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2011 Election

Uniting the Left: Part I – Making a Newer, Bigger Tent

Image courtesy of the Toronto Star.

I feel like this discussion comes up every Election cycle, and I have heard it bandied about on Twitter more than once in the past week. Here is a Toronto Star article on the topic from the 2008 Election. It seems appropriate in light of the recent surge in NDP support to at least spend a little time discussing what a united Left would or wouldn’t look like in Canada.

Remember that we nervously laughed at the Right when they talked about this years ago, and it got them six years – and counting – controlling Parliament. The longest minority government in the history of Canada. So, yeah.

In the first of this two part discussion on the idea of Uniting the Left in Canada, I will look at the benefits of unification. Tomorrow, I will discuss the drawbacks to the idea, and argue for a more effective means of making our votes matter.

Uniting the Left: Why We Should Do It

The obvious benefit for those of us to the left of centre would be the likelihood that without some measure of voting reform in place, if Canadians had a united Centre-Left party to vote for, many of us would not feel as though we risked unleashing a great evil upon the country if we dared not vote for the same party. It would allow all of us, regardless of our political stripe, to vote the way we wish without thought to a greater consideration, like keeping someone else out of power. I think we would all be amazed at the change in our political make up if people abandoned strategic voting or other permutations of voting in Canada and voted with their hearts, but more importantly their minds and consciences.

Our failure to do this results more often than not in the opposition parties relentlessly telling us that they are the only party that can stop detested leader – in our case, Stephen Harper. I have heard this from every opposition leader this campaign, and it never fails to rub me the wrong way. As expected, it says more about what that Leader fears, than what they believe in.

Liberal Prime Minister Mackenzie King was able to push Conservative Prime Minister R.B. Bennett out of office with the “King or Chaos!” slogan, but that was in 1935 as Canada was in the midst of a global depression and sliding towards war. Canada in 2011 exists in a remarkably different world, and so voters are less likely to be swayed by “Ignatieff or Chaos!” – “Layton or Chaos!” – or “Duceppe or Chaos!” Beside, none of them have the charisma, personality, popularity … chance of winning, that King did. And King had alliteration going for him. And ghosts.

Another benefit would be the elimination of vote splitting and strategic voting. With a united left, it would be much easier for those of us who have struggled with voting for the Liberals to keep out the Conservatives (but look at how much good that did Liberal voters in 2006 and 2008) to decide between which left-leaning party to support. If they all fell under one big tent, the choice would be clear. And their sheer numbers, in terms of votes and seats, would ensure a rival block large enough to compete – and likely out-compete – the Conservative Party. In this respect, it is a very enticing offer.

Come back tomorrow for Part II of Uniting the Left.

About awreeves

Editor-in-chief at Alternatives Journal. Author of 'Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian carp Crisis'.


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