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Time for a Coalition of the Opposition

By Stuart Hertzog
October 5th, 2008

The four potential Coalition leaders

Coalition of the Opposition potential seats October 5, 2008
projection and images by democraticSPACE

Ego-driven competition will not prevent another Harper government

The four-colour maple leaf of the Coalition of the MajorityVictoria, BC — Enough is enough! It’s time for the four Canadian opposition parties to come together in a coalition to stop the awful prospect of yet another mandate for what could soon prove to be the meanest, most secretive, most militaristic, and most ultra-right government in Canadian history.

This means that Jack Layton and Stephan Dion, the two major opposition party leaders, must immediately drop their egotistical pretence that they are competing equally with Stephen Harper to be Canada’s next prime minister.

Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe at least had the guts to point out during the second televised leaders’ debate that he isn’t in the running for that title.

Jack Layton’s claim throughout the campaign that he’s running to be Prime Minister is simply bravado. The NDP hit its ceiling of support a while ago and doesn’t have a hope of forming government at this time. The best Layton can hope for is to become leader of Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition.

Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee?

By keeping up the pretence of being able to depose the Conservatives outright, these two party leaders are only allowing Harper to triumph over a divided opposition. They are placing their individual political ambitions before even the urgent historical imperative of tackling imminent global warming.

Instead of strutting around foolishly attacking each other like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee for the title of Leader of the Opposition, they should admit that the only way to prevent Harper from destroying the social fabric of Canada is to immediately form a Coalition of the Opposition with the Bloc and the Greens.

One Coalition candidate instead of four competitors in each of Canada’s 308 federal ridings would stop a Conservative victory. If only politics was that easy…

Already too late?

It may already be too late for such an idealistic and draconian tactic. But only a Coalition of the Opposition can prevent Canada from turning into a refuge for the (hopefully) soon-to-be-humilliated American ultra-right political ideology.

Last week’s leaders’ debate illuminated Canada’s political quandary in stark detail. Three million viewers watched as the four opposition parties — Liberal, NDP, Bloc and Green — hammered away against a smug Stephen Harper, who only had to sit and bend his lips in the rictus of an artificial smile as the four opposition parties flailed away ineffectually against him.

Harper and his strategists know that they only need to “hold steady” and make no upsetting policy announcements to enable their 35% base of support of complacent, conservative, and sometimes bigoted Canadians carry them back to government against a divided opposition.

It’s an old tactic, and it’s working well for Harper as the incumbent government.

Ultra-right agenda

Currently, opinion polls are showing that the Conservatives are headed for at least another minority. Whether the election gives Steve Harper overall numerical superiority in Canada’s parliament remains to be seen. But no pollster is predicting anything less than a minority Conservative outcome.

Stephen Harper has already demonstrated that he can run the country as he wishes even without a parliamentary majority. The threat of sending Canadians back to the polls kept Liberal leader Stephan Dion supporting him, as Jack Layton pointed out in the debate, 43 times during his term as prime minister.

With the threat of another election once again removed, Stephen Harper can proceed with his ultra-right agenda of tax breaks for polluting corporations and the already affluent, with arts, environment, and social program cutbacks paying for vastly increased spending on police, prisons, and the military.

That might be a neoconservative’s dream of a ‘free’ society intent on ‘defending democracy,’ but to me it sounds like a vision of hell. It’s not the Canada I want.

Do it now, or do it later

After this election, the same situation will prevail. Which opposition party is going to bring down a minority government so soon after a gruelling and costly election? Unless the opposition parties form some form of working pariamentary coalition, they’re going to be back in the same frustrating situation.

Yes, I know it’s a stretch, but the bottom line is that Canada’s political parties cannot carry on with the charade that today’s competitive, first-past-the-post electoral system can accommodate more than two major political parties, at a time when four-and-a-half distinct national parties are vying for voter support.

The solution is to move to a proportional voting system, but that’s going to take some time to achive at the federal level. When it does come — and its arrival appears to be inevitable — coalition politics will be the order of the day.

Stand on guard… for us

So the opposition parties might as well get used to the new order of Canadian coalition politics, and use the opportunity presented by today’s stark electoral choice to pre-empt the apparently inevitable continuation of Stephen Harper’s American-inspired, ultra-right brand of mealy-minded conservatism.

Layton and Dion must put aside their antipathy and form a Coalition of the Opposition. Only this will secure the kind of Canada that most Canadians want. Serial democratic dictatorship, even dictatorship by minority rule, is no longer satisfactory. It is time to stand on guard for Canada — and for the Earth.

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12 Responses

  1. Stephen K Says:

    I agree completely. I’d like to post this on my blog tomorrow. Is this an original article?

  2. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    Yes, I wrote it. And sure, you have my permission to post it to your blog.

  3. Neil C Says:

    I’d like to point out that there is a way that we, as voters, can effect this sort of change without needing our politicians to form an official coalition – which is, at this point, highly unlikely.

    It is simple: Vote for the non-conservative candidate most likely to win, even if their party is not normally the one you support. It’s called strategic voting, and it is our best hope of avoiding a conservative government on October 14th.

    This should particularly interest Green supporters: If you are not in one of the 2 or 3 ridings where the Green Party has a legitimate chance at being elected, your vote is FAR better placed with the NDP or Liberal candidate: whomever is most likely to win. Ms. May herself has stated that she would rather not win a single Green seat than see a Conservative majority.

    More info, including poll data and recommendations for your specific riding, can be found here:

    http://www.voteforenvironment.ca

  4. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    Excellent site, Neil — thanks for setting it up! I recommend everyone to visit it and check out the situation in your riding. Also visit democraticSPACE:

    http://www.democraticspace.com/canada2008/

  5. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    Excellent site, Neil — thanks for setting it up. I recommend everyone to visit it and check out your riding. Also go to democraticSPACE:

    http://www.democraticspace.com/canada2008/

  6. Jean Sansum Says:

    In despair about the possibility of a majority Conservative government, I have started a political blog http://jeansansum.shawwebspace.ca/blog/. It is probably too little, too late, but it lets me feel I am doing something to avert the disaster of four years with Harper at the helm. I too would like to post your URL on my blog. I agree with you that our only hope is that the opposition parties unite to form a government. Vote ABC – anyone but Conservative!

  7. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    Good work, Jean. Anyone is free to post a link to any posting or comment on this site — the Internet is open democracy. In terms of getting a coalition government, I think we’re going to have to mount a campaign to pressure the politicians and the Governor-General to have this happen. Any suggestions as to how to proceed?

  8. Jean Sansum Says:

    Stuart, I wish I had some brilliant suggestions for inspiring/forcing the opposition parties to form a coalition. All I can think of is to appeal to the leaders to forget their personal ambitions for the sake of the country they have promised to serve, to cooperate instead of forever squabbling among themselves. That is not what they are elected to do – that is not what they are promising. We can appeal to their patriotism (that’s a winner!), their idealism, their promises to tackle the coming monumental problems to the best of their ability, and their hopes of going into the history books as great Canadians.

    Unfortunately, we will be voices crying in the wilderness if we can’t come together to demand that they cooperate instead of tearing each other apart. Does anyone have any ideas for this? I have a weekly newsletter in which I can urge this action, but it is small and not confined to Canada – I usually avoid politics and religion. If such a coalition ever becomes a possibility, I will forgo my usual practices and ask my Canadian readers to become involved.

    Any ideas? Anyone?

  9. Brenton Says:

    “The threat of sending Canadians back to the polls kept Liberal leader Stephan Dion supporting him, as Jack Layton pointed out in the debate, 43 times during his term as prime minister.”

    This bit needs context. The Liberals didn’t support the Conservatives, they just didn’t want an election called because their organization in Quebec was in shambles and they faced huge losses if an election was called. I think they should have taken the high road anyway, as their position certainly didn’t improve over those 43 votes and they are doing poorly in Quebec.

    If a coalition were to form, it would be ad hoc and informal. Too many Liberals see themselves as the only really legitimate counter to the Conservatives and the NDP as a marginal force. Too many NDPers have serious issues with the Liberal government of Chretien and Martin.

    I think it will have to come down the the individual voter, and I’m not too optimistic. I’ve talked to more than a few voters that are voting strategically but not for the party most likely to defeat the Conservatives in their riding. Non-strategic strategic voting, I call it.

  10. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    It sure seems that our democratic system is dysfunctional right now. But by holding back until they were ready, the Liberals gave Stephen Harper enough time to change the direction in which Canada is headed. He doesn’t need a majority to do a lot of damage to Canada’s social programs.

    “Non-strategic strategic voting” — I like that description!

  11. Dave Prosser Says:

    Do Not Fear – The Coalition is coming soon enough. No politician with any kind of brain is going to indicate interest prior to V-Day as it amounts to surrender. If we want to get the job done let’s concentrate on getting rid of Harper first. Other posters have mentioned http://www.voteforenvironment.ca, but i have found their projections lag new developments. (Probably due to limited $ resources) I suggest people still visit their site, but an excellent source of riding dynamic is http://www.electionpredictionproject.org they called both 2004 & 6 almost dead on! We should be letting everybody we know about these sites. And i am VERY sorry, but it HAS to be said – In 95% of ridings a vote for the Greens IS a vote for Harper. Solution? Vote Lib or NDP based on polls per riding and GIVE $$ to the Green Party!

  12. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    Good solution of giving direct financial support to the Green party, Dave. I agree, though: the opposition party leaders are going to maintain the illusion until the bitter end that they can defeat Harper outright. The problem as I see it is that there’s only a small window of opportunity for them to get their act together after October 14th. That’s why I’m asking people to join with me on the facebook group majoritycoalitionforcanada to pressure them to start talking turkey immediately after this weekend (ouch!).


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