Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tous Ensemble

Nathan Cullen shakes up the Mulcair-Topp cage match with an interesting idea:


His plan would be to let grassroots members of the three parties [Liberals, NDP, Greens] decide in each riding currently held by the Conservatives whether they wanted to hold a joint nomination meeting. If they agree, all parties could run candidates at that meeting and all card-carrying members of the three parties would get a vote, but only the winner would go on to run for a seat in Parliament under the banner with which they ran in the nomination.

Something like this is a lot more realistic than a full blown merger. It at least deserves consideration, since the death of the per-vote subsidy removes some of the incentive for parties to run kamikaze candidates.

Still, I question how many ridings would actually agree to a proposal like this. From a pure game theory perspective, there's no incentive for the Greens to participate since they'd never win a joint nomination. Similarly, I can't see Liberal and NDP members agreeing to an open nomination unless they were both convinced their candidate could win it - that likely limits this to a dozen ridings coast-to-coast. Even if things made it that far down the track, the logistical nightmare of a joint nomination meeting might be too much to overcome.

Cullen himself admits the Liberals and Greens are unlikely to go along with his plan, and he's probably right. But good on him for putting the idea out there for debate. I'm a staunch anti-merger Liberal, but even I concede it's worth at least considering.

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12 Comments:

  • As a person who has voted for both the liberals and the NDP I really like this idea. Hopefully it goes somewhere.

    By Anonymous MPAVictoria, at 10:14 AM  

  • There is a significant incentive for both Dippers and Liberals in the riding to take part in such a selection process, even if members of both parties believe that their party could gain more votes than the other if both parties fielded a candidate.

    There are 3 very important elements.

    Firstly, no incumbency legacy: because it will only happen in ridings now represented by Tory MPs, there is no incumbency hangover to cloud issues.

    Secondly, a high and clearly visible probability of success: almost two dozen seats in the House were won by the Tories with very slim majorities. The Tory majority is built on very unstable foundations. Therefore the likelihood of a combined vote by NDP and Liberal voters to turf a Tory actually doing that, will probably be surprisingly high. So the probability of this cooperation idea actually been seen will become very clear as polls closer to election day demonstrate that the Tories are still bumping up against their minority of total votes ceiling.

    Thirdly, a progressive government: when this cooperation succeeds in enough ridings, members of both parties will benefit enormously because the Tory minority government will be replaced by some form of non-Tory government.

    The idea of pre-selection makes a lot of sense because it is a form of centre-left cooperation that progressive voters have been yearning for, and has a good chance of ending the right wing Harper Tories divide-and-win strategy once and for all.

    It is really a tremendous WIN-WIN idea!

    By Anonymous CuriosityCat, at 10:50 AM  

  • A comparable idea would be for the parties to allow an individual to run for more than one party nomination if they so choose, and then pick which Party name shows up next to theirs on the ballot if they win multiple.

    If the Liberals and NDP elect the same candidate: great, and it gives credence to merger talk.

    If they don't: game on.

    By Anonymous Corey Hogan, at 2:06 PM  

  • In some states in the grand old USA, the same people can run for multiple parties and appear multiple times on a ballot. The amounts get added together for a total for the individual.

    This lets small local parties (Farmers, Unionist, Labour) still apear on ballots within the wider electoral context in some states.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:11 PM  

  • I think this move makes a lot of sense, but has a lot of problems too. Such a move would give the Liberals cover to focus their resources on a few winnable ridings. Since the public subsidies are being cut, this will be a big advantage.

    At the same time, the absence of a Liberal candidate in much of the country might further depress the party's grassroots support. I mean, why join the Liberal party if they aren't even running in your area?

    And if the majority of the time, it's the Liberals and Greens that are not running, it isn't entirely clear that the NDP would be the beneficiary of joint candidacy. At the very least, the NDP would have to move to the centre in order to ensure they capture those votes, lest they go to the Tories.

    Remember, the Tories may only need 5-10% more of the vote to break 50% in the riding. And if you only get joint-nominations with two parties (eg. just Liberals and NDP, or just Greens and Liberals), you can confuse matters by leaving two viable challengers to the Tories. Look at May's race against Mackay in Central Nova at a good example of the problems that can create.

    Then there is the problem of local versus national interests. Lets say a prospective NDP nominee estimates he has a plurality of support in a given riding. His opponents may have a strong incentive, and sufficient votes to push for a joint-nomination, hoping they can win over Liberals and Greens to win the nomination (especially if there is a ranked ballot).

    But this kind of strategy doesn't necessarily produce the strongest candidate. You might get an NDP nominee who only had the support of 20% of his own party. That's a problem because we can't expect Liberals and Greens to actively campaign for the NDP winner.

    I suspect as well, that you will get more independent runs from people that feel like they were railroaded by the nomination process.

    It can also make it difficult to craft a national strategy as well. Party platforms need to appeal to particular regions. Campaigns benefit by focusing their efforts geographically as well. When your electoral map is like Swiss cheese, that gets a lot harder. Votebuying aspects of party platforms will, of necessity become less efficient.

    I think the more politically challenging, but ultimately rewarding solution is to make a broad national accord at the party level. I also think the best approach is to keep any such accord small in scope. Pick 50 ridings, and cut a Green-Liberal-NDP deal to run only one candidate in each.

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 7:12 PM  

  • Hoser, if your primary aim is to replace the right wing Tory government with a government more representative of the 60% plus voters, then your concerns are not the major ones.

    This idea is a good one to loosen the pernicious grip which the Harper new Tories have on the country with their first past the post minority government,

    Once that is done, we can turn our attention to remedying the democratic deficit in our country (through proportional representation, or alternative voting,or some other kind; and changed laws and rules to make our Parliament more representative and more responsive).

    This is a time to prioritize our aims. And I think we should set as our highest priority the replacement of the reactionary Tory government.

    That is what Nathan Cullen and Pat Martin are aiming at, and what every progressive voter should be aiming at.

    By Anonymous CuriosityCat, at 11:15 PM  

  • The idea is totally ridiculous and not worthy of any consideration. It's based on the dubious assumption that a vote against the Conservatives is a vote for some vague undefined progressive majority which in reality doesn't really agree on much other than they don't like the Conservatives winning elections.

    By Anonymous You're only part of the 99%, at 11:50 PM  

  • The question would then be: what policies would such a candidate actually represent?

    I agree that "coalitions" *must* be put to the voters before election day so that it's the voters, and not the backroom pundits who control the outcome of the election, but voters *must* know what they're voting for when they cast their ballot.

    It's simply unacceptable in a democratic society to say that this candidate or the other is simply running as "not Conservative".

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:27 AM  

  • This is stupid. The dynamic equilibrium in a system of three bodies is 33%, 33%, 33%. The dynamic equilibrium in a system of two bodies is 50%, 50%. If you a change of system of three bodies into one of two bodies, it's not going to magically stay a 66%, 33% system forever.

    Marginal Dippers and Libs will flip to the Con side and we'll be right back where we started, while suffering a great loss in terms of political diversity and vibrancy of platforms.

    By Anonymous Yildo, at 10:04 AM  

  • Right on, its good someone has finally tried to propose something like this. With the voter subsudy gone there is no need to run candidates in every single riding.

    I think it would make a lot of sense in a few of the Toronto ridings, 905 ridings, and in the prarie provinces. There are some parts of the country that could really benefit from this option.

    I don't think this would be relevent to anymore then 30 ridings or so, but that could be enough to defeat the Conservatives. Its an idea worth further consideration.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:46 AM  

  • It's great that Cullen is thinking so out of the box.

    Like Anon 11:50PM, I think it comes down to the belief that progressives are united against Harper enough to vote for just anyone deemed "the best champion", but that didn't work out for Dion, or Ignatieff, or even Layton.

    Is this to generate an outcome with all the elected progressive MP's of 3 different parties (well, probably 2 parties plus Elizabeth May) deciding who's going to be PM and then letting nous, le peuple know who the Chief Exec is going to be?

    If there's a progressive Leader who can unite their posse against Harper's posse*, then they'll probably go to the Big Chair (I said even before the last vote that Layton had a shot at PM next time, and I know many readers will agree he would have been a contender).

    Getting all meta-cognitively spiritual, maybe the progressives just feel stronger about Harper than they do about anyone representing them right now. The same could be true about Trudeau, who had his intense haters. Harper's the person people prefer to put their mental energy towards, be it hating him or supporting him. Someone has to capture more of that mental real estate in the populace, otherwise Harper will continue being PM. I'm talking out of my ear here, I admit, but it *feels* right... :)

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Verte, at 2:45 PM  

  • Obviously, to me, the goal is to both unseat Harper, bring back the per vote subsidy so we can all survive to fight another day, and bring in PR so that this kind of gerrymandering of the system won't be necessary ever again.

    I'm 100% for it, and in fact I'd say the country (which is far more important to me than LPC although I'm a very proud member of LPC) depends on it.

    By Anonymous Jennifer Ross, at 6:40 PM  

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