Tuesday, November 03, 2009

You Can Just Feel That Desperation Mounting

Michael Byers really, really wants that coalition

With Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party's polling numbers steadily climbing and the Tories even making inroads into Toronto, some of Canada's left-wing ideologues seem to be reaching for the panic button.

For Michael Byers, that panic button is a coalition government.

Writing in an op/ed in the Toronto Star, Byers insists that a Liberal-NDP electoral coalition could put Canada's "centre-left majority in political control". He starts off by insisting that Michael Ignatieff's current difficulties are not his own fault:
"Negative ads have prejudiced voters against Michael Ignatieff, and brought Stephen Harper within reach of a majority government. The Conservatives now lead the Liberals by about 10 percentage points.

The situation seems unlikely to improve. The Prime Minister's divisive partisan tactics have diminished the public's respect for politicians in general. In just four years, he has changed the tone of media coverage and public discourse, shifting the mood of the nation toward cynicism and selfishness.

Liberal infighting has not helped, while the NDP has missed two opportunities – on climate change and macroeconomic policy – to capture the national imagination with bold ideas.
Of course, in Byers' mind, things like the Sponsorship Scandal -- a product of the Liberal party's arrogant belief that they are the only party worthy to govern Canada -- haven't affected Canadians' respect for politicians one little bit.

Indeed, everything is Stephen Harper's fault.

And it's on this particular note that Byers falls back to what has become his signature argument: Stephen Harper must be defeated, no matter what:
"There is only one surefire way to prevent a Harper majority. The Liberals and NDP should agree to not run candidates against each other in the next campaign."
In order to do this, Byers insists that the Liberals and NDP should embrace a proposal Preston Manning, as leader of the Reform Party, tried and failed to pitch to the Progressive Conservative party: an electoral coalition:
"In each riding, the party whose candidate fared worst in the last election would pull its current candidate out, or refrain from nominating one.

Both parties would win more seats, with the Liberals potentially forming a majority government.
But the notion that Michael Byers thinks that left-of-centre Canadians would want the Liberal party to win a majority government during a time of economic recession demonstrates that he has a very, very short memory indeed.

When the Jean Chretien Liberals came to power in 1993, many left-of-centre Canadians believed their time had arrived. They believed the Liberals would decline to ratify NAFTA, and that Lloyd Axworthy's social services review would revamp Canada's social programs.

What actually happened was entirely different.

Then-Finance Minister Paul Martin slashed federal funding to health care and education, and downloaded federal deficit to the provinces by cutting transfer payments.

This is Byers at the height of his naivete, and in the depths of his lack of imagination, and it clearly shows.

Byers has even accounted for the Bloc Quebecois in his calculations:
"Based solely on the results from October 2008, the agreement would, in itself, deliver 30 to 40 additional seats to the Liberals and another five to 10 seats to the NDP.

The Bloc Québécois would not be part of the deal but could be expected to win around 40 seats in total.
But while what Byers is proposing is very clearly an electoral coalition, he refuses to simply admit it.

Moreover, Byers clearly has no idea how such an arrangement could actually be made to work:
"Importantly, what is proposed is not a coalition, but a one-time ceasefire between two opposition parties whose combined vote share last time was significantly higher (44.4 per cent versus 37.6 per cent) than the Conservatives.

No effort would be made to coordinate platforms, though the absence of debilitating head-to-head races between Liberals and New Democrats would direct both parties' attention onto the Conservatives.

Nor would the agreement extend to post-election power sharing. If the Liberals were in a position to form a minority government, they would be free to seek support from any of the other parties – including the Conservatives.
Byers seems to have made the assumption that every NDP voter would shift their votes to the Liberals in the absence of an NDP candidate and that every Liberal voter would shift their votes to the NDP in the absence of a Liberal candidate.

Yet the experience of the post-merger Conservative party should be illustrative for Byers. The Conservative party has never attained the total vote total of the PC and Canadian Alliance Parties.

With literally no idea what they're voting for, Byers has no business assuming that Canadians will flock en masse to whatever party an electoral coalition agreement believes they should.

Byers seems to think that voting against Stephen Harper is enough to ensure a landslide vote for the Liberals and NDP under such an agreement. But Byers is so blinded by his disdain for Harper that he thinks the promise that Canadians would never have to consider the possibility of a Conservative government would be enough to ensure its success:
"The only post-election condition in the agreement should be an unqualified public commitment to holding a national referendum on proportional representation within the first year.

The commitment would include the provision of sufficient public funding to ensure in-depth discussion and widespread knowledge of the arguments both for and against the proposed change.

Proportional representation would produce a much fairer allocation of seats than our current first-past-the-post system and boost voter turnout and political engagement by making every vote count.

Many New Democrats might wish to make the immediate introduction of proportional representation a condition of the ceasefire agreement, since a referendum might not produce the desired result.
So Michael Byers, at a time when Harper's poll numbers continue to climb, and that the public outrage that Byers insists should be fulminating over ever single one of Harper's acts fails to coalesce, thinks that the idea of permanently preventing any Conservative from governing the country will be enough to ensure he and his fellow left-wing ideologues success.

It is the height of desperation and naivete. Byers is so distressed by the notion that Canadians may turn away from his ideology that he would demand a permanent ideological lock on the power of the nation.

At least he understands that proprotional representation itself could prove to be a deal-breaker for his glorious coalition:
"However, such an approach would enable the Prime Minister to make proportional representation the principal issue in the campaign, instead of his record and the alternative policies offered by the other parties.

A ceasefire agreement would likely be opposed by some insiders, in both parties, who benefit from the existing system. It would certainly inconvenience some candidates who have already been nominated, and would have to stand down. Most, however, would probably accept that larger, more important interests are in play.
It would also likely be opposed by individuals in the NDP -- the party Byers belongs to, by the way -- who don't think the NDP should simply roll over and hand government -- and especially not a majority government -- to the Liberal party.

Byers even sees a role for the Green Party in the coalition:
"The ceasefire agreement, once struck, could be expanded to include the Green party, which has always sought proportional representation and would benefit substantially from it.

The Greens obtained nearly 1 million votes (6.8 per cent) but no parliamentary representation in the last election. They finished second in five races, though the party's only realistic chance of winning a seat in the next election is in the B.C. riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands, where Elizabeth May is running and the Liberal finished second to the Conservative last time.

An arrangement could be made to rectify this lack of representation by giving all five second-place Greens a clear run in the next election, with May having that opportunity in her new riding – in return for the Green party withdrawing its candidates from every other race.
And once again, Byers is assuming that right-leaning Liberals won't simply vote for the Conservatives long before they ever vote Green.

The obtuse naivete is absolutely astounding.
"The chances of the Liberals forming government appear to have slipped away. The future of the country is in the balance. Whether we like it or not, the parties of the progressive centre have reached a decision point.

Will we let an outdated electoral system deliver a majority Conservative government on the basis of the preferences of less than 40 per cent of voters – and less than 25 per cent of those Canadians who are eligible to vote?

Or will we seize the moment, pull together, and put the country back on course?
For Michael Byers, naturally, putting the country "back on course" means steering it on a left-wing ideological course and then smashing the navigating wheel.

Moreover, he's absolutely desperate to do it before more and more Canadians turn away from that course.

It's the ultimate act of desperation, naivete, and political selfishness. Sadly, that's become absolutely characteristic of Byers.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Dr Roy Eappen - "Desperate Times"

Gerry Nicholls - "Democracy is About Ideas, Not Just Tactics"

Kyle Selms - "Liberals and NDP Tag Team - A Reboot of Politics and Government"

Emily Dee - "A Great Idea to Fight Neo-Conservatism and Restore Democracy in Canada"

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