CBC's At Issue Panel took shots at some of the best and worst political moves of 2010 tonight.
One topic that garnered both bouquets and briquets was the issue of a potential alliance between the Liberals and the New Democrats in Ottawa.
Chantal Hebert called it the most "missed opportunity" that Ignatieff did not pursue the feasibility of such an alliance, given that the right has already achieved a modicum of unity between the former "Reform" party and the Progressive Conservatives, and the left is dividing up the same turf, making it less likely that either will win a majority government. On the other hand, Andrew Coyne feels strongly that the idea should be buried, burned and forgotten about, forever, the end, period!
Purists like Mr. Coyne are having a difficult time in today's political world. It is the pragmatists like Chantal Hebert who make more sense, certainly in this case.
The "political left" has almost atrophied from derision and scorn, including some character assassinations along the way, by the neo-conservatives, both north and south of the 49th parallel. While there is a rump of "left" leaning Democrats currently holding up the compromise legislation on the Bush taxes in the House of Representatives, and the bill is still likely to pass, the middle of the road is the turf where political leaders will find the votes needed to win, or to stay in, power. Obama knows this, hence his negotiation of the compromise.
Ignatieff, whose political colour has really yet to be disclosed, (sometimes he sounds like a Bay Street clone, and at others, a social activist yearing for more compassionate government), is going to need all the political support systems he can find and muster in order to enter the election fray, probably early in the Spring of 2011. Jack Layton, who has served his constituency admirably since taking the mantle of leadership, is never going to be prime minister, as a result of gaining a majority of seats in the House of Commons.
Nevertheless, there is a large group of voters whose natural political leaning is toward the traditional "left" while not swirving into the ditch of socialism, or into state control of major corporations, as has been the pursuit of the early NDP movement.
Those in the Liberal party who cringe at the thought of a Layton, or a Thomas Mulcair sitting in a coalition cabinet would do well to give themselves a shake, and wake up to the potential that such "new blood" would bring to the cabinet table. And, furthermore, if the Liberals were to put up candidates only in ridings that the NDP were unlikely to win, and vice versa, the potential of a Liberal-NDP coalition government rises.
And just think about the potential political muscle that could be directed toward a renewed Canada Health Act, for starters, and a formal dropping of the insanity of both new prison cells and 65 F35 Fighter Jets, with therefore increased availability of both funds and political will to tackle some of the glaring social assistance issues facing the country.
Moreover, it is in the election after the next one that this potential comes fully to flower.
That election could follow a joint meeting of the two parties, and a formal declaration of one party, to speak clearly and forcefully for the voices, the hearts and minds of the centre-left. And then, after all the many splinters and factions and third party movements we have seen over the last century plus, we could actually find out what many of us believe, that, different from the U.S., Canada is traditionally, historically and naturally a more "left-leaning" country than our southern neighbour.
And then the new Liberal-Democrats (it is not rocket science to envision such a name for the new party) could campaign with the best policies and practices of both parties, and the fund-raising and the personalities who could be attracted to such a new party.
Here is a single, modest and unequivocal vote for Ms. Hebert's view of the missed opportunity, by Michael Ignatieff.
By Lawrence Martin, Globe and Mail, December 28, 2010
(Thomas Mulcair was a Liberal member of the Quebec legislature for thirteen years before winning the Outremont seat for the N.D.P. in Ottawa.)
Being a former Liberal, Mr. Mulcair has no doubt the two parties (Liberal and NDP) can work together. “On the centre-left, we have to be just as smart as conservatives were on the centre-right when they coalesced. We’ve got to learn from that, otherwise we’ll end up with Harper governing with 37 per cent of the vote again.”
The NDP, he says, is sending a clear signal. “People can trust us to work with anyone else who wants to give voice to the 65 per cent of Canadians who are asking for a more progressive form of government than what we’ve been getting. This will require everyone to put a little water in their wine.”
Water in the wine. From a former Liberal, that’s good advice.