Friday, April 13, 2007

Elizabeth May and the Liberal Party.

There's a certain amount of concern (see here, for example) about the deal concocted between Elizabeth May of the federal Greens and the Liberal Party, i.e., that the Libs won't run a candidate against May in Central Nova, and May will endorse Stephane Dion for Prime Minister. Personally, I'm having a hard time seeing what the fuss is about.

Electorally, as Wikipedia shows, the Greens don't stand a chance. The second-place finisher in the last election was the NDP candidate, Alexis MacDonald. If you combine the previous Liberal and Green tallies, they don't come close to the NDP tally. So, assuming, as one reasonably might, that only a fraction of the NDP votes at best will go to the Greens, and assuming, as one unreasonably might, that the Greens and Liberals all vote for May, Peter MacKay still takes it in a cakewalk. (FWIW, fighting against a MacKay in Central Nova seems to be political suicide. Peter's father, Elmer, held the riding for years.) That's also assuming that MacDonald doesn't manage to increase her own vote tally at the expense of the Libs and the Greens.

Politically, it looks like a smart move on May's part. The NDP is the only party that can really give the Greens a significant challenge on their central issue, i.e., the environment. By teaming with the Liberals, May likely hopes to keep the NDP at bay and, simultaneously, put the Greens forward as presumptive potential partners, ahead of the Dippers, in a formal coalition with the Libs. (The Jurist makes similar points. EDIT 3pm: Actually, my error here. For some reason, I thought the Jurist was talking about how this might be bad for the NDP: he's talking about how it would be bad for the Liberals.)

As far as principle goes, I don't really see the problem with an informal agreement between a smaller party and a larger one. After all, formal versions of these agreements are what make up coalition governments, and, as far as I'm concerned, coalitions are a good thing. Idealistic Pragmatist tries to argue that the informal version is bad because it "disenfranchises" voters, but that doesn't really make sense. After all, suppose the Greens had simply chosen not to run 308 candidates in the election. Would voters in the ridings that didn't have a Green candidate be "disenfranchised"? Or would their options have simply been narrowed? As long as we do this crazy, voting-for-some-guy-in-your-riding system, then the fact that you can't vote for your first choice of party in no way disenfranchises you: you just don't have that right. (Now, maybe you should, but that's an argument against the system, not an argument that has traction within the system.)

So, overall, it's a somewhat cynical move, but also one that has at least one good principle behind it. I do think, though, that May has screwed herself in trying to run in Central Nova. She really has no chance against MacKay, and so all this maneuvering will be for naught.

Now, go read CC: it made me laugh.


JimBobby said...

MacDonald, the popular local NDP who boosted the NDP's vote to an unprecedented level in 2006 has stated that she does not intend to run again. This deal may not have been brokered had that not been the case.

MacKay's backroom North American Union talks with Condi are starting to be noticed and the family history is with the Progressive Conservatives, not the Regressive Cons. Petey's personal ambition, capitulation and outright lies (to Orchard and other PC's) are what deprived Canadians of a socially-liberal, fiscally-conservative party.

What emerging viable alternative party bills itself as socially-liberal and fiscally-conservative? Uh huh, the GPC's filling a void left by MacKay's treachery.

MacKay's not invulnerable. He wsn't before the deal and he's certainly more vulnerable w/o a Grit in the race.

In what looks like a situation where minority governments will be elected into the foreseeable future, the ability to set aside partisanship for the good of the country is needed for any meaningful, effective action in Parliament. May and Dion are demonstrating an ability to work for Canada's long term good above working for their own parties' short term $1.75/vote.


ADHR said...

But who's going to replace MacDonald? That's the $10,000 question, as Jack could, in theory, find someone to push the NDP's share of the vote even higher. Not to mention that it's always hard to tell how much of a vote is due to partisanship and how much is due to preference for the individual candidate.

As far as MacKay, I think you're overlooking (a) the incumbent's advantage and (b) the fact that most Canadians don't seem to see a difference between the old Tory party and the new Cons.

janfromthebruce said...

And parachut candidates, like May, don't do well in more rural ridings. This isn't like some safe Green seat, since in the 2006 election the Green candidate got all of 124 votes total.
May hasn't lived in Nova Scotia for about 20 years, wasn't even originally from Nova Scotia, as she was an American. Trying to wrap herself up in a Nova Scotian flag is a stretch.
I hope Alexis reconsiders and runs. NDP stands a good chance of taking this riding.

Mark Dowling said...

The media coverage May will get for running v McKay and losing will be far higher than what's she'll get for running in her home ward. This is a media strategy and the Dion deal has bought her some more free media.

This and McGuinty's cozying up to the CAW must have some NDPers wondering where their bases are headed.

Shannon said...

Why does Elizabeth May not just join the Liberal Party and run as a Liberal?

It is her and not the Green Party that Dion endorses. As a member of the Green Party she has to stand by the policies that the so called grass roots came up with. Banning free trade, etc.

Did the Liberals have a policy conference since Dion or is he just planning to adopt whatever he thinks would do well in the polls, grass roots and Liberal ideologies be damned.

This is quite bizarre and I still think it has something to do with the fact that the Sierra Club and May wrote the Liberal amendments to the Clean Air Act (which May now calls magnificent patting herself on the back) and the payback by Dion is this deal with May.

Since when did a major political party allow itself to be hijacked by fringe lobby groups so holus bolus?

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

After all, suppose the Greens had simply chosen not to run 308 candidates in the election. Would voters in the ridings that didn't have a Green candidate be "disenfranchised"?

Actually, some Green voters argued precisely that when I mused about the posssibility of May not running a candidate in every riding to conserve party resources, and toward the end of the comments section they'd pretty much convinced me.

The difference between the two situations, though, is about the numbers. The Greens not running a candidate in Dion's riding means that only 2% or so of voters aren't able the vote the way they want. This is too bad for them, but it doesn't affect that many people. The Liberals, on the other hand, took a perfectly respectable 25% in Central Nova in the last election. They have an active riding association with a president and an executive who work hard to represent their party on the local level, and that group is never going to be able to rebuild after this. The scale of that is quite different from removing the top option from the playing field of a few hundred Green voters. I am active in my own riding association, and if Layton ever stepped in to do this to us, that would be the last time I'd ever vote for the NDP with him as leader. It's simply not okay.

ADHR said...

Jan: How is it relevant that May is an American? That's like complaining Dion is French.

Mark: Yeah, media coverage is probably a big part of it. Of course, if she gets covered as a "Liberal lite", then one wonders as Shannon does -- why doesn't May just join the Liberal party?

Shannon: It's probably a bit more prosaic. The Greens are being portrayed in media as lefties, and so they may bleed votes from the NDP. More Cons in power = more chances for the Libs to paint themselves as the "progressive" alternative.

IP: I'm not remotely convinced. Sorry! ;) I take the point that voters should be able to vote for any party they choose, regardless of whether that party runs a candidate in their riding. But, under our current system, all you can do is vote for one of the particular individuals running. You could criticize that as an oddly-limited interpretation of the franchise, but to claim it's disenfranchising goes too far.

Dion et al may be willing to write off the riding association on the grounds that they only won the riding once in the past 40 years (most of which was Elmer MacKay kicking the snot out of the Liberal candidate). It's cynical as hell, but that's the big two parties for ya.

The Jurist said...

Adam: Thanks for the link, though I didn't realize that was among the points in my post (particularly any reference to the idea as "smart" on the Greens' behalf). And even the Greens' intentions seem more focused on clearing a path in Central Nova alone than on a formal coalition - note that May's statement includes an emphasis on other ridings/issues where the Libs and Greens are still butting heads.

JimBobby: Do you have a source on MacDonald not running again? Last I heard no decision had been made, though there were plenty of people willing to claim she wasn't in order to justify handing May the seat.

ADHR said...

Jurist: Hah! My error. I thought you were talking about the NDP where you were actually talking about the Liberals. Guess I wasn't awake enough when I wrote that....

I'm not sure how seriously to take May's word. She's already indicated that she's willing to deal with the Libs in a riding that she has only a very, very outside shot at winning. Why wouldn't she expand the arrangement?

Dan said...

"they only won the riding once in the past 40 years (most of which was Elmer MacKay kicking the snot out of the Liberal candidate). It's cynical as hell, but that's the big two parties for ya."

I was reading up this today, and that one time? It was Roseanne Skoke, who as I recall, was about as far away from being "progressive" as one can get.