They’re playing into his hands

March 18, 2015   ·   0 Comments

PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER must be delighted at what’s happening across the floor in the House of Commons.

There he is, with a solid majority of seats, watching the two main opposition parties seemingly do everything possible to guarantee the Conservatives’ re-election next October.

In recent weeks we’ve witnessed it playing out in Toronto, with pre-election speeches by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair setting the stage for their mutual battle for more seats in the vote-rich Greater Toronto Area.

Without a doubt, we’re about to see another election in which two centre-left parties with a few disagreements on policy destroying any chance either will have of forming the next federal government.

As matters stand, the NDP will likely lose a few seats and the Liberals gain a few. But while six out of 10 Canadians (and even more outside Alberta) will oppose the hard-right policies of the Harper regime, the Tories will easily win another majority.

The irony, of course, is that the Liberals and New Democrats are a lot closer on the political spectrum than were the old Progressive Conservative and Reform Party, particularly after the Reformers formed the Canadian Alliance. Yet there’s not only no talk these days of either a merger of the two parties or even of entertaining the option of a coalition government should no party win a majority.

As matters stand, there’s no doubt whatsoever that both the Liberals and NDP will nominate candidates in every federal riding, whether or not they stand even the slightest chance of winning.

The riding of Dufferin-Caledon provides a good example of what’s going to happen. Although the Liberals have a great candidate in Ed Crewson and David Tilson won the Tory nomination only narrowly, you can count on seeing the local ballots bear at least four names, with candidates from the NDP and Greens siphoning off votes that would otherwise be Mr. Crewson’s.

What a difference it would make if in such ridings, where slightly less than half the electorate votes Conservative, the non-Conservative parties simply endorsed one candidate they saw as having the best chance to win the riding.

It would be interesting, indeed, to see an opinion poll in which respondents were asked what they saw as the main difference in the policies of the federal Liberals and New Democrats.

In recent weeks, the main difference has been in the two parties’ approach to Bill C-51, the government’s legislation that enhances the powers of police and CSIS in their search for potential terrorists. Although both Messrs. Mulcair and Trudeau decry the absence of any parliamentary monitoring of our spy agency, the Liberals have voted in favour of the bill while promising to fix the legislation if they are elected, while the NDP is voting against it despite the knowledge that most Canadians have been persuaded that it’s necessary.

It will be interesting to see whether a similar departure in approaches occurs when it comes to voting on the Tories’ latest legislation eliminating any hope of eventual parole for some convicted of first-degree murder.

Clearly, the main reason for the absence of re-election co-operation between the two federal parties lies in the fact that in some provinces they are the two major combatants.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in British Columbia, where the government has a Liberal label while in reality being an amalgam of centre-right forces and the New Democrats are the only opposition party ever likely to form a government.

But it would be fascinating to see the two federal parties go so far as to delay nominating candidates in ridings where the other party has a good candidate and to spend campaign money only where they’ve a chance of winning.

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