Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Orange and green make grey

Political scientist and commentator Duncan Cameron brings us yet another column about "uniting the left." This time, though, it's the Greens who are sick and the NDP who's standing there with open arms, waiting to welcome their wayward brothers home. The hook sentence presented at the beginning of the article leaves no room for doubt about the column's aims: "What Canada needs now is a Peter McKay of the left, ready to put two warring parties together for the benefit of both." (Because, you know, the one thing Canada's left is really missing is our very own opportunistic, sniveling, ass-kissing sellout.)

I spoke out against a merger when the cries came from Liberal circles, and I see no reason not to make just as much of a stink now that they're coming from my own backyard. If anything, I'm even more appalled that an NDP supporter--and we're talking about a guy who wrote a paper in an edited volume that he called "The NDP and the Making of a Citizens' Party"--would make such a suggestion. Why? Because a major plank of the NDP's platform is electoral reform and proportional representation, and advocacy of a Green-NDP merger is entirely incompatible with that goal.

No one should need me to remind them that the entire point of electoral reform is to allow for real voter choice and stop forcing people to pick between the lesser of the available evils. Just as NDP orange isn't merely a faded version of Liberal red, the Greens aren't just NDPers who have gotten lost in the woods, either. The Green Party of Canada has its own political goals that are quite often at odds with those of social democracy. And you know what? That's got to be okay with us. When we get indignant about the Liberals saying that we're stealing votes that are rightly theirs, and then turn around and play the same sort of game with the Greens, we're being hypocrites of the worst kind.

It's this sort of thing that makes me so acutely aware how much the electoral reform movement needs nonpartisan and multipartisan citizens' groups like Fair Vote Canada--groups that are really willing to work for the good of the country rather than for the good of their own particular political fiefdom. Because no matter how good a political party's intentions are in other areas, when it comes to electoral reform, there's not a single one that's ever going to be willing to do the right thing once they have the power to make it happen.


Jason Cherniak said...

Just to be clear, I never suggested a merger with the NDP. I just think the party should disband.

gfdgfdfd said...

A truly excellent post, IP. I'm a Green supporter, and shook my head in disbelief at Cameron's numerous suggestions, especially that the Greens are inconsequential.

The two-party system is just as outdated as the first-past-the-post system. Why would we try to ram all voices into just two parties? The more, the merrier, I say.

I hope the Greens and NDP can find common ground and work amicably together towards achieving electoral reform and proportional representation in the near future.


James Bow said...

I speculated about this myself, wondering if the increasing strength of the Greens meant that the NDP was losing out on a demographic that they should perhaps readjust to. But then I heard Jim Harris speak, and I realized that the two parties speak to different camps. They should remain separate, and the system changed so they can both win seats.

janfromthebruce said...

I agree. What we do not need is an slimy idiot like McKay. Nor do we need to subsume the Greens, as that is totally incompatible with PR. If anything, the Greens make the NDP more Green, as for the last 2 federal elections our environmental policies were more 'friendly' than theirs. That said, if May becomes the leader of the Greens we will see the party tact differently under this leadership. Harris use to be the pres of the Cons, so his green policies were completely market oriented. May's will not be. We both need to push PR, and not slam each others parties just their policies.

Mark Richard Francis said...

Having just read his column, Cameron...

1. Doesn't know green policies

2. Is ignoring the NDP's not so great environmental record in those provinces it has governed

3. Probably doesn't get the green mantra that social justice is not achievable without environmental justice.

Oh, the German Greens, I can assure you, originated the not-quite-so-lefty green thinking. 'Realo' greens, they are called. Hi!


The Greens are Fiscal Conservatives even Elizabeth May their dyed in the wool Social Democrat. They use the old adage neither left nor right, which sounds better in German.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Mark and Eugene,

You guys have some odd ideas about the German Green Party.

Mark, in Germany, the Greens are still significantly to the left of the SPD (third-way social democrats)--and yes, that's even true of the "Realos." The term 'Realo' ('realie') stems from a split within the Greens in which they were contrasted with 'Fundis' ('fundies'), not a characterization of the entire party. The 'Fundis' tend to be part the radical "movement left" who never wanted to govern, while the 'Realos' are those who are willing to compromise enough to form coalitions with the centre-left social democrats when necessary. They're still quite left-wing, though.

And Eugene, the "neither left nor right" slogan originated with the Canadian Greens, not with the German ones. I mean, you could certainly say "weder links noch rechts" if you wanted to, but it wouldn't particularly sound better than its English equivalent, nor would it be accurate in Germany.

Theobald Tiger said...

Thanks very much for the supportive post!



(FVC President)

P.S. I've just started a blog where the topic of electoral reform is likely to come up often -

P.P.S. I concur with your Realo/Fundi analysis. Spot on.

Anonymous said...

I'll second the 'more the merrier' sentiment - pluralism is what keeps things sane. I often look south of the border and shake my head at the essential official two-party system.

Just joined FVC yesterday, as well, am now trying to figure out what there is to do in Calgary...

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Theobald Tiger,

Hey, welcome to the presidency! And to my blog, of course. We've talked on the chapters mailing list a couple of times, actually.


Oh, excellent! If you get involved in the just-starting-up Calgary chapter, I'm sure we'll hear quite a bit from each other, because it's all Fair Vote Alberta.

Phugebrins said...

Actually, you may be able to make an argument that the Greens are 'stealing the NDP's vote', if you think people are still voting for the Greens on the basis that they're a left-wing party of sorts.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


I don't buy it. The "x party is stealing y party's votes" mentality requires us to believe that votes belong to particular political parties by divine right. If someone decides to change his vote from NDP to Green in the next election, that person has not only decided that they can vote Green, they've also decided that they can't vote NDP. In a democracy, it's the NDP's job to convince people who might do this that they're wrong. If they can't do that, they deserve to lose those votes.