Joyce Murray, like the cat memes she likes to flaunt her understanding of in the video above, just wants the noms, noms, noms.
Joint noms, that is, amongst the NDP, Greens and Liberals.
I wrote a few months ago about the political ramifications of the plan — how the move allowed Murray to position herself as a divisive candidate, in the best possible way.
But let’s get down to brass tacks — the scheme is fantastically awful.
You’ve no doubt — between Murray, Nathan Cullen and the other myriad of otherwise clever people (Andrew Coyne, say) who have supported the initiative — heard plenty about the idea.
So let me, instead, answer Murray’s four questions posited in the video above.
Do you want Stephen Harper to be defeated in the next federal election?
Alright, we’re already off to a rocky start.
Politics of negation is dangerous, ugly, and unfortunately rears its ugly head very often in leadership campaigns.
“Elect me and I’ll stop [gay marriage/abortion/separatists/Toronto elitists]” has long between a rhetorical sledgehammer that’s good at getting gut reaction from ignorant people. Nothing more.
So when Joyce Murray asks me if I want Stephen Harper to be defeated, my immediate answer is ‘no’ — I want a government that, if possible, is more competent than our current one. Everyone should want that. Murray, like Trudeau or Garneau, should be making a case that she can do that. Not offering an Ocean’s Eleven caper on how to dupe the prime minister.
Let’s also consider that the majority of Canada probably doesn’t even agree with this question. According to the latest numbers from Angus-Reid, only 51% disapprove of the job Harper is doing (40% approve,. 9% unsure.) Nevermind that Harper scores virtually the same approval ratings as Mulcair (41%) and much higher than Bob Rae (33%)
And of Harper’s detractors, it’s not fair to apportion them to a purely anti-Harper or pro-cooperation vote. They could be Bloquists, dissatisfied Conservatives, independents, or partisan Liberals and New Democrats who would not necessarily support a joint candidate.
It’s true that 53%, by the same poll, are unfavourable of the Conservative Party, but that’s still hardly the broad coalition that Murray lays out in this video.
But as we’re just talking about Liberals, it’s a fair assumption that many would answer ‘yes’ to that question. Moving on.
If the Liberals, NDP and the Greens keep competing for the same votes, do you see Stephen Harper winning again?
Okay, here’s the crux of the argument that is most objectionable.
First off, nobody owns those votes. Most Canadians do not imagine themselves as ‘progressive,’ or ‘conservative.’ A poll done by EKOS shows that 51% see themselves as small ‘l’ liberals. Another 26% identify as small ‘c’ conservative while 23% opt for neither.
So this notion that voting for a party somehow registers you into an ideological camp is absurd.
Look no further than Canadians’ second choice in voting intention, as measured by another EKOS poll. It found that 23% of Liberal voters considered the Tories, not the Dippers their preferred second choice. The NDP can boast being the second choice for 43%. Even adding that to the Greens’ 11%, it hardly makes for an efficient system. 20% say they have no second choice.
The situation is even more dire if the NDP supporters were given no orange candidate to support. 37% would go Liberal, 17% to the Greens, while 14% would go Conservative and 23% have no second choice and would likely not vote. And then there’s the 6% who list the Bloc Québécois as their second choice.
Greens, for their part, break down 11% towards the Conservatives, 32% to the NDP, 26% to the Liberals and 24% have no second choice.
So the practical effects could be to suppress one-fifth of that so-called “progressive” vote — not including those who would also be unable to support their second choice — and would push another 10% towards the Tories.
There is painfully little to suggest that the combined vote share for the NDP, Greens and Liberals is a pool of the “same” votes. On the contrary, you have a mix of Bay Street fiscal conservatives, Prairie socialists, pot-smoking Vancouver Island beatniks and fifty shades of gray (sorry) inbetween.
No doubt that math would put several ridings in play for this unified opposition.
But in many others it would change very little.
Let’s take a look at York Center. Really, a riding that should be a perfect model for electoral cooperation. In 2011, Tory candidate Mark Adler booted Liberal incumbent Ken Dryden out of the seat. Dryden managed 33%, with the NDP coming in around 16% and the Greens picking up 2%. Adler eked out 49% — one of those ridings where the Tories won with less than half the vote.
Assuming that the Liberals would, next time, be able to pick up a little more than half the NDP vote — like EKOS suggests — and, let’s say, all the Green vote, they would still be 2,000 votes behind Adler. And that’s not factoring in the NDP and Green voters who would switch to the Conservatives.
So the scheme can’t even promise results for newly-won Conservative ridings.
But let’s assume that this really is the only way. How will it work?
Do you think, in those ridings [where the Tories won with less than 50%] the progressive parties should find a way to cooperate, run the strongest candidate, and take the seats away from Stephen Harper?
Oh, so a cabal of party stalwarts will get together in a church basement and select from one of three candidates that were, in turn, chosen by their individual party?
Who the hell are they to decide?
It seems a profound irony that, in this video, Murray makes the case that you don’t have to be a member to vote for her — just sign up on the website!
That, ostensibly, won’t last forever. And when it ends, it’s back to the Liberal vanguards congregating to chose the candidate that the few dozen of them want. Then it’s to the other card-carrying members of the NDP and Greens to choose the final candidate.
So the pitch is — everyone in Canada should vote for me, so myself and a few thousand people nationwide can tell them which candidates they can pick from. That’s the recipe for saving our democracy?
And this entire process is an absurd notion to those who pick a candidate based on their potential skills as an MP and not based on which party they choose to caucus with. (I am part of this group)
The case has already been made that more, not less, choice and diversity is a positive when it comes to ideology and party. However, I would extend the same idea to the skill-sets of the candidates. I like our current system in that I’m often presented with a spate of candidates — activists, lawyers, media personalities, teachers, etc. I trust myself to make the decision as to who is best to represent me in parliament, not a collection of party members.
Who’s to say that the riding associations will ever even go for this scheme? Certainly decades of bitterly-fought elections between the NDP and Liberals will colour their ability to pick a candidate together. The party memberships couldn’t even agree on a coalition together, let alone flat-out cooperation.
And surely the Greens would be mad to enter into this crockpot shotgun marriage — their membership is so meagre that they would be lucky to nominate a single candidate. What do they get out of this?
What if the NDP dump a bus full of union lackeys into a nomination meeting and overturn a Liberal star candidate in favour of some CUPE Vice President who the party likes. Is there an appeal process?
Would you like the Liberal Party to elect a new leader that is committed to cooperation?
I think the answer to this is a clear ‘no,’ but there is a final point worth meditating on — what if Murray wins?
Does she march to Stornoway, only to have Mulcair laugh in her face? What does she do about a caucus and membership who seem downright hostile to the idea? Will she be able to wrangle the riding associations into supporting it? More importantly — can she actually rebuild the virtually defunct riding associations that plague the Liberals’ efforts to organize absolutely anything?
No, Murray’s path to victory seems as untenable as the idea. As I’ve already hypothesized, Murray’s plan — like Cullen’s before it — is probably more of a shrewd divide and conquer effort moreso than a legitimate policy objective.
And that’s a shame. In a race that was supposed to be about ideas, it’s unfortunate that this dead horse must be flogged even further.