KINSELLA: NDP-Liberal coalition government an unmitigated disaster for Conservatives

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The NDP is way ahead in British Columbia.

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It leads a strong opposition in Alberta. It looks like it could form government in Manitoba. It is (and has been for years) a strong official opposition in Ontario.

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And, in Toronto – where the city’s budget and power exceeds that of many provinces – a longtime NDP loyalist was just comfortably elected mayor.

What about the national level? Well, at the national level, the New Democratic Party is in decline. It is in very bad shape.

Conservatives often claim that splits on the ideological Right keep them from power. And it is somewhat true: before Stephen Harper united the warring factions of the Right in 2004, Liberal victories were made easier.

But if the political Right is sometimes split, so too is the political Left. The Liberal Party of Canada has had to contend with a loss of support to the New Democratic Party for many years.

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So, all the political parties face some competition for the same pool of voters. That’s a truism in Canadian politics.

To win, the Conservative Party needs the progressive vote to split. That’s what happened in 2011, when Stephen Harper finally won his coveted majority: voters didn’t like Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, but they very much liked NDP leader Jack Layton.

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The progressive vote accordingly split, and Harper came up the middle to form a majority.

Although Conservatives like to convince themselves that Justin Trudeau is just a dumb drama teacher, they should give him credit for one big political achievement.

Like Harper united conservatives in 2004, Trudeau united progressives in 2022. Harper’s historic achievement was merging the Progressive Conservative Party with the Canadian Alliance. Trudeau’s historic achievement was the benign-sounding “confidence-and-supply-agreement.”

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That agreement – this writer has uncharitably referred to it as the Axis of Weasels, because it kind of is – crystallized the unification of Liberals and New Democrats at the federal level.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh may still delude himself into thinking that he leads a truly independent political party, but he does not. Singh’s party was the target of the friendliest of friendly acquisitions in Canadian history. He went along with it, and the federal NDP is now a Trudeau Liberal Government branch plant operation.

For newly-selected Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, like all his predecessors, the spiritual merger of federal Liberals and federal New Democrats is an unmitigated disaster. To win power, he needs the progressive vote to split, as it did in 2011.

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He also needs his victory to be numerically overpowering. If Poilievre only cobbles together a small minority, the combined forces of the Liberals and the NDP – perhaps even aided by the Bloc Quebecois and the Greens – will defeat him in the House at the earliest opportunity.

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A bevy of byelections – stretching back to one in Mississauga Lakeshore late last year – underline the extent of Pierre Poilievre’s problem. Unless and until federal New Democrats start to recapture their traditional vote, the Tory Leader is probably doomed.

Trudeau’s greatest strategic asset, in that regard, is Poilievre himself. Too often, the Conservative Leader seems to embrace the sort of hard-right rhetoric that drives droves of panicked New Democratic voters into the waiting arms of Justin Trudeau.

Until that changes, and until New Democrats start to do federally what they presently do provincially, it is very hard to see a path to majority victory for the Conservatives.

It is equally hard to see how Conservatives can defeat what is effectively an NDP-Liberal coalition government.

So, will federal New Democrats ever follow the lead of their provincial cousins?

Don’t hold your breath. Jagmeet Singh is a leader in name only. He is a district regional manager.

And, until he actually does something about that, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can breathe easy.

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