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Why I Support Lead Now’s Campaign for Cooperation

Wednesday March 14, 2012

A lot of people are questioning the value of supporting organizations like Lead Now, especially in their calls for cooperation amongst the current crop of Opposition parties.  Particularly a lot of NDP members, when their party is so close to taking power for the first time in its history, are questioning those of us who have joined in part through the Lead Now movement.  Its certainly understandable, as others have mentioned, previous attempts at cooperation have not succeeded or worse, been derailed by some of the same people we’re now calling on for cooperation again.   Given these doubts, I wanted to explain my personal reasons for supporting Lead Now.

It’s the Best Thing for Canada

I truly believe that supporting the Lead Now campaign is the best thing to do for the country.  And I put country above party every time.  There’s no political party that can claim my allegiance before my allegiance to Canada.   I will not put the narrow partisan interests of any political party before doing what I feel is right for my country.  In most cases, I happen to believe the NDP will do the best for Canada, however, I feel that cooperation between parties, for specific, limited goals, such as achieving electoral reform is an absolute priority for the country.  Changing the tone of our excessively hostile and aggressive public discourse is also essential to preserving our democracy and re-engaging a disaffected population.

It’s the Best Thing for the NDP

I support the NDP and I view my support as a commitment that I’ve made to the principles and ideals of the party.  Whatever happens with the NDP’s response to the Lead Now campaign, I’m going to stick with the party, largely because even in the absence of Lead Now, the NDP is still the best existing vehicle through which to convey those changes.  The Conservatives are completely antithetical to my values and the Liberals have proven they are not a safe vehicle for the advancement of progressive values.   The Greens have many admirable traits, but they also lack power and they are far more centrist in their platform than I prefer.

It is essential that the NDP lead this cooperative effort.  By starting the conversation the NDP stakes out a strong position for any proposed cooperation.  A strong NDP isn’t afraid to reach out.  The NDP supports the values of social democracy that have always been at the core of my beliefs.  The NDP reflects what I want to see come out of Canada.  But right now, the NDP runs the real risks of becoming the Liberal Party of Canada 2.0.  That is not an acceptable outcome for either the country or the party.  The NDP cannot lead Canada to a social democratic future if we become the next natural governing party.  Such a role, invariably corrupts the party which plays it.

The Current System is Unfair to All Canadians

How many years have the NDP laboured with fewer MPs then their share of the vote warranted?  How many NDP voters have been unrepresented because of our antiquated system?  How many of us are comfortable with the Conservatives majority government based on 39% of the vote?

The current system is unfair to all Canadians.  It hands a tremendous amount of power to a minority of voters as long as they are the right voters in the right ridings.  Combined with aggressive American style politics that focuses on bringing out the base and suppressing moderate voters that has become common for the Conservative Party, this effectively hands power to a very small segment of the Canadian public.  The right voters in the right ridings and the Conservatives have become masters of micro-targeting.  Cooperation offers us the chance to overcome some of the more egregious vote splits, while still electing a strong group of NDP MPs to lead a coalition government.

Stephen Harper and the Conservatives Aren’t the Real Problem

Canadian Democracy is in a crisis.  It’s a systemic crisis.  The root of the disease is in the very power structure itself.  This has been building for decades.  Fixing it may require unprecedented action by leaders across the country.

We have just left a protracted period of minority government, the longest in our history, in which there was an effective check on the powers of the government.   After 7 years of minority governments, while Canadians may be sick of going to the polls roughly every 2 years, they have become accustomed to a government not always having its way and that all of our elected representatives are empowered.

The means by which the Harper Conservatives have achieved their majority have been unethical and hostile to the democratic process.  However, at the end of the day, the current Conservatives and Stephen Harper are symptoms of a the disease, not the disease themselves.  We can defeat the Conservatives, but without fundamental reform another group from anywhere on the political spectrum may arise that will embrace the same tactics.  We need to cure the disease and the start of that is creating a new relationship between politicians, political parties and the people they serve.  This is where cooperation becomes essential.

Going Forward

There’s a lot of other reasons to support electoral reform and other potential cooperation among political parties.  But these four reasons sum up the most important elements of why I’m supporting Lead Now’s campaign.  Previously disengaged people with progressive values are signing up with the NDP and other political parties and working across partisan lines to change our political system for the better.

People who support different political parties are not the enemy.  Even the Conservative Party is not the enemy, even if they are an adversary to achieving electoral reform and progressive political goals.  Supporters of different political parties are our friends and neighbours and many of them, for whatever reason, prefer their particular vehicle for political activity.  Giving them a voice at the table is a progressive value and a key element of all successful social democracies.  Working together on our common goals, we can create a system in this country that will allow everyone to have a fair representation in our public discourse.

Lead Now’s Web Page can be found here: www.leadnow.ca

Updated: Justin Trudeau Opens the Door to 2015 Electoral Cooperation: Curiosity Cat Blog

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura Cornish permalink
    Thursday March 15, 2012 4:24 am

    Great post! I support Leadnow plan, and joined NDP for same reason, and why I’m voting for Nanthan Cullen. My allegiance is to Canada first, as I would hope the NDPs is, but I guess we’ll see.

    • Thursday March 15, 2012 5:42 am

      I think even if the NDP doesn’t support a co-operation candidate, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are putting their own interests first. A lot of NDP supporters honestly are scared at the prospect, for fear that it will undermine the NDP and the best hope for the country. I don’t agree with them, but I believe they’re acting out of their best instincts too. That’s why I am committed to the NDP, regardless of the outcome of the leadership race.

      As well, staying committed to the NDP will also give us the chance to push for cooperation from the inside, no matter whom the leader is.

      Thanks for the first comment!

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