Bring on the Liberal Green Democrats

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Canada's 40th Parliament ends its current session this week. It will resume sitting in February, and after a few weeks, a budget debate is expected to trigger an election show down. Shuffling of voting intentions between Liberal and Conservative has drawn most media interest; especially with the Conservatives back on top. However, going back to the 2008 election, what characterizes Canadian public opinion is how little things have changed. The Liberals and Conservatives share between them something over 65 per cent of voting intentions, while the three other parties share something short of 35 per cent.

This configuration of voting intentions is mirrored in the stable Liberal Conservative parliamentary voting coalition that has governed Canada the last few years. Dominated by the personality of the prime minister, this regime has had destructive effects on the lives of Canadians. Only fear of the consequences of an election keeps it alive.

Canada badly needs a change of government. Given the continued weakness of the Liberals -- the prospects of them winning more seats than the Conservatives are slim -- the alternative is for a new parliamentary coalition to be formed following the next election. Call it a Liberal-Green-Democrat government that would replace the Liberal-Conservatives.

For a new coalition to be formed three conditions need to be met. First, between them the NDP, and the Liberals have to win more seats that the Conservatives. This is not going to be easy. Currently the Conservative hold 143 seats to the combined total of 124 for the Liberals and NDP. Based on current polling trends the Conservatives would fall to 130 seats, but the Liberals and NDP would only gain one seat between them. Ideally, the Liberals and New Democrats need to win between them one-half plus one of the 308 seats. Because it is projected to increase its representation from 47 to 53 seats, the strength of the Bloc seems likely to rule out the majority Liberal-New Democrat coalition scenario.

Second, since the NDP and Liberals together could end up with not much more than 40 per cent of the popular vote, it would be best if the Green Party, which is unlikely to win a seat, but will win over five per cent of the national vote, were formally to be part of a governing accord.

Thirdly, the Liberals and the NDP would need to agree after the next election to defeat the returning Conservative government on the speech from the throne. On what grounds? Because with less voter support than the combined vote of three opposition parties, the Conservatives would not have the legitimacy to rule. The Bloc would be informed of what was to happen, but would not be photographed with the Liberal Green Democrats, or asked to pledge support for its agenda.

In one scenario, the Liberals, Greens and NDP would agree in advance not to run against each other in the 142 Conservative held ridings. Though in many respects desirable, this is not going to happen. The parties are dead set against it.

The other scenario is for an SBC (Something Better than a Conservative) internet based coalition to do the thinking in every part of the country. For each Conservative held riding, one among the NDP, Green, and Liberal candidates would be identified as the best placed to defeat the incumbent Conservative. All efforts would be made to elect that candidate. Quebec is a special case, naturally. It would be possible to identify the Canadian alternative candidate in all 75 ridings to be chosen among the Liberal, Green and NDP candidates.

There is a very important precedent from the last election. In Edmonton Strathcona, an internet-based coalition -- Vote for Environment -- asked people to vote for New Democrat Linda Duncan, who went on to defeat incumbent Rahim Jaffer.

Currently, there is a campaign called Catch-22 Conservatives formed to defeat the more vulnerable Conservative incumbents. For a new government to become a possibility there is no need to wait for an opposition party to win an election. Concerted political action in each Conservative held riding will suffice to set the stage for a Liberal-Green-Democrat government.

Bring it on.

Duncan Cameron writes weekly on politics and is president of rabble.ca.

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