Why an NDP-Liberal merger might NOT be stupid

Image by Sonja Kresowaty

Not so long ago, I wrote a post entitled Why I think an NDP-Liberal merger is stupid. It was a post about why I did not feel the interests of Canadians and of both the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party would be best served by a merger between the two parties.

This is not a retraction of that post.

However, it has come to my attention through comments on that post, my continued (if somewhat too reliant on Maclean’s Magazine) interest in current affairs, and through conversations with people whose opinion I respect, that despite the fact that I feel I had good reasons to call the idea of an NDP-Liberal merger stupid, it may in fact be necessary (and therefore not stupid). By “necessary”, obviously, I mean necessary to those (including myself) who would like to see a more left-wing party in government (i.e. a government that is NOT the Conservative Party of Canada).

And so, for those readers who were kind enough to engage with me on this issue, I give you the following reasons that despite my stubbornness, an NDP-Liberal merger might NOT be stupid after all:

Reason One: As un-merged parties, the “non-Conservative” vote is being split between the Liberals and the NDP.

[I won’t say the “leftist” vote because technically, as noted in my previous post on this issue, the Liberal Party of Canada is a centrist party.]

In our political system (called first-past-the-post, FYI), the candidate with the most votes wins their riding, and the party who wins the most ridings forms the government. This means that the popular vote (i.e. percentage of votes for a particular party) does not necessarily a government make. This also means that even if the majority of the percentage of voting Canadians did NOT want a Conservative government, the Conservatives could, in fact, still win a majority (as it seems they did).

Let’s say in the fictional riding of Yuppie Town West, the results of a recent federal election are as follows:

Conservative Party wins with 37% of the vote
NDP – 31%
Liberal Party – 22%
Fictional Fringey Fringe Party – 7%
Ballots spoiled by those who used a checkmark instead of an X – 3%

As you can see, in the fictional riding of Yuppie Town West, the Conservative candidate wins the day, even though more people voted for a party that was NOT the Conservatives than actually voted for the Conservatives (even without the help of the Fringey Fringe Party votes). The argument has often been made to me that in a two-party system where there was only the option of Conservative and Not, the Nots would win that seat. Repeat this process enough times and WHAMMO, the Not Conservative Party of Canada forms our new government. Woot.

[Clearly, I have just simplified the hell out of our electoral system AND simplified the complicated minds of Canadian voters in my above example but hopefully you get the gist.]

The fact that the Not Conservative Parties are currently splitting votes between them is, I think, a valid argument on the pro-merge side.

Reason Two: Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Are times really that desperate? The people who have spoken to me or commented on my previous “anti-merge” post think so, and I think so too. With a Conservative majority, the death of Jack Layton, an omnibus crime bill that is predicted to Not Work, our pulling out of Kyoto (and our failure to have any viable carbon-emissions reduction plan on the horizon), the Sun News Network, a proposed oil pipeline to cross beautiful BC, heavy axes suspended just above organizations like the CBC and Planned Parenthood, a Prime Minister who seems to care nothing for due Parliamentary process, an attack on workers’ rights, and an anti-intellectual and anti-environmental culture sweeping North America, the peaceful, accepting Canada I grew up with, where good manners and common sense reigned supreme (at least as part of our psyche), is fast disappearing.

Maybe it’s time for everyone who cares about these things to work together. I do not know if a merger between the NDP and the Liberal Party would work, but the time may soon be ripe to give it a try. We have a common enemy, a common cause to rally around, and maybe that’s enough. This is the stuff revolutions are made of (in our case a parliamentary, non-violent one). Is it enough?

I honestly don’t know the answer to that question, and that is why both of these posts exist.

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