Thursday, March 7, 2013


For me, one of the biggest offenses against logical thinking is absolutism, which essentially says there is only one right answer, that everything is black or white, with no gradations of gray. An example would be Vic Toews infamous assertion, when controversy erupted over his deeply flawed Internet surveillance bill, that those who opposed the legislation were siding with child pornographers. Another would be George Bush's claim, after 9/11, that 'You are either with us, or with the terrorists.'

Despite what the above examples might suggest, such thinking, sadly, is not the exclusive domain of those with limited intelligence; we all have the potential to fall into the absolutist trap. I am no exception, despite the fact that I try as much as possible to practise critical thinking.

Yet sometimes, there seems to be only one ineluctable conclusion to be drawn, as absolutist as it may appear. Such is the way I felt this morning upon reading Tim Harper's latest column. Entitled A hand stretched across the aisle in the print edition of the paper, the piece details the efforts of the NDP's Nathan Cullen and Liberal leadership candidate Joyce Murray to promote a one-time co-operative pact among the three parties in order to unseat Stephen Harper in the next federal election. Elegant in its simplicity, the plan would work as follows:

... seats held by the Conservatives in which the governing party received less than 50 per cent of the vote would be targeted for co-operation... Each of the three parties would nominate their own candidates and, assuming all three parties backed co-operation, the single candidate would be chosen in a run-off.

This way, of course, the centre and left would not be siphoning off votes from each other, which is what occurred in the last election, allowing Stephen Harper's crew to come up the middle and form a majority government despite being supported by only a minority of voters.

Joyce Murray avers that the majority within the three parties (this includes the Greens) support the notion, but what is telling is the reaction of the party leaders and leadership aspirants: NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has forbidden his MPs from responding to a letter from Green Party leader Elizabeth May championing the notion. Montreal MP Marc Garneau accused [Murray] of giving up on her party. And Justin Trudeau, of no fixed ideology, and, who once flirted with the idea of co-operation, has slammed the door on the prospect.

For me, there are no shades of gray, no nuances, in their flat rejection of the one strategy that could break Harper's stranglehold on Canada. Each is consumed with the bald lust for power. All other considerations, including what is best for the country, are secondary. I can see no other explanation.

So whether I am guilty of absolutist thinking or have drawn the only reasonable conclusion possible, I leave to the reader to decide.


  1. These supposedly skilful tacticians refuse to confront the Harper machine realistically, Lorne.

    It makes you wonder just how good they are.

    1. I suspect, Owen, that they are legends only in their own minds.

  2. I don't think this is absolutist thinking on your part, you have examined the question and come to a conclusion. You did not discount most of the alternatives without considering them.
    I am highly skeptical that this co-operation thing is going to work. I certainly think it is a good idea, but I fear that many hard core Liberals and NDPers will find the notion of being forced to vote for the other abhorrent. I'd like to abolish parties. I think our parties are ossifying.

  3. Hi Karen,

    I agree with your observation about the ossification of parties; it seems that the longer an organization or institution is in existence, the greater the pressure for conformity to group-think there is. Until people are able to visualize a larger picture that takes into account not just party fortunes but the collective good, there would seem to be little chance prospect for change.