Kinsella's NDP-Liberal merger ploy

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KenS
Kinsella's NDP-Liberal merger ploy

V

JKR

From the previous thread on coalitions/mergers.

 

AntiSpin wrote:

All of which goes to my primary point....which is better, a merger of equals or being a junior partner in a Liberal coalition of convenience?

Like I said, I'm willing to listen to and adopt better alternatives made with better arguments.

 

The alternative to a merger is electoral reform. Instead of supporting a merger, why don't you support establishing a fair voting system?

If we adopted some form of proportional representation (PR) or even the alternative-vote (AV) we wouldn't have to contemplate a merger.

Now that we have 5 strong parties at the federal level, electoral reform is required at the national level. Provinces with just 2 dominant parties don't require electoral reform nearly as much as the federal system does now with its multiplicity of parties.

KenS

 

Being the continuation of Coalition; to be or not to be?

I was going to title the thread That silly talk parading under "coalition" label

But I realized that isn't necessary- its publicly referred to for what it is now.

We could always continue talking about the possibilities of actual coalition in this thread. But I would suggest that if anyone wants to do that they start another thread, and let this one sputter along as long as Kinsella is having his fun.

Unionist

JKR wrote:

If we adopted some form of proportional representation (PR) or even the alternative-vote (AV) we wouldn't have to contemplate a merger. 

Could you explain - briefly - why you say that? Do you mean that it would be easier to form a governing coalition than it is under the present system? I honestly don't understand the connection.

KenS

I missed that quote by AntiSspin. I guess that counts as an oblique answer to me asking [more than once] what s/he means by merger. Since his assumption is that it would be a "merger of equals," that goes some distance to explaining the notion that a merger would be better for the NDP.

Formally, corporate mergers are combinations of equals too. But everyone knows it is rarely the case. A merger of the Liberals and NDP would be an absorption of the latter. In the hypothetical event it happened there would indeed be a long negotiation about policies, and the leader of the NDP would even likely be the leader of the new party. But in all but name it would be the Liberal Party of Canada. The institutional dynamics of how electoral politics in Canada are structured, as well as the institutions of the LPC would in no time have the 'new' animal behaving like the old one. Meanwhile the significant chunk of the NDP that would not go along for the ride, along with several of the MPs would form a new party... and the we'd be rapidly on the road to 1993 again. What fun.

The power dynamics of a coalition depend on the overall picture at the time. There are junior partners and there are junior partners. [And even the weakest of junior partners would have FAR more leverage than you think the NDP would have within a new merged party.] The NDP would have had quite a bit of leverage- beyond its number of ministers- in the stillborn 2008 coalition.

A very big part of that leverage was[is] that the Liberals would be far more dependent than the NDP on the survival of the coalition. The Liberals could be horribly decimated in an election following a collapsed coalition.

The NDPs leverage is only increasing.

And by the way, its a puzzling way of thinking to refer to a coalition as an expedient convenience, but not mergers. But I guess thats a factor of what you think a merger would achieve.

Further point- on the non-compete voting arrangements before an election, which you keep referring to as temporary.

People who see politics as a head game- and this includes NDP star candidate Michael Byers- don't understand what violence it would do to a party to tell its riding activists to stand down. Parties dont exist without the volunteers. This is not a matter of people being "stuck in old ways of thinking". Such notions are built on disembodied elitism. Anybody in politics with any sense knows that you cant just tell a slew of activists to stand down for an election. There is a much deeper message that is delivered to tehm than just the dynamics of one election. And if youve been involved in politics you'll know that many of your supporters and activists will just stay home for good after that, or go elsewhere. And the dissilusionment would spread much further in the ranks than just the riding activists directly effected. PLUS, in the NDP, you just could not make riding activists do that. Period. All hell would break loose. 

Non-compete arrangements only look temporary if you ignore all that. Thats why they have only happened in the Westminster system where parties were headed towards merger [what are the UK LibDems now].

KenS

Under PR coalitions become more a normal expectation. Plus the fact that FPTP drives parties into comprehensive take no prisoner competition with every other party. Relax that, and your throat gets slit. Which doesn't mean that you will never relax from it, but it militates against sustained cooperation.

Ryan1812 Ryan1812's picture

Am I the only one here that think if we cannot at least get a fair voting system, which I am very much in favour of, then we should at least implement run offs like they have in France? It prevents minorities and the kind of turbulence we see. Other ideas are welcome of course.

KenS

Near the end of the previous thread:

Unionist wrote:

So tell me - how come I can't find, in that excerpt, an actual flat denial that there were discussions?

Ignatieff says, "no one has any authorization to even discuss this matter".

Layton says, "nobody's assigned to talk to anybody about these topics".

Nobody said: "There have been no discussions about a merger between any NDPers and Liberals that we are aware of."

Any theories as to why they commented this way?

Basic communication theory- at least in the gotcha journalism world.

If you make an unequivocal statement like there were no discussions of mergers, even if you know there was nothing remotely like Kinsella's fantasy, you can count on your denial coming back to bite you. And bite you really hard.

Because there have been talks between the two parties at senior levels. We all know about Broadbent and Chretien. And there are sporadic staff 'keep in touch' discussions.

Very unlikely merger has ever, ever come up in any of those. But who knows what hypotheticals people get off onto. And that 'who knows' is the same if you are Layton or Lavigne. So somebody somewhere pipes up and says 'me and she' we were talking about merger. It doesn't matter if they were soused at a cocktail party... your goose is cooked not for that unequivocal denial you made 2 weeks ago.

JKR

Unionist wrote:

JKR wrote:

If we adopted some form of proportional representation (PR) or even the alternative-vote (AV) we wouldn't have to contemplate a merger.

Could you explain - briefly - why you say that? Do you mean that it would be easier to form a governing coalition than it is under the present system? I honestly don't understand the connection.

The reason a merger has become an issue is because of vote-splitting. The NDP, Greens, BQ, and Liberals with almost 2/3rds support  have virtually no power. The Conservatives on the other hand get little more then 1/3rd support and have most of the power. They're even flirting with a majority government.

This situation has come about because of our electoral system - FPTP.

So the parties have to figure out a solution to this problem of having voter support not translate into political power. One solution is to keep FPTP and merge parties. Another solution, far more democratic, is to maintain a multi-party system and get rid of FPTP.

KenS

Runoffs only work in a presidential system.

Would you want to see run-offs for every single seat in the House? [Nor would it prevent minorities anyway. It would just tweak the number of seats the existing parties get. Plus maybe Elizabeth May, or the next GPC leader, would get a seat.]

Unionist

KenS wrote:

Near the end of the previous thread:

Unionist wrote:

So tell me - how come I can't find, in that excerpt, an actual flat denial that there were discussions?

Ignatieff says, "no one has any authorization to even discuss this matter".

Layton says, "nobody's assigned to talk to anybody about these topics".

Nobody said: "There have been no discussions about a merger between any NDPers and Liberals that we are aware of."

Any theories as to why they commented this way?

If you make an unequivocal statement like there were no discussions of mergers, even if you know there was nothing remotely like Kinsella's fantasy, you can count on your denial coming back to bite you.

Ken - please - if you can - answer my question. I never said "unequivocal denial". I've highlighted above, in colour, what I asked.

Namely - why didn't they say, "I'm not aware of anyone having talked about merger."

How can that possibly, conceivably, come back to bite them...

Unless...

They're lying?

JKR wrote:
The reason a merger has become an issue is because of vote-splitting. The NDP, Greens, BQ, and Liberals with almost 2/3rds support  have virtually no power. The Conservatives on the other hand get little more then 1/3rd support and have most of the power.

Sigh. I got that. Long ago. Now please walk me through your logic, in small words. Let's pretend we have PR tomorrow. Let's pretend the same parties get exactly the same percentage of votes in an election. Let's pretend there are no mergers. What - exactly - would change? Who would govern? There would have to be a coalition - right??? Just like in December 2008??? Would you abolish the G-G's power to pick the governing group?

All I'm looking for is an explanation. My apologies in advance if someone has given it and I didn't understand. Be patient with me.

Polunatic2

Quote:
 Parties dont exist without the volunteers.... Anybody in politics with any sense knows that you cant just tell a slew of activists to stand down for an election. 

"Standing down" doesn't necessarily need to be the model. For example, there could be two contiguous ridings - one supporting the NDP, the other supporting the Liberal. Let's say Central Nova and South Shore - St. Margarets in Nova Scotia. Instead of working on a "hopeless" campaign, volunteer efforts could actually go to elect their preferred party in a next door riding they otherwise might not have much of a chance to win.  Win/win? 

I do agree that we need PR. Perhaps this kind of initiative needs to tie PR into the coalition mix so that the NDP (and the Greens?) can make long term gains and get its fair share of seats in future elections. 

Sean in Ottawa

Is antispin gone?

I missed the comment in the previous thread in reply to my combining both a definition of the 4 possible arrangments with my opinion of them as somehow a problem.

While antispin is spining up a tornado of spin, he-she-it-they seem to have some problem in an opinion forum where an opinion and a fact start and stop.

So for antispin let me clarify-- first I stated what it was and then I said what I thought about it. It is kind of funny in a place like this that someone would criticize another because it was an opinion expressed. You know I bet you can walk and chew as well with a little practise. In the meantime let me help you out here are the four again:

1) Governing accord-- arrangement to govern by contract but only one party actually governs the other tolerates them in exchange for certain concessions, benefits and limits to what the party in power can do. The term is usually set. The best example is the first Peterson governmnet held in power by the NDP in Ontario. I have stated that the current arrangement where the Liberals do not force an election even when they hate the legislation thereby keeping Harper in power creates the same defacto arrangement. The main difference is that the Liberals not the government get survival rather than concessions out of the deal.

2) Pre electoral arrangment-- parties make non-competition agreements before an election and make known their arrangment to the public. The best example to date was the May Liberal deal in the Green leader's riding. People can judge that example for its effectiveness.

3) Merger: the two parties become one. The example of the so-called Reform Alliance party and the so-called progressive Conservatives formed a merger. People can also judge that result-- one party ceased to exist and the stronger one got the keys to the car.

4) Post electoral coalition-- Two parties elected with their own mandates agree on a governing program for a given period. They make no electoral arrangement but faced with a House no one party can govern they select those initiatives both can agree on and proceed with them leaving the issues of disagreement for later or for negotiation. The best example is the Conservative Liberal-Dem arrangement in Britain. All electoral options are preserved for the next election. People seem to get up tight about this but logically there is little difference between a coalition for somethign and one against where opposition parties vote together against the government.

Anyway-- there they are without too much "opinion" I have already said I think some are unworkable limitations on the public choice and others are problematic in practice. I have also expressed my preference for the last one which actually is by far the most common one around the world so I think I am not alone.

Does that help "anti"spin?

JKR

KenS wrote:

And if youve been involved in politics you'll know that many of your supporters and activists will just stay home for good after that, or go elsewhere. And the dissilusionment would spread much further in the ranks than just the riding activists directly effected.

 

If the NDP and Liberals merged a lot of their supporters would disengage from the political process. That's why FPTP has low voter turnout compared to fair voting systems.

The Dutch had an election yesterday. An animal rights party won 2 seats. So if you're an animal lover in the Netherlands and you don't like the other parties, you have a party to vote for. Under FPTP they would have likely stayed at home.

KenS

Unionist wrote:

Ken - please - if you can - answer my question. I never said "unequivocal denial". I've highlighted above, in colour, what I asked.

Namely - why didn't they say, "I'm not aware of anyone having talked about merger."

How can that possibly, conceivably, come back to bite them...

Unless...

They're lying?

The words "I'm not aware of anyone having talked about merger." would actually be even worse than an unequivocal denial.

The reporters would start feasting on that one immediately. And if you don't understand how that works, we're not going to resolve that here.

To be more precise, this version wouldnt necessarily be worse than the unequivocal denial. Its just that it would definitely go sideways on you. While the unequivocal denial would only go sideways when someone turned up something that seemed to contradict ... and at least there is some chance that would never happen.

Its a good thing I know you aren't trying to be provacative: that surmise that they know they have something to hide.

Keep in mind that surmise is based on your notion that there is a way to be not bitten by this- that all it takes is knowing there were no such talks as Kinsella has concocted.

 

And just a by the way- there a million selfish reasons for the power structure of the NDP to be as ill disposed to the very idea of a merger as is the mebership. And should the temptation ever enter Jack Layton's head that he and a few people would fare nicely from a merger, they would know immediately that they could not pull it off without the active particpation of a huge swath of staff and senior long time volunteers, most of whom would have nothing personal to gain and a hell of a lot to lose. The institutional impediments are huge.

The only thing that might change this is if after a couple elections we're still run by a bunch of right wingers, AND the NDP has been pushed into marginality. The chances of both of those happening are remote. People can argue that, but its moot for the purposes that matter: we are neither there nor is this on the horizon.

I add that only because its one of the MANY reasons that I know Kinsella is just making this up. I wouldn't put that much stock in people denying it. Of course they would.

Life, the unive...

Quote:

"To have a discussion, you need to have two sides, two participants, and we don't have that. ... Nobody's assigned to talk to anybody about these topics," Mr. Layton said.

This is fuller quote from the Globe and Mail. It actually seems pretty unequivocal to me. Of course they use the.... thing so it is hard to know what they are leaving out and how the comments were actually connected and to what.

KenS

Polunatic2 wrote:

Quote:
 Parties dont exist without the volunteers.... Anybody in politics with any sense knows that you cant just tell a slew of activists to stand down for an election. 

"Standing down" doesn't necessarily need to be the model. For example, there could be two contiguous ridings - one supporting the NDP, the other supporting the Liberal. Let's say Central Nova and South Shore - St. Margarets in Nova Scotia. Instead of working on a "hopeless" campaign, volunteer efforts could actually go to elect their preferred party in a next door riding they otherwise might not have much of a chance to win.  Win/win?

No.

Bad geographic choice by the way. Those 2 ridings are not contiguous. And even if they were, outside Metro in Nova Scotia, most even of contiguous ridings are too far apart in practice. So lets say we are talking 2 urban ridings- even leving aside that there probably aren't many with mirror reflections of party weakness/strength. [Not to mention that the Liberals are hopeless in Central Nova, but a fairly close third to the NDP being very close second in South Shore.]

Here's what would happen if you tried to do this. Suppose a majority of riding activists of all 4 decided they wanted to do this- and I think its a longshot even the 2 NDP would do that, let alone all 4. But suppose it was decided on a majority vote. This is the kind of thing the minority just does not accept. It would be interpreted as a violation of basic principles. In fact that vociferous opposition would saway some of the people who wanted to do it against voting for it. Which is part of why it would never pass.

And all heel would break out at Council that this was happening. It would break out before Council. You can't make riding activists do things in the NDP that are a lot less controversial than this. Sometimes thats a royal pain in the ass, but thats the way it is, and overall I like it- and it has got in the way of things I've wanted to do. 

There waould also be a lot of bitteness in the Liberal Paty, and they at least have the consitutional means to make this kind of thing happen. But I don't think anyone would be so foolish as to try.

I don't think there is any technical quick fix gimmick around electoral reform. Every one i have ever seen fails massively.

KenS

Unionist wrote:

Sigh. I got that. Long ago. Now please walk me through your logic, in small words. Let's pretend we have PR tomorrow. Let's pretend the same parties get exactly the same percentage of votes in an election. Let's pretend there are no mergers. What - exactly - would change? Who would govern? There would have to be a coalition - right??? Just like in December 2008??? Would you abolish the G-G's power to pick the governing group?

All I'm looking for is an explanation. My apologies in advance if someone has given it and I didn't understand. Be patient with me.

I did answer that. Post#5. Albeit brief. But the real problem is that we were talking about 2 different things.

PR isnt a silver bullet. It dosen't change any of the rules about how coalitions are formed.

It changes voter behaviour. And it changes the way the parties beave too each other, along with indirect effects on that from the changes in voter behaiour.

"FPTP drives parties into comprehensive take no prisoner competition with every other party. Relax that, and your throat gets slit. Which doesn't mean that you will never relax from it, but it militates against sustained cooperation."

Thats a very big deal.

Nor does the GG just pick who will govern. There is too much latitude for that. But if the Conservative government falls with the Throne Speech after the election, whoever comes to her to govern, there is no choosing.

JKR

Ryan1812 wrote:

Am I the only one here that think if we cannot at least get a fair voting system, which I am very much in favour of, then we should at least implement run offs like they have in France? It prevents minorities and the kind of turbulence we see. Other ideas are welcome of course.

There is a runoff system that requires only one ballot. It has different names in different parts of the world. it's called "instant runoff voting" (IRV), the alternative vote (AV), or preferential voting.

The French system is FPTP on steroids! It is very bad because it creates a system where people are often forced to vote for two parties they hate. In the 2002 French presidential election the top two candidates came from a conservative party and a fascist party. The left wing parties splintered 10 ways and came in something like 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, etc....

French presidential election, 2002

So in the 2nd round all of France had to choose between  a conservative, Jacques Chirac and a facsist, Jean-Marie Le Pen. So in the 2nd round left-of-centre voters voted for Chirac eventhough he was their 2nd last choice. They didn't want a neo-NAZI as president. Chirac won with 82% of the vote but most of those people didn't want him. He won only 19.8% of the vote in the first round!

If we had France's system in most ridings people would only have two choices - a Conservative and a Liberal.

Imagine having a ballot where the only choices are Steven Harper and Michael Ignatieff. That's what the French 2-round system looks like.

JKR

Unionist wrote:

Now please walk me through your logic, in small words. Let's pretend we have PR tomorrow. Let's pretend the same parties get exactly the same percentage of votes in an election. Let's pretend there are no mergers. What - exactly - would change? Who would govern? There would have to be a coalition - right??? Just like in December 2008??? Would you abolish the G-G's power to pick the governing group?

All I'm looking for is an explanation. My apologies in advance if someone has given it and I didn't understand. Be patient with me.

With fair voting the standings would look something like after the imaginary election:

CON: 118 
LIB: 83 
NDP: 57 
BQ: 30
GRN: 20

The Libs, NDP, and Greens would easily see that they can form a very strong and stable coalition government with 160 seats compared to just 118 for the Conservatives. (So Dion would be PM, Layton deputy PM, and May would be Minister of the Environment.)

Harper would quickly see he has no chance of forming a government and step down or he would try to stay in power and lose the Throne Speech vote. Either way the GG would have to appoint Dion as PM.

This scenario is very different from what really happened but it shows you what our political world would look like if the composition of the H of C mirrored voting intention.

There are other possible scenarios under fair voting. Harper could have stayed in power by making a deal with the Liberals or even the NDP. Those scenarios would also be infinitely better then what we have now.

Any way you cut it, fair voting would be a vast improvement over what we have now.

Unionist

Thanks Ken. My question was how PR would make mergers less necessary. You've explained how it makes coalitions more normal (which I think we all know, looking at PR systems around the world). I fully agree with your explanation. I still don't see what it has to do with mergers. If two parties find that they have an overriding interest in governing that outweighs their policy differences, it would be in their interests to merge, whether under FPTP or PR.

Ryan1812 Ryan1812's picture

I've heard that Germany also had a very good political system. Kind of like the US system on steroids, except with multiple parties. Anyone have a greater understanding of the German electoral system. I've also mused with the idea of going the way of New Zealand and having royal commissions on electoral reform and then putting some choices to a referendum. At least then the government decided that the current voting system isn't representational enough and gives choices based on more direct democracy. New Zealand did it in the 1980's and 1990's, what's our hold up?

JKR

Unionist wrote:

I still don't see what it has to do with mergers. If two parties find that they have an overriding interest in governing that outweighs their policy differences, it would be in their interests to merge, whether under FPTP or PR.

But under FPTP  it is possible that the only way the parties can take part in government is to merge because FPTP shortchanges 2nd and 3rd parties by giving them fewer seats then they deserve. Under FPTP 2nd and 3rd parties are often put in the position of have to choose between sticking to their policies or merging to be in government. Under FPTP they may have to paper over their policy differences and merge in exchange for power.

But PR doesn't shortchange 2nd and 3rd parties so they don't have to merge to be in government. Under PR they can have their cake and eat it too. They can maintain their policy differences AND govern.

 

Uncle John

It's a question of What you See is What you Get.

In Canada, if the party with the most seats is not given an opportunity to govern, the electorate will feel that their will has been ignored. That's why Tory numbers peaked when Dion, Layton and Duceppe went for a deal after the 2008 election. In Canada, we don't care as much whether it is a 'hung parliament'.

Two of the most partisan Liberal operators, namely Warren Kinsella and John Mraz, have declared they were aware of talks between the Liberals and the NDP. Kinsella is running for legal cover to defend his position by swearing an affidavit. Mraz was Bob Rae's Ontario manager during the 2006 Liberal leadership. I sense there is a feeling in the Liberal cloisters that Kinsella and Mraz might be due for a tall-poppying down to size.

In other words, let's throw Kinsella and Mraz under the bus.

If the war is between the Trudeau/Chretien/Rae wing and the Turner/Martin/Ignatieff wing, it has for now been subsumed to the Ignatieff leadership. Word seems to be that the united Liberals are going to run a candidate in each riding, and damn the torpedos. Therefore there shall be no talk of a 'ridiculous' coalition.

During an election, you will get no luck if you ask Michael Ignatieff or Jack Layton if they would be willing to form a coalition. Instead you would get the standard answer "I am running for a majority". Then, there is no legitimacy for a coalition after an election for the same reason the 2008 Dion, Layton, and Duceppe experiment failed.

Then we are back to the Conservatives being the biggest party, and having the constitutional right to govern. Perhaps, the Liberals might become the biggest party, but they would need a phenomenal swing to do so. The best the Liberals can expect is to get a minority. It will be difficult for either the Liberals or Conservatives to get a majority before the new seats are added for Ontario, BC, and Alberta for around 2014.

The only way a coalition might work is if the Liberals get the most seats. But then again, they would have a constitutional right to govern, and our 180-year Conservative Liberal Liberal-Conservative government will continue.

This is why Tory chops salivate any time there is talk of a coalition...

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Iggy can not afford to piss off the NDP, because he will need their help if he miraculously ever becomes PM and leading a minority government. So, on the surface, for
'plausible deniability' as it was called, Iggy calls all this speculation about a possible coalition/merger "silly" and "ridiculous", while not enforcing a gag order (like I think Harper has done through the PMO a few times) on his caucus not to discuss the subject whatsoever.

JKR

Uncle John wrote:

Then we are back to the Conservatives being the biggest party, and having the constitutional right to govern.

 

Where in the constitution does it say that members of the House of Commons have to vote with the party that has the most seats?

Are you saying that MP's have to vote a certain way to satisfy the constitution?!?

For how long do the Conservatives think they can get away with this kind of logic?

Uncle John

I guess I meant they should have the constitutional right to have the first crack at governing after a minority result in an election. Any MP is free to vote any way they like.

 

KenS

Ryan1812 wrote:

Anyone have a greater understanding of the German electoral system.

Being Germans, their sysytem is actually incredibly complex. But in the ways that matter to us, those are just details [even though a lot of the complexity comes from confederalist impulses similar to drives in Canada], and at bottom its just another example of how PR works perfectly well.

And we wouldnt want a 2 or even 3 party [pre-1993] system anyway. PR doesn't just work better under pluralist conditions- it encourages diversity among parties. You can get paralized by that, but its easy to design your system against that.

JKR

Uncle John wrote:

I guess I meant they should have the constitutional right to have the first crack at governing after a minority result in an election. Any MP is free to vote any way they like.

 

The constitution doesn't mention parties. After an election the sitting Prime Minister always has first crack at continuing on as PM.

A PM only loses power when they resign or when they lose the confidence of the House of Commons.

bekayne

Unionist wrote:

If two parties find that they have an overriding interest in governing that outweighs their policy differences, it would be in their interests to merge, whether under FPTP or PR.

The only reason for 2 parties to merge would be for electoral competitiveness. That concern would not exist under PR

KenS

Uncle John wrote:

During an election, you will get no luck if you ask Michael Ignatieff or Jack Layton if they would be willing to form a coalition. Instead you would get the standard answer "I am running for a majority".

Then, there is no legitimacy for a coalition after an election for the same reason the 2008 Dion, Layton, and Duceppe experiment failed.

These are different statements. The first does not make the second true. Besides which, even the first by itself is no longer true.

Even Ignatieff has talked, before this merger ploy of Kinsellas stabbed at him, about coalitions. "We work with other parties. That might include..." Etc. and that isn't because he suddenly developed a backbone, its because the conditions have changed, especially since the UK election, to make this not such a toxic subject.

As to the second statement you made- even back in the recent aftermath of the public reaction to the idea of the coalition, a number of us, what do you expect the first time its raised, let alone done in a hurry and under really daunting conditions? We said THEN, it won't be the same next time. And it was already changing before the UK election.

I can understand why you would want a constitutional amendment to enshrine the party with the most seats getting first crack at forming a coalition. Because its only the tradition now, and Harper has poisoned the well so much with his government by bullying that people will look past the tradition.

But it doesn't matter anyway. The party with the most seats already has the leg up and gets first crack anyway to form a coalition. Not to mention that in the case of already being the government, they don't have to form a coalition anyway. All Harper has to do with his next minority is survive the Throne Speech. How much lower a bar do you want? 

Unionist

JKR wrote:

But PR doesn't shortchange 2nd and 3rd parties so they don't have to merge to be in government. Under PR they can have their cake and eat it too. They can maintain their policy differences AND govern.

 

The only way they can govern under PR is if they enter into a coalition with others. What exactly stops the same coalition being formed under FPTP?

If all you mean is that some smaller parties might get no seats under FPTP, yeah, got that, ok, fine, we all know that. But please tell me exactly what stops a coalition of parties under FPTP - other than the Governor-General?

KenS

What you really want Uncle John, is that no one except the party with the most seats be allowed to form government. Period.

Trying to make that a de facto reality has been part of Harper's well poisoning.

Poisoning doesn't always last. Oh well.

Stockholm

Uncle John wrote:

I guess I meant they should have the constitutional right to have the first crack at governing after a minority result in an election. Any MP is free to vote any way they like.

 

 

I have no problem with that. If the Tories are the largest party after the next election and they are also the incumbent party - they have every right to present a Throne Speech, but they better have convinced one or more of the oppoisition parties to vote for it - otherwise their Throne Speech will be defeated and the GG will then ask the leader of the second largest party to try to pass a throne speech. This is how the Liberal/NDP accord came to power in Ontario in 1985.

Polunatic2

Quote:
Bad geographic choice by the way. Those 2 ridings are not contiguous.

My mistake. I meant to say "West Nova" in which the NDP gained less than 17% last election, not "Central Nova". 

KenS

Oh well- even further apart. Few hours drive.

Point is the same without examples.

Polunatic2

But they are contiguous aren't they?

Michael Moriarity Michael Moriarity's picture

Unionist wrote:

The only way they can govern under PR is if they enter into a coalition with others. What exactly stops the same coalition being formed under FPTP?

If all you mean is that some smaller parties might get no seats under FPTP, yeah, got that, ok, fine, we all know that. But please tell me exactly what stops a coalition of parties under FPTP - other than the Governor-General?

Of course, nothing stops the same coalition being formed. However, getting back to your original question about why mergers would be less likely under PR, the answer is that the fear of a false majority by the other side is removed. If everyone in the Liberal Party knew now that the Cons would get only their proportional share of the seats in the next election, there would be little or no pressure to consider a merger with the NDP. In a PR system, small changes in voting percentage only translate into small changes in seats, therefore pressure to combine the votes of various parties to affect electoral results disappears.

 

KenS

West Nova and Central Nova have the wide part of 2 ridings between them. And the principal towns of each must be about 6 hours drive apart. South Shore and West Nova are contiguous. But even they are at leats 3 hours apart. And as weak as the West Nova NDP is, I cant see them agreeing to bow out. And the little handful of them sure as hell wouldnt go campaign in South Shore, where their help would be a drop in the bucket anyway. And you can bet your booties the South Shore Liberals would not agree to bow out.

There was bad blood in the Liberal Party when the Central Nova EDA was forced to stand down for Elizabeth May. There would be more than bad blood if that was forced on the South Shore Liberal EDA.

JKR

double post

JKR

Unionist wrote:

But please tell me exactly what stops a coalition of parties under FPTP - other than the Governor-General?

Are you asking what stops the forming of a governing coalition right now?

 

That's a good question.

What stops a coalition from taking power now is the Prime Minister. Our majoritarian FPTP system gives the Prime Minister the ability to call an election at whim. This prevents a coalition from taking place if the PM doesn't want one. This would hold true if we had PR and we didn't change our political conventions.

But if we had PR, we would have to change our political conventions. Even if we keep FPTP and keep having minority governments in Canada we will have to change our political conventions to take away the Prime Minister's ability to unilaterally call an election. In minority situations, this power creates too much instability as we have seen during the last year and a half.

Systems that don't have ongoing majorities have to have political conventions that produce stability to compensate for the lack of a ongoing majority. We've had a history of majority governments, or at least, the prospect of majority governments returning after short interludes of minority government. Until now, we've never had a long period in Canada where it appeared that a majority was not likely to happen.

Our system gives a lot of power to PM's because it has been assumed that PM's have the confidence of a strong majority in the House and if they don't have, its been assumed that the PM will call an election and the situation will be remedied with a majority. That's what its been like in the past and its led to very stable one-party government.

But what happens when minorities become the norm? The rules of the game have to change.

It may be possible that we've entered an era where minorities have become the status quo, even under FPTP. If this were true we would be faced with the same situation that PR countries are faced with. How to provide stability when no party has a majority or a strong prospect of getting one.

Countries that have ongoing coalitions restrain the PM's ability to unilaterally call an election. If the next election doesn't produce a majority, the politicians will likely take away the Prime Minister's ability to dissolve Parliament at will. That's what just happened in the UK.

Some PR countries have "Constructive vote of no confidence" to  change Prime Ministers and coalitions mid-stream.

Countries that have PR devise ways to smoothly change PM's and change coalition alliances between elections.

jrootham

I don't think anyone has nailed this, so I am going to take a run at it.

The genereal assumption about mergers is that they are less than the sum of their parts.  Some voters will vote for party A but not for party A+B.  In PR systems this is a real handicap.  To the point where the pressure in PR systems is to fragment down to the minimum to get representation (cf the Dutch).  IN FPTP it's much less of a handicap, in fact it is very likely that party A+B will get more seats than party A + party B.

So PR encourages many parties and FPTP encourages few (at the limit, 2) parties.

Unionist wrote:

Thanks Ken. My question was how PR would make mergers less necessary. You've explained how it makes coalitions more normal (which I think we all know, looking at PR systems around the world). I fully agree with your explanation. I still don't see what it has to do with mergers. If two parties find that they have an overriding interest in governing that outweighs their policy differences, it would be in their interests to merge, whether under FPTP or PR.

Michael Moriarity Michael Moriarity's picture

jrootham wrote:

I don't think anyone has nailed this, so I am going to take a run at it.

The genereal assumption about mergers is that they are less than the sum of their parts.  Some voters will vote for party A but not for party A+B.  In PR systems this is a real handicap.  To the point where the pressure in PR systems is to fragment down to the minimum to get representation (cf the Dutch).  IN FPTP it's much less of a handicap, in fact it is very likely that party A+B will get more seats than party A + party B.

So PR encourages many parties and FPTP encourages few (at the limit, 2) parties.

Yes, very well put.

Fidel

 

[url=http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/quebecor-planning-24-hour-r... Canadian version of Emil Kirdorf?[/url] The Gloebbels & Mail

Quote:
Today, many Conservatives probably think a Fox News North, propaganda channel will help their political cause.

While many Liberals and New Democrats may think that the prospect of just such a creature makes it all that much more important to join forces.

Fox Newz  North all the time 24-7? All because Canadians are tired of seeing a redundant conservative party and a conservative party swap federal power back and forth as if a three-bit whore on cowboy payday for the last 14 decades in a row?

AntiSpin

JKR wrote:

From the previous thread on coalitions/mergers.

 

AntiSpin wrote:

All of which goes to my primary point....which is better, a merger of equals or being a junior partner in a Liberal coalition of convenience?

Like I said, I'm willing to listen to and adopt better alternatives made with better arguments.

 

The alternative to a merger is electoral reform. Instead of supporting a merger, why don't you support establishing a fair voting system?

If we adopted some form of proportional representation (PR) or even the alternative-vote (AV) we wouldn't have to contemplate a merger. 

 

-------------

JKR...what makes you think that I don't already support electoral reform? Just because I think a formal merger (two parties agreeing to form a third as equal partners) has merit doesn't mean I don't support electoral reforms.

That said, PR has been clearly rejected by more than 50% of Canadians in recent provincial referendums (Ontario, BC and Nova Scotia) so it is unlikely to be supported at the national level, although I still think it's still worthwhile having a national discussion and debate.

There are other reforms possible that would improve the current plurality system. One that I support is requiring a run-off election. In 2008, 150 candidates won with less than 50% of the vote and 41 with less than 40%. For example, Peter Stoffer won Sackville--Eastern Shore in Nova Scotia with 60% of the vote whereas Gerald Keddy won South Shore--St. Margaret's with 35.99%, a clear example of how the first-past-the-post system rewards some candidates unfairly. The incremental cost of a run off election, which could occur a week after the national election, would be small. The rules deciding if a runoff would be required would likely be complex but the goal is to ensure the winning candidate in every riding has a true majority of votes. For example, in ridings where the winner had less than 50% of the vote and where the total votes of the first and second place candidate is less than 75% and the differential between first and second place is between 5% and 25%. In other words in ridings that have no clear winner amongst three or more candidates. Using 2008 as an example, a run off election would be required in 72 ridings (25%).

I also support making voting a legal requirement and failing to vote without just cause punishable by fine. For me, voting in elections isn't a privilege of democracy it is an obligation to it. Taking a few hours to become familiar with political parties, candidates, the key issues and platforms and then voting is hardly an onerous requirement of citizenship.

Run off elections coupled with a legal requirement to vote, while certainly not perfect, would offset the key problems of the plurality system without requiring constitutional changes or a national referendum.

Another reform I support is parliamentary confirmation of the governor general. The appointment of the GG is done through constitutional convention and would not require amending the constitution (so far as I know but I could be wrong). The prime minister would still "choose" the GG , but his choice would be submitted to the House and possibly the Senate for ratification. This change would (quite possibly) reinvigorate the role of the GG when minority governments fall and therefore curb the power of the prime minister.

There is a myriad of other reforms that are available to MPs and political parties should they be so inclined.

AntiSpin

KenS wrote:

I missed that quote by AntiSspin. I guess that counts as an oblique answer to me asking [more than once] what s/he means by merger. Since his assumption is that it would be a "merger of equals," that goes some distance to explaining the notion that a merger would be better for the NDP.

Formally, corporate mergers are combinations of equals too. But everyone knows it is rarely the case. A merger of the Liberals and NDP would be an absorption of the latter. In the hypothetical event it happened there would indeed be a long negotiation about policies, and the leader of the NDP would even likely be the leader of the new party. But in all but name it would be the Liberal Party of Canada. The institutional dynamics of how electoral politics in Canada are structured, as well as the institutions of the LPC would in no time have the 'new' animal behaving like the old one. Meanwhile the significant chunk of the NDP that would not go along for the ride, along with several of the MPs would form a new party... and the we'd be rapidly on the road to 1993 again. What fun.

The power dynamics of a coalition depend on the overall picture at the time. There are junior partners and there are junior partners. [And even the weakest of junior partners would have FAR more leverage than you think the NDP would have within a new merged party.] The NDP would have had quite a bit of leverage- beyond its number of ministers- in the stillborn 2008 coalition.

A very big part of that leverage was[is] that the Liberals would be far more dependent than the NDP on the survival of the coalition. The Liberals could be horribly decimated in an election following a collapsed coalition.

The NDPs leverage is only increasing.

And by the way, its a puzzling way of thinking to refer to a coalition as an expedient convenience, but not mergers. But I guess thats a factor of what you think a merger would achieve.

Further point- on the non-compete voting arrangements before an election, which you keep referring to as temporary.

People who see politics as a head game- and this includes NDP star candidate Michael Byers- don't understand what violence it would do to a party to tell its riding activists to stand down. Parties dont exist without the volunteers. This is not a matter of people being "stuck in old ways of thinking". Such notions are built on disembodied elitism. Anybody in politics with any sense knows that you cant just tell a slew of activists to stand down for an election. There is a much deeper message that is delivered to tehm than just the dynamics of one election. And if youve been involved in politics you'll know that many of your supporters and activists will just stay home for good after that, or go elsewhere. And the dissilusionment would spread much further in the ranks than just the riding activists directly effected. PLUS, in the NDP, you just could not make riding activists do that. Period. All hell would break loose. 

Non-compete arrangements only look temporary if you ignore all that. Thats why they have only happened in the Westminster system where parties were headed towards merger [what are the UK LibDems now].

 

Ken, I apologize for not responding to you directly earlier (I've also been busy - family, life, work ect) but I've defined what I mean by a merger elsewhere, a formal, voluntary agreement between equals to create a unique new party from the two existing parties, taking the best of both worlds. The general fear that the NDP would simply be subsumed by the Liberals is interesting as it speaks to the confidence that supporters have in the abilities of the NDP leadership to negotiate such a deal and hold their own against the demonic LPC. I personally think the NDP, as party, has great leadership and is a very lean, well managed organization, certainly much better the LPC currently. Yet people think that that the NDP could hold their own in a coalition and not get burned? History tells a different story on that score. And yes some voters would reject the new party but I doubt in significant portions (NDP voters would also reject any possibility of a coalition as well, but that's escaped your attention). And where would disgruntled NDP voters go? The Greens? I'm not sure that's a bad outcome. And your fear of NDP voters just staying home is misplaced as they are among the most passionate Canadians in Canada (like Leaf fans, sorta).

What I'm reading in many comments is simply resistance to change - that the NDP is somehow eternal and not subject to evolution or transformation. That thinking hasn't helped the NDP which is still mired in 1960s political thinking in some regards (not all, but some) and hasn't ever won more than 20% of the vote and that was more than 20 years ago (1988).

If there's one thing we can agree on it's that the Conservatives have to go yes? Yet boondoggle after boondoggle has not altered Canadian opinion or voting intentions enough to make any difference in the HoC. As we've seen, Harper is willy enough (I wouldn't call him Machiavellian as he's more a chaos junkie than a strategist) to exploit differences and find opportunities for compromise that would prevent any coalition from forming the government, other than one of Harper's own choosing.

So we can stay the course or we seek alternate routes to change...it's not perfect by any means but what is?

 

 

Pogo Pogo's picture

Is there a possibility that Kinsella is purposely trying to drive the Liberal Party down either from revenge or as a ploy to engineer his return?  I can't see a positive for the Liberals in this story, why is he doing it?

Sean in Ottawa

Antispin -- it is not a resistance to change per se-- it is the loss of a defined social democratic option. The combined party would be a centre party not a social democratic party. Some are unhappy with the degree by which the NDP has already become more like the Liberals. Not all change is good.

As well, the Liberal party is a bigger party so the NDP would more likely become a left wing of it rather than a party in its own right.

Your comment that this is just people afraid of change is like telling someone they are afraid of change when what you are asking them to do is to give away their house. No, it is not fear of change, it is that they want the value they have built. They like their house.

You may have confidence that social democratic principles can have place in a merged party others do not agree.

Since you seem to be a Liberal, could I ask you if joining the Cons would be good? If you object would you like me to say you were fearing change?

Tell me why do you think the NDP is closer to the Liberals than the Liberals are to the Cons?

I am not one of those who say there is no difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives. I see the distinctions but I also see distinctions between the Liberals and the NDP that are more significant, more relevant and more important to me. You may feel different but you need to understand that position if you want to respond to it.

The other thing is why would we need to do this?

If we are open to coalition arrangements -- post election, and they can lead us to power without selling the family silver, why would we go for anything else. If the Liberals want a coalition we can govern with them. If they don't want a coalition with us, why would we take merger talk coming form their supporters seriously?

Now we are clear -- we want to replace Harper's government. Let the Liberals show that they are prepared to join in opposition against Harper and we can take each step at a time. But it is like having someone that won't go out on a date with you offering marriage-- kinda ridiculous.

Liberals have to re-establish themselves as an opposition party and then we can talk of coalitions. Talk of mergers with a party that cannot even bring itself to oppose the most right wing federal government in Canadian history is laughable.

Unionist

Ok, jrootham, I'm starting to see the light. Thanks for that.

 

remind remind's picture

Sean in Ottawa wrote:
- it is not a resistance to change per se-- it is the loss of a defined social democratic option. The combined party would be a centre party not a social democratic party....

Your comment that this is just people afraid of change is like telling someone they are afraid of change when what you are asking them to do is to give away their house. No, it is not fear of change, it is that they want the value they have built. They like their house.

You may have confidence that social democratic principles can have place in a merged party others do not agree.

Since you seem to be a Liberal, could I ask you if joining the Cons would be good? If you object would you like me to say you were fearing change?

...The other thing is why would we need to do this?

If we are open to coalition arrangements -- post election, and they can lead us to power without selling the family silver, why would we go for anything else. If the Liberals want a coalition we can govern with them. If they don't want a coalition with us, why would we take merger talk coming form their supporters seriously?

Now we are clear -- we want to replace Harper's government. Let the Liberals show that they are prepared to join in opposition against Harper and we can take each step at a time. But it is like having someone that won't go out on a date with you offering marriage-- kinda ridiculous.

Liberals have to re-establish themselves as an opposition party and then we can talk of coalitions. Talk of mergers with a party that cannot even bring itself to oppose the most right wing federal government in Canadian history is laughable.

Bolding mine, as those points of Sean's are...well...to the point.

 

Again antispin's post indicates how scared the Liberals are, and how much they want to pretend they are left and not in a informal coalition with the Cons. And I disagree with you about their not being Sean, there is no other explanation as to why they would put a spanner in their own works in this way.

Sean in Ottawa

 

In a coalition you have a role and bargaining position.

In an accord you play no role and just keep them in power.

Normally in an accord you negotiate to get something for it but the Liberals have nothing to show for it.

It is certanly not a coalition because a coalition would deliver the support of more people-- but the Liberals are not delivering support -- they are refusing to oppose and this is more like them not showing up for work than actually agreeing to anything.

Coalition partners take a stand and then work out compromise. The Liberals will not vote down anything no matter what it is. They are not playing any role and have no negotiating position at all in the House. They may as well not be there.

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