March 2012
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An Open Letter to Bob Rae re: Cooperation

Dear Mr. Rae,

Regarding your recent email, where you said:

The bullying and the thuggishness need to stop.

We need to talk directly to Canadians about Harper’s failure on the economy, about an election fraud scandal that has shaken Canada’s faith in its democracy. And yes, about a Prime Minister who has cheapened and tarnished Canadian politics.

I couldn’t agree more.  Harper’s tactics – including what I feel should be illegal campaigning when we’re not in an election period anyway – are horrible, and very much why I think many Canadians “switch off” from politics. And once they’re turned off, it’s hard to bring them back… and this suits Harper just fine, as Conservative supporters are less likely to give up.

However… I disagree with some of the Liberals tactics.  We absolutely know that our broken electoral system is a huge reason why Canadian politics has deteriorated to this point, and why Harper now enjoys a “majority” despite getting less than 40% of the vote, and why the Liberals are under-represented in the House.

I point to things like the recent by-election in Toronto-Danforth, to replace Jack Layton’s seat. Why raise so much money, fight so hard against the NDP in that riding, when ultimately (a) this was the NDP’s riding under Jack, and it would have been nice to respect that, (b) getting one extra Liberal seat from the NDP wouldn’t change the balance of power in the House, and (c) it just perpetuates this antagonistic, win-at-all-costs mentality that – at a national level – causes more people to turn away, or fear their vote for the NDP, Liberals, or Greens in their riding would contribute to vote-splitting that would allow the Conservatives to win.  We saw this in 2011, over and over.

Yes, it may have been an ego-boost to win that seat, but at what cost?

It’s great that the Liberals polling numbers are rising. But that’s at the expense – mostly – of the NDP. This situation could easily lead to disastrous vote-splitting again in the next election, should the NDP and Liberals be even remotely close, especially in Toronto. Even in Quebec, with a resurgent Bloc, there’s great potential for even more vote-splitting that would allow Conservatives and the BQ to gain seats.

This cannot be allowed to happen. Harper is stripping away what makes Canada so well-respected internationally, enacting policies that harm the environment, privatizing everything, taking away benefits from seniors, introducing online spying legislation, spending billions on prisons and overpriced fighter-jets, and the list goes on and on and on… all while lying to us and making a mockery of our democracy. And you’re content to continue old-school politics, fighting the Greens and NDP, feeling that a Liberal majority is possible again.

It isn’t. The fact is the Conservatives united the right of the political spectrum to game our First-Past-the-Post voting system, and their supporters are going to be very hard to budge. Meanwhile, we have three (four in Quebec) centre- or centre-left parties all trying to get a majority of votes in each riding.

There is a growing number of Canadians desperate for change, desperate for a new type of politics. We can’t afford to let Harper win another term.  We don’t want – or need – a merge of the left parties, a shift to the bitter two-party politics we see in the US. What we need is a strategy that will actually beat the Conservatives at the electoral gamesmanship: cooperation for mutual gain.

Admit that there’s a problem, and explain it to Canadians. Work with the other parties to reduce the chance of vote-splitting.  We’ve seen in the campaign of Nathan Cullen for the NDP leadership that the idea of cooperation is popular – even if he doesn’t win (I hope he does, though). People are hungry for it.

And when you win a shared majority, give us Proportional Representation. You have to to avoid any chance of the Conservatives coming back in the next election with a false majority. Better yet – enacting PR would likely fracture the Conservatives themselves, into the more moderate Progressive-Conservatives and the more neo-libertarian Reform party that took over.

Please. I’m asking not as a Liberal, NDP, or a Green (although there are elements of each party’s platforms I respect!). I’m asking as a concerned Canadian who, since immigrating here in 2000, has watched the country I love get destroyed by our voting system and ruthless ideology.

Thank you for your time.

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