Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cross-party cooperation

The leader of the NDP is a former Liberal, and the leader of the Liberals is a former New Democrat. Both leaders joined their new parties within the last six or seven years. Tom Mulcair is to the right of the NDP; Bob Rae is to the left of the Liberals.

Both Mulcair and Rae were my personal first pick for leader of their respective parties. Both are smart, prepared, experienced, and responsible. Both are pragmatic progressives, and that's the sort of politics I support.

Just looking at the leaders, you might wonder what the difference is between the NDP and Liberals at this point. I think the differences are still there, but the differences are mostly in the members and supporters of the two parties.

The NDP continues to be much more ideological than the Liberals. It represents unions and other interest groups; it is truly the Left. The party is largely made up of activists, unions, students and academics.

The Liberals, on the other hand, continue to be a Centrist party in that they stand for good governance above everything else. The Liberals are all about finding a balance between fiscal responsibility and progressive social policies. The membership crosses all boundaries. (And currently, being the party of good governance with 20% popular support is sort of a sad situation.)

I support the Liberals because I think they form the best governments. I used to support the NDP (and continue to like the party) because they generate great policies. I supported Mulcair not just because I liked him best but because - for the first time - the NDP has a chance of forming a federal government, and he was the only candidate who is qualified for that eventuality.

I'm still of a mind that both parties have a place in Canada and we'd be worse off if they merged - but I'm starting to waver. In any event, the leadership has become so similar that I don't see how either party can compete in an election without some sort of cooperation. The big question is how to do that, and luckily we have some time to sort it out before the next election.



Anonymous said...

What is the difference? The NDP has many more seats than the Liberals. At one time there were people within NDP might have been keen to cooperate, even merge. But now that the NDP has the upperhand, why should they? They way they see it and the way things are going, they could just replace the Liberals entirely.

Anonymous said...

When Rae was in Ontario..I thought he was to the right...Liberal. Mulcair I would call a pink Tory.

Yappa said...

Anonymous at 1:53 - I can't decide if you're for real or a Conservative troll. It is certainly in the best interests of the Conservatives to quash this cooperation talk.

But assuming that you're for real, consider this a little more closely before dismissing it. The NDP had a surprise finish in Quebec last spring, but NDP polling numbers aren't holding up there; your current seat count is not solid. Opposition leaders usually take at least one election to become effective, so good as Mulcair is, he might not do great in the next election. Plus, the current poll numbers reflect a convention bump for the NDP. I don't mention any of this to diminish the success of the NDP, just to say that if our goal is to replace Harper, we better get realistic.

The Dude said...

The numbers prove that discussion should take place. It's that simple. Whether it's merger or coop, saying it's not happening is just what the Harpocrisy wants.

Jenn said...


Hah, very interesting post. You looked more long-term than I did since Mulcair was my last choice since I didn't see the sense in having two Liberal parties. But, since I'm a Liberal, I didn't have a vote anyway. Other than that, and the fact that I'm still not wavering on a merger, I totally agree with you. We need to cooperate, not merge, in my view to keep the great policies coming forward while concentrating on good governance, and I'm not sure one 'brain' can be both the creative force and the practical, detail oriented force that works it in without breaking the bank.

Yappa said...

Hi Jenn!

As a Liberal, I didn't say anything about my support for Mulcair before he was chosen as leader... it didn't seem appropriate, especially as he represents such a big shift for the NDP.

I suppose someone might argue that the Liberals and NDP have now effectively merged, as the NDP leader is a Liberal and the NDP captured most of the Liberal's seats. But I think that counts out the Liberals too soon.

I'm not for a merger... but I'm beginning to have an inkling that it might become an inevitability.

When I think about all the NDP and Liberal voters who have voted for the other party at one time or another, and all the strategic voting, and all the split ridings, it makes sense. When I think of how much we would lose by merging, it seems like an awful idea. If we can come up with a really good plan for cooperation, we could have the best of both worlds. But is that possible? Is there precedent in other countries? I need to learn a lot more.

Fred from BC said...

Yappa said...

Anonymous at 1:53 - I can't decide if you're for real or a Conservative troll. It is certainly in the best interests of the Conservatives to quash this cooperation talk.

He (or she) is correct, though...the NDP know they got where they are by accident, they know they aren't going to be able to maintain it and they also know that their best chance of remaining Official Opposition is to keep the Liberals on the defensive. Merger will bleed Liberals to the Conservatives and left-wingers to a new party; there is no guarantee of defeating the Conservatives that way.

No, the NDP will probably try to go it alone. They'll fail...but they'll try.

Fred from BC said...

Both Mulcair and Rae were my personal first pick for leader of their respective parties.

Mine, too (if I couldn't have Libby Davies for NDP leader...;).

From a Conservative viewpoint, both are ideal.

Yappa said...

Hi Fred from BC -

I can see that Conservatives (and others) might think that Rae and Mulcair are liabilities to their parties because they are controversial.

But despite the spin and optics, both are extremely capable people and very experienced. They each have vision and are strong leaders. I think, in fact, that all three parties are currently led by the best of their respective parties.

Forget the partisan politics for a moment; it's a good thing to have the best people in leadership positions. I wish people would choose politicians as they would an employee they're hiring. Look at the way Americans choose their presidents: likability, down-homeness; that's just wrong.