Jason Cherniak: Forget Coalition

I came across a posting on Facebook by Jason Cherniak regarding the often discussed Liberal/NDP coalition. He posted some excellent points and did not cross over to the whiny arguments in which so many revel. I have posted the Facebook link directly below and to make it easier for you, the reader, the content below. I suggest you follow the link to view the excellent comments which trail the posting.

Facebook link: http://www.facebook.com/#!/notes/jason-cherniak/forget-coalition/397610460046

When I joined the Liberal Party in 1998, it was because I believed that killing the deficit had saved the country. I have long considered myself a “blue-Liberal” and I often find that I am more prone to agree with red tories than moderate dippers. I am quite sure that I am not the only Liberal who fits into this category.

I am a Liberal because I believe in a moderate, centrist alternative to ideological extremism. I am a Liberal because I believe that pragmatism is the best way forward to solve problems. I am a Liberal because I support cautious, affordable and fact-based progress.

I believe that a coalition with the NDP would be a mistake. We would enter any coalition as equal partners. Even if the Liberals had far more ministers, the NDP ministers would always have the option of resigning to get their way without the risk of losing their party apparatus. In his interesting analysis of the Dion coalition attempt, Brian Topp has admitted that the NDP negotiating team gave in on some issues in the belief that they could force the Liberals to adopt their position once they were bound by the coalition. This leads me to fear that the NDP would be punching far above its weight and leading any coalition government down the garden path to their form of socialism.

Of course, “socialism” is a divisive word. I use it to make a point – many Canadians really do believe that the NDP stands for socialism. How many Liberal voters will we lose when the Conservatives run ads against the “socialist coalition”? How much of the Liberal base will we lose when NDP ministers start railing against corporations? How many Liberal supporters will we lose when Minister Libby Davies accuses Israel of committing war crimes? What will happen to the blue liberals?

But that is not all. Many people vote Liberal on the left of the spectrum because they do not believe the NDP is a serious political party. What happens when we tell them that it is safe to vote NDP? What happens when we tell them that whether they vote Liberal or NDP, they will get the same coalition government? Even a form of agreement on a riding-by-riding basis is a problem, because every vote we lose results in less annual money and less committed partisans to help rebuild when the coalition eventually falls apart. I fear that a coalition would squeeze the Liberal Party until we are only a shadow of our former selves.

In the fall of 2008, I supported the coalition because I believed it was the only way to save the Liberal Party. We had no money, the Conservatives were trying to get rid of our main source of funding and, frankly, I was taken by the notion of St├ęphane Dion becoming prime minister after he had seemingly lost his chance. I do not think I regret that support based on what I knew at the time, but I have since had time to consider the consequences.

The fact of the mater is that the 2008 coalition was widely unpopular. It is easy to blame Mr. Dion’s video and that was certainly the nail in the coffin, but the popularity of the coalition was waning well before that point. The reality is that many committed Liberals had serious reservations about the notion. They towed the party line and worked as loyal soldiers, but I am not sure they would do it again now that they have seen the potential consequences. Whether wrong or not to support the coalition in 2008, I do not want to take the risk again.

The Liberal Party is singing the Cross Roads Blues. Either we get into the Canada 150 process in a serious way and renew ourselves, or we give up and choose political expediency. I have never worked in Ottawa and perhaps I just do not understand the lure of government, but it seems to me that risking the Liberal Party’s very existence for a short-term coalition government is not worth it. My very strong preference is to win the next election, but I am prepared to accept the alternative if that is what it takes to complete our renewal. I do not want to give up on being a Canadian liberal.

1 Comment

  1. It would have been nice to see a merger of the center-left and the Left, I must admit. Even advocated on previous posts over at my blog. Hell, if the Harpercons can merge the right (more like a hostile take-over of the Progressive Conservative, really; but anyway…).

    Chantal Hebert yesterday pretty much said that Harper could well get his majority the next time around because of the NDP’s surging popularity these days and the decline of the Liberals. I have been fearing for sometime that she is right.

    I guess it’s another one of those damned if they do/damned if they don’t scenarios. Perhaps it’s time to look at what the lesser of the two evils is and run with that.

    I guess I would be in the category of left, but votes Liberal because election results are too close these days and I don’t want Harpercons to win; especially not a majority. Harper has definitely set himself apart from any PM we’ve ever had in history.

    I realize that you believe your party should just stick to being a Canadian Liberal, but many left of center and the left are complaining that they don’t know what a Canadian LIberal is anymore under Ignatieff. To them, it ain’t enough just not being Stephen Harper. Many, in fact are calling him Harper lite. I don’t see it, but then, it doesn’t seem to matter what I think, does it? It’s what many see or don’t see that matters.

    As for the NDP, you would be hard pressed to call them socialist, even in their hay day. More like social democratic; there is such a category. But now, even the NDP under Jack Layton has lost its’ way. It no longer really stands for what it used to. All things the NDP used to defend like universal health care, universal pensions, until Bill c-391; gun control, etc., etc. They don’t anymore. We also can’t forget that the NDP were willing once again to go to bed with Stephen Harper in 2005 in order to oust then Paul Martin Liberals out of office. With their recent shift toward the center and perhaps even rightward, their former cooperation with the Harpercons, and the fact that they snipe at the Liberals in the media more often than they do the conservatives leads me to believe they could go to bed again with Stephen Harper. All this to say that the NDP definitely aren’t “socialists” as you put it and they never were.

    It’s also time to stop viewing “socialism” as a dirty word, particularly when it’s painfully obvious most haven’t a clue as to the meaning of the word. If they did,they wouldn’t fear it as much.

    I honestly don’t think it’s responsible for the Liberals to categorically rule out any coalition, merger or other cooperation with any party. The rumours are out there, it will be on the back of voters’ minds anyway, thus trying to say otherwise would insult their intelligence. It may be out of the question now, but in the future…you never know.

    Next thing I must ask you: folks like I am are terrified of a never ending majority which would resemble more of a totalitarian regime under Stephen Harper: theocracy with all those evangelicals and the likes of Charles McVety playing a regular role in parliament; misogyny, those new prisons, the stripping of what’s left of our universal programs such as pensions and health care. Is it worth a Harpercon majority to stick to being a “Canadian Liberal” which no one seems to know what that entails anymore.

    Another question which should be obvious to Liberals: if Stephen Harper campaigns on the growing stregth of our economy; how come the Liberals don’t do everythign to remind Canadians that it is largely thanks to Paul Martin and his refusal to merge banks and deregulate financial industry?

    Also, why don’t you ask Harper and Laytong if they would each entertain the thought of a coalition with the NDP given that they too did plan it to oust Paul Martin?

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