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Cooperation. Coalition. Merger. 3 different things

Warren Kinsella penned a very good note recently on all of the Grit/Dipper Mergecoalicooperation (new word!) which drew some equally insightful comments… as Kinsella’s columns often do…

James Bow correctly pointed out the following:

You need to be clear about what’s on the table, here. Electoral cooperation, coalition and merger are three very different things, each with wholly different implications for Canadian voters.

And I agree. There is some confusion over these terms that are being thrown about rather haphazardly these days.

Electoral cooperation

This is akin to voting strategically, except on the side of the parties rather than on the voters. There are certain ridings where, in the pursuit of defeating Harpy and having a House with a Progressive Agenda, there can be tacit agreements that the Grits will support the Dippers in some way, or vice versa depending on the circumstances during and election campaign.

For example, say the Cons won a seat by a small margin and one could realistically expect some voters from the 3rd place party to support the second place party if encouraged to do so by the third place party. Take Nunavut for example:

2008 General Election Results:

Candidate Party Votes %Vote
AGLUKKAQ, Leona Conservative 2,815 34.9%
EJESIAK, Kirt Eliza Kootoo Liberal 2,349 29.1%
IRNGAUT, Paul NDP 2,228 27.6%
ITTINUAR, Peter Green 669 8.3%

Even if only 25% of the NDP voters went to the Grits, that would be more than enough to unseat the Cons because it would be highly unlikely that any of the Dipper votes would vote for the Cons… most Dippers would rather burn their union cards than do THAT!

The cooperation could take many forms. Sharing workers, running low-keys campaigns or weak candidates, even an outright endorsement of the opponent – all are possible. But do not. I repeat, do NOT run less than a complete slate of candidates. That is a coalition – not cooperation. And the Harperites would pounce on that like a mongoose on a cobra!

I predict that this is the most likely development we will see in the next election. And it may, just may further the Progressive Agenda.


Yes, they are legal. Yes, western democracies do use coalitions as a way to bring together different parties under one banner with an agreed upon legislative agenda. Nothing wrong with it.

However, because of the way that the Cons portrayed the last unsuccessful attempt at a coalition between the Grits and Dippers (and NO, the Bloq was NOT as part of the coalition) any notion of a working coalition by the two should be stated up front in the course of the campaign. Give the voters the opportunity to vote for a Progressive vision and still allow them to keep the faith for their own respective parties.

This scenario might happen. But I’m not sure Iggy has the balls or the inclination to do so. His ego might get in the way.


Admittedly this is my preference but for a variety of reasons, I don’t think it will happen in the near future, and here is why:

  • Too easy a target for the ReformCons. Can’t you see the ads? “Michael Ignatieff and the liberal party have chosen to partner with the tax and spend, nationalizing, pro-Taliban socialists”. Yes, a pile of crap, but the Tim Horton crowd would eat it up.
  • Many Blue Grits would rather head for the DeceptiCons than merge with Jack Layton. And many Dippers would just stay home. There is a long history here and to ignore it would be perilous. The combined party – at least right now – may garner fewer votes than the two parties combined as separate entities. That being said, the two parties of the Left and centre Left MUST coalesce at some point in the future if we are to avoid years and years of right-wing bullshit.
  • Don’t forget that it took 4 or 5 years before the current Cons won as high a percentage of the vote as the PCs and the Alliance put together during the 1997 & 2000 election campaigns. The internal schism, even if it was temporary, would open the door to a Harper majority; something all Progressives in this country definitely do NOT want to see!

But, hey, for political junkies like me, these are the best of times!


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  1. trashee says:

    Yup – yer bang-on, Dave.
    Jack’s ego rivals that of Ignatieff’s… the difference being that Iggy might consider some type of “arrangement” between the parties if pressured sufficiently from within. Whereas Jack would see this as an admission of failure and would feel little pressure from within to change anything.

  2. Dave 1949 says:

    You seem to be overlooking the very best reason not to combine the parties. Jack would have to gt a real job if he couldn’t be the leader of the 3rd opposition party and he’s not about to give that up no matter how much it hurts the progressive agenda.

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