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.