Home > Federal, Liberals, NDP > Official NDP Cooperation With Liberals Silly Idea

Official NDP Cooperation With Liberals Silly Idea

February 21, 2007

It seem that a few bloggers are suggesting that the NDP should now strike some sort of “official cooperation” deal, or even a coalition.

Unfortunately, this is one of those silly ideas that appear smart before one looks at the facts. It’s one of those ideas that look good according to the Left/Right spectrum idea. However, the political spectrum does not work all of the time.

Note, before I go on, that Canada has the Single Member Plurality (SMP) electoral system, which does not really allow for cooperation. I’d prefer a more proportional electoral system, but since we currently live with the SMP system, we have no choice but to work with it.

Let’s look at what has happened to the NDP every time we cooperate with the Liberals.

1962: Conservative Minority: Liberals get 99 seats, NDP gets 19. NDP helps Liberals.
1963: Liberal Minority: Liberals get 128 seats, NDP gets 17. NDP helps Liberals.
1965: Liberal Minority: Liberals get 131 seats, NDP gets 21. NDP helps Liberals.
1968: Liberal Majority: Liberals get 154 seats, NDP gets 22.

1979: Conservative Minority: Liberals get 114 seats, NDP gets 26. NDP helps Liberals.
1980: Liberal Majority: Liberals get 147 seats, NDP gets 32.

1984: Conservative Majority: Liberals get 40 seats, NDP gets 30. NDP helps Liberals.
1988: Conservative Majority: Liberals get 83 seats, NDP get 43. NDP helps Liberals, note that Liberals got more seats.
1993: Liberal Majority: Liberals get 177 seats, NDP gets 9. Liberals proceed with one of the most anti-progressive governments ever, with massive cuts to programs. NDP goes into gutter.

The key trend here is that every time the NDP helps the Liberals, the Liberals become strong again and the NDP goes nowhere. That is why the Liberals are so upset with us right now: they see us as a “get out of jail free card”, and this time, we ain’t cooperating.

Therefore, to avoid repeating history, the NDP must avoid official cooperation with the Liberals. This is why our current strategy, that of being a free agent, getting what Canadians want with whatever party will cooperate, is the best way that the NDP can go. The thing is, in order to attract new voters, the NDP must appear to be an independent party and not an appendage of some other. The NDP must not be aiming to be Canada’s conscience (it’s easy for Pinocchio to squish Jiminy Cricket), but its governmental brain.

But it time for us to all of us to face one fact: Harper is not the great Satan. If there is one thing that this Conservative Government has shown, it is that Harper is not the total doom of Canada. Therefore it is time to stop buying into this line: it’s usefulness has come and gone. And it is this line that most people who want official cooperation between the NDP and Liberals use.

To be honest, the thought of “Fossil” Dion being Prime Minister of Canada scares me more than Harper and his non-existent “hidden agenda”, and I don’t want my party to be a stepping stone for Dion to get there.

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Categories: Federal, Liberals, NDP
  1. leftdog
    February 21, 2007 at 1:44 am

    Throw the filthy Tory ideologues out of power NOW!!

    No deals with Tories – no deals with Liberals.

    Throw the beggars as far as you can throw them!!!!

  2. Northern BC Dipper
    February 21, 2007 at 2:01 am

    Grit-Tory Shotput! I like it.

  3. Brian in Calgary
    February 21, 2007 at 2:25 am

    In other words, supporting or opposing legislation based on its actual merits (or lack thereof)? I’d like to think that if I were an NDP supporter (I’m a Tory), I’d agree with you.

    Canadian history does show that when a third party helps out one of the two major parties in an official arrangement, the third party generally suffers. An example I’m familiar with (being from Saskatchewan) is when after the 1999 Election, the Sask Liberals went into coalition with the ruling NDP. It devastated the Liberals (I think they currently have no MLAs).

    Grit-Tory Shotput! I like it.

    That’s witty, northern bc dipper, without being abusive. I like that.

  4. Northern BC Dipper
    February 21, 2007 at 2:42 am

    Brian,

    I can’t follow your link (darn Google). Are you referring to Janke’s Lieberals? Let’s grow up?
    (http://stevejanke.com/archives/216375.php)
    Yeah, I suppose I overuse the “Fossil” nickname for Dion (I like it better than this weird “Citoyen”).

    But I must say, I think your first sentence summarizes my post well.

  5. The JF
    February 21, 2007 at 3:05 am

    All I want is for the Liberals’ left-wing to get the hell out of the Liberals and into the NDP, and for the Marxists (the NDP Socialist Caucus-types who have trips to Cuba) to leave the NDP and actually go into a Marxist party. I suppose I can live with the democratic socialists. The Red Tories can go to the Liberals, and the Conservatives can keep being so-cons.

    That’s my grand evil plan, and I’ll support what does that.

  6. Idealistic Pragmatist
    February 21, 2007 at 4:19 am

    There’s a major fallacy in this post, and that’s the notion that you can equate “propping up” a minority government with joining with another party in an equitable coalition government. In fact, they bear almost no resemblance, either in practice or in results. A coalition wouldn’t be about “helping Liberals,” it would be about the NDP governing.

    The multiparty system is here to stay, which will eventually make coalitions inevitable. We can either start doing it now, or we can wait until we get another series of unstable minority governments first. Does it really make sense to have yearly elections and permanent grandstanding while we wait?

  7. Northern BC Dipper
    February 21, 2007 at 4:49 am

    Idealistic Pragmatist,

    There’s a major fallacy in this post, and that’s the notion that you can equate “propping up” a minority government with joining with another party in an equitable coalition government

    Unfortunately, there is a major fallacy in your response, and that is coalitions, as you describe them, just don’t happen in Canada.

    There is only 1 instance of a coalition government in 1917, the “Unionists” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unionist_Party_of_Canada) and that was during World War I while the Liberals were divided between pro-conscription and anti-conscription factions.

    Except for that one example, all minority governments in the 20th and 21st Centuries in Canada have been achieved by what you define as “propping up”.

    And considering how Liberals and NDP regard each other, I have a really hard time believing that the two parties would all of a sudden stop their attacks and go into a coalition, and it is this fact and Canada’s history that show that it is very unlikely that a coalition will occur.

    The reason for this is our electoral system, which is at fault for being ill-suited to the modern Canadian political system, and quite frankly needs to change. But until the electoral system is changed, we must operate within its rules. And those rules create a situation where a coalition is not a pragmatic option and that the NDP should not make any official “propping up” agreement with the Liberals, as per my post.

  8. Idealistic Pragmatist
    February 21, 2007 at 5:36 am

    Um, okay…if your point of writing this post was to argue against the likelihood of a coalition government happening, then why bring in the data about minority governments into it at all? That’s a strawman argument, because minority governments weren’t what my post was about. Your post argues against something I didn’t propose in the first place: Liberal-NDP cooperation within a minority Liberal government. Please don’t put words in my mouth that I didn’t say.

    As to what you’re now arguing, then: saying “coalition governments don’t happen in Canada” is by no means proof that they won’t in the future, because Canada has never had a party structure in the past like it does now. There aren’t going to be any more single-party majority governments with the new normal, and endless minorities are untenable, so it’s simply a matter of deciding whether coalition governments should start happening sooner or later. Sooner makes more sense, because endless grandstanding and permanent campaigning is not doing the Canadian political culture much good, and it’s not getting a whole lot done, either.

    I actually agree with you that a pre-election announcement of a preference for forming a coalition government after the next election is terribly unlikely. In the comments to my post, commenter “Alex” even convinced me that it would be a bad idea. But after the next election, if either the Liberals or the NDP were to win the next election with a minority of the seats and the other party formed the balance of power, the parties might very well feel forced into giving it a shot. I think the stability of an actual coalition government with both parties represented in cabinet might start to look very appealing after all these years of unstable minorities.

  9. Northern BC Dipper
    February 21, 2007 at 6:32 am

    Uh, I think you’ve missed what my post was about in the first place.

    It was about why officially cooperating with the Liberals, in any minority situation, is a bad idea for the future electoral chances of the NDP.

    The point of the post was not about saying why coalitions won’t happen. I said that in response to your assertion (that you seem to be putting up everywhere) that I was equating “propping up” to a coalition.

    But okay, let’s pretend that we have this coalition government, in the context of the SMP system. The NDP has its few token ministers. The government does well, and then there is an election. Now the tendency in coalitions is that the junior partner stays junior. The Liberals in the election manage to get a majority. Guess where the coalition goes then, after the election? It would probably be scrapped, then the NDP would be where it is every time it helps the Liberals, in the gutter.

    Theoretical coalitions in SMP systems would only serve as stepping stones out of minority government, simply because of the property that SMP creates false majorities.

    But all of this discussion of SMP coalitions is academic at best, as I don’t see a coalition happening before some party gains a majority government.

  10. Idealistic Pragmatist
    February 21, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    You’re still lumping minority governments in with coalition governments in assuming that the same thing that’s happened after minority governments would happen after a coalition government. If you try to reach into Canada’s own history to predict the future, your analysis will inevitably be wrong, because with a strong NDP and a strong Bloc, two big parties that consistently poll below “majority government territory,” and a new party on the scene, the gameboard has changed. The current party configuration has never happened before in Canada, so if you want to be able to convincingly argue for a future scenario, you need to point to other jurisdictions.

    At the very least, the way you linked to my post by saying “or a coalition” (which in Canada does not imply “coalition government”) and then went on to describe the cooperation that has happened in the past under minority governments is incredibly misleading. No Canadian reading that is going to think: “Oh, IP wants the NDP and the Liberals to govern together after the next election.” They’re going to think “IP wants the NDP and the Liberals to make a deal right now that amounts to ‘merger lite’.” Misleading your audience from the first sentence about what the person you’re arguing with actually said is hardly a fair debating tactic.

    I don’t see a coalition happening before some party gains a majority government.

    What? You think that–counter to any polling data that we’ve seen in years–some party is going to gain a majority of the seats, and THEN suddenly they will want to form a coalition governent instead of governing alone? In what universe does that make sense?

  11. Northern BC Dipper
    February 22, 2007 at 1:27 am

    Okay, I think I should clear up some misconceptions about my intent, while still arguing my point about the high improbability about SMP coalitions.

    The current party configuration has never happened before in Canada…

    Uh, yes it has. Canada has, for the most part, has more than 2 parties each election. 1921 and 1925 look a lot like today, 1962 and 1963 to a lesser extent. Look what happened: there was a readjustment which resulted in single-party majority governments, which will, in some point in the future, happen again.

    I don’t see a coalition happening before some party gains a majority government.

    I see where that statement can be confusing. What I actually meant to say is: There will be probably a single-party majority government before somebody decides to create a coalition. And single-party majority government will probably occur relatively soon (say 5 or so years).

    …if you want to be able to convincingly argue for a future scenario, you need to point to other jurisdictions.

    Funny you should say that. Are there any stable coalitions in other countries using the SMP electoral system? Somehow, I don’t think so. The closest thing I can come up with is Australia, which uses the AV system, not SMP. All the SMP coalitions I’ve seen are unstable and/or act as a stepping stone to single-party majorities.

    “Oh, IP wants the NDP and the Liberals to govern together after the next election.” They’re going to think “IP wants the NDP and the Liberals to make a deal right now that amounts to ‘merger lite’.” Misleading your audience from the first sentence about what the person you’re arguing with actually said is hardly a fair debating tactic.

    How does “Official NDP Cooperation”, which is the title and main foci of the post, have somebody equate your post with “Merger-Lite”? That seems to involve a lot of reading between the lines in which I simply did not put there. I simply put down: “It seem that a few bloggers are suggesting that the NDP should now strike some sort of “official cooperation” deal, or even a coalition.” The point of this, being, that “IP is in favour of greater NDP-Liberal cooperation via a coalition”. If somebody else is inserting a different meaning into that, then I apologize.

    The whole point of all this, of course, is that it looks like greater party cooperation is something that cannot be done under SMP. Which is why Canada should switch to a different electoral system, like what New Zealand did when they were in this situation.

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