Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Merger, Coalition or Cooperation – Canadians tell party leaders (HarrisDecima poll)

Some more welcome light on Canadians' quest for a change in the electoral stalemate we face on the federal level. HarrisDecima is to be congratulated for their timely June 8 poll on the views of Canadians on the MCP question (a Merger or Coalition or Partnership – HarrisDecima used the word Cooperation for this category) of the Liberal and NDP parties.

The poll is worth serious study by members of the two parties, and especially their leaders, who just might be lagging behind the views of their party members on this burning issue.

Hat tip to Kinsellafor commenting on this poll! Way to go, K!

The details of the poll (go to this site to download the pdf) are very interesting, as they allow us to compare the views  of Canadians in various regions of the country, and the supporter of the various parties.

The Cat's Overall Conclusions

The poll results lead to these conclusions about the views of Canadians on a possible Merger, Coalition or Partnership (cooperation) between the Liberals and NDP:
  1. Canadian voters are very sophisticated when it comes to considering these alternatives, and very realistic.
  2. The majority of Canadians (except Tory supporters) want change in Ottawa: a change of government through action by these two opposition parties.
  3. Most Canadians (and especially Canadians who support the Liberals and NDP) want those parties (and their leaders) to Do Something rather than to Do Nothing.
  4. Most voters do not, however, want any change which will result in the identity of either the LPC or the NDP being lost. A merger of these two parties is definitely not approved of.
The Lesson for Harper's Tories

For the country as a whole, a solid majority of 55% chose some kind of cooperation between the LPC and NDP (whether merger, coalition or cooperation), while a minority of 30% were opposed and 15% were presumably Undecided or Don't Knows.

The major lesson for the Tories which I draw from these poll results is that any hope they have of demonizing any cooperative efforts between the two parties in the same way in which Harper demonized the last coalition attempt in 2008 will fail. Canadians have learned a lot since then, and understand a lot more. And Canadians want the stalemate in Ottawa broken.

Further education of the electorate on the nature of mergers, coalitions and cooperation  between parties in a Westminster style democracy such as ours will only increase the sophistication of Canadian voters, and reduce the number of Undecided/Don't Knows (now around 15%), more likely shifting them into the Do Something group.

Surprising Views of Tory supporters

The Tories will lose if any form of MCP (whether it be a merger, coalition or partnership) between the LPC and NDP takes place, as this would increase the chances of a shift of seats from the Tory party to these two parties (if the Tories lose only 15 seats and the LPC and NDP  pick them up, the Tories will not have the most MPs of any party in parliament, which will affect the formation process of the next government). There are more than twice that number of seats which were won with less than a 4,000 vote majority in the 2008 election.

So, not surprisingly, half the Tory supporters in the poll fall into the Do Nothing camp and were opposed to any type of cooperation between the LPC and NDP (whether M, C or P).

But a rather stunning 1 in 5 Tory supporters would  like some form of cooperation! Twenty percent of Tory supporters fell into the Do Something camp. Who would have thunk, eh? Even Tories know that our current stalemate position in Ottawa is not good for the country, and we need change in the interests of the country.

Liberals and Dippers think the same

An interesting finding in the poll is that the views of LPC and NDP supporters are almost identical – and a massive majority of both fall into the Do Something camp.

Libs and Dippers know their minds more

Firstly, there is a high level of decisiveness among supporters of the two parties. There are substantially fewer Liberal or NDP supporters who are undecided (roughly half as many as for the country as a whole) – only 8% LPC supporters and 7% NDP supporters are Undecided or Don't Know (15% for the country as a whole).

Libs and Dippers want their leaders to Do Something

Only  1 in 5 Liberals prefer their leaders to Do Nothing (21%), and even fewer Dippers want this (16%).
Compare this to 30% for the country as a whole.

For every 1 supporter of the LPC who wants the Liberal leaders to Do Nothing, there are 3.4 supporters who want them to Do Something (71% Do Something – M, C or P - versus only 21% Do Nothing). The figure for the NDP is a startling 4.8 to 1 in favour of Do Something versus Do Nothing (77% to 16%).

This is not surprising: if you are a supporter of one of these two parties, and have witnessed Harper running his minority government as if it was one supported by a majority of Canadians and with a majority of seats in parliament, and have lived through the last four years of Harper-inspired Tory disdain for our parliament and our rights as citizens, then you are more likely to be passionate about the need for a change, and to prefer that your party leaders Do Something rather than sit back passively and Do Nothing.

And the much higher ratio of 4.8 NDP Do Somethingers can also be explained: cooperation of some form with the Liberals is the most feasible and most popular way for the NDP to achieve the implementation of some of the policies closest to the heart of its supporters.

A further similarity between the LPC and NDP supporters is that most of those who fall into the Do Something camp want some form of cooperation (or working partnership, to use Bob Rae's description of what he achieved when he became premier of Ontario) rather than a pre-election merger or a post-election coalition. Almost twice as many supporters of the LPC and NDP prefer the cooperation route than would like to see a merger or would like to see a coalition).

It is very clear that most supporters of these two parties would prefer a looser working relationship, and would not want the identity of their parties submerged in a merger.

Their motto seems to be Cooperation definitely, Coalition possibly, and Merger never.

The Greenies and the Separatists

The supporters of the Bloc hav the highest proportion who chose a post-election coalition of the LPC and NDP as their first choice (25%) – almost twice as many as the 14% for the country as a whole. The reasons for this are not clear from this poll. Anybody have any ideas?

Surprisingly, despite the fact that only only 13% of the country as a whole support a merger of the LPC and NDP before the next election, almost twice as many supporters of the Green Party prefer a merger (a whopping 25%).

Once again, the reasons for this are not apparent from the poll.

To merge or not to merge – what do the provinces think?

Quebec is the odd man out when it comes to preferring the LPC and NDP to enter into a cooperation agreement rather than merge  the two parties. The results are 1.4 persons favouring cooperation to 1 favouring a merger (26% to 19%) – this is much lower than for Ontario (2:1), the Atlantic (3.9:1), and BC (1.8:1).

The most favoured course: Cooperation

Right across Canada, of all those in favour of Doing Something (whether merger, coalition or cooperation), the majority plump for cooperation.

For the country as a whole, this is the preferred choice of 51% of those in the Do Something group. The highest number is 60% in the Atlantic, with Ontario coming in at 52% and BC at 46%.

Timing aspects of the Do Something alternatives

The HarrisDecima poll has an interesting twist when it comes to the timing of the actions it put to the voters in its survey.

There is no mention of the timing of any cooperation steps in the press release with respect to the cooperation choice. However, respondents were asked if they preferred a merger of the two parties before an election, to a coalition after an election, or a form of cooperation.

Lissen Up, Pollsters!

It would help the public dialogue of the choices facing our nation if  pollsters could shed some light in future surveys on the following questions:

  1. Do you  approve of the LPC and NDP entering into a coalition agreement or working partnership (cooperation) agreement after an election if the total MPs elected for these two parties was greater than the MPs elected for the Tories (assuming the Tories did not get an absolute majority – 155 or more seats)?
  2. Would you approve of the LPC and NDP entering into a cooperative (working partnership) agreement or a coalition agreement before the next election, with an agreed program of policies which the two parties would implement should they form the next government?
  3. Would it be in Canada's and Quebec's interests for the Bloc MPs to support some combination of LPC and NDP parties rather than to support a minority Tory government after the next election?
  4. Would your prefer any Bloc support of an LPC-NDP cooperative minority government to be captured in a written agreement between the Bloc and those two parties, or to be done without any such written agreement but on a case by case basis by the Bloc MPs?
  5. Should the leaders of the LPC and NDP enter into discussions of a possible coalition or cooperative agreement before the next election, or wait until after that election?
  6. Should the LPC and NDP enter into an agreement before the election to field only one candidate instead of  2 (one each) where doing so would mean the seated Tory MP is more likely to be replaced by the candidate from the LPC or NDP?
Interesting times, eh?


  1. Bill C9 passed today with 30 Liberal MP's absent..........not very impressive is it?

  2. Considering the unlikelihood of the opposition coming to a pre-election agreement, the Catch 22 Harper Conservatives campaign was designed to help voters do the job.


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