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Time for a Coalition of the Opposition

By Stuart Hertzog
October 5th, 2008

The four potential Coalition leaders

Coalition of the Opposition potential seats October 5, 2008
projection and images by democraticSPACE

Ego-driven competition will not prevent another Harper government

The four-colour maple leaf of the Coalition of the MajorityVictoria, BC — Enough is enough! It’s time for the four Canadian opposition parties to come together in a coalition to stop the awful prospect of yet another mandate for what could soon prove to be the meanest, most secretive, most militaristic, and most ultra-right government in Canadian history.

This means that Jack Layton and Stephan Dion, the two major opposition party leaders, must immediately drop their egotistical pretence that they are competing equally with Stephen Harper to be Canada’s next prime minister.

Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe at least had the guts to point out during the second televised leaders’ debate that he isn’t in the running for that title.

Jack Layton’s claim throughout the campaign that he’s running to be Prime Minister is simply bravado. The NDP hit its ceiling of support a while ago and doesn’t have a hope of forming government at this time. The best Layton can hope for is to become leader of Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition.

Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee?

By keeping up the pretence of being able to depose the Conservatives outright, these two party leaders are only allowing Harper to triumph over a divided opposition. They are placing their individual political ambitions before even the urgent historical imperative of tackling imminent global warming.

Instead of strutting around foolishly attacking each other like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee for the title of Leader of the Opposition, they should admit that the only way to prevent Harper from destroying the social fabric of Canada is to immediately form a Coalition of the Opposition with the Bloc and the Greens.

One Coalition candidate instead of four competitors in each of Canada’s 308 federal ridings would stop a Conservative victory. If only politics was that easy…

Already too late?

It may already be too late for such an idealistic and draconian tactic. But only a Coalition of the Opposition can prevent Canada from turning into a refuge for the (hopefully) soon-to-be-humiliated American ultra-right political ideology.

Last week’s leaders’ debate illuminated Canada’s political quandary in stark detail. Three million viewers watched as the four opposition parties — Liberal, NDP, Bloc and Green — hammered away against a smug Stephen Harper, who only had to sit and bend his lips in the rictus of an artificial smile as the four opposition parties flailed away ineffectually against him.

Harper and his strategists know that they only need to “hold steady” and make no upsetting policy announcements to enable their 35% base of support of complacent, conservative, and sometimes bigoted Canadians carry them back to government against a divided opposition.

It’s an old tactic, and it’s working well for Harper as the incumbent government.

Ultra-right agenda

Currently, opinion polls are showing that the Conservatives are headed for at least another minority. Whether the election gives Steve Harper overall numerical superiority in Canada’s parliament remains to be seen. But no pollster is predicting anything less than a minority Conservative outcome.

Stephen Harper has already demonstrated that he can run the country as he wishes even without a parliamentary majority. The threat of sending Canadians back to the polls kept Liberal leader Stephan Dion supporting him, as Jack Layton pointed out in the debate, 43 times during his term as prime minister.

With the threat of another election once again removed, Stephen Harper can proceed with his ultra-right agenda of tax breaks for polluting corporations and the already affluent, with arts, environment, and social program cutbacks paying for vastly increased spending on police, prisons, and the military.

That might be a neoconservative’s dream of a ‘free’ society intent on ‘defending democracy,’ but to me it sounds like a vision of hell. It’s not the Canada I want.

Do it now, or do it later

After this election, the same situation will prevail. Which opposition party is going to bring down a minority government so soon after a gruelling and costly election? Unless the opposition parties form some form of working pariamentary coalition, they’re going to be back in the same frustrating situation.

Yes, I know it’s a stretch, but the bottom line is that Canada’s political parties cannot carry on with the charade that today’s competitive, first-past-the-post electoral system can accommodate more than two major political parties, at a time when four-and-a-half distinct national parties are vying for voter support.

The solution is to move to a proportional voting system, but that’s going to take some time to achive at the federal level. When it does come — and its arrival appears to be inevitable — coalition politics will be the order of the day.

Stand on guard… for us

So the opposition parties might as well get used to the new order of Canadian coalition politics, and use the opportunity presented by today’s stark electoral choice to pre-empt the apparently inevitable continuation of Stephen Harper’s American-inspired, ultra-right brand of mealy-minded conservatism.

Layton and Dion must put aside their antipathy and form a Coalition of the Opposition. Only this will secure the kind of Canada that most Canadians want. Serial democratic dictatorship, even dictatorship by minority rule, is no longer satisfactory. It is time to stand on guard for Canada — and for the Earth.


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