Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chantal Hebert misstates Nathan Cullens electoral cooperation idea

In today's Toronto Star Chantal Hebert writes about Nathan Cullen's idea for electoral cooperation between the LPCC, NDP and Green Party. She is of the opinion that the idea is doomed because it ignores human nature, really amounts to a quasi-merger proposal, and will fail.

Unfortunately, Hebert has set up a straw man, and then proceeded to demolish it.

Her argument has many merits but really ignores what the Cullen Plan sets out. She has this to say:

If he were elected leader, Cullen would pursue a non-aggression pact with the Greens and the Liberals with the objective of cobbling a common progressive front against the Conservatives in the 2015 campaign...

To avoid splitting the opposition vote, the three parties would strive to run a single candidate against the 166 government incumbents.

Cullen’s scheme would have the New Democrats, the Greens and the Liberals compete for the privilege of running a progressive candidate from their own ranks in almost 200 ridings (including the ones that would result from the upcoming redistribution).
Chantal Hebert

The Cullen Plan does not suggest what Hebert says it does. It's practicality lies in the fact that it targets a far more limited number of Tory held seats: those where such electoral cooperation might result in unseating the sitting Tory MP.

This is what the Cullen Plan deals with (my redlining):

NDP leadership contender Nathan Cullen wants New Democrats to join forces with Liberals and Greens in some ridings to defeat Stephen Harper's Conservatives.

The British Columbia MP proposed Tuesday that his party enter into non-compete deals with other "progressive" parties in some Tory-held ridings.

Cullen said he doesn't support a full-blown merger with the struggling Liberals.
Nathan Cullen

But he said co-operation is necessary to ensure defeat of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives.

"I have no problem going up against Stephen Harper one on one," Cullen told a news conference.
"This just makes it a slam dunk."

Under Cullen's proposal, the NDP would identify ridings where the Tories could be beaten if so-called progressive parties united behind a single candidate.

New Democrats in those ridings would be asked to decide whether they want to run a joint candidate.

Cullen made it clear he wouldn't expect the NDP to unilaterally disarm; his scheme would only work if other parties agreed to participate in joint nominations of candidates.

He challenged the NDP and other parties to put down their "bayonets for a moment in order to get something larger than ourselves accomplished."

That is a much smaller number of Tory ridings, and a much less ambitious plan than Hebert is saying Cullen is aiming at.

And because it is to focused, it is far more likely to be adopted by the three parties than if it was the ambitious plan that Hebert says it is.

Right now, there are 21 ridings where the Tory MP won by a margin of 5% or less of the votes. Turfing a Tory MP out of these ridings would reduce the Tories to a minority government come 2015, as Walkom understood when he examined Cullen's plan.

The key to the Cullen Plan is its tight focus on what is doable. This minimizes the cooperation of the opposition party members to some two dozen ridings instead of the 166 held by the Tories right now.

And that makes the plan small enough to avoid internal agonizing over a quasi-merger.

Hebert is right to say that if the Cullen Plan aims at ALL the Tory held seats, it is the equivalent of a merger through the back door, and really problematic. I share that view – such a large plan with such a large target is DOA given the cultural differences between the parties right now.


  1. PhilCP commented on the Macleans article and laid out some rather startling statistics which support the deadliness of the Cullen Plan:
    Agree that oversimplification of voter intentions is very problematic for any of these unite the right or unite the left or unite the center discussions...

    OTOH, some numbers to consider...

    - CPC won 167 seats
    - of those, they won 107 outright (>50% votes cast)
    - of the 60 seats in 'question', 10 of them could have been 'taken' from the CPC with as few as 10% of the third place votes going to the second place party
    - of the 60 seats in 'question', 15 of them could have been 'taken' from the CPC with as few as 20% of the third place votes going to the second place party (ie minority)
    - and 20 seats are lost to the CPC if you can convince about 1/3 of third place voters to support the second place party instead

    Not saying any of this could be done (or not), just trying to roughly quantify the magnitude of the task.

    For reference - and admittedly not directly comparable - in the recent AB PC leader race, Redford (2nd place) managed to get about 50% of the Horner (3rd place) supporters to cast a 2nd, 2nd round vote for her. Put in other terms, she got about 80% of the Horner supporters who 'bothered' to indicate a 2nd choice to select her over the front runner.....so we shouldn't completely dismiss the 'Anybody But......' mindset.

    These stats are what make the targeted Cullen Plan so potentially game changing a move!

  2. You are assuming that a one party choice means constituents will all vote for the 'riding level candidate selected 'for' them...

    So lets assume too that the second place winners in 2011 general election will win the 'contest'.

    How many second place winners were Liberal?


  3. You and I view the solution to the country's problems totally different. Our country has poor voter turn out, I believe that part of this lack of interest is the lack of a good politican who is willing to govern for the benifit of Canadians rather than self interest. Your article is about one politican try to defeat another politican and they will say and promise anything to gain votes instead of doing the right thing for the country. I believe that the majority on the non-voting public believe that all the canditates are the same with different titles.
    We need a change in politic not more games.

  4. Malcolm, our system of electing MPs is antiquated and undemocratic. If we had a system such as proportional representation, then the discipline of the voters would be felt in Parliament and politicians would govern themselves accordingly.

    Until that happens, any method (such as the Cullen Plan) that gets us closer to a government representing a substantial majority of the citizens works for me.


Thank you for commenting; come again! Let us reason together ...

Random posts from my blog - please refresh page for more: