Like many Canadian activists, I am currently being bombarded with emails from Leadnow and Avaaz, pushing their "Cooperate for Canada" campaign. We are being urged to join the political party of our choice, then to encourage the parties to "cooperate" in the next election, in order to defeat the Conservatives. This would supposedly be a one-time deal, after which the parties would work together for meaningful electoral reform.
I'm keeping an open mind, but I'm highly skeptical.
The Leadnow FAQ claims this is not strategic voting (which actually works in very few ridings), not a merger, and not a step towards a two-party system. I am skeptical about each of those claims. I fear that "cooperation" is a slippery slope, and at the bottom lies an even more broken system with fewer choices.
There's something else very wrong with this picture: the Liberal Party. Stories about the "cooperation" idea, such as this one in the Vancouver Sun, refer to Canada's "three left-of-centre" parties. But there aren't three left-of-centre parties. The Liberals are "left" only if the Conservatives are the perceived centre. Or to put it another way, only the reactionary nature of the Harper Conservatives make the Liberals appear to be left-of-centre. In reality, the Liberals are a party of war, corporate capitalism and neoliberal social austerity.
It's true that I initially thought I should vote Liberal in the last election in order to stop the Conservatives. But I hated the Liberals and I hated Ignatieff, and I eventually realized that voting for a party I didn't want in government was ridiculous. I support the NDP and I should register that support at the polls.
I want an electoral system that more accurately represents the politics of Canada. Certainly a majority based on 39% does not. But is cooperation with the Liberals really so much different than cooperation with the Conservatives?
[A small postscript. One of the emails from Leadnow said that "72% of Canadians strongly support" this idea. I'm sure the good folks at Leadnow know that a poll taken through their own email and Facebook list cannot claim to represent what Canadians want, only what Leadnow members want. I'm not saying that the majority of Canadians don't want this. Indeed they might. But Leadnow's own poll cannot demonstrate that.]