Monday, December 27, 2010

The False Choice: Voters should choose only the Liberals or the Tories

Michael Ignatieff has presented voters with his view of what the voters really face in the next election (coming next year or the year after):
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says that if an election is called in the coming months, his party is the only true alternative to the Conservatives.
In an interview with CTV's Question Period, Ignatieff says that a vote for Jack Layton's NDP or Gilles Duceppes' Bloc Quebecois is essentially a vote for another Conservative government.
"What I'm saying is, it's time for Canadians to make a choice between two governing parties," Ignatieff said.

In particular, Ignatieff said that he and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are at odds over major issues, such as building new jails and purchasing new F-35 fighter jets.
"Their priorities and ours are not the same," he noted.
"I'm trying to create that big, broad tent in the centre and represent a clear alternative to Mr. Harper," said Ignatieff, adding, "We put our emphasis squarely on the middle-class family."
Unfortunately for Liberals, this is a false choice.

Voters have shown for almost four years running that they really like having a choice of essentially 3 parties in Quebec (with the bulk of the Francophones favouring the Bloc and the majority of Quebeckers as well, and the Liberals and Tories pretty far down as second choices), one party getting most votes in Alberta and Manitoba and Saskatchewan (the conservative Tories), and the other provinces offering voters a choice between three parties (Tories, Liberals and Dippers).

And in all provinces, a protest vote for the Greens – with support thinly spread over just about all provinces, and deep in none.

What is clear from the polls and recent elections is that the voters do not think that the Liberal Party on its own – as presently lead and with the present lack of clarity of policies – deserves to win the bulk of the votes that do not go to the Tories.

In this way, the Liberal Party is in a position similar to that of the Labour Party in the UK, which was shut out of power for decades because it did not present voters with enough concrete positions that voters wanted, until New Labour came into being under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Only then did New Labour gain power.

Voters do not seem to want a "big tent" Liberal Party.

They seem to want a choice of other parties as well.


Just because other parties have different leaders, whom some voters prefer to Ignatieff? Perhaps.

Or it could also be because voters who vote for the Dippers and Greens want a party with policies similar to those two parties.

Leaving aside Quebec for the moment, what is more likely: that voters want the Liberal Party to stay where it is, and will leave the NDP and Greens to vote for the LPC in order to replace Harper's conservative party? Or that voters want some realistic realignment of Canadian non-Tory parties, reflecting policies and positions which voters who now say they will vote for the Greens and Dippers, can buy into?

I believe the second choice is what such voters really want.

I believe that voters want the three parties – Liberals, NDP and Greens – to stop smoking B.C.'s most significant crop and to get together in a progressive-centre party, which is a clear alternative to the centre-right of the "new" Conservative Party which Harper and others cobbled together.

Only then will we see real movement of voters, and a replacement of the Harper Tories by a majority non-Tory government.

With or without the Bloc's favoured position in Quebec being reduced substantially.

Perhaps it is time Liberal leaders – not just Michael Ignatieff, but his advisors and the other MPs  who sway opinion in the Liberal Party – started thinking about what voters really want, rather than trying to foist onto voters a false choice.


  1. I disagree with your assumption what voters want. Since 200 voters have moved, not shown up accordingly on the ballot.
    In four General Elections cycles Ontario gave up 62 Liberal seats to the NDP-CPC.
    In 2000 the NDP vote in Ontario was in the single digits at 8.5%. The Green at 0.5%.
    The Liberals have not been in a force in West for decades. They had a small bump with Dion in Quebec. They held Atlantic Canada for the most part and benefited from a split right movement.

    Large swaths of voters from Catholics, visible minorities, rural voters have moved on to other parties.

    Look at the policies from 2000-2004. The left is divided but it is also shrinking. The provincial government in BC, ON and QC are Liberal. Will they be punished?

    Europe, US mid-terms, Rob Ford in Toronto signify a shift from Liberalism social justice to giving the taxpayers a break from government promises to fix it.

    This is much bigger than the left in Canada.

    I hope yo have Happy New Year Cat.

  2. You are right that hundreds of thousands of voters have left the Liberals during the past few elections, but I question your assumption that this is because the voters have shifted from "Liberalism social justice" to the neocon nonsense of "giving taxpayers a break from government promises".

    The Liberals lost votes because their policies were muddled, indefinite, seemingly covering the whole waterfront. Martin never met a policy he could not adopt at the drop of a hat; and just about every second policy was THE major one. Dion went off on a solitary tangent with a green platform that was incomplete, poorly sold and not bought into by the bulk of the party. Since then the party has wallowed, drifting this way and that as the Tory winds have blown.

    What voters want is a good reason to vote for a leader and a party. What they don't trust is someone or some party that does not seem to know which way is up.

    And what Canadian voters clearly do not want is some leader or party that wants to demolish the federal government and turn the country over to the premiers and provinces - how else explain Harper's repeated failure to gain traction with more than the rightwing core the Tories attract each election?

    But give the voters a choice between a do-little, break-Canada-down, right wing elitist-favouring Tory party and one made up of progressive-centre values and policies, and - to quote the words of a great Canadian - "watch me!"

    Canadians believe in Canada; they believe in Canada's position in the world and duty to all who live on earth as well as just to those fortunate enough to live in our country; they believe in individual rights; and they fervently believe in equality of opportunity, with those unable to hack it taken care of so that they have some dignity, food on the table and a roof over their head.

    Tony Blair speaks of New Labour finally coming to understand and represent what he calls the "aspirational classes" - not middle classes, not upper classes, not working classes. That is the common ground that a new party uniting the Liberals, Dippers and Greens could occupy.

  3. Fk the conservatives.

  4. As a Conservative, I encourage lefties to continue to vote for the NDP.

  5. To Anonymous 10:51,

    Be careful what you wish for. You could be beggin' voters to support the Liberals as we get closer to the next election.


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