FACE TO FACE: Should federal lefties unite under one banner to fight the right?
Is it time the political left in Canada coalesced around a few broad progressive principles to run against the Conservatives in the next election?
My colleague, always in favour of clarifying and parsing the competition, thinks so, as does a large chorus of politicians and pundits of all political persuasions. Proponents point to the politically successful unification of the right as a template for the left to follow.
The logic is simple and compelling, both arithmetically and strategically. Sixty eight per cent of Canadians did not vote for the conservative agenda in the last election and 68% of Canadians surveyed favoured Barack Obama's progressive agenda over George Bush's right-wing agenda in the last U.S. elections.
In short, Canadians are predominantly not conservative.
If the NDP, Liberals, Greens and the Bloc could unify under a big political tent of orange, red, green and bilingual, they would surely overwhelm Tory blue. Political power is there for the taking.
Despite this, most left-leaning Canadians worry about unifying their side of the spectrum. They fear the price of scrabbling centrewards might be too great to pay. The unification of the left would result in a polarized, two-party system, more adversarial, more negative and less civil. Sound familiar?
Canada has been served well by a party system in which multiple perspectives provide a balance of power. Some of our best governments have been minority governments, tempered by pressure applied by third and fourth parties as well as the official opposition. The left is justifiably proud of the social programs it has won for Canadians, despite never having been in power.
Our multi-party system has allowed the left to stay to the left. Unifying the "centre left," as some centre-left politicians are advocating, might destroy the left and its valuable tempering influence.
In Canada, the party that wins the hearts of the political centre wins elections. Instead of "uniting the left," the clarion call of all progressive parties should be "expose the right" and "win back the centre."
Uniting the left may make sense arithmetically and strategically but for Canadian lefties, it doesn't make sense philosophically, either for them or for the nation. Although moving to the "centre left" makes mathematical and strategic sense, it doesn't work as well philosophically.
Face to Face columnist Jim Nelson is a retired Tri-City teacher and principal who lives in Port Moody. He has contributed a number of columns on education-related issues to The Tri-City News.