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A Liberal-NDP-Green Coalition Is Possible

By Stuart Hertzog
November 3rd, 2008

by John Ryan

Enough common ground for a three-way strategic agreement

Four-colour maple leafWinnipeg, Manitoba — To put the coalition proposal in perspective, for years the minority of Canadians on the political right languished in the wilderness because of a split in their political movement. However, after a series of misadventures, they finally coalesced into a single party–albeit with some alienation and disaffection in their ranks. Basically, their strategy worked, and although they continue to receive only a little more than one third of the vote, this is now the second minority government that they have formed.

Although Canada’s political right has coalesced into a single party, this would be both impractical as well as highly inadvisable for the Liberals, the NDP, and the Greens. Each have unique strengths and distinct identities, which could and should be preserved in a dynamic coalition. Coalitions occur on a regular basis in Europe and in other parts of the world but so far never in Canada, although the NDP and the Liberals did cooperate in the past. At those times some of Canada’s most progressive legislation was passed.

Internal opposition

Undoubtedly, there will be internal opposition in each of the parties to even the suggestion of a coalition. However, it should be possible to present convincing arguments that this would be in their best interest, as well as good for the majority of Canadians. For the NDP, smaller than the Liberals, there is the vivid memory of how the Progressive Conservatives were subsumed by the Reform/Alliance zealots. A similar political realignment might result in a horse-and-rabbit stew strongly smelling of Liberal horse.

But we are not talking about merger; we are talking about a coalition, so there would be no threat to the smaller party. Furthermore, for these three political parties to be an effective political force at this stage, they need one another. And stemming from this, each party is in a position to exact compromises.

Through negotiation they should be able to agree in good faith that when they form a coalition government they would enact some form of proportional representation, or a system of preferential voting. This should be the most crucial provision for both the NDP and the Green Party.

No continental integration

Another key feature for the NDP should be for the coalition government to abandon any on-going commitments for Canada’s further integration into the USA and to withdraw from the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), which endangers Canada’s sovereignty. There also should be no problem for them to agree to enact a national child care program (ideally it should be modelled on Québéc’s system), and to come up with a national policy to work with First Nations to resolve their crucial problems.

On matters of taxation, environment policies, and other issues on which the parties disagree, there would have to be compromise, and because of necessity, an agreement of some type could be worked out.

The public should urge the parties to agree to put a halt to the obsession of lowering taxes, which reduces the quality of our social services. “Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society,” stated US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Taxes collected by governments provide us with the wide array of social services and infrastructure, such as schools, medical services, libraries and parks, that make Canadian streets safe and our cities liveable.

Renegoiate NAFTA with Obama

As for NAFTA, we should welcome Senator Obama’s stated intention to renegotiate this pact. In fact, if we had the courage, it would be highly advisable to abrogate NAFTA. Only then could Canada once again have an independent energy policy. When it’s in their interests, the US simply ignores NAFTA rulings, e.g., softwood lumber. We would be far better off with the rules of the World Trade Organization, and this should not affect our trade relationship with the USA. After all, the USA trades with the rest of the world without NAFTA.

Aside from agreeing to enact progressive legislation, a Liberal-NDP-Green coalition would put an end to the possibility of a future Harper majority government, which we were lucky to escape in 2008. A Conservative majority for just one term would enable them to carry out most of their underlying agenda and do irreparable harm to Canada’s social and economic fabric.

Because of Harper’s tight control over all party communication, he has been able to present a somewhat benign and innocent image. However, there is no reason to believe that his party has actually turned its back on its original raison d’etre. The Reform-Alliance agenda is still the basis of the current Conservative Party, and a Conservative majority would pose an unprecedented danger to our country. Only a Liberal-NDP-Green coalition could prevent this from happening.

Paralysed with fear?

As it now stands, with the Liberals in disarray, Harper may proceed to govern by making almost every piece of government business a confidence matter. If the opposition parties should remain paralyzed with the fear of causing another election, through this procedure Harper could kill off the Canadian Wheat Board; dismantle and sell off the CBC; legitimize Canadian and American private clinics to undermine Canada’s health care system; and reduce the federal government to little more than being in charge of the military and representing Canada as a “community of provinces” at the United Nations.

To remain as an impotent opposition, the Liberals and the NDP would be ‘accessories to the fact’ in allowing the Harper government to do irreparable harm to Canada. This would be a cowardly and shameful thing. However, if they act intelligently, they are in a position to get Harper and his party out of office.

Given the dangers that lie ahead of us, the Liberals, the NDP and the Greens should quickly proceed to form a coalition that would stop Harper from maintaining his agenda. Once a coalition is established, the Liberals and the NDP should welcome the opportunity to defeat the Harper government, and following another election we could get a government that would indeed reflect the wishes of the majority of Canada’s population.

Liberal leadership candidates

The fact that the Liberals are now faced with the procedure for selecting a new leader should not stop them from taking part in negotiations with the NDP and the Green Party to form a coalition. They should see this as a long term policy and the sooner they begin on this the better it will be for them. The candidates for the leadership should participate in the negotiations and in this manner help to work out a unified long term policy and strategy for the party.

In a preceding article, I have suggested that a coalition could win power, and that this option is almost self-evident. In this article, I have endeavoured to show that such an agreement is politically possible. I believe that a progressive coalition government would be in the best interests of Canadians — but can the party leaderships rise above short-term partisan politics? At a time when our country needs visionary leaders, are they capable of becoming statesmen?

By acting responsibly, the leaders of these parties could carve out an honourable place for themselves in Canadian history. Most important, they could alter the course of our collective future — for the better.

The four-colour Maple Leaf


John RyanJohn Ryan Ph.D. is a retired professor of geography and senior scholar at the University of Winnipeg. He can be reached at jryan13@mts.net This article is also available online at Global Research, October 29, 2008. In a preceding article, Mr. Ryan explains how such a three-way coalition between these three parties could win the next election.

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