Proposals Certain to go Nowhere Fast: An Ongoing Series
There is only one surefire way to prevent a Harper majority [ED NOTE: …other than, you know, the opposition parties getting their act together]. 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.
Importantly, what is proposed is not a coalition, but a one-time ceasefire between two opposition parties whose combined vote share last time was significantly higher (44.4 per cent versus 37.6 per cent) than the Conservatives.
The only post-election condition in the agreement should be an unqualified public commitment to holding a national referendum on proportional representation within the first year.
The ceasefire agreement, once struck, could be expanded to include the Green party, which has always sought proportional representation and would benefit substantially from it.
An arrangement could be made to rectify this lack of representation by giving all five second-place Greens a clear run in the next election, with May having that opportunity in her new riding – in return for the Green party withdrawing its candidates from every other race.
Let’s start with the junior partner in this not-a-coalition. According to Byers' plan, the Greens would raise the white flag in all but their 5 second place ridings (3 of which are in Alberta, so good luck!). This isn’t an awful deal for the Liberals and Dippers – in the last election, if you make the somewhat far-fetched assumption that all Green votes would have transferred to the second place candidate, that would take 20 seats away from the Tories.
The problem is, that would drop the Greens down below 2% of the national vote, erasing the 2 million dollars a year they now get in funding from voter subsidies. You think Green Party members would be down with that? Remember, these are the same people who wouldn’t vote Liberal when Dion put forward the boldest environmental program ever seen in Canada. These are the same people who think the NDP has “sold out”. Good luck telling them to get into bed with these two parties, close their eyes, and think of proportional representation.
So the Greens are out.
Now, why does this deal suck for the Liberals-NDP notalition?
1. Even if you assume a perfect transfer of the Liberal and NDP vote, the two parties would have been below the 155 seats needed to pass a PR referendum last election. And good luck convincing the Bloc to vote for a system that would halve their seats.
2. You’d never have a 1-for-1 vote transfer. It just doesn’t work that way. So both parties, by virtue of running in fewer ridings, would lose a lot of cash on per-vote subsidy funding.
3. There would be huge internal dissention in the ranks when 97 Liberal ridings and 211 NDP ridings are told they couldn’t run candidates. Good luck getting the members (and already nominated candidates) in those ridings to volunteer for the party, donate money, and renew their memberships. I haven’t noticed too many Olivia Chow posters at Trinity-Spadina meetings…I suspect some of the members there might be a tad annoyed at this deal.
And while I know the media shies away from printing stories about internal party feuds, even they may pen one or two columns on the topic.
4. Even if this deal wouldn’t be for a formal coalition, I tend to think most voters (and Tory ad writers) wouldn’t make this fine distinction.
Beyond all that, if the Liberals are going to be a national party and a government-in-waiting, they need to act like it and this would send all the wrong messages. For the NDP, only running in 100 ridings would seriously undermine their credibility. Maybe there would be some value in doing this in a half-dozen 3-way split ridings, but on a national scale it would be a complete disaster that, in the long run, would only serve to weaken the left-wing parties, strengthening the Tories par consequence.