It’s time to unite the left in Ontario

Posted on June 2, 2022 in Governance Debates – Opinion/Ontario Votes
June 1, 2022.   By Pat Dixon, Contributor

Liberals, NDP and Greens share overlapping aims and united would produce a more accurate representation of what the majority wants.

Last week at a typical candidates meeting I agonized over what we could all see: three smart, well-educated, articulate, caring candidates (NDPLiberal and Green), competing with each other instead of working together to defeat the Conservatives.

There was so much agreement among them — no Highway 413, more nurses, improved education, etc. They could have been working with the same party. So why aren’t they?

It’s been discouraging to follow this provincial campaign. The usual pundits started early, predicting that Ontario would once again re-elect the Conservatives. As of Tuesday, CBC’s Poll Tracker put the Conservatives at 36.6 per cent — a minority of the voting population. So what about the 63.4 per cent majority?

United we stand, divided we fall. So why do we do this?

Because most voters are not informed voters, but believers: We “believe in” the NDP; or Conservatives, or Liberals, or Greens. But the issues? It’s difficult to find anyone who thinks deeply about the issues, or evidence on campaign promises. Instead, we once again split our well-intentioned left-of-centre vote.

Political believers are generally convinced they believe in the correct party and that members of other parties are wrong. But my experience is that each party contains a range of attitudes and beliefs. People within any given party would disagree occasionally.

Liberals, NDP and Green members share many overlapping aims and would be compatible in a merger. They would also produce a more accurate representation of what the majority wants: evidence-based, compassionate policies; a healthy economy; better quality education and health care; affordable housing; serious climate-change work and so on.

Together, the “left” in power could implement progressive policies. Backroom resistance could be reduced by the art of compromise, understanding that issues like surplus staff can be dealt with through attrition over time. Nobody has to lose; we would all win.

I’ve been surprised how often friends or neighbours have agreed that a merger would be sensible. At a wedding I attended last weekend, the millennial groom enthusiastically endorsed the idea, with an eye-roll comment about why this obvious move hadn’t happened long ago. What might a current survey of Ontario voters tell us?

In our gloomy election post-mortems, we need to prioritize a passionate but civilized public discussion on how to unite the left. Such debate is the whole point of democracy: we evolve through listening to each other. As another Conservative government begins yet more cuts to services we believe in, or enables more environmentally destructive projects, the “big three” parties should begin taking steps toward becoming a single, integrated — unconquerable — force.

Pat Dixon lives in Toronto and has been fascinated by the relationship between politics and voters for decades.

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