Thursday, May 27, 2010

Come Together Right Now

There's lots of blogobuzz about coalitions, mergers, and accords this week - Bob Rae celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Peterson-Rae Accord, the Tories fear monger about a coalition for the gazillionth time, Kinsella muses about Liberal-NDP deals (well, a reader does), and Frank Graves talks about mergers:

How to unlock the Tory lead? Do the math, EKOS president Frank Graves says, and that “may shed some light on the issue of possible alliances and coalitions in the future.”

Mr. Graves says an NDP/Liberal model is the most discussed alliance. (Indeed, earlier this week former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien, who was on Parliament Hill for the unveiling of his official portrait, told CTV’s Tom Clark the issue of a merger with the NDP was put to him early in his tenure but it never went anywhere.)

Considering today’s poll, Mr. Graves notes the two parties “enjoy 42 per cent of voter support which certainly elevates them from also-rans to clear contenders for power, perhaps even a majority.”

Small problem, however: Mr. Graves says his past research has shown the union is not “perfectly efficient” as some Liberal supporters would move over to the Conservatives.

I'd say "not perfectly efficient" is a gross understatement. When the Alliance and PCs merged, they managed to keep just 78.5% of their 2000 vote (from 37.7% combined in 2000 to 29.6% in 2004)...this, despite being given the gift of Adscam. And remember, that was a reunion - this ain't. By Graves' own numbers, just 37% of Liberal voters list the NDP as their second choice, while 35% of NDP voters list the Liberals as their second choice.

Let's run a quick experiment on the 2008 vote totals. Let's say 80% of the Liberal vote decides to vote for the new Liberal Democrats and their catchy Red and Orange colour scheme, 10% votes Conservative, and 10% stay home and watch American Idol. For NDP voters, I doubt the transfer would be quite as fluid - after all, the new party would be led by a Liberal and if NDP voters really cared about stopping Harper or being in power, they'd just vote Liberal in the first place. So, maybe half of them go along with the deal, a quarter vote green, and a quarter stay home. In terms of popular vote, that would actually work out to a 73% vote transfer to the new party, similar to the PC-Alliance merger rate.

So what would be the end result of this?

CPC 163 seats
LD 93 seats
BQ 50 seats
Other 2 seats

Hell, let's assume 80% of both Liberal and NDP voters join the new party, with the others just staying home - not a single former Liberal casts his or her vote for the Conservatives. The end result is still a narrow 7-seat Harper minority.

So, yeah. In a world where 1 + 1 = 2, talk like this makes sense. And maybe after a decade Canadian politics would recalibrate itself (although I suspect the Greens would just end up playing the role of the "new" New Democrats).

Maybe a coalition or a few non-aggression pacts here or there make some sense. But a "unite the left" merger? It won't happen and it wouldn't work.


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