Monday, November 02, 2009

Proposals Certain to go Nowhere Fast: An Ongoing Series

Michael Byers has an interesting proposal in today’s Toronto Star, getting a bit of attention. Here are the key points:


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.

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29 Comments:

  • What happens when Bob Rae ousts Ignatieff and talk turns to uniting the NDP and Liberal Parties entirely?

    By Blogger paul.obeda@, at 7:43 PM  

  • One tiny quibble with one of your assertions, CG. The Elections Act actually gives funding for 2% of the vote nationally ... OR 5% or better in the ridings in which the registered party fields candidates. So, the Greens wold get some funding (but evidently not the amount they previously got).

    By Blogger The Pundits' Guide, at 10:05 PM  

  • I agree Dan the idea is nonsense but arguing against it on the basis of losing popular vote subsidies ignores that Harper has vowed to ELIMINATE the public subsidy should he win the next election.

    Or have Liberals already forgotten? That's what $7 million dollars a year gone from Liberal Party coffers (assuming we get at least the same number of votes in the next campaign)?

    I think Byers idea is nuts, but shouldn't Liberals at least think a little outside the box to try to prevent a Harper victory given the stakes?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:43 PM  

  • Bad, bad, bad idea.
    It makes the Liberals more vulnerable for the coalition attacks ads by the Conservatives.
    It undermines the long term credibility of the party.
    And it strengthens the NDP by putting them on an equal footing with the Liberals much like the actual proposed coalition would have.

    By Blogger Dan-O, at 12:49 AM  

  • This Michael Byers guy seems like a real catch. You guys should get him to run for you and promote him as part of your "dream team" cabinet.

    By Blogger Chuckercanuck, at 9:00 AM  

  • Byers already ran for the NDP last time...

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:22 AM  

  • Oh, and I should add that any time you see polls published that ask for second choice, you never get much more than 40% of Liberals picking the NDP or vice versa.

    So a 1 to 1 vote transfer is complete lunacy.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:23 AM  

  • Guys, the point is, we need to win. People are dying in Canada because of Stephen Harper. How many more people have to die before Dippers and Grits do what's best for the country and unite the left? Whether its EI or Swine Flu, people are dropping like flies.

    Why can't we all come together under the leadership of Peter Donolo? Before the Tories start outright executing people.

    By Anonymous IgnatiefforDeath, at 10:10 AM  

  • "People are dying in Canada because of Stephen Harper. How many more people have to die before Dippers and Grits do what's best for the country and unite the left? Whether its EI or Swine Flu, people are dropping like flies."


    A perfect example of why the LPC is tanking. A completely over the top, nucking futsy statement.

    Desperation breeds whack jobs.

    By Blogger Fred, at 10:54 AM  

  • I am not desperate for anything but getting rid of Stephen Harper. I am not desperate for anything but saving Canadians lives.

    You Tories are so greedy and selfish, it isn't just about keeping your money and letting the working poor suffer, it is now about letting them die.

    For shame!

    My Canada dreams Bigger than that, thank you. My Canada cares about people.

    And when Michael Ignatieff becomes Prime Minister, I promise you this: we'll save Tory lives too.

    Stop the killing! Stop Harper!

    By Anonymous IgnatieffinmyHeart, at 11:16 AM  

  • I like the idea. It pretty much guarantees the end of the per vote subsidy after the next election.

    By Anonymous herringchoker, at 11:36 AM  

  • I think you hit the nail right on the head, CG. This kind of deal would only undermine the ability of the opposition to present an effective front against the Conservatives.

    Plus, this just stinks of opportunism on the part of the NDP. They would love to get their hands on some sort of deal between themselves and the only other governing party that is partly similar in ideology that gives them real legitimacy, and takes away from the Liberal's. I say nuts to this deal, and nuts to Byers.

    By Blogger Volkov, at 12:53 PM  

  • "paul.obeda@ said...

    What happens when Bob Rae ousts Ignatieff and talk turns to uniting the NDP and Liberal Parties entirely?"

    stop with the nightmares! halloween is over.

    By Anonymous Jenny, at 12:58 PM  

  • I agree that a 1 to 1 transfer is totally unrealistic. Too many supporters of the PC-Alliance merger (of which I was one) thought that would happen when those two parties merged, and we all know how well that turned out.


    "People are dying in Canada because of Stephen Harper. How many more people have to die before Dippers and Grits do what's best for the country and unite the left? Whether its EI or Swine Flu, people are dropping like flies."

    IgnatieffinmyHeart, you sound like Jack Layton in the 2005-06 campaign when he said that Liberal government policies on housing were causing people to die. I remember how justifiably outraged the Liberals and their supporters were by that assertion. I think you have just confirmed Jack Layton in his use of that tactic.

    By Blogger Brian in Calgary, at 1:07 PM  

  • Sorry - This plan is not smart.

    I could not bring myself to vote for the NDP. As a former PC'er, I will not vote for Harper's Conservatives, but I would consider voting Liberal. If the Liberal candidate pulled out of my riding, I would vote Independent, or potentially Libertarian, but not NDP.

    By Anonymous Tim N, at 1:26 PM  

  • Brian in Calgary,

    We aren't seals. We shouldn't be slaughtered. And right now, I see people getting slaughtered by Tory policies.

    I bet you didn't know that when the Tories cut funding to artists, 1,100 artists died of starvation.


    I bet you think it is all fun and games because you don't have swine flu. Well, grow up!

    Somedays, I wish my leader would put his ideas about targeted assasination into practice and take this government out!

    By Anonymous Intellectuals for Ignatieff, at 2:09 PM  

  • Why must this idea include PR, as well? That is another reason why I wouldn't support it; I don't want a PR system. And, really, for PR to work and get a majority government in this political climate, the Liberals must join a coalition with the NDP, if their vote totals match up, which is pretty unlikely.

    Byers is simply posturing the NDP to get into government in some form or another - I refuse to let that happen.

    By Blogger Volkov, at 2:53 PM  

  • Intellectuals for Ignatieff:

    From extremity of your response, you sound like the Richard Dawkins of the Liberal Party. Some of his harshest critics are fellow athiests (Michael Ruse for one); I am absolutely sure most Liberals are very decent people who, if they were to see your post and those of IgnatieffinmyHeart, would be very embarrassed (much as they must be by Hedy Fry, and I am, sometimes, by Rob Anders). It would be nice if you could back up some of your comments with any sort of evidence, but, frankly, I am NOT going to hold my breath.

    By Blogger Brian in Calgary, at 3:09 PM  

  • Brian, only our gracious host would be able to confirm the source IP addresses of the various posts above, but they sound like Warren Kinsella or perhaps a few of his minions, who have been trying desperately to plant the idea that it's not the flu, but the Conservatives, who kill. That it's not the fact that an H1N1 Vaccine takes months to create and produce in volume, but the Government who want people to die. (And why else try to associate the flu-based attack against the Conservatives, in a post on an unrelated topic, with such love for Dear Leader?)

    Sadly, that's what today's Liberal Party appears to stand for in the minds of many Canadians. I'm not holding my breath waiting for that Party's "leadership" to return to rational discussion of the sort our gracious host has led so well for so long.

    By Blogger paul.obeda@, at 3:45 PM  

  • Paul;

    Contrary to your attempt to vilify both the Liberals and Mr. Kinsella, this is not what goes on.

    Any reasonable person would know that a government is just as much at fault whether they take action or do nothing when things to awry.

    I don't agree with the idea that "the Conservatives are killing people," but I do know - and I would say this for any government in power at any one time - that when your government fails to do what it is supposed to, blame rightly falls upon you.

    So yes, the Liberals are saying that the Conservatives have a lot to answer for - but that is just because we want a responsible government, and not one that leaves us to the wolves.

    By Blogger Volkov, at 3:52 PM  

  • Volkov has it right.

    We should have screwed pregnant women and their precious "special" vaccines that have so botched the production volumes for the rest of us. It is not our fault that pregnant women got knocked up. So why should the whole country be held back to get a few pregnant women the shot?

    Typical Tories, the only women they care about are pregnant ones. Barefoot, preferably.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us drown in our mucus. Yeah, its the swine flu alright. And Stephen Harper is the swine!

    By Anonymous Big Canada, at 4:04 PM  

  • I thank you for the support, though I disagree with what you say.

    It was important for us to follow those guidelines, though I have concerns about whether or not they were really needed (the WHO said that adjuvant or non-adjuvant, didn't make a major difference).

    The issue at hand though is that the Conservatives - they're not Tories - failed to secure the proper measures to ensure that other supply wouldn't disrupt the current rollout of adjuvant vaccine. They only secured one manufacturing line for the entirety of their vaccine rollout, and when they realized they needed non-adjuvant, instead of doing the right thing and spending a little more to get a separate line, they instead decided to hold up the entire production of vaccines in order for them to switch to non-adjuvant, costing us precious time in immunization of the population.

    It is missteps like this that cannot be tolerated.

    I don't think a single Liberal has said that getting non-adjuvant was wrong, and there has been praise even from the Liberal caucus about the Conservatives appointing some people to handle specific rollout plans; but they have rightly pointed out that you could have the best people in the world running this in the field, but when your ministry makes stupid decisions, it doesn't matter at all.

    By Blogger Volkov, at 4:13 PM  

  • Volkov, I can only wish that I was as isolated from the recent pronouncements from the official voices in the LPC as you would appear to be.

    By Blogger paul.obeda@, at 5:54 PM  

  • Can someone explain to me how Dr. Michael Byers has achieved celebrity academic standing? He just seems like a total loose cannon. During the election he shot from the hip with the "shut down the tar sands" which Layton didn't need. This proposal is just silly.
    And a couple of weeks ago Byers had a crazy letter to the Globe comparing VANOC to the Nazis.
    Is he going through some emotional issues, or smoking too much?

    By Anonymous Bjorn, at 9:37 PM  

  • Paul;

    I keep up-to-date on all LPC actions, even with the help of CG's posts here.

    Difference is, I take a nice step back when looking at it, while you only see the Devil or whatever it is Conservatives are calling the Liberals these days.

    By Blogger Volkov, at 10:51 PM  

  • "What happens when Bob Rae ousts Ignatieff and talk turns to uniting the NDP and Liberal Parties entirely?"

    The answer is NOTHING will happen. There is an incredible amount of bad blood between the NDP and Bob Rae. They all loathe him and would rather eat broken glass than work with a Liberal Party led by him. If you want to make sure that the Liberals and NDP remains totally uncooperative enemies - the best thing to do is to make Bob Rae Liberal leader - the mention of his name makes everyone in the NDP want to throw up.

    By Blogger DL, at 12:27 AM  

  • This forum kind of went to hell eh Dan?

    This Ignatiefforwhatever is obviously a Tory trying to pose an over the top Liberal. It's the same person who just keeps changing their name (yes I'm sure Dan would see it's the same IP adddress each time).

    I mean look at this line: "I bet you didn't know that when the Tories cut funding to artists, 1,100 artists died of starvation."

    The fact that real Tories are coming by to express outrage at this fake guy says a lot about them though.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:10 AM  

  • I agree with myself. There are no real Ignatieff fans left in the Liberal party. So that guy has got to be a fake.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:56 AM  

  • Well Both Anonymi are obviously hacks working for Bob Rae to discredit Michael Ignatieff's brave leadership.

    Every time a Liberal doesn't like what someone writes on a blog, they are calling the IP police to shut the offending commenter up.

    That's the way they like it in the NDP. If you Rae guys want the hunt down every inch of dissent, do it as Dippers.

    By Anonymous Free Speech for Ignatieff, at 10:29 AM  

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