As I said in my previous post, if Trudeau lives up to his promise and radically changes the Canadian electoral system, it may not only mean the end for the conservative movement, but for the Liberal Party itself.
Recall that Justin has talked about possibly implementing one of two different electoral systems: ranked ballots and proportional representation.
The effect proportional representation will have on the Liberal Party is a little more obvious. As it currently stands, the Liberal Party has governed Canada for most of its history, meaning that they have had, at the federal level, all of the power, most of the time. Under proportional representation they would, at best, have some of the power, most of the time.
Some Liberal surrogates in the media have said this election was not about stopping the Conservatives, but rather about electing the Liberals. These people are either deluding themselves or trying to create a mandate for the Liberals.
Liberals have done a fantastic job of demonizing conservatives throughout the culture.
That gives them a tremendous advantage under the current electoral structure: because the Conservatives are always within reach of grasping power, Liberals can woo voters who would otherwise vote for parties further to their left, with the promise of stopping the big, bad Conservatives.
Under this template, Conservatives stand for freedom, the NDP stands for socialism, and the Liberals stand for winning, particularly for the Left.
The problem for the Liberals is that, as good a job as they have done in moving the culture leftward, they have done a terrible job of turning anti-conservatives into true believers in the Liberal cause.
First, for empirical evidence of the fluidity of Canadian party identification, click here.
Second, some personal stories.
At the Liberal leadership convention that elected Stephane Dion, I overheard another Liberal, who was about my age at the time, say: “Some days I wake up a Marxist...” The ideas that underpin the distinctions between the Liberal Party and the Conservatives have their logical conclusion in Marxism.
Earlier in my high school education, I had a Liberal Party member as my Politics teacher. He said the Liberals and the NDP had the same goals, but that the Liberals wanted to get there slowly, whereas the NDP wanted to get there yesterday.
We also had a mock election during a provincial election. Turnout was about 200 students in a school of about 800, and the NDP won in a landslide. They had somewhere around 60% of the vote; the PCs had around 10% and the Liberals had around 30%. My riding is considered a very conservative riding. Later, in university, a similar situation happened in one of my classes.
Recall that the mock election was voluntary and that the students in a Political Science program tend to be the most motivated to show up at the polls. Right now, political motivation is trending away from the Liberal Party. This means that up and coming minds in academia, labour, government and even business are now trending to the NDP.
Some will say that young people have always tended to the left, but I doubt it has always been this far left.
How would this affect the NDP's election prospects under proportional representation? First, it would free NDP voters in ridings where the Liberal Party is dominant. They could finally be true to their own hearts, since they will not need to win a riding, merely improve their popular vote. Although ridings can make a statement under mixed-member proportional representation, ultimately the popular vote has the larger impact.
I would also predict that the Greens would grow, and new parties would emerge, even with a popular vote threshold of 5%.
Liberals who doubt me on this should recall their last decade of darkness, when under Dion, they told themselves that at least they knew their electoral prospects could not get worse -- and then learned that they could. As the Liberals began their decline, the NDP's electoral fortunes increased. The last election was the only exception, when the Liberals actually ran to the left of the NDP! I do not think that trend will last.
Secondly, the opportunists, cronyists and careerists would leave the party. Some would even move to the Right, because some ideas they hold are ideologically opposed to Left's worldview. The Liberal Party would no longer provide the same boon to their respective ambitions that it once had. This defection may begin as a trickle or it may start as a flood. I think the Liberal Party realized just how fickle these types can be when their party donations crashed.
Next time, I will cover preferential balloting and its likely impact on the Liberal Party.
But under proportional representation, whether the Liberal Party is destroyed or merely becomes the minority partner in a coalition government (just ask the NDP how enjoyable and productive that is), their electoral fortunes would be changed forever.
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