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 Stéphane 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.