Opinion | The Saturday Debate: Should the provincial Liberals and NDP form an alliance?


Tim Ellis

Community organizer

On April 12, Not One Seat announced our campaign to team voters in Toronto’s 25 ridings to unite behind the candidates best positioned to defeat Premier Doug Ford.

Our aim is to deny the Progressive Conservatives the 11 seats they won in Toronto in 2018, which should be sufficient to keep Ford from winning a majority of Ontario’s seats — and thus open a path for the Liberals, NDP, and Greens to work together and ensure Ontario gets a new government.

Within days of launch, our volunteer base had emerged from one person at a laptop to hundreds of people working together to prevent a second Ford term.

That incredible and immediate response makes clear that we’ve tapped into something Ontarians desire. This election is, first and foremost, a referendum on Doug Ford. And after four years of the Ford government’s incompetence, chaos, and ill-informed decisions, polls consistently show more than two-thirds of the voting public is ready to cast a resounding vote for “no more.”

But thanks to the idiosyncrasies of our electoral system and the current political landscape, Ford could well return to Queen’s Park in June, even if many of his candidates secure barely a third of the vote.

This is because in many ridings, Liberal and New Democrat candidates are splitting the “no more Ford” vote right down the middle.

There are real policy differences between the parties — anyone who is primarily motivated by those policy differences should vote for the party that reflects their views.

But for those voters who feel, as we do, that the time is too short, the urgency too great, and Ford’s failures too severe to risk another term, we are organizing to unite your votes to defeat Ford’s PCs — and we are asking those Liberal, Green, and New Democrat candidates who get elected to commit to working together to ensure a new government in June.

Working together may sound anathema to partisans. But the hard truth is that on issue after issue, the NDP, Greens and Liberals agree on the diagnosis and only differ on the prescription. That’s a healthy democracy — built on shared values, shared facts, and shared priorities, with room for a lively debate on the best approaches to resolving our challenges.

By contrast, on issue after issue, the PCs under Ford are out of step with voters and out of touch with reality.

The truth is, we can’t make any progress on our shared priorities while Ford is premier. And we can’t afford to waste four more years moving backward on climate action, burning out health-care workers and letting the cost of housing get even further out of reach for young people.

However, if we can hold Ford to just 62 seats or fewer, then we’ll have cleared a path for Andrea Horwath and Steven Del Duca to take a page from their federal cousins’ popular playbook and work together in a minority government. And with Ford relegated to the sidelines, Ontario will be able to get back to work on our shared priorities.

Not One Seat is built on the idea that there is more that unites us than divides us, but you don’t have to take our word for it. New Democrat, Green, and Liberal policy announcements differ in detail, but constantly touch on the same themes, priorities, and issues — a clear indication that the parties are targeting a similar pool of voters (that is to say, the more than two- third of Ontario voters who share those values ​​and priorities).

A collaborative government would be able to deliver on the priorities of that vast majority and, as a result, would be a much more representative outcome than handing the reins back over to the outlier PCs.

And with all three parties offering electoral reform in their platforms, this could even be the last election where something like Not One Seat is necessary — and a collaborative government would help ensure that parties are held accountable for keeping their promises.

Political parties exist to deliver for voters and it’s clear that this election, what voters want is to put an end to Ford’s reign of errors. We’re doing the hard work to ensure the New Democrats, Liberals, and Greens get that chance. It’s up to them to work together and take it.

Tim Ellis is a rave DJ and community organizer based in South Etobicoke. Tim, an immigrant from the US, got his start in organizing with the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016.


Tom Parker

political columnist

Voters who want to defeat Premier Doug Ford need to be brave and take heart.

If we get our act together and defeat just a few of his Progressive Conservative MPP on June 2, Doug Ford will be gone — even if he still holds the largest group of MPPs on election night.

But that’s not enough.

We need to defeat Ford and fix what’s broken in Ontario, including the toxic political culture he thrived on. What’s needed isn’t a one-time co-operation pact between two parties, but a plan to unrig the rules of power so MPPs co-operate and hear from the public everyday, whether in a minority or majority legislature.

We can’t start fixing what’s broken before defeating Ford. Ford’s PCs enter the election with 67 seats, just a few more than the 63 required for a majority. Andrea Horwath’s NDP holds 40 seats and Steven Del Duca’s Liberals hold six.

If Ford loses his majority but still holds the most seats, he may resign his government on election night. Or he might try to cling to power, tabling a post-election Throne Speech and testing if either Horwath and Del Duca will break their promises to bring down any PC minority government. But if Horwath and Del Duca keep to their word, Ford’s government is gone.

Either way, once Ford is defeated, the Lieutenant Governor will invite the opposition party leader with the most MPPs to form a new government. Fixing what’s broken can start.

Policy pacts can be successful. In Ottawa, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh used his power from him to bargain a three-year deal that will fix the broken patchwork of private plans that excludes millions of hardworking Canadians from dental and drug coverage. His deal with him won new powers for working people, getting them a seat at the table that makes decisions about job shifts caused by climate change.

But there is a better way, one which pushes MPPs to co-operate every day. One that returns power to the people of Ontario. One not limited to the list of reforms identified before a multi-year pact starts, but which adapts and evolves as new problems and opportunities emerge during a term of government.

The better way is to unrig the legislative rules created by Conservatives Premier Mike Harris 25 years ago that have not been fixed. Harris’s rules took power from MPPs and gave it to himself. He gutted responsible government to create winner-take-all politics controlled by the premier and his cabal. He turned his MPPs into a Borg army to repeat premier’s office talking points rather than represent constituents.

We can’t underestimate how corrosive this system of power has become. In Ontario, opposition MPPs are confronted by massive omnibus bills. Committees are shut down when they do their job. Amendments are voted down just because they came from the opposition. Prorogation has been used to avoid accountability and the notwithstanding clause has been threatened to shut down political opponents. Premier’s office staff enforce partisan division by promoting a nasty political tone. Dysfunction has become the norm.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Before Harris’s rules, MPPs, the legislature and the public had more power.

For example, before Harris changed the rules, all-party MPP committees would regularly study government bills and hear from the public, even traveling to places outside Toronto to get feedback. Community groups made presentations, bringing good research and reasoned argument. Local reporters covered local events and issues. And — goodness forbid! — MPPs from different parties would be forced to socialize on the road. It’s a lot harder to launch nasty-toned bursts of misinformation at someone you had supper with last night.

The result was that regular MPPs had more clout. Premiers and ministers would often have to listen and change course under pressure from the public, the opposition or their own MPPs.

After we defeat Ford on June 2 we need to fix what’s broken. That includes the system of power that enabled Ford to do such much damage because no one could stop him. Yes, pacts can get good results, but only in a minority when a pact is being struck.

Fixing the legislature’s rules is the better option because it can result in a system of power that forces premiers and ministers — in majority or minority legislatures — to feel the power of MPPs and the public everyday.

Tom Parker is a political columnist and commentator and principal with Impact Strategies. He has worked for the New Democratic Party in Saskatchewan and Ontario.

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