Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Layton-May-Dion dinner

You know, I'm a partisan New Democrat, but I really don't understand what the problem is with the whole Layton-May-Dion dinner. The concern seems to be that it's part of some kind of effort to ambush Layton into a "stop Harper" non-compete deal between the three parties that would give the Liberals the upper hand and disenfranchise NDP and Green voters in select ridings. But it might well be something less sinister, and Jack will never know until he bites the bullet and takes the meeting.

Besides, if it does turn out to be that sinister, Jack has the perfect response:

"I'm afraid I can't do that, folks. See, the thing is, I believe that a healthy democracy gives all voters the chance to vote for the candidate, party, and policies they most agree with, rather than disenfranchising voters in select ridings where someone else is deemed the best chance to 'stop Harper.' I'm not against cooperating with you two, but that cooperation has to happen in Parliament, after the voters have had a chance to have their say.

But the thing is, there's something we could cooperate on to make sure our political spectrum continues to reflect the diversity of political opinion in Canadian society rather than forcibly whittling it down. Elizabeth and I are already in agreement about changing our voting system to one based on proportional representation, and that agreement is reflected in our respective party policies. How about you, Stéphane? I can't help but notice that there's nothing about that in Liberal party policy, and that puzzles me. After all, if you're really interested in working together and not just in trying to sweep your rivals aside, then it only makes sense that you'd want a voting system that requires cooperation in parliament instead of the current antagonism.

I also can't help but notice that you've been musing lately about the possibility of changing to a "preferential ballot," which leaves open a bunch of questions about exactly what kind of voting system should be behind that ballot. See, if you mean the Single Transferable Vote system, then you're in line with me and Elizabeth about proportional representation, and that's just great. But the thing is, Stéphane, if what you mean is the Instant Runoff Voting system, then I have to say I'm terribly disappointed. That system isn't proportional, and it would mean narrowing our diverse political spectrum down to two large parties known as the Conservatives and the Liberals. I'm sure Elizabeth can't agree to that, and neither can I.

You've spent the past twenty minutes talking about cooperation and compromise, though, so I'm sure Elizabeth and I can change your mind. Surely we can agree that we'd all prefer a system that would allow us to work together in parliament, once the voters have given us the amount of power they're prepared to see each of us have. That means proportional representation. So how about taking it to your caucus, Stéphane? If you put it in the platform, it'd go a long way toward reinforcing your sincerity when it comes to talking about cooperation and compromise. Not to mention the fact that we could then actually make some of those changes after one of us wins the next election!"

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Funny, Layton sounds a lot like you in that little speech. :-)

catherine said...

From the Tor Star:

May says that Layton has been "hostile" to any discussion of a political partnership and concedes it might be more "more productive to just try to reconfirm the friendship."

It seems that May and Layton have barely been speaking. I don't know how Dion and Layton interact personally, but I suspect that isn't good either. A worthy goal of the dinner would be just to develop a more positive relationship.

Perhaps that isn't possible. I certainly would understand a reluctance of any of these three to do the same with Harper, because I really loathe both his style and his actions, and don't think much of his integrity either. I think of all of the other three leaders in a more positive light and think each has his/her strengths and weaknesses. If Layton thinks of Dion and May the way I think of Harper (which I suspect he does) then this may not be possible. I really think having a political agenda for the dinner is not going to work though, when people are barely speaking. May's right -- just reconfirm (or establish, as the case may be) the friendship.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

anon,

Yeah, yeah. :-) I never claimed to be a politician. I'm sure Layton can make it snappier!

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

catherine,

I think Layton is wary of May's non-compete deal with Dion, which he believes will backfire. I happen to agree with that--and that's in addition to the issues I have with those kinds of arrangements for the reasons I put into Layton's mouth here. So Layton doesn't trust either Dion or May...and probably shouldn't.

But the thing is, in sane political cultures, politicians meet with people they don't trust all the time. There will presumably be no cameras present, so they can say what they really think. And if they try to gang up on him, Layton has the perfect way of turning things around, as I outline here. He should go to the dinner and represent the NDP perspective at that table.

Greg said...

I think Layton is wary because May is a loose cannon. The fact that she used the opportunity to have dinner with Layton to unilaterally invite Dion would certainly give me pause, if I was Layton. Don't rush Jack into a threesome. He may look like a swinger, but I suspect he doesn't go that way. ;)

Blogging Horse said...

The whole Dion-May thing smacked of desperation and theatre at the time -- and even more so now.

It's as if someone came to you and said "let's talk about trading your house and car for my aluminum shed and this ball of duct tape." You'd tell them to buzz off. It’s a non starter. So, what's the point?

Layton is now the only national leader fighting Harper head to head.

For Dion, what kind of discussion can you have with a guy whose principles have led him to prop up Harper’s throne speech and mini-budget? Dion has shown he doesn't know what he believes in. Nothing to talk about there.

As for May, the recent Maclean’s article has Green members describing her as duplicitous and unilateral. You don’t make deals with these people.

Ben said...

My (Tory, but fair-minded) take: it never hurts to talk. Heck, even Harper and Layton sit down for hour-long chats every so often.

One can have a nice dinner and a nice chat and still come away saying, "Thanks, but no thanks!"

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

blogging horse,

Did I say Layton should make a deal? I could have sworn I'd said the opposite...

Mushroom said...

IP,

Word has it that when a prominent Liberal MP wanted to bring the topic of Ontario's referendum for discussion at a caucus retreat over the summer, it was shot down in flames.

catherine said...

"But the thing is, in sane political cultures, politicians meet with people they don't trust all the time."

Agreed. It would be good if the hostilities don't run so deep that these three could share a meal together.

BROKEN LADDER said...

1) IRV is STV - in the case of a single-winner election.

2) There are much better methods of proportional representation than STV (namely Reweighted Range Voting and Asset Voting).

3) There's no guarantee that proportional representation is actually better, in any kind of social utility efficiency sense (although Bayesian regret models for multi-winner systems are difficult).
http://rangevoting.org/PropRep.html

Clay Shentrup
San Francisco, CA
415.240.1973

Greg said...

IRV is STV - in the case of a single-winner election.

Exactly, but that's the difference that makes all the difference.

Sarah F said...

IP, why don't YOU run for NDP leader. I'd support your bid. :)

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

mushroom,

Word has it that when a prominent Liberal MP wanted to bring the topic of Ontario's referendum for discussion at a caucus retreat over the summer, it was shot down in flames.

By Dion? If true, then that doesn't bode well for Dion's current opinion about PR.

Rae is pro-PR, though...and he's officially the policy guy. Maybe work on him? Other than that I got nothin'.

broken ladder,

IRV is STV - in the case of a single-winner election.

That is true. Not sure how it's relevant here, though, given that we're not talking about a single-winner election.

There are much better methods of proportional representation than STV

We've had this conversation before, haven't we? I told you my opinion about that then. The point here, though, isn't my opinion--this post is about Jack Layton, Elizabeth May, and Stéphane Dion. And none of those three have mentioned any of those voting systems.

There's no guarantee that proportional representation is actually better, in any kind of social utility efficiency sense

We're not talking theory, we're talking about a specific case in Canada. Canada has some very particular problems that any variant of PR would solve.

sarah f,

Oh my god, can you even imagine the debates? "What do you mean I can only talk for two minutes? I haven't even started making this page of points yet!" :-)

Thanks for your support, but no freaking way. Jack's doing fine!

Josh Gould said...

Well, if not leader, how about Critic (or Minister!) for Democratic Reform? ;)

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Josh,

Yeah, yeah, like giving me that portfolio would help with the wordiness problem... ;-)

Mark Greenan said...

Mushroom,
I'd heard that when MMP came up it Liberal caucus, it was shot down by , of all people, Senator David Smith.

Remind me what eminently democratic electoral system we use for the Senate again ...

Mushroom said...

Mark,

You were with me when I heard the news. I was not going to reveal names.

David Smith and John Rae have been brought on board to help the Grits in the next campaign. So expect nothing concrete on electoral reform in the near future, except for Dion's odd intellectual postulations.

Greg said...

I'd heard that when MMP came up it Liberal caucus, it was shot down by , of all people, Senator David Smith.

This is no surprise. He was on Newman's show bad mouthing mmp during the campaign. He is an old school pol and he likes things just as they are.

Deanna said...

I really, really hope the NDP read your blog, IP.

BTW, I am going to the conference in Vancouver after all - and bringing a couple of Green party friends. (Hey, there's lots of stuff we agree on, including PR. And we can agree to disagree - and have endless debates - on the rest.)

Ryan said...

I find that's the way it goes with Greens and New Democrats. They tend to agree on both the environment and social justice/government investment.

It seems to me like the parties are the ones with the difference. The Green Party isn't left enough and the NDP isn't green enough.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Deanna,

Oh, excellent! I'm so glad! I think you will like the Ontario friend I'm bringing along, too.

Hey, there's lots of stuff we agree on, including PR.

Which is what's important for the conference, of course! I think you'll be surprised to find common ground with conservatives on that issue at the conference, in fact. It's one of the things I like best about the electoral reform community--sometimes we can't agree on anything at all except that we should all have a chance to make our voices heard. And that's okay. :-)