Failed Try at Party Cooperation

Party Cooperation

Introduction, updated October 24, 2015

Cooperation of the “progressive” opposition Parties was a proposal put forward through 2011-2013 in hopes of eliminating vote-splitting and ensuring a progressive agenda would return to Canada after the 2015 federal election. It did not happen, seemingly stopped by entrenched tribal loyalties and lack of will to find common ground between the New Democratic and Liberal Parties.

The idea first gained prominence during the NDP leadership race of 2011-12 when it was championed by Nathan Cullen, and a year later when Joyce Murray led the charge in the Liberal Party. It was an attractive proposition. Too many long years had been wasted putting up with a government that spurned the will of the majority. The Harper government was especially intolerable because of its massive attack on environmental and social protections; its bullying and muzzling of dedicated public servants reminiscent of Soviet era dictatorships; its unabashed use of Orwellian dark arts to spin an endless barrage of lies into “truth” and to control its party members; and the unprecedented amount of authoritarian power it has amassed in the Prime Minister’s Office. (For evidence of this, just read or view some of the entries under Harper Record. Most recommended of these is Allan Gregg’s speech, 1984 in 2012 – The Assault on Reason.)

The Green Party showed willingness to cooperate, but Liberals and New Democrats remained locked in their party traditions, overblown loyalties, and mutual resentments. They seemed willing to risk further destruction of the country by another Harper government rather than settle their differnces. In the end (the 2015 election), the risk apparently paid off for the Liberals and Harper was at last defeated. But the NDP is back at square one. The state of the nation is certainly much better than it was, but it’s not an entirely satisfactory result for most advocates of progressive policies.

Nathan Cullen and Joyce Murray, gave their thoughts after the dust had settled on the leadership contests. See this article at Talk of electoral co-operation dwindles as NDP, Liberals prepare to battle over Quebec, June 14, 2013

Some political commentators from both left and right promoted cooperation, as seen in the contributions of Murrray Dobbin and Andrew Coyne shown among the entries below.


Peter Russell, OntarioNewsWatch: Joyce Murray is the Best Choice for the Liberals and the Rest of Us, Mar 4, 2013

One of our leading constitutional scholars declares himself non-Liberal, but sees Joyce Murray as a beneficial force for Canada. He is especially impressed with her understanding of climate change issues and her grasp of the structural problems underlying our malfunctioning democracy. He says she stands out as the only leadership candidate willing to consider a plan of opposition party cooperation to ensure that 60% of us “will not have to endure four more years of rule by the Conservative minority after the 2015 election.” He praises her sensible approach and her courage for entering a contest where partisan passion “tends to infect the party faithful” to the point of putting party ahead of democratic government.

The Canadian Press, Global News: Suzuki gives big boost to Liberal leadership hopeful Joyce Murray, Feb 21, 2013

David Suzuki has written an open letter to Canadians endorsing Joyce Murray. He supports party cooperation as well as her other policies, noting that she has a “coherent vision of Canada as a sustainable society,” and that the Liberal party has made it possible for anyone, not just Liberals, to take part in voting for its next leader.

Nick Fillmore, A vote for Liberal candidate Joyce Murray is a vote for party co-operation against Harper, Feb 14, 2013

This is a strong appeal and a detailed how-to article on becoming a Liberal “supporter” to vote for Joyce Murray as Liberal leader. Fillmore makes the point: “You and your friends can easily become Murray supporters and have no further obligations to the Liberal Party.” He also notes the looming deadline: March 3rd; and includes links to other engaging articles and practical information. His unequivocal view is made clear: that the Harper government is a menace to Canada, and its removal is a far more pressing need than the separate promotions of particular opposition parties.

Murray Dobbin, The Tyee: Make 2013 the Year of Canada’s Democracy Coalition, Jan 28, 2013

A great article, eying the situation from an NDP point of view. Dobbin emphasizes the NDP’s unrealistic expectation of forming government and points out the similar lack of realism among Liberals, fortifying his argument with plenty of evidence from polls, fund-raising facts and other factors. He joins others in advocating a one-time cooperation pact to defeat Harper and implement a proportional voting system. Forwarding an idea from a friend, he promotes a Voters’ Union to press for cooperation – an attractive thought. He speculates that if thousands signed up as Liberal supporters to vote for left-leaning and cooperation-promoting Joyce Murray as leader, she could actually win. He also suggests that NDP members, and presumably Liberals as well, withhold party donations unless and until their leadership endorses cooperation. (A ton of comments follow.)

Andrew Coyne, (was also in National Post): Are the opposition parties really serious about electoral reform?, Jan 25, 2013

Members of New Democratic, Liberal and Green Parties all profess to believe it is urgent to defeat the Harper government before even greater damage is done to Canadian democracy. They also agree that reform is needed in our institutions to stem the concentration of power. In particular, they agree on the need for electoral reform, though there are differences in the details of their proposed methods. Coyne argues convincingly that the only path to these goals is a pact among the three parties to hold joint nominations in the next election, with the goal of quick enactment of electoral reform followed by a new election in which all parties would return to their former competitive ways under a fairer system. Coyne questions the opposition parties’ seriousness in their quest for democratic reform and their comprehension of the dilemma. Putting the matter bluntly, he says: “They aren’t going to beat the Conservatives until they change the electoral system. They aren’t going to change the electoral system until they beat the Conservatives.”