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
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.