Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Faulty Logic of Merger Advocates

Today, I've seen two articles come out from somewhat well-read authors, both "progressives" of a kind - one Liberal and one New Democrat. Warren Kinsella and Jamey Heath, whose books I've read and have relatively poor opinions of, published simultaneous articles in the Sun and the Globe, advocating for some form of merger between Canada's Liberal and New Democratic parties.

Their basic argument is this: those two parties earned just under 49.5% of the vote in 2011 election, versus only 39.6% for the Conservatives. The farther you go back in time, the lower the Conservative support (37.6% in 2008, 36.3% in 2006, 29.6% in 2004) - but, in all but one of those four elections did the "progressive" option win. That's a 75% loss rate to the Conservatives who fail to get the true support of Canadians!!1! They're unstoppable!!

Thus, we must merge the Libs and NDP in order to stop the Conservatives from winning in 2015. If we fail to do this, the Conservatives will win another majority and that's when we'll see Fuhrer Harper destroy the Canada we love.

Really? No party can unite progressives enough to win government against the Conservatives without merging? Really? I disagree, and so does a crap-tonne of polling done since 2011.

I've decided to do an easy chart up for everyone to see. I've included in this chart every poll that I covered from May 2011 until today, and what I projected in terms of seats

I tried to colour code it to make it easier to see (dark colours are majority projections, mid-range minority, very light runner-up), but since 2011, I've only projected the Conservatives to get a majority government in polling five times, out of fifty-eight. Four of them were immediately following the 2011 election, the last one being oan Angus-Reid poll last January.

Only 5 polls out of 58 that I've covered gave the Conservatives their majority. Wow, look at that domination...

It is true, however, that polls have consistently showed the Conservatives in the lead, mostly in minority territory. The only times where this was not true was during Mulcair's honeymoon from April to June 2012, and when Forum does its hypothetical Trudeau-as-leader polling.

You might say that this is evidence that the Conservatives are hard to beat - which is true. Despite their constant fumbling, the Conservatives maintain usually a plurality of support, though its often between 30-35%, and not exactly overwhelming. Still, in order to beat the Conservatives, we do need to work towards it.

But the point is that it is not necessary to merge to defeat the Conservatives. There are many scenarios where defeating the Conservatives is a very good possibility. The "math" does not lie, as Kinsella likes to say.

Yet here we see these folks going around, saying that our choice is clear. Is it? Obviously not. The Conservatives are beatable, it just requires that one of the two "progressive" parties offer up something better than they currently are. Voters are not enamoured with the Conservatives, but neither are they keen on voting NDP or Liberal. None of our federal leaders are shining examples of movement-builders. That's the problem, not the lack of a "united progressive option."

Because, as I've said before, what happens when we merge and Canadians give us the same cold shoulder they give us now? Voters will not simply fall in line behind a merged entity just because it exists. If they continue to see the same lackluster leadership they see now, they won't care how much of a "united progressive" option we are - if the Conservatives offer something better than a merged party does, they're going to vote Conservative!

This is what I don't get about merger advocates like Kinsella or Heath. For what are supposed to be two brilliant political strategists, they rely on simple arguments that seem so rooted in "common sense," but in reality continue to ignore the real problem. Canadians don't lack a progressive option they can get behind if they want to - they will move behind a party if its in their interests. But we're not offering anything that will get them interested. Do you really think a merger of two parties with stale ideas will somehow make the new entity fresh and interesting?

I've been reading Kinsella's book, Fight the Right, and he has stated repeatedly that the main problem with "progressives" is that we've lost the ability to communicate, and that conservatives have managed to simplify and communicate their ideas to the voters. He's very right. The problem we're facing is that we've lost the ability to make our policies and solutions to the ills of the world relate to the average voter. That's why we see the Conservatives continue to outpace both the Liberals and NDP, and until we solve that problem we're going to continue to be stuck behind Harper and co.

So, how does a merger change any of that?? It doesn't. These two, despite obviously having some of the right ideas floating around in their heads, are looking for an easy-bake solution. I'm not down for that, not in the least

Maybe I'm alone in that thought, because I just don't see merger as necessary to defeat the Conservatives. I just find their argument that its just "common sense" to be lacking, as all such arguments are. I'm more interested in addressing the real problem, rather than just dancing around it.


  1. I don't support a merger (with the Greens) to defeat the Conservatives; I support a merger with the Greens because our policies and voters are nearly identical.

  2. the polls are worthless what really matters is the ground game, and the liberals ground game (especially in the west) is weak, at best. meaning all these Trudeau polls are mere entertainment. untill somebody can provide the 170 ridings the liberals will win they will remain the third party with little hope of a come back

    1. ... I can probably give you a list of 170 ridings the Liberals have a relatively good chance of winning, on a really good night.

    2. Yep, but it isn't just 'the ground game' That is too simplistic. It is the bedrock of any political party that is lacking, motivated supporters and field organisers. Money, volunteers, voters, all follow when the numbers of people donating their TIME are being mobilised. So that is the task of the next 2 years. Build up the electoral capacity, and that is the means to do it. Never stop drawing in more supporters

    3. right but are all those things Time supporters money part of the ground game, even Ignateif lead haper in a few polls but is the liberals weakness in the west systemic? and can it even be reversed or like the PC's is it over? and will it end not with a bang or a whimper?

    4. Well, define systemic? The weakness, and lack of ground game are inter-related. There is still significant support for the Liberals everywhere in Canada. Ay whatever level that support may be, there will be supporters, volunteers, and voters aplenty NOT currently engaged in the Liberal Party. Now if there is nobody willing to get to work and start building that supporter base, then yes, it is over. But that is the same everywhere in Canada. The Liberals can do like the Greens, and simply ignore their potential, or they can actually do the best thay can with what they have. It may surprise evetrybody just how well they can do out West if only they tried.

  3. The one place that would benefit from a merger is the provincial NDP and Liberals in Alberta. Their differences aren't great enough to justify a hand full of seats while the right takes on the dumb right. I'm not saying federally merge at all. But in Alberta, a combined party could at least get them into some competetitive status, as opposed to the new Republicans versus fascists we have here now.

  4. Keep in mind as to WHY the right merged.

    1 - A large number of PC voters had switched to the Alliance
    While I don't doubt some Liberals are backing the NDP, I'd dare to say more Liberals now back the Tories.

    2 - The PC Party was beat. The Reform Alliance won 3 times as many seats as the PC Party for 3 elections in a row.
    The NDP has only tripled us once.

    3 - Neither party could win on it's own.
    Unable to take the West and Quebec, neither party could form even a minority on it's own. Polls show this is not the case with the Liberals and the NDP.

    4 - Had to beat the Liberals in Ontario.
    Provincial polls - which I'll give you are not federal - show all 3 parties can be competitive in Ontario at the same time.

    5 - Reform/Alliance voters were once PC Voters.
    People who voted PC in 1979, 1984, and 1988, were in many cases the people who voted Reform/Alliance in 1993, 1997, and 2000. The Reform/Alliance itself was built around former PC supporters. This is not the case for the Liberals and the NDP.

    6 - Reform/Alliance took away the PC Party's top region.
    Compare to the NDP and Liberals, where the NDP's best region has been one of our worst (Quebec)

    While some of these arguments work for the Greens, none of them work for the NDP.