Cooperation, Strategic Voting, and Wishy-Washy Politics

I am a Liberal for a reason.

I am a small business person (running a real-estate company worth some $2.1 million and a liquor store, in addition to other stuff I do on the side). This is coupled with a fundamental belief of mine, that I wrote on almost two years ago, about the amazing quality of an individual to rise above their condition and against barriers. I want a well regulated, fair economy that is fundamentally free market with the rougher edges smoothed over. I want support for the poor, care for the homeless, public healthcare, a tie between healthcare/crime/addictions, and a level of taxation to make it all happen. Taxes, for me, is an act of community building and a membership fee to take part in Canadian society.

Another issue is the fundamental viewpoint on the sharing of power. Fundamentally, there is a process, brought on by a thousand years of parliament, on the point of sharing power with other people in society, be they the Loyal Opposition, the guy on the street, or the largest companies. This requires active listening, working with others, and the creation of long-standing, vision-based politics that have a focus on the long term prosperity of Canada rather than short term gains. Almost a year ago I wrote about this Laurier-styled outlook in my blogpost “The Sunny Way.”

This is why I look at the divisive class-based politics of the NDP and scratch my head. And why I look at the Conservatives and see something that is fundamentally against my values, both in terms of the sharing of power and my views on a stable, fair economy. This also forgets the level to which message control and leader-domination of their parties have taken root in both of those two parties. I come from the principled and balanced position of a guy who wants to succeed, have others succeed, and utilize our common successes to create a better, stronger Canada.

So when I look at those wishing to see cooperation foisted on the federal scene I have to take a step back and reconcile what I believe and what’s being talked about. I share very little with the Conservatives, and even less so with the NDP. I have principles that preclude me from even considering mergers or electoral cooperation. And so, too, do many of the supporters of the Liberals.

It’s against any principles aside from ousting one man from power. And that is fundamentally a silly idea. It’s rarely one man who is running the government, and Harper will eventually fade away as a focal point for people’s anger. So to strike at a person who will not be there for the long term, and not with principles, (a) doesn’t get anyone anywhere and (b) sabotages long term growth for those involved outside of the Conservatives. A public told that strategic voting is okay will strategically vote — and gladly — and sometimes against those who have been telling them to vote strategically for years. It’s an unloyal base that substantially harms any cobbling together of an effective coalition to successfully organize in Canada.

Additionally, there is a problem of wishy-washy politics. Those that have politicians that are too afraid to say something because they might offend the political sensibilities of either the electorate or their party. Cooperation, merger, and wishy-washy politics will make this simply worse. It removes the conviction to stand up for values and for policies, and replaces it all with the raging anti-Harperism that, as I’ve discussed earlier in another blog post, has significant logical and organizing problems.

At the end of the day, the goal of removing just one man doesn’t replace him with anything: just a valueless, aimless, and incapable group of people who can’t agree on what to do next. There has to be a group of people, with values, hardwork, and policies. And that vision ought to be Liberal.

7 Responses to Cooperation, Strategic Voting, and Wishy-Washy Politics

  • Thank You for this very well prepared & very well presented commentary.

    I am also a small business owner with values and principles, quite similar to those you have expressed. BRAVO !!

  • Thank you so much for this. It is exactly what I’ve been saying for so long, and sometimes I feel like a voice in the wilderness.

  • I understand the sentiments, but how does it advance your vision when Liberals get 20 per cent of the vote but only 11 per cent of the Commons seats and no represenation whatsoever in vast tracts of the country?

    To create an incentive for the principle politics you advocate we need citizens with equal effective votes.

    To get that change to proportional representation will require the active cooperation of Liberals, New Democrats and Greens to win the election of 2015.

    You are right that it can’t be just about throwing out Harper. It is about creating a representative democracy for Canadians.

    Watch for our petition to all Liberals, coming soon.

    John Deverell
    Executive member, Pickering-Scarborough East FLA

  • @Dennis and Margreta: Thanks for the compliments. I, too, feel like I’m a voice in the wilderness, although more recently that feeling has been significantly lessened.

    @John: The New Democrats want to kill the Liberals. Obliterate, totally annihilate, and destroy the Liberal Party of Canada. I’m sorry, but cooperation or merger with them is impossible. Jack Layton blew it in 2005 by destroying the prospects of a social housing strategy, the Kelowna Accords, and so many other progressive, smart Martin policies. The NDP are simply not interested.

    And do I think the system is broken? Yes. The Liberals have already passed motions for changing the voting system of our country at many different levels of the party. That’s a goal that’s being put into motion. Have you seen the page on Democratic Reform set up by national?

    Particularly this part of a resolution passed by the party’s membership: “BE IT RESOLVED THAT the current “first past the post” system, at the Electoral District level, be replaced by a Preferential Voting system, such that the Member of Parliament be selected by 50% plus 1 of the voters in each Electoral District;”

    I don’t know about that petition, John. I think it’s a fool’s errand. And we’ve wasted enough time on it already. All effort should be on outreach and building our links to the community, and not running around talking to ourselves and other partisans over what we ought to do. Let them waste their time and we can make the changes we want to have.

  • Great stuff, Vincent! It’s great to see your passion and commitment. My sense is that Liberals share a lot with Conservatives (after all, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin are the ones who delivered the largest tax cut in Canadian history), with Greens (after all, we pass resolution after resolution at our biennial policy conventions in favour of the carbon tax), and with the NDP (after all, Medicare was Tommy Douglas’ idea). Laurier’s Sunny Way is exactly the way to go: we identify how we can cooperate on key issues for Canada and build the best of all worlds!

  • First Vincent, BRAVO as Dennis put it so eloquently!

    David, allow me to be contrary here, but we have NOTHING in common with the NDP nor the Conservatives! I can see some commonality of ideas with the Greens and, blasphemy, the BQ, but none with those other two fanatically power-driven parties.

    What we do have is common sense! Common sense to acknowledge that good ideas are to be found in all “shades” of the political spectrum; common sense to accept the input of others who also have the best interest of Canadians in mind; common sense to see that to be shared, prosperity has to be created.

    In the two and half years I had the privilege of sitting in the House of Commons, I often had occasion to work cooperatively with fellow BQ members. What I never, ever had was a single opportunity to see the NDP work with us. More often than not, they made deals with the government side!

    So no David, can’t see what common sense has to do with cooperation…

  • An excellent piece. You are right that the solid NDP base, the militant members, loathe and fear the Liberal Party. They are not interested in a merger. And they don’t need one, because they’re already doing a takeover.

    My thesis is that the vast majority of Canadians, perhaps 80% or more, are essentially liberals in their thinking: they want individual liberty, a strong but fair market, personal security, a safety net, community investment. Most of the 80% tilt a little right or left, depending on the issue. The other 20% is split between hardcore NDP and Tory loyalists who would rather die than vote for any other party.

    Where the Tories and NDP have both gained votes, provincially and federally, is by occupying the liberal territory and by becoming the “electable liberals.” The NDP have chosen a Liberal as leader to cement that edge; the Tories have adopted large swaths of Liberal policy, just as the Liberals did to the NDP in the 60s and 70s, and to fiscal conservatives in the 90s.

    In such an environment, the Liberal Party is a brand without product exclusivity. It is not necessary to vote Liberal to get the kind of government you want, and in fact, it may be detrimental to getting the kind of government you want – because you may want a more reliably social democrat or free enterprise version of liberalism, and voting for the third party will hurt your best electable alternative.

    I think this poses two questions to Liberals (1)what is absolutely necessary about a distinct “Liberal Party” in the political marketplace? and if there’s no compelling answer to that (2) why not just join the electable party which best fits your policy tilt? In effect, why don’t Liberals just flood the NDP and Conservative parties and make them our own?

    Such questions are shocking to committed Grits, but the country’s needs are more important than our attachments. If there is a unique, distinct, bold and necessary reason for a Liberal Party – one that won’t just trim enough votes off the Conservatives and NDP to elect the other guys – it needs to be articulated and sold.

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