Since I've seen a lot of chatter about uniting the "left" recently, I thought I might weigh in on the subject while the topic is still fresh.
Many pundits and regular folk have been musing about what needs to be done to allow the majority of the population to have the majority say in the affairs of the nation. Many varied pieces have been written in the aftermath of the election that gave Stephen Harper's conservatives a majority in the House of Commons, with the support of only 40% of the 60% of eligibile Canadians who took the time to vote. There are variations on several themes, and some very good ideas, most of which imply the opening of the constitution which is fraught with many dangers I will surely discuss at some point, but for now, I'd like to focus on the people who believe the solution is to "unite the left".
Our current difficulty stems from the catch 22 situation that exists in the Canadian political landscape. The system we operate under is equipped to allow for any number of political parties to participate, but the process of government is actually designed for "mano-a-mano" government versus opposition two party rule. The more parties involved, the less influential and effective they will be, especially when facing a majority government. This is our reality. The NDP went from a position of power to being the mouse that roared. Enough of that, let's get to the meat of the discussion.
As I see it, the left is already just about as united as they get. The left, of course, would be Jack Layton's NDP. For most of the Liberals I know personally, and many I discuss ideas with, any kind of merger with the New Democrats is neither a probability nor a possibility. The NDP is a separate party for a reason, that reason being they are too uncomfortably left for people who have considered themselves as socially progressive over the last half century. While I suspect many NDP supporters may fall somewhere on the right hand side of the official party position, they have a certain populist appeal which will draw some people in, and, like supporters of any party, will ignore the areas the party might tend to go further than they like in order to support a narrower agenda they do want to see moving forward. This is the same principle that allows conservative supporters to ignore the horrificly bad things the Harper Government has done and proudly support them, and the one that allows Liberals to somehow not notice their party stopped standing for anything in particular some time ago.
I'm not going to self-aggrandize and say I know the answer to what ails Canada right now. I do know that the heart and soul of the Liberals and the heart and soul of the NDP are camps that sit father apart than one would think on the surface.
Looking at things in a smaller context, perhaps defeating Stephen Harper and his band of merry-men is the be all and end all and that if that other 60% of voters all joined in a big group hug we'd chase those bullies from the playground once and for all and Canada would live happily ever after. To which I give the "Bev Oda ^NOT Award".
This is not what I'm asking myself after this election. I never dismiss anything on its face, so of course I pondered the option of some kind of coming together of the left, however, it isn't an option I would dwell upon for any great length of time. If the rift is too wide for me, I know it will be far too wide for a mass audience it really needs to appeal to. What I'm expending much of my thought process on is a far more complex and compelling question. A question that really goes to the root of what you or I personally see as what it means to be Canadian. It truly can be a defining moment for the future of the country.
I'm asking this: Do I want a Canada that more closely resembles America, and the politics that go with that? With a harshly defined right versus left that is exactly what we'll get. 20% hard to the right, 20% hard to the left and the remaining 60% who are either forced to hold their noses and vote for whichever is the lesser of the two evils at the time, or just not bother to vote at all. I find it appaling, but some people think it's just dandy.
Is there room for a political centre in Canada? I believe there is. I actually believe there is a very bright future for "centrists" in this country. It may sound odd, when one looks at the unfortunate drubbing of the Liberal party in the election just past, but I will tell you why, where others see abject failure, I see glorious opportunity.
The reason for hope begins with time. Most of us who are tuned in realize what a Harper majority has the potential to do. Nothiing can be done about that, except to do our level best to provide vocal opposition to the bad legislation they are going to pass during this term in office. Time also will help those in the centre by showing Canadians what the NDP is really about. Never before have they had to undergo the kind of scrutiny the "official" opposition will have to. Before, they were written off by a lot of very content people as a bunch of unelectable 3rd party wackos and when they said something dumb or had policies that didn't really stand up to scrutiny, it didn't really matter because they were the "other" guys. The also rans. Now they will matter. Moderate Canadians will get a much closer look at who they are and what they stand for, and in my estimation will find it not to their suiting.
Time also benefits the centre in that many of the old progressive conservatives, and indeed, many in the reform party will come to the stark realization the Stephen Harper is to Canada what the Tea Party is to the US. He is right. Right-of-right. At this moment Stephen Harper has done exactly what he and his closest backers had planned. Destruction of the progressive conservatives using the reform party as a vehicle, then the takeover of reform and a "merger" with the much weakened progressive conservatives, then consolidation of power within the party itself, and finally, drop most of the pretense and move to US-style junkyard dog politics to annihilate your most serious opposition, to the point where you've jacked the system enough to form a majority government and enact the policies you intended to enact and vocalized two decades previously. Moderate conservatives are in for a shock since many of them still mistake Harper's conservatives for the ones of their past.
These are some of the things that bode well for those of us who still believe that Canada can be a country known for its compassion, known for its fiscal good sense, and known for exhibiting good character in all of our global dealings. Now what the centre really needs is to identify the people who can articulate the truth. The truth that when we ask ourselves what it means to be Canadian, it means sitting somewhere on the line of sanity between the factions. To be Canadian is a lot about moderation, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Will the voices of Canada, please speak up.
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Mark McCaw ~ twitter's @bigpicguy
Author of "Insights Inside a Mind" ~ blogging the big picture