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Accidental Deliberations: Change for the better

It seems so long ago when it was conventional wisdom that no party in contention for government in Canada would dare talk about cooperating to get things done, no matter how many voters wanted to see it happen.

But if there was any doubt that the NDP can change Ottawa’s underlying assumptions, we can put that to rest.

Accidental Deliberations: On cooperative priorities

As part of their new “Hope and Wild Flailing” campaign theme, plenty of Libs are looking for any pretext – however lacking in reality – to attack Tom Mulcair. And Mulcair’s latest comments on a coalition offer the latest flimsy excuse. So let’s look at how there’s still a huge difference between the NDP and the Libs when it comes to a willingness to talk about coalitions – but how Mulcair could do far better by working with the NDP’s longstanding willingness to cooperate.

To start with, let’s look at the obvious distinction between the parties’ respective stances.

Trudeau’s position (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Working across the aisle

Among the other lessons learned from Alberta’s recent election, let’s point out one more with implications for the federal scene.

While the main opposition parties recognized that they were too far apart in their general policy orientation to justify a formal coalition, both the NDP and the Wildrose Party were happy to point out some of the areas which were ripe for cooperation as part of their criticism of the governing PCs.

In other words, neither tried to pretend that there was no room to discuss post-election cooperation, nor to claim that some areas of disagreement or personal differences rendered (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Choosing the wrong side

Following up on this morning’s column, let’s note that there’s another area where the Libs are stubbornly sticking to a previous position whose underpinnings have been even more thoroughly destroyed.

The Libs have been at pains to at least offer the perception of changing their direction from nearly everything done by both Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff as leaders. But the common theme of arrogantly ruling out cooperation with other parties continues to lie at the centre of the Libs’ messaging – even though it failed miserably in both of the last two federal elections, and looks downright absurd (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On guesswork

Shorter Bob Rae: Some people actually believe voters deserve a meaningful idea what political parties plan to do before choosing between them? That’s crazy talk.

Accidental Deliberations: The democratic alternative

Some time ago, I put together this list of principles worth considering when talking about structured cooperation between political parties. And consistent with Ian Gill’s own warning about his lack of connection to party structures, his proposal for a secret pre-election pact manages to fail on nearly every front.

But while there’s some reason for question about Gill’s intended direction, the bigger issue is his presumption that we need our political parties to drag us there. So let’s clarify the options available to Canadians who want to further an “ABC” agenda in the lead up to this fall’s election.

While (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: The petulant son

Shorter Justin Trudeau: When I say I plan to do politics differently, what I mean is that I’m willing to leave Stephen Harper in power based on the most petty and frivolous excuses anybody’s ever heard.

No longer is there any pretense that a flat “no” to a coalition with the NDP is based on policy differences (however implausible). Instead, Trudeau is ruling out the possibility of cooperation based on personal hostility toward Thomas Mulcair – which of course couldn’t be further from matching the public’s perception of the NDP’s leader, particularly among people with whom Trudeau supposedly (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On transition planning

I’ve previously highlighted the need for media and citizens alike to press our opposition parties on how they’re willing to cooperate to replace the Harper Cons after the next federal election. But let’s note that there’s a similar question which still needs to be directed at Stephen Harper at every available opportunity – even if we can’t expect much more than instructive non-answers.

As Andrew Coyne notes, it’s still an open question how far Harper would go in trying to cling to power under all kinds of circumstances: As prime minister, Mr. Harper would retain a number of prerogatives (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: History repeating

2008, pre-election: Liberal bigwigs make a ridiculous spectacle of themselves proclaiming that they’ll never deign to cooperate with the likes of the NDP.

2008, post-election: Having spent the campaign echoing Stephen Harper’s desperate message that a coalition would be illegitimate, the Liberals conclude that they’re willing to cooperate after all, only to botch the job.

2011, pre-election: Liberal bigwigs make a ridiculous spectacle of themselves proclaiming that they’ll never deign to cooperate with the likes of the NDP.

2011, post-election: Having spent the campaign echoing Stephen Harper’s desperate message that a coalition would be illegitimate, the Liberals conclude that they’re (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On prospects for change

The latest round of discussion about the possibility of a coalition to offer something better than the Harper Cons seems to have taken an noteworthy turn. At this point, everybody but the Libs seems to have settled on the position that there’s no real obstacle to a coalition government – and the Libs’ spin machine has responded with little more than a plan to fabricate mistrust between themselves and the NDP.

But no matter how far that effort goes, the foreseeable outcomes of the next election feature a low probability of anybody holding a majority, and a strong prospect that (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On needless concessions

Shorter Dougald Lamont: The only way to win against Stephen Harper’s Conservatives is to let the Conservatives define both the significance of Stephen Harper, and what it means to “win”.

Accidental Deliberations: On simple questions

Gerald Caplan goes far beyond what’s necessary in proposing that the NDP and Libs develop a pre-election cooperation pact intended to lead to a party merger. But as highlighted by the conversation started by Fern Hill’s Tweet, we can take his suggestion as a starting point in discussing what we expect from Canada’s opposition parties.

Each opposition party has ample reason to include the glaring need for change from a corrupt and ineffective Con government as part of their core message. So far, only the NDP is willing to even discuss post-election cooperation to ensure a change in government, (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On common messaging

It shouldn’t come as much surprise that the new election year is bringing out the usual, tiresome round of calls for strategic voting and candidate withdrawals.

In the past, I’ve responded by suggesting that if Canada’s opposition parties have enough common ground to cooperate, they should consider working with joint messages rather than trying to carve up the electoral map. And I’d still be curious to see how that type of arrangement would work if there was any interest in pursuing it.

But I wonder now whether the best course of action may have nothing to do with party arrangements (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On predictable arrangements

Aaron Wherry nicely summarizes the possible outcomes of the next federal election so the rest of us don’t have to. But let’s take a moment to consider what we can expect if we indeed have a hung Parliament, requiring parties to deal with each other to determine who will hold office.

To start with, Michael Den Tandt’s theory about the NDP having any interest in propping up continued Con government is utterly out to lunch. But CuriosityCat’s Lib spin is far from the right way to look at the NDP’s position as well.

No, Jack Layton’s tenure as leader (and (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Robin Sears offers his theory that the upcoming federal election could represent a meaningful referendum on competing visions for Canada – and Paul Wells seems to expect much the same. But while that might make for a useful statement of the actual consequences of electing the anti-government Cons as opposed to having a progressive coalition materialize, it’s hard to see a clash of visions represent the core of the campaign – particularly when the party currently in power won’t admit to its active hostility toward social programs and the environment, while another (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Ryan Meili examines why Craig Alexander of the TD Bank is calling for a move toward greater income equality in Canada: The OECD reports that income inequality is at the highest level in 30 years, and that economic growth has been slowed by as much as 10 per cent in some countries as a result. A 2014 IMF study showed that redistributive policies through tax and transfers not only do no harm to the economy, but can improve performance in the long-term. In fact, it appears that public investments in child care and (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jonathan Freedland discusses how the UK’s Conservative government is forcing its poor citizens to choose between food and dignity: Cameron’s statement rests on the repeatedly implied assumption that the only people going hungry are those who have opted for idleness as a lifestyle choice, who could work but don’t fancy it. This assumption is false. The majority of poor households include at least one person who works. As Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, put it this week: “People who are using food banks are not scroungers who are cynically trying (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On top priorities

If there’s anything to question in the latest reporting about possible post-election cooperation between the NDP and the Libs, it’s the impression that Thomas Mulcair’s willingness to pursue a coalition to replace the Harper Cons with a better government somehow comes entirely out of the blue. But while the story may not be entirely new, it’s certainly well worth pointing out: The leader of the New Democrats said on Tuesday he is willing to form a coalition in order to take power after the next election, even as the other opposition party leader, Liberal Justin Trudeau, played down the idea. … (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Lynn Stuart Parramore offers five convincing pieces of evidence to suggest that the U.S.’ plutocrats are losing their minds in their effort to set themselves apart from the rabble. Kevin Roose tells a story about some awful, awful (and disturbingly wealthy and powerful) people. And Patrick Wintour discusses how the UK Cons are dedicating significant public resources to placing impossible demands on the unemployed – then cutting off the livelihood of anybody not acrobatic enough to jump through their newly-created hoops.

- So there’s plenty of reason to think Ana Marie (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On poison pills

I’ve already pointed out the absurdity of Gordon Campbell anti-NDP acolyte Joyce Murray pretending to run as a pan-progressive candidate in the Libs’ leadership race. But if we needed any more indication that she can’t be taken seriously, Tim Harper provides it by looking at the fine print of her “cooperation” plan: Under the Murray plan, seats held by the Conservatives in which the governing party received less than 50 per cent of the vote would be targeted for co-operation.

She would blend the 2008 and 2011 results, to eliminate any onetime anomalies. One such anomaly, she said, was the

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Accidental Deliberations: Friday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material to end your week.

- Lawrence Martin questions the media’s obsession with fabricating stories out of imagined motivations and insignificant shifts in poll numbers: In the year before an election, the media’s heavy focus on tiny political twists and turns is understandable. Here in Canada, a federal campaign is likely a long way off, the Conservatives’ numbers are stable and so are those of the NDP. But it doesn’t prevent the rash of pollster and media speculation about who is up and who is down and who might be headed in either direction.

A headline the other day

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Accidental Deliberations: On open invitations

Jon Worth’s post on the distinction between partisan politics (as generally understood) and movement-based activism is well worth a read, particularly in pointing out how the latter may better express what people actually want to see out of politics: Since first reading Mary Kaldor’s piece at the LSE EUROPP blog this autumn about alternative social movements I’ve been fascinated by the practical meaning of the term “prefigurative action” that she mentions. Her description of the term is “the attempt to practice the kind of democracy that the participants imagine” – i.e. to behave in politics in the

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Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Dr. Dawg highlights Peter Russell’s take on the Cons’ 2008 efforts to prevent a Parliamentary majority from actually exercising its right to vote down a government which had lost the confidence of the House of Commons. And Steven Chase follows up by noting the role that the Cons’ smear machine may have played in subverting Canadian democracy.

- Meanwhile, Bruce Cox discusses how a longstanding democratic crisis has led us to the verge of environmental disaster. And as Scott points out, there’s plenty of room for matters to get worse when

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Accidental Deliberations: On speculative advances

Somehow most of the discussion of Thomas Mulcair’s Question Period appearance this morning seems to have missed what strikes me as the most important point. So let’s take a closer look at how his message has evolved from the leadership campaign – and how it figures to position the NDP to form government in 2015.

At first glance, Mulcair’s answer in response to a question focused on the possibility of a coalition government in 2015 might not seem like a particularly strong one: Mulcair said the party will be running candidates in all 338 federal ridings (adjusted with new additions)

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