Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I'm imagining. It ain't pretty.

One of the things that disappointed me most about the culture I grew up in was the ideology that demanded that the only way to have unity was for people to be the same. Ethnic diversity? Well, fine, people can't help that, but everybody had durn well better make the effort to speak and dress like real Americans. Linguistic diversity? A threat to the supremacy of the English language, and it needs to be fought--or at the very least, viewed with great suspicion. Political diversity? You can't even dream of that in a country where a party whose policies are somewhere to the right of the Canadian Conservatives is as far left as things go.

In Canada, things are different. It's simply understood that immigrants and their descendants will of course maintain aspects of their cultures of origin. In my own fair city of Edmonton, you can send your kids to be schooled not just in English, and not just in English or in French, but in other languages like German, Mandarin, and Ukrainian as well, all within the public school system. And on the political diversity front, well, nearly every Canadian has the choice among candidates from all across a very colourful political spectrum.

I've been here going on twelve years, but I don't take any of this for granted. Being surrounded by that kind of diversity was hard-won for me, and I'll never forget what it's like not to have it. So there's very little that will get my back up more than people trying to rob me of it. In the U.S., racism and ethnocentrism used to make me feel defeated, but here it just makes me angry. People who want to do away with the multilingual education programs in my city turn me into an instant enemy. And bloggers who insist that the only way forward for Canada is the sort of two-party system I grew up in make me feel exactly the same way.

"Just imagine," Steve says. "Just imagine if all the Greens and NDP party members collectively joined the Liberal Party." Well, I've got news for you, my friend: I can't share your petty little fantasy because I am different from you. Just like the policies you prefer aren't the same as Stephen Harper's, the policies I prefer aren't the same as Stéphane Dion's. The "we" you speak of in your post when you say "divided we fall" doesn't actually exist, any more than that monolingual, monocultural singular "American people" exists in my country of birth. And when you tell me that those differences don't really matter, you've got the same basic message as the Americans who tell immigrants to conform or go home.

You want to rob me of the very political diversity I came to this country to be a part of because, what the heck, we're all just the same inside anyway? When there's already a perfectly reasonable solution to this predicament that doesn't rob leftists of their political identities--a solution that your party has rejected because the idea of sharing power is so foreign to them? I've never heard anything so arrogant.

I'm hardly a Liberal-hater, all right? I've said many good things about Dion, and I've meant them. I'm even on record as saying that the idea of the NDP trying to replace the Liberals is a terrible one. But posts like that piss me off enough that I won't be able to help a certain amount of glee on election night when I watch your party get taken down.


Steve V said...

" But posts like that piss me off enough that I won't be able to help a certain amount of glee on election night when I watch your party get taken down."

Oh, get over yourself.

And, btw, get rid of the pretense that you're somehow less biased or more objective than others, because I've frankly never seen it, apart from some coddling for effect. Let's cut to the chase shall're reaction says it all.

Sean S. said...

Looks like Steve is lashing out at his critics. I think his post says it all, its the Liberal way or the highway. Not sure why he won't address electoral reform.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


YOU get over yourself. If this post makes me "more biased and less objective," so be it. And I'm not "pretending" anything, I'm calling it as I see it.

What it comes down to is this: your one little party doesn't get to decide on your own which political differences matter in Canada and which ones don't. That's up to the entire country. And the REAL solution is the one that allows us to maintain our diversity and still reach our goals. Anything short of that is nothing but Liberal arrogance.

Al Reed said...

whoa, pissed you off, did he? it's nice to see the gloves come off a bit.

liberals in this country don't seem to get that they're not going to win over swing voters by telling them that what matters to them isn't really all that important. it's kind of pathetic, really.

Deanna said...

Whoa there Steve. Talk about lashing out.

That very reaction is one reason why you're not going to get the NDP to cuddle up with the Libs. We express a different point of view and you can't even objectively read what Jennie is saying.

Proportional representation, Steve. What I want is not what you want. I may be a Dipper, but often enough, what I want isn't what Greg wants or Jennie wants either. That's why we need more parties with more voices in parliament. Telling everyone else to sit down, shut up, and toe the (Liberal) party line is not going to re-create that big tent party you're looking for.

I understand the desire to get all the progressive parties working together, I really do. I feel that same frustration. But without changing our political process - bringing in proportional representation - it's not going to work. We can't fake a coalition government in a minority government situation - not unless the ruling party extends the invite, which is rare indeed in Canada.

It's not that we're not listening, Steve. It's that our solution to the problem that we both see is not the same. You want to bring everyone together, incidentally stifling voices that aren't the majority, and we want to make sure that all voices are heard and so that they have representation and can effect change.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Thanks. And indeed, that's just what I'd have said if I hadn't been so angry. The only solution that's really going to allow a full spectrum of political differences to persist in a parliamentary system is electoral reform, and it's that solution the Liberals should be pushing for.

Steve V said...

Why do voters keep rejecting the concept? Seems to me we've had opportunities, and the results "ain't pretty". If anyone thinks another four years of Harper will bring electoral reform, or be good for the country, your in a dreamland.

And, I really love this "the Liberal guy" telling us what we should do, my voting history is FAR more diverse than ANYBODY here I'll bet, so spare me the sanctimony.

Drop the pragmatist, stick to idealistic, it's more honest. Pragmatic, more like dogmatic. PR, the holy grail, all will be right, nothing else is acceptable. Carry on....whatever.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


I'm proposing a solution that lets us all vote for the ideas we like best and the compromises are assumed by the politicians, not by the voters. You're proposing a solution in which your side assimilates all the voters it sees as similar enough to its own side in a pinch. And I'm the one who's dogmatic? Spare me.

Deanna said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again:

The only people who elect Conservatives are the people who vote for Conservatives.

It's really a simple concept.

If we don't want Harper and co to have another minority government, then we need to convince conservative voters that there is a better choice.

Apparently we're not doing a very good job of it - but that's not my point.

Yelling at NDPers and Greens and unaffiliated but progressive voters because they don't see how lovely and shiny the Liberals are isn't stopping Conservative voters from voting blue.

Stop, take a deep breath, and consider what the 2006 election totals would have looked like if we had some form of proportional representation:

Cons: 111 seats (elected 124)
Libs: 93 seats (elected 103)
BQ: 32 seats (elected 51)
NDP: 53 seats (elected 29)
Green: 13 seats (elected 0)
Independent: 1 seat (elected 1)

(And yes, that doesn't equal 308, but that's because I didn't choose a specific form of PR, so I don't know how the remaining 5 seats would be divided, although I was assuming a standard threshold of 3% of the popular vote for smaller parties to get seats.)

Yes, it still means that the Conservatives won - but the political landscape has changed. Alberta isn't all blue anymore - at least 6 seats would be another colour (split pretty evenly between red and orange, actually). The BQ would still have strong representation - but they wouldn't dominate the house. Parties would need a broad base of support across Canada to form either the government or the official opposition (not that someone couldn't form a coalition with the BQ).

Under proportional representation, in 2006, the Liberals and NDP could have formed a coalition government that would have outnumbered both the Conservatives and the BQ put together. (Not that I'm suggesting that the C's and the BQ's are natural coalition partners, they're just the two next biggest parties.)

Imagine a world where the Libs, NDP, and Greens could form a formal coalition without losing their identities! Now that is a dream worth striving for - and the Conservatives would probably never form government again, at least, not with their current policies and platforms.

West End Bob said...

If anyone's keeping score, put me down for IP's side . . . . :)

James Bow said...

Steve V,

I really don't appreciate being told that I have to vote Liberal in order to express a centrist or a progressive point of view. The New Democrats and the Liberals and the Greens are very different parties appealing to very different voters, and for some on the NDP, they believe that there is no substantive difference in the quality of governance between Stephen Harper, Paul Martin or Stephane Dion.

I don't necessarily agree with that, but that's _their_ opinion, and it's the obligation of a democratic society, in my opinion, to respect that opinion, and allow its voice to be heard.

You would do more damage to this country if a unite-the-(centre)left movement succeeded than a Harper majority could do in four years.

If vote splitting allows the Conservatives to take a majority of seats with just 38% of the vote, that's the fault of the system, and not those who choose to vote Green or New Democrat. Change the system. Don't expect people to change their opinions just to suit you.

James Bow said...

It should be noted, by the way, that you will probably get Green and NDP supporters shifting alliances towards the Liberals should they fear a Conservative majority. That's fine. What I object to is any suggestion that the parties must disband so that those who don't feel the need to move are essentially forced to vote Liberal. That's surrender.

And speaking as a centrist voter, I do not like the idea of losing the centrist vote in parliament to a new party that's supposedly the last bastion of progressive thinking in this country. The New Democrats necessarily represent me, and their influence in a fusion with the Liberals could well alienate me.

You're looking at a voter that might -- just might -- be tempted to vote Conservative if the Liberal and New Democratic options are fused into one.

That's what happens in American politics; the parties are pulled to the fringes by the grassroots, and the moderates are left to choose for the least unpalatable choice. It doesn't necessarily go the way the fringes tend to expect.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

for some on the NDP, they believe that there is no substantive difference in the quality of governance between Stephen Harper, Paul Martin or Stephane Dion.

Incidentally, this isn't my view. I see differences between ALL of the parties, which is why it's a good thing that they're ALL part of our political landscape.

Do I wish that a couple of the more progressive parties could form a governing coalition so that we don't have to deal with a single-party Conservative government? Of course I do. But only AFTER the voters get their say.

You would do more damage to this country if a unite-the-(centre)left movement succeeded than a Harper majority could do in four years.

Agreed. Which is in fact precisely why I oppose the NDP strategy to displace the Liberals.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Thank you for being the voice of sanity in this thread (far saner, in fact, than your resident blogger, who for once gave in to her impulse to blog angry).

Deanna said...

You're welcome!

I'm just glad you don't think my last post was too long. Thank goodness you don't keep me down to 250 words. ;-)

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Ha ha ha. Like I could come down on you (or anyone) for being longwinded!

Josh G said...

Why do voters keep rejecting the concept? Seems to me we've had opportunities, and the results "ain't pretty". If anyone thinks another four years of Harper will bring electoral reform, or be good for the country, your in a dreamland.

Are you talking about referenda re: electoral reform? I seem to recall that some 57 percent of BC voters opted for reform in 2005, though that wasn't a sufficiently "clear majority" for Campbell. That the referendum in Ontario failed last fall probably had at least a bit to do with the fact that the closed list wasn't as palatable for many, and that neither the government nor the official opposition campaigned in favour. Of course, when you have a public education campaign with paltry funding, it should come as no surprise that Ontarians opted for the status quo.

Otherwise, I defer to IP, Deanna, James, and others who have expressed my views on this subject perfectly.

Greg said...

Agreed. Which is in fact precisely why I oppose the NDP strategy to displace the Liberals.

I have come to the conclusion that way lies corruption of the soul.

Sean S. said...

not sure how your past voting history matters Steve....I've also voted across the political spectrum, been a member of both the Libs and NDP.....does that mean my voice carries more weight too? hardly...

Chet Scoville said...

As usual, what James Bow said.

Also, like IP I grew up in the States where there is a two-word vocabulary for dealing with politics. Like IP, I don't want to be in that kind of system again.

Additionally, I don't understand this sudden Liberal panic -- and it does seem like panic. For nearly all of the past 70 years, there has been a Liberal government in Ottawa, and the NDP has existed for all that time. If the Liberals are having trouble forming the government now, that's because that party is in serious trouble internally, and it's not up to the NDP or anyone else to rescue them.

And finally, take a riding like mine. I live in Bob Rae's riding. In the by-election that sent him to Ottawa, he won in a walkover. He probably will again. The Conservatives have NO CHANCE OF ANY KIND in this riding; they came in fourth last time. So how would an NDP voter becoming a Liberal voter in this riding make any difference? The "unite-the-left" argument imagines that all ridings are competitive for the Cons, and that they can sneak up the middle everywhere. That's just not the case.

catherine said...

It takes all kinds. I like the cross party efforts. For those who really don't like where Harper wants to take Canada, this is a neat project by AVAAZ.

I was happy to give some money to take down three of Harper's ministers, even though I am completely ticked at Layton for his false statements on carbon pricing over the last three days. Depends on your priorities. Harper's more of a problem to me than Layton. The environmentalists seem to think so too, even though they are a bit ticked too.