Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The New Era: The Cullen Plan is alive, and a coalition government probable

Nathan Cullen broke with other senior Dippers during the NDP leadership race to openly espouse the concept of electoral cooperation between the NDP, the LPC and the Greens. The aim would not be a merger of the three parties, but simply a working arrangement at the constituency level – driven by ordinary members of the three parties – to maximize the chances of replacing the increasingly unpopular Harper new Tories by a more progressive one in 2015.
Nathan Cullen - Change Agent

And his vision is taking root in some ridings:

Grassroots groups in some Ontario communities, including Peterborough and Kitchener-Waterloo, are talking about whether it might be possible for opposition parties to co-operate and run just one candidate per riding against Conservatives in the next federal election.

"The goal would be just that candidate and the Conservative candidate — two people to select on the ballot," said Peterborough business owner Joel Parks.

With Bob Rae stepping aside, and a recent poll showing that Justin Trudeau has wide support both inside the Liberal Party and amongst the new category of Supporters, the role of Trudeau in the electoral cooperation becomes very important indeed.

Trudeau is on record as suggesting a reconsideration of how the next election be fought by the NDP and LOPC: “…if by 2015, with the election approaching, and neither party has got of our act together enough to shine and to be the obvious alternative, then [pause], there will be a lot of pressure for us to start looking at that. I think there is not anyone in Parliament, outside the Conservative Party of Canada, that is willing to risk seeing Stephen Harper become Prime Minister one more time.”
Justin Trudeau - Truthsayer

Trudeau is right.

Cullen is right.

Professor Beyers is right.

And more than 60% of Liberal Party and NDP members are in agreement that the non-Tory voters and their parties need to get their act together to remove Harper from power, correct some of his mistakes, restore decency to our Parliament, improve our democracy by remedying our democratic deficits, and to do this pronto.

This wave for change is a strong one, and will soon amount to a tsunami of change in the way we practice politics here.

The chances of a coalition NDP-LPC-Green Party government replacing the current rightwing Harper one come the next election (most likely in early 2014), are very, very high.

And once that is done, the chances of a change from our archaic first past the post system of electing out MPs to a more demoratic modified proportional representation one will be much, much higher, too.

Canada is about to join the democratic surge that shook Europe decades ago, and is now shaking the Middle East, and soon will be shaking the two shaky empires of Russia and China.


  1. I am not sure I agree with your analysis. Several questions come to mind:

    1. It was not the constitutionality of a coalition government that rattled Canadians in 2008, but rather it was the LEGITIMACY of it.

    Which makes me think that any cooperative arrangement in an EDA, such as K-W, may still fail if ordinary non-partisans view the whole process as attempting to "stack the deck" or "play dirty" against an incumbent. Thinking on the macro level, if the CPC slides to a minority government after a 2014 election, what makes you think that this time Canadians en masse, and the Governor General, would view said NDP-LPC-GPC coalition as legitimate to govern? (Methinks before that happens, Harper would allow his govt to be defeated & then run another "strong and stable majority" campaign w/ the parameters of the election essentially BEING the legitimacy of coalition governments. Which I'm not sure progressives could win, especially, if the NDP & LPC both went into "we're in it to win it" mode. If the NDP & LPC ran side-by-side they would risk upsetting their bases and, more importantly, traditional donors who may turn off the taps.) I might argue that even before the Bloc was included in the 2008 agreement, Canadians viewed the coalition scheming to be exactly that - scheming - by whiners and sore losers. I'm not sure any opinions have dramatically changed outside progressive partisan and activist circles.

    2. If the NDP were to form a minority government on their own, I highly doubt Mulcair would reach out to the LPC and GPC in any significant/meaningful way to secure majority status. And if that minority was reached in-part due to a grassroots cooperation campaign, I'm not sure it would last for future elections if local LPC and GPC EDAs who threw their support behind a Dipper that is part of a "my way or the highway" Mulcair government. The divisions between the LPC and NDP would return at the local level and the vote splitting would be back.

    Lastly, I have been particularly unimpressed with the level of Cullen's partisanship and biting towards the LPC and GPC in the House. I'm was never particularly sold on his approach to "grassroots cooperation" and his voice as part of the NDP front-bench only undermines his credibility as a "bridge builder" between progressive parties. Cullen should start to walk the walk he talked about all through his campaign.

    1. Canadians had no concern about the legitimacy of a coalition government in 2008, and it's constitutionally acceptable, according to constitutional experts. It was harper who lied saying the BQ was in on the deal, which they weren't. Read the document for yourself, and get your facts straight before spreading more lies.

      It is only signed by Dion and Layton

      The BQ leader signed a policy to deal with the economic crisis

      There's a difference, so please, get it right.

  2. Good luck with the remaining 40%

  3. 60% of 60% is 36%. Think about that number when you progressives crow about how more than 60% of voters voted against Harper. Then think what happens if even 4 or 5 of those percentage points went Harper rather than swing hard-left. The Liberals are a centre party with both left and right wings, it is foolish to think that an alliance with the NDP would keep the blue Liberals.

  4. The Rate said...
    "60% of 60% is 36%. Think about that number when you progressives crow about how more than 60% of voters voted against the Harper."

    And 40% of 60% is 24%. Think about the next time you authoritarian fascists crow about having a 'majority'.

  5. Dylan, there are pressures on both the NDP and the LPC to honestly and comprehensively discuss possible pre-election and post-election cooperation. That genie is out of the bag and won't go back in. Most members of both parties want a new government to replace the Harper one: how long can the leaders of these two parties avoid discussing an issue that most of their members want discussed and acted upon?

    Also, Harper will try again to demonize any cooperation talks. He has to: such cooperation is the death knell for his party and his programs, many of which will be unwound once he loses power. So Harper has reasons for raising the issue of cooperation. He will - as he has in the past - distort the legal and political issues so as to stampede the new leaders of the two parties into flight. His main thrust will be that any cooperation must inevitably lead to a merger of the two parties, lead by the socialists.

    However, after the election, if Harper wins a minority government (something not guaranteed by current polls), he will assuredly lose the confidence vote. The Governor General will then look to the leader of the next largest party in the House (most probably right now, Mulcair) to seek the confidence of the House; this will be gained through an informal or formal agreement or behaviour of the LPC. Harper won't have the ability to call for another election this time round - our laws are clear on this issue.

    Finally, there will be enormous pressure from non-party sources (social media organizations and groups) for the non-Tory parties to work together in the election and after it to replace the repressive Harper one in 2014/2015.

    And the pressure from poll after poll calling - not for a merger, but for cooperation before and after the next election - will weigh upon the MPs of both parties.

    There is no more room for any leader of the LPC or NDP to act as if the King is clothed.

  6. I agree it's something both parties need to seriously think about and how they deal with it will be one of the determining factors of the next election. One of the other major factors will be if the Liberals completely implode or not which would make this whole question moot.

    Co-operation only needs to be considered if the Liberals can maintain or grow their current level of support. That will depend on the leader they choose and the vision they provide for Canada.

    Either way, it is important to start discussing this as a legitimate option to prepare Canadians for the inevitable attacks from the Conservative side. Democracy is about cooperation, this type of cooperation may or may not work but anyone who vilifies the idea of cooperation doesn't understand what it's all about.

    Keep on fighting Cat.

  7. Cat, I appreciate your response. But I don't agree with what may be the lynchpin of your rationale:

    "[If/when a minority Harper govt loses confidence in 2014-15] The Governor General will then look to the leader of the next largest party in the House (most probably right now, Mulcair) to seek the confidence of the House; this will be gained through an informal or formal agreement or behaviour of the LPC."

    You may have to excuse my ignorance, and for any legal brain-fart, I apologize; but it is my understanding that the GG is not BOUND to give the reigns over to the 2nd largest, or 3rd largest party, in the house - no matter HOW many minorities the "winning" party strings in a row. There is equal probability that the GG calls an election! (Which, depending on the circumstance, progressives may prefer - who knows?!) What happened in 1925 was extraordinary and nothing of the sort has happened since, nor would historical "precedent" - IMO - be viewed as legitimate in our 21st century political economy. But if it WERE to happen, we would see a Lib-Dem cooperative majority government for 3 or 4 years. What happens when time runs out or patience wears thin between the two parties and an election is called? My guess is that Mulcair takes another shot at an NDP majority - after all, who wouldn't?

  8. But let's review the playing field and get real about the current attitudes of each party.

    Mulcair does not want a shared coalition-majority with the Liberals. He will act in parliament, advertise in the pre-writ, and campaign in 2015, with that goal. I would be extremely surprised if he's preparing pre-writ concessions to the LPC & GPC. Local EDAs may scheme to put up one candidate in KW, or Toronto Centre, or Peterborough; but if that single candidate is a LIBERAL I would be, again shocked, if a candidate was not appointed by Mr. Mulcair from team Orange.

    The Liberal Party -- local Liberals may say that pre-writ cooperation is necessary, but we don't even have a permanent leader!? Why throw in the towel now? Until that is settled any EDA talks/cooperation can only go so far.

    The Greens -- they want to hold onto SGI and grow back to their previous levels of support which have dramatically decreased b/c of the NDP as Official Opposition. Arguably, the GPC has the most to lose in pre-writ cooperation w/ the NDP and LPC as they would be the least likely to earn many nominations in winnable EDAs against CPC incumbents, especially given so much bleeding of Green voters from 2008 to the NDP in 2011.

    Of the possibilities that the 2015 election may yield I see the following results as plausable:

    1. Harper majority - we're fucked and merger talk kicks into high gear.

    2. Harper minority - govt is defeated on first opportunity; Mulcair, E-May & new Liberal leader sit down and propose to work together in the next parliament on 5 key issues, and appeal to the GG for the reigns of parliament. The GG disagrees w/ the proposal of a "coalition" (for whatever reason) and we go into an election. In that election the LPC, GPC and NDP stick to their guns and pray the CPC has lost enough political capital for the them to form a minority government. The agreement then kicks in and we have a progressive, cooperative majority lead by Mulcair w/ cabinet representation from LPC and GPC. 5 years goes by, CPC elects a new leader, the writ is dropped & each party goes about their own business vying for a majority government (especially the CPC and NDP) -- that's a BEST CASE scenario.

    3. NDP minority. Mulcair acts like himself and chooses to do the whole governance thing his way. LPC put in the awkward position of either bringing down the government and risking losing their own soft-support to the NDP in a snap election; or they risk looking weak and supporting the Mulcair government in order to keep Harper at bay, posing non-partisan progressive (non-conservatives) to ask, why even vote for the LPC next time? (Think of fallout from Saskatchewan's NDP minority in 1999.) In this situation time may be bought by a CPC leadership convention, but I wouldn't count Harper out of his role as leader of the CPC in this scenario; who may want one last kick at the can.

    4. NDP slim majority. CPC meltdown and LPC picks up their support back from ridings that flipped Conservative. They all continue to fight like dogs in the House.

    I don't want to be the pessimist in the room; but I have to think realistically about party structures. I just don't see pre-writ, one-time, cooperative scheming to be a real solution to the problem we face in Canada: the divisiveness of our politics and pervasive apathy of ordinary Canadians. That's why if anything, I'd be more inclined to sit in a meeting w/ Dippers discussing a merger than handing them the sole "progressive" representation on the ballot in my Winnipeg EDA.

  9. Dylan, point 2 of your June 14 8.49 comment is legally wrong. The weight of convention in Westminster style democracies provide that if a government falls on a no-confidence motion within the first 12 months or so of its election, then the Governor General will approach the leader of the party with the next highest number of MPs to see if he or she can gain the confidence of the House and govern.

    It is the Prime Minister who has to gain the confidence of the House; and the PM governs with the consent of the majority of the MPs.

    This part of our constitutional law is relatively settled; if the GG departed from it he would be parting company with long established convention and acting contrary to our long fought over democractic conventions.

    So the chances of Mulcair becoming PM after the Tory fall are very high; and the issue at stake in the Liberal election of a new leader is most likely this: Who do Liberals want as the Deputy PM in a coalition government with the NDP come the next election?

    After 3 to 5 years of coalition rule, a new election will be held. By that time Canadians will have experienced government by a government which respects the rules of our constitution, does not hold our Parliament in contempt, has changed the way that parties cooperate in running the country, has reduced the power of the PM to ride roughshod over Parliament, has instituted policies which focus on ordinary Canadians more than 'toys for boys' (such as new, shiny jets, 'robust' foreign policies (without any role for Canada in leading world efforts to make the lives of people better throughout the world, and a far more active participation by ordinary Canadians in the governance of their country.

    That next election - around 2018 or 2019 - will allow voters to indicate if they prefer the new, inclusive style of governance of our country, or wish to return to the flawed Harper new Tory style of governing by dissent, division, fiat and contempt.


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