The coalition must go forth even though Harper has retreated

paulitics-coalition-parties-logoWith the Tories having now fully reversed themselves on their attempt to scrap the public financing of political parties, progressives are faced with the question:  “What are we to do now?”

Many true progressives like myself — socialists, left liberals, Marxists, anarchists, left libertarians et cetera — are critical of the NDP’s rightward shift even at the best of times let alone in a coalition situation with the neo-liberal party of Stéphane Dion.  Thus true progressives might be tempted to rescind any support for the idea of a coalition now that Harper is no longer promising to emaciate and eviscerate the opposition parties like a would-be third world dictator.

Frankly, from a purely subjective standpoint, there is good reason for true progressives to remain deeply ambivalent about a proposed coalition; to neither oppose it per se nor support it per se.

But on the other hand progressives need to realize that from a purely objective and academic standpoint, the coalition attempt must go forth despite the fact that the immediate threat of one-party rule seems to have subsided (for the time being) and despite the fact that progressives may remain ambivalent about such a project.

The reason for this is not because of the overriding need for an economic stimulus package — although the country does badly need an economic stimulus package.  In all likelihood, Harper will roll out a small élite-friendly economic stimulus package sometime this week in a last ditch attempt to hold on to power and further dissuade the creation of a coalition.  However, the project of creating a coalition must go forward for the simple objective fact that, were the opposition parties to back down now, any future threats and bargaining attempts would loose the bulk of their credibility.  Such a scenario would result in virtually the same kind of de facto Conservative one-party rule that Harper was originally threatening to impose just 36 hours ago.

Thus, while true progressives may rightly be concerned about the consequences of a quasi-labour New Democratic Party joining forces with a right-wing neo-liberal Liberal Party, I for one will understand if this project needs to go forth without my comrades’ or my full throated support.

Sometimes it is necessary to follow through on certain threats, unpleasant though it may be, in order to make future ones hold more weight.

See also:

Harper slams Liberal/NDP “backroom deal”, forgets he came to power through “backroom deal” himself

It may be necessary, but remember that NDP/Liberal coalitions are like abusive marriages

Tory strategy in framing the public financing debate is intellectually dishonest at best


11 Responses to “The coalition must go forth even though Harper has retreated”

  1. 1 Dr.Dawg 29 November, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    progressives are faced with the question: “What are we to do now?”

    Not true. There is only one course, even if some feel nervous about it–full steam ahead.

    How would the opposition parties look if they pulled out now? They really have little choice in the matter.

  2. 2 paulitics 29 November, 2008 at 8:23 pm


    I suggest you re-read the blog post. I conclude exactly the same way as you just posited in your comment. That is, namely, that they have little choice in the matter.

  3. 3 sb 29 November, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    Absolutely — the opposition must not back down — the momentum must be kept.

    The opposition is on the threshold of turfing Steven Harper and inflicting a mortal wound on the CP — with complete legitimacy within the norms of Parliamentary democracy.

    The NDP will make compromises in the process — but the left will also have the best chance of getting childcare, the kelowna accord, job creation during the recession, action on climate change, etc.

    And if the NDP screws up and either moves too far right or gets wiped out in a future election — then we can finally get on with the real project of building an anti-capitalist party.

    There is no downside for the radical left.

  4. 4 sb 29 November, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    I cynically believed the Liberals would back down today but check their website — they have a new statement which delineates the plan for a coalition government.

    Scott Reid has a good op ed on the Globe and Mail right now — saying now is the time to go for the kill.

  5. 5 A non-emu's opinon 29 November, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    Even if removing Harper from power wasn’t a good thing, even if getting honest access to Deficit Jim’s cooked books wasn’t a worthwhile goal, the Coalition still needs to go forth, because backing out now would be played as if the opposition parties were only interested in their taxpayer subsidies, not the good of the nation.

    Harper’s misplay wasn’t putting forward the axing of the public subsidy, it was putting it forward so soon from the previous election (thereby opening up the possibility of a coalition takeover without an election), and bundled in with an economic update that the opposition could oppose (thereby being able to deflect the “nose in trough” accusations).

    Rest assured, if Harper survives this, this measure will be back, but it will back several months down the road and in a bill entirely on its own so that toppling the government over it puts the conservatives in a perfect position to portray the other parties as being concerned only for their own welfare.

    Mr. Harper has encouarged all of his supporters to write their MPs and tell them what they think. It’s vital that we also do the same, especially those of us with NDP, Liberal, or Bloc MPs, as you know they’ll be hearing from the conservative echo chamber, so we need to make sure they know there is support for this move.

  6. 6 Beijing York 30 November, 2008 at 12:47 am

    Most definitely the coalition must go forth immediately. The compromises made between the NDP and Liberals will be less distasteful to those of us on the left than the incremental compromises that have been made to pull the opposition parties further to the right to capture votes. Four or heaven forbid eight years of Harper conservative rule will mean the goal posts are moved so far to the right that the NDP will at best campaign like Joe Clark Tories.

    Also, it would be a strategic blunder to backdown now. Such a move would be painted as the opposition parties being solely concerned about protecting their interests and not those of Canadians. Doesn’t matter that Harper’s attack on electoral funding was undemocratic, he will spin their retreat as proof that they were only concerned about their own campaign coffers.

  7. 7 Stephen Elliott-Buckley 30 November, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Future credibility is important, but on a more practical level, Harper got away with his abuse since 2006 because the Liberals were in disarray and wouldn’t crash the government to stop them.

    We must expect Harper to continue and escalate his abuse. The idea to kill public financing was merely an indication of the kind of abuse he plans to heap.

    This is a huge reason to continue pursuing the coalition.

  8. 8 Dr.Dawg 30 November, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    I was actually agreeing with you. There is no choice at all.

    Welcome to Petrograd Soviet II, with bourgeois actors. :)

  9. 9 Ralph 3 December, 2008 at 3:24 am


    The only downside to the radical left as you call it is that the country will essentially go broke struggling to finance all of the giveaways. The left will never understand that there is no such thing as a “free Lunch”
    There is a maxim to live by; “never stand between solialists and the trough for you may get trampled”


  1. 1 The coalition must go forth even though Harper has retreated … Trackback on 29 November, 2008 at 9:04 pm
  2. 2 Harper has made Canada the laughing stock of the world [video] « Paulitics Trackback on 5 December, 2008 at 6:10 pm

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