(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.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.
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.
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.