Idea alert -

Idea alert


Former NDP candidate Michael Byers advocates for uniting the left.

There is only one surefire way to prevent a Harper majority. The Liberals and NDP should agree to not run candidates against each other in the next campaign. In each riding, the party whose candidate fared worst in the last election would pull its current candidate out, or refrain from nominating one. Both parties would win more seats, with the Liberals potentially forming a majority government.

Just last week, Eric at tested the results from the last election against a similar merger scenario. By his estimate, the Conservatives would have won exactly one less seat than they currently hold.

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Idea alert

  1. Why would NDP agree to that plan? As we all know, parties get their funding based on how many votes they receive. If dippers do this, they would be cutting off their nose to spite their face. Libs get more seats and dippers get fewer tax $$$ in their coffers.

  2. Way to set your sights high. "Okay everybody, let's get out there and…prevent a Harper majority!"

  3. This is one of those occasions where I agree with Norman Spector: I'm not sure Byers' idea would help the political left in Canada. I think it's at least as likely to do the opposite. The notion of NDP-Liberal cooperation, with a Bloc assist, has been raised twice in the past year: last December by the NDP and Liberals, and in September by Stephen Harper. Both times, support for the Conservatives went up significantly. It's almost as though the people who think this is a bad idea outnumber the ones who think it's a good idea.

    • In the short term, I agree. In the long term, a real merger — which is, I know, not what Byers is saying here — would force the merged party to iron out the outlandish wrinkles, as Harper gradually did with the CRAP. It took a few election cycles, but he's now pretty much immune to the "Animals!! Zealots and animals!!" line of attack.

      I wish we could have a party system in Canada in which there were two moderately right-wing parties and two moderately left-wing parties; the two parties on either side differing not in core philosophy but in specific platforms. Also, any of the four would be able to form a stable government on its own. That way, the voters could pass judgment on the competence of the Government without being forced thereby to change political philosophies; as things are now, it often comes down to choosing between competence and a philosophy you like (as for Liberal-ish voters in 2006 and Tory-ish voters now). This is not a very good system.

      • "but he's now pretty much immune to the "Animals!! Zealots and animals!!" line of attack. "

        Well, when one surveys the Conservative Party's supporters, I think that's more a consequence of official communication, message discipline and right wing media bias more than anything. The animals and the zealots are still there. Worse than ever, in fact.

      • I agree with your perspective, I've thought about it myself, and it does appear to be a flaw in the system.

        In the US for example, I see the last election as more of a kick in the ass to the increasingly incompetent Repubs rather than a change in philosophy of the US voter. Obama prefers to see it differently of course. And it's not possible to tell objectively with the voting system that exists.

        There is always the risk that you will fracture the support for your cause (philosophy) when you split off a new group in pursuit of competence, and I think this is true regardless of the voting system.

        Paul has a good suggestion with the run-offs, but even then, if you split the support for your favoured groups in half, and there is more than one party being eliminated per run-off, there is a risk that they would both be turfed.

        I'd be far more inclined for this change (run-offs), rather then the proportional rep changes Andrew Coyne is always promoting.

      • I wish we could have a party system in Canada in which there were two moderately right-wing parties and two moderately left-wing parties

        Poof! Your wish is granted! But one of so called "left parties" only runs candidates in one province, and the mild right wing parties have like 200+ seats.

        • Heh, quite right. And perhaps it would be enough, in the Minority Government Era, if both left-wing parties were national.

          I must say, re: the subject of this post, it's counterintuitive that there should actually not be much Liberal-NDP vote-splitting. Are they really further apart, in voters' minds, than Clark's Conservatives and Day's Alliance were?

  4. I believe once the media-induced furore died down, at least one poll revealed that more Canadians were amenable to coalition than had been reported previously.

    What people like/don't like is whatever the teevee and the Internets are telling them to, from one week to the next. Certainly I've never read much that explains why the public has not liked the idea of a coalition. In fact, we found out last year, Canadians don't even understand their own system of government.

    • That's it! Canadians are just too stupid to know that a Coalition is what they should like because the Liberals said they should.

      That argument should bolster support for your Liberals.

      Good one!

    • ''Canadians don't even understand their own system of government.''
      We all got a lesson in how our system works,
      and the majority of Canadians just don't agree that 3 losers can join forces to over throw the winner,
      especially when the party that came in second won only 1/2 the seats of the winner and had it's worst showing in history.

      In other countries with coalition governments,
      it's the ' winner' that picks another party to form a majority govt.

      • Oh do be quiet won't you?

    • If the Liberals and NDP had campaigned on a potential coaltion, it would be a whole different ball game. Instead they campaigned against each other, and then tried to join forces after the fact in a cynical power-grab that most Canadians saw as wholy dishonest and completely unrepresentative of the government they had elected.

  5. This doesn't sound like Dippers are all that interested in becoming the Liberal rump, once again:

    "We're very much aware there are lots of unanswered questions on the sponsorship scandal and we're ready to employ whatever means are necessary to help Canadians get to the bottom of what happened to their money," said Mulcair.

  6. I love it! Both parties would forfeit a large part of their public subsidy for the addition of 1 seat. Just the kind of genius plan a coalition of socialists would concoct.

    Unite the left!

  7. That's kind of why I advocate a French system of institutionalized run-off elections, which encourages a variety of political parties to organize while forcing them, every time, to think realistically about how their “side” can actually govern. Or I would advocate it if I thought it would ever have any takers.

    • I'm for anything that forces political parties to think more pragmatically.

      Question though, if this is a good system then why is French politics such an unholy mess?

      • It's not the whole French system. I wasn't aware we were forbidden from swiping other people's good ideas while rejecting their bad ideas.

        • Mmm, well I don't disagree with your premise.

          But the French system seems utterly inflexible. Certainly Sarkozy has gotten nowhere trying to make some of the societal/economic changes that France clearly needs. How do you explain that if the electoral system is supposed to encourage pragmatism?

    • Paul, why not preferential voting (also known as ‘instant run-off’). It largely has the same effect, except getting the job done in one ballot.

      • I find people are generally turned off by the cumbersome mechanisms of single-ballot, ranked-preference systems. And I actually really like the way a run-off forces horse trading between voting rounds. Parties adjust based on the public and known result of the first round, and it's all out in the open, instead of guessing based on how they think people might vote.

        • How does a run-off voting process help voter turnout? By the logic of not doing things that turn people off, voting multiple times in a one-month period (or one-week, or whatnot) would be a massive turnoff to lots of us who want to see our elected officials pipe down and get back to work.

          And, where you see horse trading, I see the potential for backroom deals. Sure it's politically fascinating to us wonks, but I don't think it would resonate quite so positively to the electorate at large.

          • Well, the point is moot: we'll never adopt a two-round voting system. I'm not sure that saves us from back-room deals, though. As for voter turnout, I'm not sure it would decline if we had an easily understandable system which produced highly legitimate outcomes (winner usually has more than half the final-round votes) in a highly dramatic manner. But since it won't happen, again, moot.

  8. It now has two. The problem, I guess, would be to square it with Canadian regionalism.

    • I love voting. Make that three!

  9. The real issue:

    "Will we let an outdated electoral system deliver a majority Conservative government on the basis of the preferences of less than 40 per cent of voters – and less than 25 per cent of those Canadians who are eligible to vote?"

    When we consider the latter point, a majority with 25% of eligible voters, we can no longer even pretend to claim we live in a democracy. And we all do want to keep on pretending, right?

    • Ddin't Chretien win a majority with 38% of the vote….

      So maybe the solution to the 25% issue, is mandatory voting.

      • What percentage of eligible voters did that 38% reflect?

        I'm not making a partisan point. 25% to control everything is not democracy. Not by a long shot.

        • Yes it is. People who don't vote are showing their confidence in the people who do. They are voting for democracy with the seat of their pants and I say "Relax and have a beer, we'll look after this for you."

      • Don't point out that he's a hypocrite, you'll get him all whipped up into a leftist lather.

        It's only a bad system when it's the Conservatives forming a majority.

        • I'm not a hypocrite. I'm not interested in revisiting standard Conservative cant…"But but but…the LIBERALS!!!"…every time this issue is brought up.

          • So, like I said, you think it's only a bad system when it's the Conservatives forming a majority. Sorry to break it to you, that makes you a hypocrite

  10. Why use 2008 election results?
    Have the Lib and NDP candidates in each riding run off against each other, and see what happens…the media would love it!

    • now this interesting … hmmm .. just might have potential.

  11. In 2008 General Election Simcoe North, ON the combined LIB/GRN/NDP voted defeated the CPC winner Bruce Stanton by 369 votes. Then again the actual winner was "None of the above" or "Did not vote." If find this to be a more significant fact. The CPC has been working hard to ensure non-voters keep staying away! It is the most significant key to their electoral success!

  12. When the Conservatives united, their popular support was less than the combined support of the Alliance and the PCs.

    The logic in this idea is flawed. People are not as ideologically inclined as some believe, and so both the NDP and Libs would certainly lose voters to other parties, including the Conservatives, if this merger took place.

    • I agree. It is a mistake to assume that NDP supporters are necessarily left-wing in the manner Professor Byers assumes. When the Reform party was strongest in BC it drew a large part of its support from former NDP supporters who were turned off by the failures of the provincial party and the increasingly "progressive" obsessions of the federal NDP. They were drawn by the blue-collar populism of Reform. When the Conservative party united and became more of a traditional Tory party that group moved back to the NDP.

      It is very unlikely that group would be happy to be forced to support a Liberal candidate because of some electoral engineering by party brass. More likely there would be a resurgence of that populist support for the Tories.

  13. Fortunately, most people on the centre-left take a more sophisticated view of Liberal majority governments.

    Perhaps Byers has forgotten the legacy of the Chretien Martin era: You know, things treating the Kyoto treaty as a PR exercise, unilaterally cutting $25 billion from transfers for education and health, and killing the country's national housing program?

    Worse, Ignatieff has called torture "not evil" and backed the war in Iraq. Byers would be in league with a dwindling 15% who want to make him Prime Minister.

  14. Australia's "Alternatve voting" method, used to elect their MPs, would accomplish the same as the proposed "non-compete" scenerio. The LIBs blew it when they did not implement it, when Chretien had his majority!

  15. I notice the same rightwing trolls are trying to ruin another discussion;

    Give it rest. We're not slopping hogs here.

    • Oh, do be quiet, won't you?

      • Did feel addressed by that comment.

        Be quiet yourself, Angry Angry Hippo.

        • Awww, someone's cranky and needs a nap…

    • I see one slopping hog…and it's even one of those fancy imported ones!

  16. Well – seems as if everyone likes ides of alternative methods of ,, well whatever … so I will add a post that is the opposite (after all I am a contrarian by nature) I like things just the way they are .. thank you very much … by the way good luck with doing anything but complaining.

  17. I'm surprised anyone takes Michael Byers seriously anymore, particularly Paul Wells:

    I'm frankly amazed that he managed to get a job somewhere when he says things like his infamous comment that “if Toronto blew up, we'd get by” on an At Issue panel that Wells discusses in the old post linked above.

    • Well we would, wouldn't we? Provided that the computers that run my ATM are located somewhere outside Toronto that is.

  18. What if the Liberals and NDP just stopped attacking each other and letting Harper win be default?

  19. that should be win by default

  20. Byers' idea misunderstands the motivations of the electorate. Many voters vote Liberal because it is one of the two middle-of-the-road parties. If the Liberals merged with the NDP, those voters would likely be turned off unless the party could demonstrate that it was not a "leftist" party. A united "Left" would be a bonanza for the Conservative party.

    • I have long wondered how it would shake out if Libs disappeared and we were left with choice of NDP or Con as two main parties – I think more Libs would go to Cons than Dippers but who knows.

  21. The calculations done by are highly flawed.

  22. It should be noted that 308 did use a specific assumption that "Not all NDP voters are happy with this, though, and while 53% go to the new Liberal/NDP formation, 21% go to the Greens, 17% go to the Conservatives, and 10% (or 43% in Quebec) go to the Bloc Quebecois."

    while 308 is right not all dippers or libs would fall into line, i am not sure i believe it would be as low as 53% either.

    • Well, in BC, based on the '93, '97 and "00 results, about half of the NDP vote will potentially vote for the Conservatives, rather than the Liberals. In '04, for example almost exactly that proportion of the vote moved from the Tories back to the NDP. Taking away the NDP as a populist (rather than "left wing") alternative, would by no means guarantee that vote going to the Grits – who would be seen as even less populist and blue collar than the Tories, in BC anyway.

      • BC is a pretty unique (read crazy; see their proficiency in electing insance provincial governments) space re electoral politics.

        again, as i said in my post i don't by any means suspect that all – or any where close – of dippers would go to the libs, i just don't expect it to be nearly 50% to go to the cons. even if you are right about BC dippers (not sure given vague references), they (alongside their Alberta brethren) would be at the extreme high end… thus the 308 overall breakdown is dubious.

  23. My numbers for where the vote would go was based on an EKOS "second choice" poll. How would people actually go in the case of such a situation? Who knows, but that EKOS "second choice" poll is the only data to go on.

  24. Could someone please inform Michael Byers that the best way to prevent a Harper Majority is by the NDP ceasing to exist.

  25. The problem with this idea: Michael Ignatieff is not, by any stretch of the imagination, "the left". For Canada, he's centre-right. Canada needs a left, and the NDP should continue being it.

    If the NDP joined up with the Liberals, all that would happen is that more people would stay home or vote Green. I certainly would. The two parties are not interchangeable.

  26. Byers: "Nor would the agreement extend to post-election power sharing. If the Liberals were in a position to form a minority government, they would be free to seek support from any of the other parties – including the Conservatives."

    Here voters: I'll hold the football, and you come running and kick it!

    So the proposal is to run as a de facto coalition during the election, but promise to act as separate parties afterward. GENIUS. If only there were a Nobel Prize for poly sci professors.

    This sort of thing is why they are always the funniest thing on any political panel.

    • That's hardly fair to Janice MacKinnon Joan. It does apply to all the others though.

  27. I see the potential for backroom deals. Sure it’s politically
    fascinating to us wonks, but I don’t think it would resonate quite so
    positively to the electorate at large.