Like every election post-mortem period in Alberta, the talk of a unite-the-left move has reemerged. I was interested to read an op-ed piece in today’s Edmonton Journal in which Athabasca University Professor Alvin Finkle advocates in favour of a merger between the Alberta Liberals, New Democrats, and Greens. Now, I’m completely in favour of tearing down Alberta’s traditional party structures and attitudes, but I don’t believe it’s really as straight-forward as Finkle proposes. Here are six thoughts on a “united left” in Alberta…
1. Bad blood. There’s a ton of animosity and moral high-horsery going on between the Alberta Liberals and New Democrats. Party archetypes in both camps really need to put aside their biases and prejudices and take a serious and objective look at why their parties are not connecting with Albertans. With Kevin Taft and Brian Mason taking shots at each other during the campaign, both sides are guilty of creating the animosity, but both owe it to Albertans to look at the bigger picture and at least seriously look at the idea of a “united left.”
2. It’s aiming at the wrong target. I’m not sure that a merger between the parties is a silver bullet. With voter turnout at 41%, I’d be willing to suggest that all the parties are scrapping the bottom of their support-levels and need to look at the 59% of non-voting Albertans for growth.
3. Pass the vote. This argument assumes that support between parties will automatically carry over to a merged party. I’m not convinced that both parties cover the same spot on the political spectrum and this could leave a lot of Albertans without a party to vote for.
4. Greens on the left? I’m also not totally sure that the Alberta Greens could be considered part of “the left.” In fact, I’m not really sure where they are, but I’m sure that the 22% of Joe Anglin Green voters in Lacombe-Ponoka wouldn’t consider themselves as part of “the left.”
5. Different aims. The merger argument also assumes that both parties have the same target in mind? It’s clear that the Alberta Liberals are in it to form government, but I’m not sure that’s the same goal of the New Democrats. I’d be willing to bet that most New Democrats would feel a lot more comfortable staying in opposition than taking the reigns of power.
6. First-past-the-post. It seems that a bigger problem is the first-part-the-post electoral system that creates results that don’t result in a fair reflection of how Albertans voted. Change the system to STV or PR and I’m not sure we’d be having this conversation.
All of this said, a little pragmatism and give-and-take between the two parties probably wouldn’t hurt.
Is a merger a totally bad idea? No.
Is it feasible? That’s a completely different question.