Sunday, January 27, 2013

"I haven't crunched the numbers but I think that would be a game-changer as well"

So says Joyce Murray, prospective federal Liberal leader, on the issue of Liberal-Green electoral co-operation and its viability.

Now, forgive me because I run by logic, but if you haven't run the numbers, why would you put much stock in this hypothesis? I understand that she hasn't put all her eggs in the basket here, but a lot of her campaign's schtick is this co-operation thing - so allow me to check the numbers for you, Joyce.

Here's what happens when you combine every Green vote with every Liberal vote in 2011 election:

Conservative - 39.6% - 155 seats
New Democrat - 30.6% - 101 seats
Liberal - 22.8% - 48 seats

.... A game changer it is not. While the Green numbers help put the Liberals over in close ridings, most of these in Ontario (well, eight seats), it isn't like the Conservative and NDP numbers come tumbling down. The biggest effect is to knock the Conservatives down to 155 seats, right at the majority line - somewhat impressive, until you remember that this requires all Green voters to move to the Liberals, and even if it knocks the Conservatives down a tad more into minority territory, the best you'll get with slight variation is the 2008 status-quo, and the likelihood that any Coalition would need those currently listless Bloc members to get to 155.

If you look into second choices, such as EKOS occasionally supplies, it's not necessarily pretty either. Only 25% of Greens choose the Liberals as their "second choice." Let's be generous and assume that in a co-operation agreement, 80% of 2011 Green voters stick to their guns - a generous amount but workable. That means 20% of the Green vote goes somewhere else, maybe to the NDP or Conservatives, I don't know.

A small drop though it is, its enough to shave off almost a full percentage point of support, and roughly 5-7 seats. That's without taking into account an increase in NDP or Con support, or the possibility of 2011 Liberal supporters switching their vote. You can see where I'm going with this.

I could definitely go on with this, and try out many different scenarios. The thing is though that co-operation advocates, including Joyce Murray, are betting on two things:

1. that the attraction value of co-operation is great enough to simultaneously keep as many 2011 supporters as possible, and bring in new voters, thus reducing the vote deficit between candidates;

2. that the pooled resources of both the two parties (or three, or whatever) will be a match versus the Conservatives, NDP, or whoever.

In the first instance, there is little way to know unless polling is done - but if you were to get an agreement between the NDP and Liberals, I would say your chances may actually not be too bad. The wild card in that case, of course, being the amount of Liberal voters willing to go with the NDP in a riding, and vice versa. That remains the unanswered question, and what makes the effectiveness of co-operation with the NDP an iffy prospect. But as I said, your chances of making it actually succeed are much greater.

With the Greens, though? The problem here is that, well, to be honest, the Greens are too small and too squishy to be useful. They earned only 3.9% support in the 2011 federal election, and their highest since then has been 10% in an EKOS poll back in July - and I'll note right now that EKOS is notorious for boosting the Green numbers quite significantly. They're just too damn small, and even in a lot of our "close" ridings, the Greens aren't enough to make up the difference.

The "squishy" part is due to what I'd call "transient voters" - those voters out there who currently don't have much of a home. We saw the Greens benefit in 2008 thanks to these voters, but ended up being deflated in 2011 when a lot of these voters likely moved to the NDP.  It is a risky calculation that these voters will come back to the Greens or the Liberals or a co-operation of the two, especially in a situation where the goal is to challenge the Harper Conservatives - in a lot of ridings, the New Democrats are the first option, and even in ridings where they aren't, they could easily gain momentum. That would leave us with a core of Liberal and Green voters, and that simply isn't enough to win any more than a handful of ridings. Its a gamble to be sure.

Plus, think about the purpose of such a co-operation agreement - "to defeat the Conservatives," is the oft-stated one. There are many ridings where the Liberal-Green co-operation agreement could work to defeat the Conservatives under the right circumstances, no doubt about that. But what we'll end up with is two Opposition groups, the NDP and the Liberal-Green candidates, vying to defeat the Conservatives - thereby splitting the vote in many ridings. So then I ask you, what has changed? We end up in the exact same situation as we are now. If you're going to opt for co-operation, and you want it to work, you need the NDP involved. Liberals and Greens are not enough.

The second portion is about resources, and this is very easy - what resources does the Green Party exactly have? They funnelled all they had in 2011 into Saanich-Gulf Islands, and that was the major cause of their collapse across the rest of Canada. In a co-operation agreement, the Greens could definitely free up resources because Lizzy May would be in a relatively more safe position (though not that much more safe than she already is). Even so, their resources are meager. Their fundraising is poor in comparison to our operation. I don't know what their volunteer base is like, but I sure as hell didn't see them out in 2011 doing anything locally. The few ridings where I believe they have active and successful riding associations - Dufferin-Caledon, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, etc. - are wastelands for any Oppositon party or combination thereof.

Plus, what are the guarantees of local help from Green or Liberals in certain ridings? I know personally if I had to work on the Green campaign here in Burlington, I'd be pretty pissed off, more so since I give my money to my Liberal riding association to spend on the election of a Liberal candidate!

Overall, the most damning argument in my rather long post is the ineffectual nature of a Liberal-Green agreement. It would certainly work to the Green's advantage, and in certain ridings to the Liberal's advantage. But these require the right circumstances and the actual attraction of this co-operation, especially with the lack of the NDP being involved. Why would people really go for this idea when there is a much larger alternative, basically proposing the same ideas as we would be, vying for the same vote? It just doesn't jive together.

If you're going to advocate co-operation, you can't do it in this half-baked manner. There would be no point to it without the New Democrats, because the status-quo is not likely to change - vote splitting will still occur, and its all back to square one. If this is the case, why not just run on the Liberal ticket by itself? Same effect in all honesty.

This isn't a game-changer for those advocating this kind of thing (which I don't count myself among, just by the way). It simply prolongs it.

Murray also says that Mulcair and the NDP would "succumb to the pressure" of this kind of co-operation agreement was struck up between the Libs and Greens. I don't see how, or why, the NDP would care. There is barely any effect on their own vote, so long as they maintain their momentum. Why would transient voters move to the poorer, less viable option when the NDP is asking them to come on (or stay on) board?

Exactly. The attraction value is, in my opinion, null. And so is this idea.


  1. Yes, I agree with much of your post. The value for the GPC is obvious, the value to the NDP or the Liberals of a pact with the Greens is negligible. Th ereason is that the GPC is NOT the same Partythat ran candidates across the country in 2010. The majority of the GPC EDA`s have either been de-certified for not filing financial returns, or are delinquent in their filings, but haven`t passed the grace period before decertification. Unless the GPC wins the lottery, they do not have the resources to re-organise across the country, and so are unlikely to field candidates in most of Canada. No candidate, no votes cast, implying they have nothing to bargain with in most ridings. I posted some info in this regard today at:

    1. Thanks for the comment and the interesting post you linked, I agree with much of what you've said - and sadly I'm not surprised by the Green's disarray in terms of riding associations and organization. I've had ex-Greens tell me this themselves in the past. Its a shame, really, for a party that could attract a lot of voters, as we saw in 2008. It never capitalized on that success though, only working to further Lizzy May's personality rather than a proper party structure.

  2. After daily spam from Joyce Murray, her emails are not directed to my spam folder. As for this proposal, not going to work.

  3. It's not 2011. Compare the numbers to current polling data.

    1. Polling data is only good for hypotheticals, and hypothetically, it *could* work - but in reality, its a big risk to take, especially based on polling data alone. The reality we've seen is that the Greens usually poll lower than polling suggests, and that either way, vote splitting will still exist between Lib-Green co-operation and the NDP.

      Its all three parties together or nothing. I don't care if you argue about some sort of merger based on philosophical values, but one based on electoral advantage is moot.

    2. Merging with the Greens makes sense for a few reasons

      > They are small right now. We can gobble them up just like we did with the Progressive movement back in the 20s. The US Democrats did the same at about the same time too. Compare our two countries to countries in Europe, who have had Parliaments that looks like our 2011 parliament ever since the 30's.

      > They are growing and not going away. All around the world Greens are gaining in popularity. Well, the developed world anyway. Every developed country has more and more Green support as the years tick by.

      > They already use our policies. The "Green" party may focus on "Green" issues, but outside of the environment, their policies are shockingly close to ours. Remember, the Green Party of Canada is no Green Party of Germany. Our Greens are far less pro-labour, far less pro-radical-youth and far less pro-peacenick. Our Greens are what they in Europe call Liberal-Greens. They are not the Socialist-Greens that have been en vouge until 2010 in Europe.

      > They offer us a chance at renewal. Gobbling up tens of thousands of new supporters with fresh new ideas can only help the party. The youth support the Greens. At one time, the youth backed the Liberals bigtime, but the NDP has recently been able to tap into this. Adding the Greens to our party would help reverse this trend.

      > Greens help us win where we need to. Let's not kid ourselves, we've had a few areas of weakness in the past 10 elections: Rural Ontario, the Central Prairies, Alberta, and BC. The Greens happen to be strongest in Alberta and BC, and, have surprising strength in parts of Rural Ontario. It's only on the Central Prairies where we are weak where the Greens are too.

      Compare this to a merger with the NDP:

      > They are stronger. In the last election they won more seats than we did. More votes too.

      > They are going away. Traditional NDP supporters and voters anyway. The NDP is only successful because of it's political moves on the issues. They are becoming more like us to win more seats.

      > They have their own policy book. It's full of things the Liberals have not really been willing to support, as, all those NDP ideas we can support, are already borrowed and part of our platform.

      > Their "renewal" would be a takeover. Nothing more nothing less.

      > They can't help us where needed. Sure the NDP could win us a few more seats in BC and on the Central Prairies, but we already have proven we can win on BC on our own if we play our cards right. The only place the NDP really helps us is in Saskatchewan.

      Compare this to no merger at all

      > We are shrinking. People don't know what we stand for anymore, and liberalism as a movement in this country is becoming detached from the Liberal Party.

      > We are going away. People do know what the Greens and NDP stand for, and we are bleeding support to both parties.

      > Our policies seem dated. Though a new leader could help.

      > "Renewal" is dependent on our new leader.

      > And lastly, there seems to be a focus among party members to win seats where we already can. Perhaps a new leader could throw the party into winning seats in Calgary et al, where we need to gain support to be viable as a long term party. Regardless, the choice I really think is clear as to who we should work with.

    3. - The most analogous European country to Canada's situation is Britain, and in Britain they have a Green Party with a single seat, but is very weak nationally; no mainstream party is moving to gobble up their party, not even the Lib Dems, because they know that party is too weak to be useful.

      - Canada's Greens are not growing, they're shrinking. We've seen this over the past two years, where the only Green Party growth was in Saskatchewan, PEI, and Manitoba, by inconsequential amounts. In Ontario, the Greens dropped 5% from 2007 - definitely not so inconsequential.

      - So? Some similar policies does not equal all similar policies. I'm not anti-nuclear, I'm not anti-WiFi, I'm not anti-GMO, I'm not a lot of the things the Green Party is. I feel like I speak for a lot of Liberals as well then I say that. The Greens can be a useful home for protest voters that are unhappy with us, but these voters can be attracted back - and even if they can't, incorporating their protest party into the party they're protesting will not solve the issue.

      - There are other ways to renew the Liberal Party that can be as effective if we actually work towards certain goals.

      - The Greens have pockets of strength relative to their average vote here and there, and they tend to be rural seats (exceptions being Victoria, Van Centre, and some others), this is true - but those pockets STILL aren't enough. Hitting 14% in Dufferin-Caledon isn't that impressive, even if its better than what we managed. All of the extra seats the Liberals pick up in 2011 if the Green vote moved with us are urban, not rural. The Green vote would compliment the Liberals in ridings where we have strength, and actually come out with wins; the same is not true vice-versa.

      The main thing you're missing Teddy is the assumption that a Liberal-Green Party would be viewed differently from the Liberal Party - and it won't. We are 100x bigger than the Green Party in almost every respect, and simply swallowing up the Greens and changing our name won't fix our image - only our work will. In fact, its relatively harmless and if we didn't, I don't think I'd care that much, because I know we'll still be Liberals and swamp over what pathetic party organization exists in the Greens. I oppose it simply because I don't see the point.

      This also wouldn't be like the Liberal-SPD merger in Britain, where two relatively distinct parties, already laden with momentum, merged and took advantage of Labour weakness. The situation here is not analogous, as neither the Cons or NDP are experiencing "weakness" right now.

      Unless the Greens really grow their vote and become any more relevant than Lizzy May, then th idea is a non-starter in my opinion. Sorry Teddy.