Lorne Brown: Labour historian calls on Canada's progressive political parties to co-operate to defeat Stephen Harper's government

Roundup: Historians' Take

Selective co-operation among parties in several dozen constituencies could deny Stephen Harper control of the country in the next election.

Much of what I am about to say would be unnecessary if Canada had a system of proportional representation like most countries claiming to be democracies. A proportional representation system would ensure that the percentage of seats allocated to each party in Parliament actually reflects the percentage of Canadians who voted for that party. Canada, however, like the United States and Great Britain, still uses the old "winner take all" system, in which only voters who support the most popular candidate in their riding are represented in Ottawa. Given Canada's geographical and cultural peculiarities, this virtually guarantees that even most so-called "majority" governments are elected by a minority of the population.

The present Harper minority government, for example, received only about 36 percent of the popular vote. Even with a minority, this government has already seriously damaged the social fabric of Canada and ruined our reputation abroad. Harper and his crew have scuttled child care, abandoned programs for women and the poor, renounced the Kelowna Accord and the Kyoto Protocol, and are busy dismantling the federal state as fast as they dare. They have also committed us to what is rapidly turning into a quagmire in Afghanistan, adopted a totally pro-Israel stance in the Middle East, and declared Canadian solidarity with American imperial intentions in numerous ways.

All of this in a single year, with only a minority. Imagine how much further they would go without the threat of another election always only a no-confidence vote away?

A Conservative majority government would change Canada beyond recognition. They would privatize everything they could get away with, potentially including the CBC, the Post Office, medicare and the Canada Pension Plan. The economic powers of the federal state would be gutted and we would be thoroughly integrated into the U.S. economy. Our foreign and military policies would be indistinguishable from the U.S. Civil liberties would be fiercely attacked, the courts politicized and the prison population greatly increased. An unfettered Conservative government could well provoke the secession of Quebec because there would be no incentive to remain part of Canada....

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