Thursday, June 10, 2010

What could unite the left? The billion dollar lake

Yesterday's denials by The Thinker and The Car Dealer seemed to put the kibosh on the idea of a progressive merger in Canada.    I was thinking about this overnight and was going to write about it until I saw Mike Watkins' post on the subject today.   As I have suspected, some of the push may be coming from the centre-right who feel they no longer have a home in Canadian politics.

I wasn't surprised by the name Joe Clark -- he sounded off about this as early as 2004 -- but I wasn't expecting the name of Judge Roy McMurtry.   If he was Bill Davis' "brain" during the era of the Big Blue Machine then one has to ask if the uncrowned king of Brampton also now has misgivings about the "unite the right" project which was really a unite the Kingdom Now believers project.

I have to admit I'm also surprised by two names from the left -- Roy Romanow and Edward Broadbent, both warriors of the NDP and both highly regarded by people from all political stripes.   On the other hand I suspect they see the tea-leaves as well.   Harper and his minions may be unstoppable unless something major gives away.

The key hang-up? According to the affidavit of Warren Kinsella, the talks indicated that for the Liberals to even consider the idea the NDP would have to "renounce socialism." This would be a bitter pill to swallow to say the least. Consider the debate in the British Labour Party in the 1990s when Tony Blair pushed to revise the contentious Clause IV which as originally written called for common ownership -- often a shorthand for socialism. The present clause says, to an effect, that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and that people should work towards the common good where many and not few share in the wealth -- but explicitly also says the party remains democratic socialist.

The NDs were formed by a merger of the old CCF and the Canadian Labour Congress and the union movement retains a certain percentage of seats at national conventions -- something they'd be loathe to give up, even a small portion of it. The CCF in its turn never apologized for being socialist -- and with titans such as Tommy Douglas demonstrated how certain businesses could be nationalized while those that didn't have to be could compete in a business-friendly atmosphere.

Will the Liberals cave in and accept that they accept some of the tenets of socialism -- which in reality they have in practice if not on paper? At this stage I don't think so. But something is going to have to give. Despite Steve Harper's snark a unite the left concept must scare him. No way that one plus one would equal two as was the case with the unite the right project.

But the numbers might add up to more -- not a hundred percent but maybe somewhat more than what it was for the Cons.

One fact is if an alliance or a merger of some sort can be made -- and along with it came the much needed reform of proportional representation -- then it would still allow for other parties to compete for seats.    We'd still have a Green Party, in fact I'd suggest they'd get a lot stronger if there were clearly identifiable left and right major parties and could be the new potential balance of power.

So would other smaller parties gain strength on both the left and the right.   There is always the risk of a real whack job managing to get seats even with a quota of, say, five percent or more to get in (consider the neo-facist Front Nationale in France or the Freedom Party in Austria).

The other fact that remains is that the idea of a merger is dead with Ignatieff as leader of a united party.    One has to think outside the box for a new leader.   Someone with real world business experience but also someone that, with persuasion, can charm the working class -- those inside unions and those outside.

It could be Belinda Stronach -- which would be the ultimate slap in the face to Harper, since Stronach not only helped merged the right but once even promised to abide to a two term limit as PM and to work as head of government for free.    The optics of her defection to the Liberals back in 2005 were pretty bad.  But what an election that would be -- the policy wonk vs the heiress to a dynasty.

It could be anyone, it doesn't have to be her.   But it'd sure as heck would be fun if it was.

In the meantime, all the Liberals and NDP need to do for now to begin the momentum is to constantly utter three words -- the phrase that no less than Preston Manning coined:   Billion Dollar Boondoggle.    Over and over again.   Every day.   And file so many Freedom of Information requests and report the results in the House during Question Period that it drives Team Harper crazy.   The more fiscal irresponsibility that is demontrated the more that something like that is bound to stick in the craw of Canadians, as did Adgate.   And when people are angry enough they respond by voting.

Harper may be thinking he proved the scientifically impossible, that one can square the circle; but two can play the game and it's not a one time affair -- in other words what goes around, comes around.

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Jennifer Smith said...

I think you're right - this sort of nonsense goes beyond partisanship. I think that's why my little video seems to have struck a chord (no pun intended)

I did a radio interview this morning with a rather Conservative talk show guy, and he completely agreed with me that this was an outrageous waste of money.

BlastFurnace said...

I loved the video, Jennifer ... and even if right-wingers are getting ticked off that must mean Harper's non-stick coating may finally be starting to peel.