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Hebert believes the NDP and Liberals merging would aid the progressive movement.

I could write a blogposting this AM again taking Chantal Hebert to task for another of her attacks on Dion, but as I said in a prior piece, I’m used to seeing those types of columns from her. Instead, I’d like to focus on an excerpt from her book that the Star released on the weekend. In it, she asserts that the progressive movement in Canada would be better served if the NDP and Liberals merged, and that their ideological differences aren’t as great as many NDP’ers imagine (or many Liberals imagine, for that matter)

First, She warns that a divided Progressive side faces the prospect of a Conservative era in governing Canada if Harper succeeds in wooing Quebec voters:

If one connects the federal dots of the past decade, they outline a slow but likely return to Canada’s pre-1993 three-party system.That pattern may pose an acute problem for the left in particular, and the Canadian progressive movement in general. It means that the difficult questions left unresolved in the wake of the divided votes of the 1988 free-trade election, and then buried in the debris of the 1993 electoral earthquake, are about to resurface with a vengeance. If Canada reverts to pre-1993 patterns federally, it is as likely to be entering a Conservative era as just going through a phase between Liberal governments.

She also asserts that the NDP and the Liberals aren’t as ideologically as far apart as some would claim:

If the mathematics of the 2006 election add up to any new equation, it is not the zero-sum game of the NDP winning a war of attrition against the Liberals any time soon, but the potential multiplication of progressive momentum if the two merge into a single, reconfigured party. The very idea is anathema to many New Democrats. Much as the Tories used to decry any rapprochement with the Reform/Alliance, New Democrats proclaim that coming together with the Liberals would narrow rather than expand voters’ choices. The NDP brand of idealism, they say, would be diluted by crass Liberal pragmatism. And yet. … The successful New Democrat governments of Western Canada – where the base of the federal NDP is currently located – are much closer in their approach to the federal Liberals than to their federal cousins.

Now.. I see the chances of this proposed NDP/Liberal merger happening as likely as Harper and Dion sharing a group hug.
I’d be willing to go as far as saying I find it more likely the Greens and Liberals would seek a merger before the NDP and Liberals would, but its an interesting proposal and thesis that she proposes – that the divided left/progressive side is facing the same problems as the Alliance/Reform and Progressive Conservatives did during Chretien’s era.

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21 comments to Hebert believes the NDP and Liberals merging would aid the progressive movement.

  • I’m with IP. If the Liberals would sign onto electoral reform, we might have the basis of a long term relationship. Otherwise, it is just more of the same lust for total power and BS from the “let’s be progressive during campaigns, but hard-headed “realists” in power” brigade.

  • As a BCer who’s familiar with the polarized far-right, far-left results in politics, there is much to not like about a merger. However, when I read pretty ‘Anna Nicole’ like statements as peeled off by Northern dipster, I’m astounded.
    The ‘awakening’ that Harpor has said he’s had on policies, from his hard-line days of ‘Iraq war support’ and calling Canada ‘2-tier socialist country’ didn’t happen over some traumatic event. It happened over discussions with republican bagmen who told him how to win an election. This guy was ready to bail after 2004, but then he subscribed to Rove’s dirty tricks schemes of lies, bigger lies and repeated lies. Now he never takes the voters’ short-term memory for granted…
    Yep, life would be hell for First Nations with the Kelowna Accord (signed and sealed before Layton and Harpor joined forces) in, for working parents with the Child Care Agreement (ditto) operating at full steam, with Kyoto getting serious treatment. As I recall, Layton and May spoke glowingly about Dion until he snuck up and won. Now its only May who sticks to her belief, while Layton talks for power. Good luck on that.

  • Scott,

    I have a gut feeling that it would be helpful if we could find someone who read the book, in order to get the context around her statements… where could we find someone who has read the book already… hmmm… oh wait, I did!

    She doesn’t conclude that “the progressive movement in Canada would be better served if the NDP and Liberals merged”, she just tosses out the idea to discuss the pros and cons. Here is how she concludes the discussion, which is sure to thrill IP (you even came to mind as I read it):

    In the end, for Canada’s progressive voters, a more promising route to a productive exercise of power lies in the common-law relationship of a coalition government, rather than a formal marriage.

    Like with the merger, she lays out the pros and cons with this as well, but seems to conclude that it would make the most sense. That’s not to say that the discussion here isn’t relevant, just that Hebert comes down on the coalition government side of the debate.

    :em36:

  • mushroom

    Northern BC Dipper,

    What will you say in a year’s time when Harper wins a majority government with a weak Clean Air Act? You may have got your pork barrel for working with Harper, but by then, the NDP will be in a high single digits and fighting for dear life in the BC Interior with the emergent Greens for fourth party status.

  • mushroom

    Let me post my viewpoints on this.

    As a supporter of PR, I believe in coalition governments rather than mergers. Parties can compete adversarially during a campaign. When the results come out, party leaders work together to reach a consensus based on what the voters have decided on the ballot box. If it is Conservative-NDP, Liberal-Green, Liberal-Bloc Quebecois, then the parties must be held accountable for trying to work together.

    Stopping Harper will require one thing and that is a three party coalition between the Liberals-NDP-Bloc Quebecois. The chances of this happening after March 25 is close to zero. Layton will never co-operate with the Liberals. He brought down the Martin government and he must obtain his “piece of flesh” from Harper to salvage his political career. At the same time, the Liberals will not co-operate with the NDP until the duo of Jack Layton-Olivia Chow will be banished to Trinity-Spadina forever.

    A coalition between the Liberals-Bloc may be possible if the PQ gets decimated. Dion risks the chance of losing the national unity file to Harper. However, I have been suggesting that the Liberals can do better in swinging the “soft social democratic sovereigntists” in Quebec recently in my blogposts. This is the only coalition strategy I can see in the very short term ie. next month.

  • [quote comment=”2265″]
    Oh please, quit trying to play the Harper/Conservatives are scary card.

    In fact, a possible Dion government scares me a lot more than a Harper majority. At least with Harper, I know what’s going to happen. With Dion, he can’t keep his policies straight.[/quote]

    No, I for one will not stop playing that card. The idea of them having a majority is frickin’ scary. Have you forgotten that ‘You won’t recognize Canada…’ quote? I will play that card every time the cards are dealt.

    Dion scares you more than Harper? No wonder we’re f****d.

    “At least with Harper you know what you’re going to get.”
    Well, if you truly believe that and are truly a progressive (and a Dipper) shouildn’t you (and I and everyone else on the progressive side) be doing everything possible to ensure that we don’t ‘get what we know we’re going to get’.

    I had another Dipper (and I am one myself) tell me recently, ‘Give the Conservatives a chance’.

    If that’s the new policy for the NDP they just might be losing my vote now and in the future. I will not let any progressive who says anything like, ‘Give the Conservatives a chance’, off the hook.

    Stop them now before they can do the damage that they really want to incur.

  • wilson61

    IMO, NDPers are in their comfort zone when they strongly influence governments, Libs are outside their comfort zone if they are not in total control (NDP is the key to Lib control).
    If Dippers choose not to be an extension of Liberal power, and aim instead for their comfort zone, IMO, Lib and Dipper numbers will reverse.

  • “At this point, the NDP is more likely to break in the West”

    Hmm at 13% and likely to break in the West? Not a chance. It’s the greens who might break in the West. They have the big Mo. I have lost a lot of respect for Jack Layton this past week. All I hear is a bunch of partisan tripe coming from NDPers…no wonder the NDP is falling and the Greens are rising in the polls. If the Liberals were gone tomorrow I would vote Green now….a huge switch for me. Last week I would have said…my second choice was the NDP….and they have always been my second choice since I started voting 18 years ago.

  • I hope that keeps you warm at night when Harper wins a majority and your party is completely side-lined because Harper won’t need NDP support to govern anymore.

    Yeah, and I’m supposed to believe that the same thing won’t happen with a Liberal majority. Gimme a break!

    The simple fact is, the Liberals have proven themselves unable to adapt to the current situation. They cannot go into the West.

    At this point, the NDP is more likely to break in the West.

  • Would you necessarily be so sanguine about waiting if, nine years from now, the Tories were just finishing up their second majority?

    Oh please, quit trying to play the Harper/Conservatives are scary card.

    In fact, a possible Dion government scares me a lot more than a Harper majority. At least with Harper, I know what’s going to happen. With Dion, he can’t keep his policies straight.

  • With present trends, I would say that in the long term, the Liberals will be the perennial opposition like the Conservatives were in the 20th Century….With this in mind, what is going to prevent back-to-back Conservative governments? A party that can go into the West and the East. I’d say that the only progressive party in a position to do that is the NDP.

    I think I’ve gone to sleep and woken-up in the mid-1980s…

    I knew Ed Broadbent. I worked with Ed Broadbent. You, Mr. Layton, are no Ed Broadbent!

  • I posted about this issue on Saturday as well. The NDP was at 13% the last time I checked the polls. That’s not exactly flying Northern BC Dipper. Northern BC Dipper the gist I get from you is let’s do nothing, and watch Harper dismantle all progressive progress in this country because it would be difficult? I hope that keeps you warm at night when Harper wins a majority and your party is completely side-lined because Harper won’t need NDP support to govern anymore.

  • Jim

    While it seems some pundits think a merger is in the best interest, are there any within the leadership of either party that support a merger? Any high profile Liberals or NDP? Either leader, or potential leader?

    [And, by that, support an actual merger – not just an advocacy for members of the other party to take out memberships in their party.]

  • Lord Kitchener's Own

    Northern BC Dipper,

    NOW you can wait. Would you necessarily be so sanguine about waiting if, nine years from now, the Tories were just finishing up their second majority? Not that that’s necessarily going to happen, but the idea should give one pause.

    You ask “what is to prevent back to back conservative governments”. I don’t think the answer is “the NDP!”. As unlikely as a merger may be, I certainly think it’s more likely than a sudden surge in NDP support to the point that the NDP can stop back to back Conservative governments on their own. I think that’s a pipe dream.

  • Why would I want the NDP to tie itself to a sinking ship?

    With present trends, I would say that in the long term, the Liberals will be the perennial opposition like the Conservatives were in the 20th Century.

    How come? Because the Liberals are unable to make any headway into the West, beyond the big cities of BC, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.

    Why does this matter? One could say that the Liberals never really needed the west in the past. The answer is simple: demographics. The West in growing in population and therefore votes.

    With this in mind, what is going to prevent back-to-back Conservative governments? A party that can go into the West and the East. I’d say that the only progressive party in a position to do that is the NDP.

    Of course, this is all long term, but I’m young. I can wait.

    But then again, predictions in politics tend not to be correct.

  • Bailey

    I think amongst some of the younger more progressive Liberals the differences between the NDP and Liberals on social issues is very little. (Scott Brison was right back in the debate in the fall in Toronto, Liberals can’t allow the NDP to take these issues away from them and they can’t be pushed into it only because of the courts.)

    However, where I think the differences between the NDP and Liberals lie is in the economic issues. The Liberals are more supportive of big business and of free trade. There still is that aspect of the NDP that is against NAFTA, WTO and other trade agreements. (I think that the NDP wants to get out of even NATO if I recall correctly). This would be where the major stumbing block of a progressvie merger of NDP and Liberal would happen and this is probably why a few of the more high profile, pro-business NDPers have come to the Liberals in recent years – Bob Rae, Paul Summerville, Ujjal Dosanjh.

  • [quote post=”296″]Let me phrase my point in this thread as a question, though: how can you argue that coalition governments won’t work, and yet talk so casually about mergers?[/quote]

    I dont consider what I wrote to be talking casually about it, nor did I say I even supported it for that matter.

    I brought it up because it was an interesting thesis she put out there.. and I decided to write about it, as I hadnt seen it mentioned elsewhere around the blogosphere in the past couple of days.

  • You have mentioned those things before, yes. And I have argued against them by saying that the reason why we don’t have a “culture of coalition” is only because:

    a) when our electoral system was working the way it was designed to work, we didn’t need to develop one;

    b) and the reason why we have not yet developed one in the decades since our electoral system stopped working the way it’s supposed to work is because our continued use of the first-past-the-post electoral system to elect our MPs gives bigger parties the hope that they can govern alone and with a majority.

    In order to support this argument, I have offered up other jurisdictions as examples of how when they have switched to proportional electoral systems, despite the fact that they had previously never developed a “culture of coalition,” have started forming them pretty much immediately. I have asked you to provide evidence for your argument that the lack of a “culture of coalition” is due to something other than the electoral system in Canada, and you have never done that. You’ve just repeated the “no culture of coalition!!!” argument over and over. If you do have actual evidence for your perspective, I’d love to hear it, but you’ve never gone beyond stating your beliefs in all of the arguments we’ve had about this.

    Let me phrase my point in this thread as a question, though: how can you argue that coalition governments won’t work, and yet talk so casually about mergers? Any merger would be a far, far bigger and more drastic change to the status quo than a temporary coalition government, and would require a far greater level of interparty agreement. If the parties aren’t able to put aside their antagonism enough to form a coalition government, then there’s no way there will ever be a merger.

  • I agree with Scott that something needs to be done to bring the parties together to stop a Conservative majority from occurring. I also agree with IP….a unity coalition would be easier to achieve given that we don’t have much time before another election is called.

  • We can talk about coalition governments in the PR thread if you like ID 🙂

    Edit: Its not true I’ve just said coalition government wont work because they won’t. I’ve listed reasons before why (no “culture of coalition” or history of it in Canada… parties are too adversarial, too antagonistic to make it work.. etc). and the Globe and Mail quotation a couple articles down about why they dont like coalition governments is also applicable to my line of thinking.

  • The ideological differences aren’t that great? The ideological differences within the Liberal Party are already too great to come up with policy that’s at all coherent over time. The merger of the conservative parties resulted in a complete disappearance of significant parts of their ideological spectrum, and the same would be true for the left. Two big tent parties would make for a U.S.-style two-party system that kept most voters disenfranchised. It’s a very good thing I agree with you that this won’t happen, because I’d be looking for a job in another country. I simply won’t live under a two-party system again.

    It’s funny that you believe so strongly that coalition governments would never work (something you’ve still never justified with anything other than stating it over and over again, by the way), and yet talk so casually about mergers. A merger would be a far more complex task and much more likely to fail.

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