Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Solution Lacking Political Will

While reading the following, I found myself pining for the kind of scenario Jerry Ginsburg adumbrates. Then I had my second cup of coffee and reawoke to the prime motivation enveloping our current crop of 'leaders (excepting Elizabeth May): the bald and venal pursuit of power.
Stephen Harper’s Canada is not my Canada. More importantly, it’s not the Canada desired by most Canadians. Two-thirds of us, judging from polls and the last election, don’t want a Canada where policy-making relies on bullying and the suppression of dissent, where military intervention and one-sided bluster have replaced peacemaking as our foreign policy, where core issues like the environment are totally ignored, and where minorities in our community are stigmatized and mocked rather than welcomed into an inclusive, diverse whole.

Many of us are “mad as hell and don’t want to take it anymore.” But unless something changes, Harper’s Canada is the one we’re going to end up with after the next election. Once again the Liberals, NDP, and Greens will divide the opposition vote, and once again the Conservatives will sweep into power with a “majority” representing less than 40 per cent of us. This must not happen again. But how can it be avoided?

Both Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau suggest the answer is obvious: just vote for us. Says Mulcair: “We’re already the Opposition; give us a few more seats and we’ll form the next government.” Says Trudeau: “Look at the polls since I became leader. We’re on our way back, and we’re the only party that can defeat Harper.” The hubris is impressive, but we know where this is headed. Mulcair is not going to be the next PM; he’ll be lucky not to end up third. Trudeau may come closer, but he’s been bleeding support for months, and this trend will, if anything, accelerate once he’s exposed to the harsh light of the campaign. Nonetheless, both men, pushed along by their self-interested party organizations, will valiantly soldier on, pretending mightily that success is imminent. The result will be exactly what the majority of us dread: a split vote leading to the re-election of Harper.

I believe most Canadians would prefer to have our opposition parties come together and form a mature, responsible coalition, one that could compete effectively in the election and govern effectively thereafter. Such a coalition would not necessitate the dismantling of the Liberals, NDP and Greens. Each party could continue to advocate for the policies it views as crucial. But each would also have to make significant compromises in the interest of maintaining a functioning coalition. If such compromises were openly negotiated and clearly explained to the electorate, they would not be vilified but respected as examples of the give-and-take necessary for genuinely democratic government to work.

This might seem hopelessly naive and idealistic. But in fact it’s a reasonable description of how our system could function under proportional representation. No party or coalition of parties with less than 50 per cent popular support would have the power to make policy. Can you imagine it: a Canada where legislation actually reflected the wishes of the majority?

Is it possible a unifying coalition could come about before the next election and allow the majority of Canadians finally to rule? It all depends on whether the Liberals, NDP and Greens can be weaned away from the selfish pursuit of minority power to give voice to an electorate with more parties than its current electoral system can accommodate.

Jerry Ginsburg, Thornhill


  1. Cue the partisan howlers.

    I started saying this in 2006.

    On October 27 of that year I posted the following on The Galloping Beaver.

    "And eventually, late on election night, The Right Honourable Stephen Harper and The Conservative Party of Canada will achieve majority government. The well ordered dismantling and reconstruction of the secular, progressive nation formerly known as The Dominion of Canada will begin.

    The other parties will undoubtedly make some impotent noise about it but it won’t matter or slow anything down– and anyway, the NDP and The Greens are still celebrating the fact that they got more votes this time. They’ll get more next time too and that, oh that, will be the New Jerusalem.

    It won’t matter that The Conservatives will be implementing policies that something like 63 or 64 percent of the voters voted against because they won’t care. It won’t matter that a movement to switch to something other than First Past the Post will gain momentum because they won’t enact it.

    Nothing will matter and nothing will change until The Liberal Party, The NDP and The Greens realize that the only way – the one and only way – to ensure that The Conservatives do not have the opportunity to form majority government is for the three of them to work closely together – or merge.

    I’m not holding my breath waiting for any of that.

    So I’m beginning to mourn instead."

    I'm still mourning.


    1. Your prophetic words have clearly withstood the test of time, Dana. I join with you in mourning lost possibilities and opportunities. The party leaders will do the same thing this time around, hoping for a different result. Isn't that one of the classic definitions of insanity?

  2. Actually, no, it's not a classic definition of anything. It's a clever internet trope variously attributed to Einstein, Twain, Franklin and others. It actually appears to be language derived from addiction recovery work with it's roots in the AA big book. As always google is your friend.

    As Abe Lincoln said, "You can't trust internet quotes."

  3. By the way, my source for the earlier post is this blog - you and Owen might like it. :-) No need to post this-it's for you.

    1. Thanks, Dana. I posted it so others could enjoy it as well.

  4. While I have been in agreement with Dana since then for the same reason, I also have a lot more rage at those I see as directly responsible, and that is one party and leader far more than any other, and we all know who that is, I've made that point often enough over the years. At this late date after a decade of trying to be murdered by teaming up with Harper tactically to destroy them what basis do the Libs have for feeling there is any profit, and sense in teaming up with the NDP prior to the next vote? I mean seriously, what little possibility I saw left for that got destroyed last fall when Mulcair decided he couldn't have Trudeau sounding credible on defending women, especially his own female MPs from male harassment, it would hurt too much with the women's vote both sides are looking for. Mulcair showed Trudeau there is no way he should trust Mulcair not to knife him in the back at the least chance for partisan gain.

    While I've never said the Lib side is blameless in all this bad blood, from where I sit as a first and foremost process geek whose sole true agenda is the stopping of Harper it strikes me as the NDP are the ones more consistently on the attack, which makes perfect sense. They are after all the ones working to surpass the Libs position-wise in the voters minds, therefore they HAVE to take the more active role, but then that also means their claims that the Libs are the ones always being the main attackers/problem fail the logic test. Sure the Libs thrown out their own insults, but a lot of it is also triggered as a response, not as the starting point, because for the Libs the NDP traditionally have not been their primary electoral threat (although they certainly liked to raid their support periodically, I understand that).

    In any event, I fear the same as Dana and so many others, our one real hope is that this turns into a wave election, and that many who tend not to vote more than once or twice a generation show up in droves this time because they are just that sick of Harper For me that really is the only real basis for hope left at this point, I'm sad to say..

    1. Thanks for your analysis, Scotian, and I'm glad you are not encountering the earlier technical problem you told me about posting to this blog. It would be wonderful to see record numbers go to the polls, although i am dubious of that prospect. If they did turn out in force, not only would they help rid us of our national scourge but also serve notice to the other parties that they were back, a force to be reckoned with, demanding their attention and their respect.

    2. Scotian, I share your rage at Layton and the NDP.

      The cavalier, self serving way the party allowed Layton to throw First Nations people under the bus disgusted me. The way they simply threw away a national Early Childhood Education plan likewise. And both of those made all that much more disgraceful by them knowing full well that the Harper Conservatives would never even entertain the idea of either, let alone sit down and work out agreements and funding formulae with the provinces to go ahead.

      My membership expired in flames that day. They will never again receive my vote and in truth I think the best thing that could happen to them is oblivion. We would all be better served by a newly formed party of the left than with these 2 faced hypocritical liars. Most dishonest political party in the country right now as far as I'm concerned. And I say this as a guy who used to lead the labour song sing-a-longs at the CCF rallies in Regina in the mid-60s.

    3. Dana:

      You sound so much like my wife, who was until Layton a hard core pure Orange hard core Dipper, who found my swing nature hard to understand. We used to have some rather shall we say interesting political disagreements. Now though, she's become a hard core Trudeau Lib, because he feels closest to what she once felt from the NDP, which in itself shows a lot. Me, I'm still the swing centrist whose first goal is stopping Harper, so I'll vote NDP in this riding if I must to keep this riding out of CPC hands, but only for that reason, and if it looks like the Libs could take it (which given the current political climate around here is more likely than it has been in a generation) only then might I shift.

      It really infuriates me to get branded some sort of hard core Lib partisan because I look at objective demographic realities and cannot see how any party other than the Libs have the ability to throw out Harper, and especially after what we saw in 2011 this should be patently obvious! I keep making my arguments based on the objective measures available, not wishful thinking, not partisan preference, hells I said vote Ignatief for that reason, and I HATED him, and the ONLY positive I had to offer was that as bad as he was he would still be a far less damaging and disastrous PM than Harper even in another minority, let alone a majority, and I think the record proved that correct!

      I always thought Ignatief was the worst mistake the Libs federally made in my lifetime from the outset, I never understood why he appealed to that segment that he did, and given the damage he did in first undercutting Dion and then being not just a bad campaigner but a lousy leader (writing the book during the 2008 economic meltdown instead of getting out there offering alternatives being one of the biggies IMHO), his failure to figure out how to rebuild party infrastructure and fundraising (things Trudeau managed brilliantly with less resources than Ignatief had available I might add), and he still would have been better than Harper.

      If I had ever believed the NDP stood a serious chance at beating down the Harper CPC then I would be more willing to give them my support even though I loathe what they have done, but they clearly don't. I have always tried to deal with reality as it is, not as I wish it were. I also understand that you go to the polls with the voters that you have, not the voters you wish you have, and this is a problem I find far too many on the left fail to grasp, that their POV is not the majority POV, no, that is that mushy middle the Libs have so successfully mined for most of our history.

      At this point I do not know what the NDP does after this period passes. They once had a hard worked for decades long record of principles first leadership that they threw away in this past decade, yet they still want to claim they have it. That hypocrisy has to be hurting within the old core NDP base, people like you and my wife being some examples, and the ones that stuck by hoping for the payoff because they trusted Layton as a longtime Dipper may not feel the same with Mulcair, and either not vote next time out or go Lib thinking Harper is the real threat. I'm getting closer to be inclined towards your solution at this point, they have so damaged themselves, yet even now so many of their partisans fail to see this, no they see a bright shining future, especially if those hateful Libs would just get out of their way and lie down and die like they should (in their minds). That alone should be enough to show they are living not in reality but their own reality, and not one I see becoming objective reality.

  5. You had me at "adumbrates." Where in hell did you come up with that? I even looked up what it means in Hindi but I couldn't understand the writing.

    1. As i get older, Mound, I find it is not as easy to access words i don't often use, so I have to try to goose the old synapses periodically just to try to speed things up. ;)