A Call for a new Progressive Party of Canada

(by Jeffrey S. Rosenthal, August 26, 2011)

The astounding outpouring of affection this week for Jack Layton, reaching across party lines, and embracing his positive and constructive and non-confrontational approach to politics, has inspired me to again call for merging the mainstream centre-left Canadian political parties into a single party.

In the May 2011 Canadian election, the Liberals, NDP, and Greens received a total of 53.5% of all votes cast -- enough to easily win the election if they were united as a single party. Instead, they split those votes, allowing the Conservatives to win a majority of seats despite receiving less than 40% of the votes. (In fact, analysis indicates that there wouldn't be a Conservative majority if just 3% of voters had switched from the NDP to the Liberals.)

Furthermore, I do believe there is a clear set of principles around which those parties could coalesce:

I therefore call for the Liberals, NDP, and Greens -- together with Red Tories and other progressive-minded Canadians -- to join together and merge into a single Progressive Party of Canada, founded upon the above principles. I believe that such a party would not only win the support of a clear majority of Canadians, but also embody what is best in Canadian politics. Imagine combining together: Imagine if instead of NDPers attacking Liberals as sell-outs, and Liberals dismissing the NDP as unworthy, and Greens condemning all the established political parties, and Red Tories having no real political home, we instead all worked together to create a strong progressive Canada whose values reflect our own.

And best of all, I think Jack would have approved.

The time to act is now. Recent NDP success and Liberal decline leaves us with two approximately-equally-powerful parties, and no one clear alternative to continued Conservative rule. The current leadership vacuum in both parties provides limited prospects for quick renewal. And the passion of new Green activists (including many of my friends) is admirable but only serves to further split the centre-left vote. Meanwhile, certain recent events also point to the possibility of a merger, including:

I know there are those who say that the personalities and political cultures of the various parties are too different for them to come together. But surely our country's future is more important than personal rivalries. Furthermore, to accommodate different perspectives, the new party could certainly have various committees and caucuses and subgroups which focus on different sorts of agendas (environment, labour, culture, finance, gender, etc.), and these different groups might sometimes come into conflict with each other -- but if they are all within the same party, then at least they won't be taking votes away from each other.

So What Is the First Step?

A combined party cannot come about unless all three parties agree to disband and merge. And that will require lots of discussions between key party activists (as apparently occurred for the 2008 coalition agreement too). All that the rest of us can do is encourage the party activists to reach a deal.

In that spirit, I hereby declare that if and when the Liberals and NDP and Greens are merged into a combined progressive party as above, then I will immediately (a) join the party, (b) volunteer to help the party, (c) vote for the party, and (d) donate as much money as I can (which in my case will be the maximum allowable $1,100) to the party in each of its first five years.

Will you join me in this declaration? If yes, then send me an e-mail (perhaps including your party affiliation, if any). If I get enough responses then I will announce them in a larger way. And note that making such a declaration does not oblige you to cease your partisan political activities at this time; it only obliges you to agree to refocus them later if and when such a merger occurs. (As for me, for now I will continue to mostly support the NDP, while still hoping for a merger instead.)

Any comments about this page are most welcome. And feel free to link to it or tell others about it!

-- Jeffrey S. Rosenthal (contact info)
P.S. By the way, there actually was a Progressive Party of Canada in the 1920s and 1930s; let's start a new one now.

Update: I was interviewed about this proposal on the Road Less Traveled (Thunder Bay) radio episode of March 29, 2012 (see podcast, beginning at the 25:00 mark). So, the word is slowly getting out!