We’re hearing a lot of noise in the press about “unite the left” since the NDP’s Pat Martin uttered these three words recently in his call for an ‘informal coalition’ of Liberals and New Democrats to defeat the Tories.
It is somewhat humorous to me that just because we are bombarded continually with the rhetoric that the Liberals and the New Democrats are on the left, we assume it to be true.
Reality check #1:
The Liberals are not left, nor are they even centre-left.
The Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien Liberals slashed taxes and the size of the federal government more than any other federal government has since World War II. More than Dief. More than Clark. More than Mulroney.
The Liberals in 1994, 1995 and 1996 were the most radically right-wing government Canada has had since well before the Mulroney era.
How is this even considered centrist let alone centre-left?
Reality check #2:
The NDP is not left wing.
Consider the NDP’s platforms and then compare them to European parties.
Were the NDP to sit in the European Parliament, it would most likely to sit as one of the centrist or even centre-right members of the party-group PES (Party of European Socialists). Since the NDP merely wish for the capitalist system to be managed differently and want what are comparatively extremely modest reforms to the capitalist system, I would argue that they would fit in on the centre-right of the PES group.
Moreover, in European papers, the PES group, while admittedly broad and containing some genuinely left-wing parties, is generally referred to as “centre-left”.
So where does that leave the NDP? Sure it’s left of centre and sure it’s to the left of the Liberals (but then again that’s not hard). But, given most Western democracies as a base measure, it is not difficult to imagine that the NDP would generally be considered by most Europeans as centre-left at best.
If we’re really going to be honest, then we really ought to call proposal what it is: ‘unite the centre’.