Sunday, November 09, 2014

Why Progressives May Soon Be Forced To Work Together

There are few things that depress me more than the sight of progressives fighting each other.

As the NDP and the Liberals are doing these days.

Especially when I remember how close we once came to forming a Great Canadian Coalition, and bringing down Stephen Harper. 

And how great it felt to work together, before that dream was shattered.

And my only consolation is that when I look at the way the polls are going, I can see another coalition in the making.

Because when you look at these latest EKOS numbers.

The political landscape looks very different in the aftermath of the shootings of two weeks ago. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have seen their fairly solid and stable 12-point lead collapse into a much less comfortable three-point lead.

And this trend line...

You can see that that even if the Con surge subsides as it almost certainly will.

The simple fact is that there is little evidence that the public judgement on the incumbent’s record and plans for the economy and social issues can produce a win. So the unexpected and most likely ephemeral improvement in fortunes from this security bounce will almost certainly fade leaving the Conservatives with much iffier prospects.

And even if the Liberals are able to hang on to a lead, the best they can probably hope for, especially if an election is held sooner rather than later, is a minority government.

And they will have to depend on the support of the NDP to stay in power.

Now I know that some progressives are fiercely partisan, and as one who has long pushed for them to unite, I have the scars to prove it.

But nothing will ever convince me that the writing hasn't been on the wall from the moment the Cons united. Or that it isn't a simple matter of mathematics. The reactionary right united will always have a better chance of winning, than will the centre left divided.

And of course I can never forget the look of fear on Stephen Harper's face when he thought he was going to be defeated by a coalition...

How he tried to demonize the very idea. 

And how angry and crazy he sounded like in Parliament...

And the good news, as Scott Reid points out, is he won't be able to demonize the idea of a coalition as easily next time.

The C-word is back. Or at least it soon could be. In the past few elections, the word coalition has been turned by Stephen Harper and his Conservatives into a political instrument of horror. It’s been used to scare small children, frighten undecided voters and torture two consecutive leaders of the Liberal Party of Canada.

On the one hand, it is to the Conservatives’ advantage to recreate a dynamic that discourages certain post-campaign combinations – specifically those that would see the Conservatives removed from power in a minority Parliament. 

On the other hand, the prime minister now presides over a majority government and he must be careful to avoid signalling that he lacks confidence in his own ability to secure a second such mandate. Such a move would be interpreted as a sign of weakness and a tacit confession that even he assumes he’ll lose ground in the next campaign.

He can't be seen to be weak, the Bloc isn't around to scare people, there is a limit to how many times you can cry wolf.

After years of crying wolf, Conservatives might find that the coalition beast is finally at their door. But, like the boy in the story, will anyone bother to believe them this time around?

And of course there's this:

In addition to all that, there’s a new consideration the Conservatives must weigh – what if this time around it’s they who need the co-operation of others? Might the Conservatives find themselves shopping post-campaign for a deal with the NDP to keep Trudeau out of 24 Sussex?

Which may seem extremely unlikely, but could become more of a possibility if the Liberals and the NDP keep treating each other as bitter enemies...

Instead of concentrating on the real enemy.

So it really is in the interests of both parties to start being nicer to each other, and coming up with positive reasons to vote for them, instead of reasons not to vote for the other.

And besides, at this desperate time in Canadian history there is already a coalition forming out there. And these are its newest members. 

The union representing scientists and other professionals in the federal public service is abandoning its tradition of neutrality in elections to actively campaign against Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

It's an anti-Harper coalition determined to save this country from the monstrous rule of the Con regime.

And every decent Canadian must join it.

And of course I can never forget those brief moments when in the darkest of times red, and orange and green came together.

And how happy I was to feel that we were all united and fighting to get our country back.

As I tried to express in this video back then...

It was a marvellous moment.

And it will happen again.

We will unite to defeat the Cons.

And we will get our country back...

Please click here to recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers.


  1. Anonymous9:30 AM

    I would love a coalition too. How many blue liberals would jump ship? There are those types out there.

    1. hi anon...if progressives ever come together there may be some blue Liberals who will jump ship as they did in the last election when they thought the NDP might win. But I don't see that as a bad thing. I think that we need to shakedown all parties. Draw a line in the sand and invite Canadians to decide what side they are really on. Beyond the minor differences, there are two clear visions of society we must choose between, and I'm confident that most Canadians are still on our side...

  2. It would be great if this happened of its own accord, but if wishes were horses....
    I see the need for a coalition group to establish itself under a separate banner, say united progressives or some such, that both Liberal and NDP supporters could relate to, to get together and brainstorm ways to strategically run for office and to vote to defeat the could be done, it should be done, and I would be happy to join support/volunteer for such a group here in's hoping that, once again, the voters don't just leave it all to the politicians..let's start participating in our participatory democracy...

    1. hi mizdarlin...if wishes were horses, I like that. ;) Now I realize that I am a guy who is looking for ponies in heaps of manure, but if you study that poll I included in my post, this time I'm being brutally realistic. Both the Liberals AND the NDP are bleeding votes to the Cons, and although I'm optimistic that slide can be halted, unless it is dramatically reversed we are heading for at best a Liberal minority government, and at worst, especially if vote-splitting becomes a factor, a Con minority. So they only way we can hope to prevail is if the Liberals and the NDP learn to work together. It does mean learning to compromise, but this country was built by our genius for compromise, so I see that as a good and vey Canadian thing. And to see both parties squabbling while our country burns is not something I can accept...

    2. Well said. Entirely agree.

  3. Jack Layton IMHO choose politics over principle when he brought down the Martin goverment and then with the help of the RCMP Harper took power. In retrospect I hope it was a good thing. I hope the neo liberals have all left the party, and Canadians have become aware just what a pile of crap the Conservatives are selling.

    Mulcair has made a fatal mistep by playing gotcha politics with the Trudeu sex moves.

    1. Lulymay1:27 AM

      Having been a loyal CCF/NDP supporter (I go back a long ways at the voting booth), I have to agree with you Steve. I liked Jack Layton but he made a serious tactical error in thinking that by siding with the Reform/Cons, he could shoot up the middle and become Prime Minister. IMHO he look at personal gain rather than the pain it cost all of us - except for the 1%. So, I want to HOLLER OUT LOUD, do not make that mistake again. For all of us that are not inclined to be evangical right wingnuts, please, please, let us come together and make sure we keep Herr Harper out in the next election. We just cannot afford this goof any longer.

    2. The Liberals believe they are entitled to power. As a centrist liberal, I have never felt more betrayed than by the Chretien-Martin Liberals. They campaigned from the left and governed from the right. They campaigned against Brian Mulroney then became the Brian Mulroney party — bringing in spending cuts and corporate tax cuts he could only dream of.

      Paul Martin was the most fiscal conservative finance minister in the universe. No other country was running huge surpluses. Instead of spending the money on Red Book promises like daycare, they paid down debt. They had majority power for 3 terms, could do anything they want, but governed as conservatives. They won half the NDP vote, but instead represented PCs.

      Now Justin Trudeau is even further right. He is right of Harper on Temporary Foreign Workers scolding him for putting caps on them "hurting Alberta's economy." He is right of Harper on Chinese Foreign Investment in the tarsands, criticizing Harper for putting limits. When Harper brought in an EI tax cut for small businesses, Trudeau offer a bigger badder EI tax cut for corporations too — despite the 50% in corporate tax cuts Martin and Harper brought in — despite the UI benefit cuts Martin and Harper brought in so that now only 4 in 10 who pay into "EI" are eligible to receive benefits. They have turned UI into a tax on poor workers — based on the neoliberal principle that a social safety net makes workers lazy.

      So this election vote ABC — anyone but con. That excludes the Neo-Cons & the Neo-Liberals. The Liberals will play the neo-con horror card this election. They will say a vote for Mulcair is a vote for Harper. They will say a vote for May is a vote for Harper. But in truth a vote for Trudeau is a vote for Harper — a vote for keeping the $45-billion a year in tax cuts for the rich — a vote for pursuing tarsands exports to China as the "future of the Canadian economy" (Justin Trudeau) — a vote for business as usual when we need to undo the damage Hurricane Harper has done — a vote for cementing Harper's "starve the beast" tax cuts and spending cuts in place enabling his odious anti-social anti-liberal agenda. Don't get fooled again!!

    3. hi Steve...I'd rather not revisit the past, as there enough mistakes for both parties to fill their cups. And all I'm interested in is not repeating those same mistakes, and striking out in a new and creative direction. To do the same thing over and over again, with no expectation of a different result is the very essence of insanity. We're stuck in a rut, and we need to get out of it...

    4. hi I told Steve there is no doubt that some serious mistakes were made, and Jack Layton's decision to bring down the Liberals was definitely one of them. But we can't let the past influence what we need to do now. As you point out, another mandate for the Cons is simply unthinkable, and we must do what we must to make sure that doesn't happen...

    5. hi Ron...there is no denying much of what you say in your comment. No denying that Paul Martin took the Liberals in the wrong direction, or in the direction of Bay Street. But we must work with the cards the good lord has given us. This country is not a progressive beacon. It is a centre-right or centre-left country depending on the time of the day. So even though I am far to the left of the NDP I have to be realistic.
      I cannot get the government I want just by wishing for it, and nothing would be worse than another Harper mandate. Also as I pointed out in my post, the polls are not moving in the right direction to give either the Liberals or the NDP anything more than a minority government, so like it or not, if they want to govern they are going to have to get along together. Being too rigidly ideological in a country like Canada is a sure formula for disaster...

    6. Neoliberal ideology is the real formula for disaster. It has been destroying living standards & the economy over the past 35 years. Unless Canadians demand real change and a return to the non-ideological centrist economics of the post-war era, we will get more of the same.

      Slapping a "progressive" label on neoliberal ideology misleads Canadians and enables the destructive pro-corporate agenda. After 30 years of Tough Tory Times it's time to stop pretending.

  4. Replies
    1. hi Steve...yes good old Frank Luntz, I despise the guy but progressives can learn some things from him. The biggest problem our side has is that it keeps turning up at gunfights armed only with a knife or a fork. We need to understand that the Cons have declared war on us, respond in kind and take no prisoners...

  5. Anonymous2:03 PM

    Trudeau has shot himself in the foot. His dirty jokes. His foul language. Trudeau's speeches are painful to listen to. There are so many ah's and um's, with a breathless voice and he sounds very immature.

    Mulcair is likely the most intelligent, than the lot of them. He is said to be, the best leader of the opposition, this country has ever known. However, he just doesn't connect with the people.

    Mulcair and Trudeau are squabbling like a pair of silly juveniles. Meanwhile, Harper the monster dictator, has sold Canada to the most hated country on the planet. It is now far too late to save Canada. Harper has locked us into the vile country, for a minimum of 31 years.

    However,we know, we will never get Communist China out of our country. Communist China has polluted much of their farmland and 40% of their water. Dead pigs come floating down China's rivers. China can't even feed themselves. They are taking our resources and our resource jobs. Every firm China will own in Canada, they will bring over, their own cheap labor.

    And, Trudeau and Mulcair are far too bust squabbling, to look out for the people of this country. Harper belongs in prison as a traitor doing acts of treason, for selling Canada to Communist China.

    Canadians are the minority. There will be more Chinese in Canada, than Canadians. That is how Harper is going to cheat the next election. Never mind all of the other ethnic votes Harper has bought up, by giving foreigners, our Canadian jobs.

    1. "Mulcair and Trudeau are squabbling like a pair of silly juveniles"...not correct, Mulcair is fighting with himself and his MPs....Mulcair`s ranting bounced off Trudeau and slapped his own face..

      19 months Trudeau has led in the polls, even after the parliament shooting and a myriad of Harper photo-ops draped in our tattered Canadian flag...And still Trudeau leads...

      Libs 35.6%

      Cons 29.5%

      NDP 23%

      Mulcair can see the writing on the wall, he`s done...So now Tommy boy is helping Harper..For shame.

      And if you people want Harper gone, best to start promoting Trudeau..

    2. Liberals don't want to weasel the center and left-leaning vote to oust Harper. They could've ousted Harper in 2008, but instead decided to go for all the power, which ended up blowing up in their faces.

      Fact is Harper needs 39% of the vote to get another majority. ALL of that vote comes from the RIGHT. Notice how Trudeau has been digging into the right-leaning vote, beating Harper all the way down to the 25% mark, by appealing the RIGHT-WING voters with RIGHT-WING economic policies. If the Liberals get a majority, they will represent right-wing voters, leaving centrist and left-leaning voters out in the cold -- yet again.

      The only way to stop another 4 years of Tough Tory Times is by voting Anyone But Con - anyone but Neo-Con and Neo-Liberal. Not a single one of centrist or left-leaning votes will go to Harper. He needs right-wing votes to win. The only hope we have is stopping a Neo-Liberal majority, and a neo-liberal agenda is to keep Trudeau Jr. to a minority. If he gets absolute corrupt power, the corporations will be running the country for yet another 4 years. The rich will get richer, inequality will continue to rise, and the Just Society created by Pearson and Pierre Trudeau will be further eroded.

    3. hi Grant...I'm afraid the polls are not quite as good anymore as they were before. The trend lines are not good for either the Liberals and the NDP. So we have to be realistic. Even with the numbers you quote Justin could not hope for a majority, and as long as the NDP remains a force to be reckoned with in Quebec the best he can hope for is a minority. So the Liberals and the NDP may have no choice but to work together, and they should both bear that in mind. At this point, whatever my own political preferences, I am ready to support the candidate and the party who can best get rid of the Cons. For this country cannot take any more of that foul regime. And in the long run I will seek to unite progressives, for like it or not unless we unite, the Cons will have the advantage...

    4. I would be content with a Liberal minority Government...None of the parties deserve a majority..

  6. Anonymous3:39 PM

    Simon: brilliant as always. We MUST come together or we all fall apart.

    That said, I've long wanted to punch out in a different direction: a progressive party that doesn't secretly cut corporate income taxes (Liberals) and that is not betrothed to the unions (NDP). Frankly, I'm not interested in either, but I still believe in a progressive Canada. What are my options? The Greens are Libertarians in an environmental cloak, so they are out as well.

    Perhaps it's time we gave them all a run for their money and started a new party like the 'No Party' in Italy. While it may result in anarchy, perhaps that what Canada needs to shake out of our slumber.

    Just a thought ...

    1. hi anon...thanks,I'm glad somebody agrees with me.;) I too would like to see a new party with a clear progressive vision, and the guts to do what is needed to tackle the real problems we face. But as I've also said we must work with what we have. And once we unite progressives we will have the luxury of arguing among ourselves about how exactly we can get to that place. With the red, the orange, and the green making their views known in the same party it would be a new party and there is no telling what we might be able to do. And at the very least we should keep our minds open, and not let old arguments keep us from building something new and better...

  7. Anonymous7:09 PM

    Anon 3:39 Try and get your facts straight. It was the Cons who cut corporate taxes once they were elected.

  8. Anonymous7:59 PM

    One of the more progressive political times in Canada was in the 70's when David Lewis's NDP held the balance of power with Pierre Trudeaus's minority government. A useful National Energy Board and Petro-Canada were among some of benefits for Canadian Society that were created at that time. These organizations held a finger on the pulse of Canadian resources for Canadians, but now the oil companies control the Canadian governments. Unfortunately this coalition fell apart because of egos. Instead of working together Lewis's back room boys pushed too hard resulting in an unnecessary election. The NDP took a huge hit at the polls and the influences of progressives began their decline. There is nothing wrong with the Liberals and the NDP having a solid coalition and remaining separate entities, but they must establish terms of interest that cannot break down too easily.

    1. Lulymay1:31 AM

      Totally agree. and thanks for your well stated comment.

    2. Actually Pierre Trudeau confessed later on that he brought in a poison pill budget the NDP would reject to go for a majority. The problem is with our broken democracy. With absurd First-Past-the-Post, which doles out absolute power to MINORITY parties -- leaving the vast majority out of government -- a small swing in votes results in a large swing in seats. So parties are constantly scheming for power.

      Unfortunately Trudeau Jr. plans on killing Proportional Representation voting reform with another designed-to-fail referendum, like Liberals did in BC, ON & PEI. Trudeau wants to cement corrupt FPTP in place with big dreams on winning a string of fake majorities on 39% of the vote like Chretien restoring the Liberal party to their former glory. But to do this he will have to split the right-wing vote, with Red Tory policies. After 30 years of Tough Tory Times, Canadians need a break.

    3. hi anon're right the Trudeau/Lewis government did many good things, and there is no reason a new coalition can't do great things either. There is no need for Liberals or NDPers to abandon their principles, just argue their positions forcefully, and seek a great Canadian compromise. In fact I think that Trudeau and Mulcair could complement each other very well, and produce the kind of government that this country needs so badly. We are in art and we need to get out of it, and clinging to the old way of doing things will lead us only to disaster...

  9. Simon, I get why you write this, but I don't see this happening. The biggest problem is FPTP voting system. The second biggest problem is politicians lying, misrepresenting or forgetting why they were elected. How can one believe that the Liberals care about the environment? Past behaviour, lovers of pipelines and Alberta is a no can do for me. If they were at least h o n e s t f o r o n c e, maybe, but I've never seen it.

  10. FPTP is the real problem as it only furthers abuses of democracy and fuels the pursuit of absolute power rather than responsible governing and fosters parliamentarians who act like spoiled bratty schoolyard children and bullies rather than adults with responsibilities to the people of Canada.

    FPTP has to go in order for any government, be it Con, Lib, NDP, Green, to actually be responsible for their position. As it stands now, government is more interested in securing power to pursue its agenda in a parliament of self-serving career politicians.

    As to uniting the left, there is no left. The Liberals are centre-right where the old PCs were, the NDP are centre-left where the Liberals once were and the left is abandoned. The Greens aren't either, both Lib and NDP are pro-big business just as the Cons are as both are, as I said, only interested in power.

    The whole thing is a disgusting mess which feeds on it's own offal and effluent by revolting the electorate into not wanting to watch the wallowing.

  11. From:

    Unfortunately even if huge numbers get out and vote, the splitting of votes between the NDP, LIBERAL and Green parties will probably ensure we do not get rid of Harper. If only the NDP and Liberals could come together "temporarily" we could wipe Harper off the political map...