Do we care about partisanship?


In the midst of considering the possibility of a political partnership between Stephen Harper and Rob Ford, Susan Delacourt notes the tricky nature of the public’s relationship with partisanship.

We all vividly remember those maps of the 2010 municipal election results, showing the sharp divide between Ford voters in a large, suburban ring around downtown Toronto, where support overwhelmingly leaned the other way, toward Ford’s opponent, George Smitherman. Many of those suburban, Ford-voting ridings now belong to Harper’s Conservatives.

Yet Conservative strategists who analyze voters in terms of “micro-targets” will also acknowledge that there isn’t an automatic or easy crossover between Harper’s base and what’s been called “Ford nation” in the GTA. In fact, pollsters reported last year that there were people in the Toronto suburbs who voted for Ford in the 2010 municipal election, for the NDP (and late leader Jack Layton) in the 2011 federal election and then McGuinty’s provincial Liberals in the Ontario election that fall.

How—or how much—the general public considers its choices as running from the NDP to the Liberals to Conservatives on a left-to-right continuum and how strongly voters personally align themselves to “left” or “right” would seem important, for instance, to any discussion about uniting the left.


Do we care about partisanship?

  1. harpo’s party proves the MPs are more concerned about appeasing the party than they are their own constituents.

  2. People vote for the policy, not the party or ideology anymore.

    And they mean the policy promoted and touted in the election…..not some policy hidden on page 334 of the party manual, or all the other drek stashed in there

  3. One shouldn’t put too much weight behind these fluctuations that happened among some voters in the Toronto suburbs at a certain time. The reality is that people tend to gravitate towards a certain position in the political spectrum (with political parties shifting more than people) and those are the kind of numbers to base decisions on.

    It is also inaccurate to base a political analysis on election outcomes. Canada often awards majority power to minority parties that divide up the political spectrum arbitrarily.

    Here are the federal stats over the past 25 years: combined conservative (PC/Reform/etc.) over center-left vote (Lib/NDP):

    (1984): 50/47, (1988): 45/52, (1993): 35/48, (1997): 39/50, (2000): 38/49, (2004): 30/53, (2006): 36/54, (2008): 38/44, (2011): 40/50

    Average conservative vote: 39%; Average center-left: 50%

    We don’t need a Liberal-NDP merger to get election results that reflect the will of the people. Simple voting reform would do the job.

    Instant Runoff Voting (which merely requires that MPs earn their seats with a majority) would accomplish the same thing keeping the parties intact. PR would be even better although it would require a referendum where as IRV, like fixed election dates, doesn’t (keeping our existing Westminster-style system intact.)

    • Totally agree with everything you said except that PR would require a referendum. Since when do provincial experiences require Federal aqcuiescense? And if that isn’t what you are talking about, pray tell why you feel this way because I’ve seen it before, but have no idea where it comes from.

      • Technically a referendum isn’t required on PR. But since it’s a complete overhaul of our existing system it would seem to require some special appeal to the people like Mulroney’s 1988 “Free Trade” election.

        But both the NDP and Fair Vote Canada seem to support the creation of a some type of commission on electoral reform that would eventually lead to a referendum, which is usually a long road to nowhere.

        I support the two-prong approach. First fix our existing system by simply requiring that MPs earn their seats with a majority via Instant Runoff Voting. It makes our representative-based system democratic.

        Second, build momentum for bringing in PR. PR supporters should realize there are a lot of enemies to the system. Even the left-leaning Toronto Star is rabidly anti-PR. Forget commissions and other nonsense. They should simply pick a system and then sell it to Canadians (I suggest MMP because it’s the simplest system that includes elected representatives.) Because things are already tough enough.

        Supporters should realize there is a huge difference between Anglo-Saxon and European countries. Just because it was easy in Europe doesn’t mean it will be easy here. In fact, for some strange reason, Anglo-Saxon countries are very resistant to electoral reform.

        • I don’t even think MMP is a complete overhaul. Also my preferred method, which benefits from the evidence-based approach used by the Law Commission of Canada. I personally agree with you about another commission or other silly talk. Just do it. Then, after we’ve had it for, say, three elections, have a referendum on whether to keep it.