canada to perpetual mismanagement.

    The Liberals have long been parasites, co-opting our imagery & policies - to secure their PROVEN unethical, contradictory, and disingenuous administration.

    The NDP & Conservatives are currently sitting on data which exposes Justin Trudeau as an adherent to that Liberal culture of exploitation & entitlement.

    What would be "cynical" is purposefully withholding such an information campaign, because Liberal exploitation is more agreeable to you than Conservative incompetence.

    Yours in vociferous disagreement,
    Dan Tan

    1. But there's still a choice as to whether the NDP chooses to be the one to exploit whatever data you're talking about. If the Cons run with it and the NDP sticks to building the impression that we're more interested in talking about what we can do right in government, then we have a great chance to reproduce the 2011 dynamic of being above the fray; if we go on the attack, then we forfeit that advantage while adding little to the expected firestorm that Trudeau will likely face one way or another.

      Of course, there's a certain element of chicken involved if the Cons see the same dynamics and hold fire as well. But I don't think anybody's ever lost a dime betting on them to err on the side of destruction.

    2. Anonymous10:10 a.m.

      This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Anonymous12:18 p.m.


      You cannot apply the 2011 dynamic to the upcoming campaign.

      There...the Liberals ran with an arrogant, Iraq-war supporting, scowling lump. There was enough of a symbolic contrast to distinguish the social-democratic-NDP from the elitist-Liberals.

      Now...those elitist-Liberals intend to pose as the social-democratic-NDP. They know that the culture associates "Pierre Trudeau" with NDP-style values. They will attempt to exploit the father's legacy, in an effort to consolidate the vote around the corrupt & malleable scion...Justin Trudeau:

      You would have the NDP remain silent & oblivious, as these Liberal hustlers manipulate our voters. I would have the NDP speak the truth & protect our voters.

      Dan Tan

  2. I wonder what percentage of Canadians recognize what a bizarre government and evangelical political party we have running and ruining Canada.. Exactly what Stephen Harper promised. No he didn't promise Canadians that we wouldn't recognize Canada when he was through with it.. he said that to other so-called conservatives.

    I wonder what percentage of Canadians want to see Harper have another six years to jam more omnibus bills through, collapse the economy and surrender it to China, ensure the environment of Canada is thoroughly trashed, via tar sands, fracking, pipelines etc.. then complete his attack and kill off the west coast marine ecosystems. Whew, all that and wait till we see what he can do to the Arctic. He seems content to not venture east of Ottawa.. so maybe Quebec & the Maritimes should count their blessings.

    If Liberals, NDP and any other organized 'opposition' truly feel OK about gambling our future and splitting the vote, then waiting another four years to try and defeat Harper or some similarly sanctimonious successor.. then they should seek help. Six years from now, democracy, parliament and the house of commons will be a circus side show. Its already part kabuki theatre and part Monty Python twit show

    We can't even figure out how we were groomed, gamed then assaulted in our own election in 2011. What was systemic and criminal election fraud accompanied by vote suppression and dirty tricks seems of little concern to Prime Minister Harper. It seems in his view 'it didn't happen'.

  3. Looking at the personal popularity of Mr. Trudeau, I can't see the Liberals agreeing to any kind of cooperation before the next election, and if they win a majority (not impossible) it will be off the table for another 4 or 8 years. Trudeau seems to be attracting a very progressive kind of voter, but the party policy is still made by those who show up at policy conferences.
    My recommendation to all progressive Canadians who would like to influence the direction of the next government: Show up at these policy meetings. Get your issue on the agenda; vote on what will go into the platform, and seek the #LPC nomination in ridings where it might be possible to turn a blue seat to red. Any group is the product of its constituent parts. If we can look ahead a few years and see that Canadians might be willing to give the Liberals another chance to govern, now would be the time to get involved and strengthen the left wing of the party. (Airplane metaphor works well here: Imagine a plane trying to fly with only a right wing) If only the right wing of the party controls the agenda, the party will spin out of control once again, maybe crash & burn, and leave us with another Conservative government.

    1. To clarify: Yes, I think it is possible that Mr. Trudeau wins a majority in the next election. (50/50 odds right now; could change)

    2. Anonymous9:51 a.m.

      Dan F.,

      You know very well that Liberal administrators are in no way beholden to their platforms, much less their disinterested members. They take pride in such disregard, spinning it as "non-ideological" & "tough choices" governing.

      Your assumptions about the electorate also require clarification. They only know Trudeau from his eulogy. While they know nothing of Mulcair.

      Their perception of Trudeau will change, once certain revelations take place before the election. Their evaluation of Mulcair will take place, during the national debates.

      If you have seen each man perform, then you know that the lispy & gaffe-prone Trudeau will be decimated by the clear-spoken & authoritative Mulcair.

      I suppose you can trust the fawning coverage of 'the Media Party' & the fleeting statements of pollsters. Or, you can trust your own eyes & better instincts.

      It's your time to waste,
      Dan Tan

    3. It is not impossible that Justin Trudeau will win a majority. The question is, will his popularity hold over time after (well, technically if) he wins the Liberal leadership. That question remains open. On one hand, he does seem to have a lot of personal appeal, a strong HOAG factor. On the other, he still hasn't done anything to dispel the impression of a lightweight, and pretty-boy politicians in Canada have often found that after a brief honeymoon their popularity slips a good deal--Dumont in Quebec springs to mind. I confess I have no idea what's going to happen with that, and really I don't think anyone else does either. It will turn on trivial, contingent things--how he handles attacks, whether he does a bad gaffe, whether he gets in some sound bites that resonate, blah blah blah.

      But this is the first time I'd ever heard that Liberal party policy, as in what they do when in power, is formed by rank and file people who show up to conventions. It sounds highly unlikely to me. Heck, that can barely be said to be true of the NDP, much less the backroom-dominated Libs. And Justin seems to have the usual group of old guard backroom boys gathered around him. I'm not about to go join the other corporate party just so I can close my eyes, click my heels together and imagine they're taking my policy beliefs on board.

    4. I'll echo the above shock that anybody would describe the Libs' membership as having any real input into policy. And I see that as another area where we have our own reputation to defend and bolster - meaning that particularly with a Trudeau coronation looking inevitable, our April convention may have a significantly greater impact on the long-term shape of Canadian politics than the Libs'.

  4. We go back to if one considers the Liberals "progressive". So Dan F suggests that Trudeau is attracting a very "progressive voter", and yet in what Trudeau has stated in a few policy areas is actually quite NOT progressive.
    I agree with Dan Tan that exposing Liberal past track record, for instance, is not the same is saying untruthful things about another party. I would be unhappy if the Liberals ran on national childcare, again, or boasting about national healthcare, and voters not reminded about their past actions/in actions in these areas.
    Also the Liberals love to (forever) blame the NDP and Layton for the fall of the Martin minority govt. If only Layton had supported we would have a national childcare program and the Kelowna Accord would be in force. Besides that neither action would have actually happened even if Layton NDP had supported the Martin liberal govt (getting programs up and running takes more than 6 wks - lol, before Martin promised to call an election). The truth doesn't matter to them and never has.
    So personally I'd like to see how everything goes before I would ever consider jumping on some liberal bandwagon.
    And as for considering getting involved in their policy making process or running for a candidate for them, one must be pretty naive to think that newbies would have any influence in this regard.
    They only need you for doing the grunt work and progressive cover for who they really represent - the privilege class and their corporate backers.

  5. Anonymous10:27 a.m.

    I think the key problem has been stated in the comments. What one may see as an attack or undermining the other, another may see as giving the electorate useful information. Calgary Centre is an example, where the NDP gave Sun Media footage of Trudeau saying Alberta had too much influence on federal policy. Was that an attack or simply giving the electorate useful information? Depends on your viewpoint, but I assume Mulcair sees it as useful information and Harper was certainly happy with the end result. I don't think that is going to change anytime soon.