dear leadnow: i'm not sure i want to cooperate

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.]


laura k said...

I hope progressive bloggers will do me the courtesy of considered discussion, rather than snark attacks.

Kev said...

Many people I know feel cooperation on some level is the only way to defeat Harper,some believe this so passionately that disagreeing with then can leave one scorched.In my case however not only do I think it not a good idea but one that won't work.

I for one would no be comfortable in this new arrangement as I've already moved as far to the right as I can possible go already,as such would have to find some other place to call home. The same is true on the other side of the spectrum which would likely be uncomfortable with getting in bed with the NDP thus moving to the Harperites.

The only way out of this nightmare is for the opposition to present policies that speak to Canadians and to get out and sell them. Canadians are ready for a new and better vision for Canada and more are coming to the realisation everyday that Harper and gang are not the ones to deliver on that.

Skinny Dipper said...

In the last federal election, the NDP gained more seats than the Liberals for the first time. There is now this sudden desire to merge the so-called "left-of-centre" parties. Had the Liberal won more seats than the NDP, I don't think there would be any proposal to merge the two parties. In the Ontario provincial election, the Liberals won with a plurality of the seats. The NDP came third. I don't hear of any discussion to have the two provincial parties cooperate in some formal way.

One thing I notice is that some Liberal supporters are buying NDP memberships in order to vote for Nathan Cullen and support his cooperation idea between the NDP and Liberals. This is not a knock against Nathan Cullen. He can espouse any idea as an NDP leadership candidate. I'm just finding that those who promote formal cooperation as those who are least connected to the NDP. For example, the Toronto Star's Chantal Hébert suggests cooperation and talks about the NDP's decline in Quebec as if this is going to be a permanent thing after the leadership race. Jean Chrétien has suggested some kind of cooperation.

One must remember that when Jean Chrétien was prime minister and Paul Martin was the finance minister, they promoted a fiscal policy that would have seemed to be very conservative--lower taxes for high income earners, and income tax-bracket creep for middle income earners. The latter is when one`s income increases each year, but the tax-bracket is not adjusted for inflation.

If I hear of other staunch New Democrats talk about cooperation, I will listen. Unfortunately, I think the actions by Leadnow and Avaaz are not so much designed to strengthen progressive voices, but to weaken the NDP.

Canadian silver bug/Green Assassin Brigade said...

I would consent to such cooperation only if all parties agreed to push through PR after Harper is defeated. However considering the Libs just passed policy supporting AV an equally non-proportional system as FPTP I don't think this condition would be met.

laura k said...

Thanks, Kev. By you've "moved so far to the right," I think you mean you're already putting up with parties that are all more right-leaning than you. Not that you've actually moved to the right, but that you are voting to the right of your beliefs. Is that it?

Kev said...

Hi Laura Yes absolutely None of the mainstream partys truly represent my views and as the NDP continues to move to the "centre" I become ever more uncomfortable in voting for them.

laura k said...

In the last federal election, the NDP gained more seats than the Liberals for the first time. There is now this sudden desire to merge the so-called "left-of-centre" parties. Had the Liberal won more seats than the NDP, I don't think there would be any proposal to merge the two parties.

I agree!

laura k said...

I would consent to such cooperation only if all parties agreed to push through PR after Harper is defeated.

I would agree with this, but I'd never trust the Liberals to do it.

laura k said...

Very nice to see a few other progressives who are also not on board the cooperation bandwagon. I've already unsubscribed to Leadnow so I can stop getting those emails.

I don't necessarily think Leadnow and Avaaz want to undermine the NDP. But I don't see why the NDP, at the height of their strength in Parliament, should agree to form any kind of alliance with the Greens or the wreck of the Liberals.

laura k said...

Hi Laura Yes absolutely None of the mainstream partys truly represent my views and as the NDP continues to move to the "centre" I become ever more uncomfortable in voting for them.

I'm anxious about who the next leader will be. It's scary and heartbreaking to think of the further movement to centre.

But they're still our best shot as far as Parliamentary politics - if we keep the pressure on them.

Lorraine said...

While I sincerely hope Canada never becomes a two-party system, if there ever is a "united the left" moment in Canadian history, I hope the name chosen for the resulting party is The Progressive Party.

Also, what Skinny Dipper said.

boyd reimer said...

Hello "Canadian silver bug..." I was interested to hear that the Liberals "just passed policy supporting AV an equally non-proportional system as FPTP" I would like to learn more, so do you have a link to that?

Secondly, I will never advocate a permanent cooperation between non-Conservative parties. Instead, I advocate a temporary cooperation --just long enough to get Proportional Representation in --no longer.

My reasons are almost entirely based on the fact that I don't think enough people realize how bad Harper is.

rootbeerinacan said...

I strongly agree with the notion that the NDP and Greens should form a left-wing alliance to defeat this sitting right-wing alliance, but the Liberals are a group of pro-business, pro-war, pro-austerity neo-liberals just like the Conservatives. The only difference is that the Liberal's are a bit better at hiding the dirt they're involved in. That being said, I would much prefer a Liberal-included cooperation than another Conservative government. An NDP-led left-wing cooperation would be preferred, with the Liberals only being used in limited, tough ridings.

The next step for electoral reform is a bit trickier. You guys tout a "multi-party" system, but the reality is, this is what we have now. Political parties are in and of themselves mechanisms for converging and concentrating power. Think of how much effort and time it took to pry power away from the monarchs of the world and form compromising parliaments that only became truly powerful centuries later. Political parties throw all that human progress away by re-assembling that power into ever bigger and bigger blocks. Every multi-party system will eventually converge into one giant party, sometimes split into two near-identical "parties" (like in the US) in order to keep people's focus on meaningless debate over red vs blue and two or three social issues, while the financial powers who pay for both parties end up getting exactly what they want...zero compromise (see the recent fiscal cliff agreement, the Republicans got what they set out to get during Bush 2's administration).

Canada does not need a multi-party system. We need a NO-party system.Every single MP in parliament should be an Independent, answering only to the voters. In order to facilitate this, campaign finance will need to be reformed, as this is the only real thing (other than the media) holding Independents back today. All donations, personal or corporate, need to be phased out. The easiest solution is a series of vouchers (say $10, $10, $20) that each individual gets in the mail, and can give in person to the political candidates of his/her choice, one pick for a local, provincial, federal candidate. These vouchers would be funded by that individual's first $40 of federal income taxes, and as a bonus would give the candidates incentive to physically speak with as many of their constituents as possible.

Now, this is huge, systematic change, and I understand this would take an enormous amount of time. Right now what we can do in order to get this giant set of reforms moving is to get Elections Canada to stop printing the name of the party beside candidate's names. This would immediately require voters to actually do some research before thinking: "oh, I'm a conservative, I'm going to vote for the guy with a C beside his name", without realizing the Conservative (big C) candidate's policies and the policies he supports go against conservative (little c) thinking. This would also make a splash in the media, where the concept of "getting rid of parties" can be put into the public arena for debate, discussion, and inevitable approval.

laura k said...

You know you just left a comment on a post from almost a year ago, right?

Not sure who "you guys" are - as in "you guys tout a multi-party system" - but it's likely no one will see this comment but me.

Cheers, thanks for stopping by.

Lorraine said...

I saw the comment, and read it. I'm not sold on the zero-party system. They have nonpartisan local elections where I live. I either figure out which candidates are actually Democrats and vote for them, or I sit out the local election. All politics is partisan, whether or not we pretend otherwise.

laura k said...

Well if it's good enough for Lorraine...

The advantage to parties is platforms. In a parliamentary system, parties can be more or less reasonably counted on to adhere to a platform. That's what you vote for.

I don't know how you would have nonpartisan elections in a Parliamentary system. How am I going to know who the candidates in my riding are, where their allegiances lie?

In the congressional system, party platforms seem pretty meaningless, at least in the current incarnation.

I do agree that non-partisan municipal elections are a joke. My Canadian friends were surprised to learn there are parties on the municipal level in NYC. But everyone knows which party backs Rob Ford, even though those elections are supposedly non-partisan.