Monday, March 26, 2012

Mulcair Shows Liberals the Way to Do It

There is one reason I like Thomas Mulcair. It isn't his politics, which while closer to me than any other possible NDP leader save for maybe Martin Singh, I still have major disagreements with. For instance, his insistence that Quebec gets a free opt-out of everything. Try following that to its logical conclusion - and I don't mean independence. Just remember that Quebec is probably the province most likely to chose to move to two-tier healthcare than any other. Mulcair, leader of the party that likes to claim medicare as its legacy, will have a fun trying to resolve that contradiction.

No, Mulcair's policy positions so far don't appeal to me. What appeals to me is his belief in his own party's ability to win the next election. And it's not as difficult as some make it out to be.

For example, let me just posit a very reasonable situation below based off of nothing but pumping up the NDP a bit in their traditional areas, keeping them high in Quebec, and giving them 40% of the vote in Ontario:

The fact is that the NDP don't even need to win most of Ontario's seats in order to form at least a substantial minority government. This is what merger and "co-operation" advocates don't get - a center-left party can defeat the Conservatives, it just takes good politicking. Which is what Mulcair is good at, and more than anyone, he'd be able to win over Ontario's mostly-centrist voters. His plan doesn't require a merger, it requires actually winning the hearts and minds of voters. And I'm only giving him the minimum of what a pretty successful run in Ontario would require - it could be higher, almost assuring a majority.

For the Liberals, this is an important lesson to learn. Let's look at the flipside of the above chart, giving the Liberals roughly 2004 numbers eveyrwhere, including Quebec with 33%, except the NDP remain in first in the province:

This assumes a lot, of course - but at 2004 levels + strengthened NDPin most areas still equals a small minority for the Liberals, nothing compared to the NDP's scenario but that's what you get for the third place party. Plus, it also depends on Quebec - the lower the NDP go (say 25%), the more Liberals pick up seats, even without transferring votes to them but to the Bloc, a lovely vote split. But I figure 35% is a good number. A Liberal sweep similar to 2004 of Ontario plus good numbers in Quebec and we'd be set. Even if the Conservatives retain at least 35% in Ontario, the Liberals could eke out a minority with good numbers in Quebec (40%), or an Opposition coalition without it.

Either of these scenarios would produce a non-Conservative government. Neither of them require a merger, but good ol' competition. Mulcair knows this and understands this, and he's working to it.

So why are we still having this debate within the Liberal Party? We're not dead yet. It's just that merger and co-op advocates are in such a tiff about the Conservatives they push gimmicks to solve problems, even though that isn't what Canadians feel. They just don't get it - yes, maybe 60% of Canadians last election didn't vote for the Conservatives, but you don't see that 60% up in arms wildly and calling for all sorts of nonsense. The majority of Canadians are satisfied and tolerate of the Harper Conservatives, and that's a fact. And such facts require measures responses to them - like determined stripping down of that veneer of credibility the Cons claim - and not Shake'N'Bake solutions.

So now we stand a year (probably) from a new leadership convention. Why not follow Mulcair's lead? Why don't the Liberals elect a leader who is willing to rebuild and retake power on a credible basis? We can take on both Harper and Mulcair if we try, but it requires that we actually do. Maybe then we'll gain back the respect we've lost among Canadians, and govern with those strong majorities once again.

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