What's So Great About Stability?

The title is meant to provoke, but there's a serious point to be made. With the recent political events here in Canada and the almost certain prospect of a coalition government, a national first of sorts, political talk is rife. One concern I've heard expressed by progressive folks, and often the root of their unease or even opposition to the idea of a coalition government, is the need for "stability" in the face of an economic recession.  Setting aside strong arguments that the new coalition will likely be more stable than our current minority government and better for the economy, the instinctual pull for "stability" is something I want to briefly challenge or at least encourage folks to think about critically.

Instability is Beautiful

In the grand history of social movements, instability is the hallmark of social change. Look at what just happened in the US, or go back further in the history of that country or any other. It is in tough times, and times of social upheaval that society gives birth to dramatic change. Granted that change can, depending on the ideas available at the time, turn ugly, and outright material desperation can bring out the worst of human nature, but here in Canada and many other places, we're no where near those levels of material poverty and the ideas available to us are pretty darn good.

A Canadian "First"

Talk of political ego and power-grabs aside, what we have here in Canada is a chance to set new democratic precedents. Our parliamentary system has always allowed the prospect of coalition governments (an expression of democracy operating in its ideal form) but it has never been a real possibility in the social history of the country.

Regardless of how the coalition performs (and I honestly think it will be far superior to what we currently have with respect to the values and issues that matter most to Canadians) the fact that it will have come into existence, even just symbolically, changes the game from here on in. The aggressive and divisive tactics and mentalities that brought us here have been greatly diminished. The ability to craft unifying visions and to earn the support of diverse constituencies will, imagine that, become the qualities valued in future leaders.

Action on Global Warming

People will say it's ironic, but I'd say it's perfectly natural that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has given birth to Prime Minister Stephane Dion. The man who has done the most of any world leader to sabotage international efforts to combat global warming has, through his own short-sighted ideology, handed the reins to a politician who has worked very hard to rally Canadian action on global warming.

I have spoken to people who have worked with Stephane Dion, and while they conceed he is not the consummate politician, he is the consummate policy wonk with a heart, always briefed on his files and ready to do the heavy lifting required to achieve consensus and real solutions (policy problem vs. policy vision is a larger discussion I'll tackle in the future...interested readers should check out the Breakthrough Institute's online essay, "The Death of Environmentalism" as an important primer).

Indeed, the coalition (which has also been endorsed by the Greens) actually plans to do something about global warming. While coalition policy instruments won't include a carbon tax (an important policy tool who's time will come someday), there's early word that they will include a cap and trade system, and there's further bipartisan talk of including folks like Elizabeth May in some kind of advisory role with respect to other environmental issues. Calm After The Storm

After a period of instability society reforms, reorganizes and reasserts itself. We should be thankful for the opportunity to mirror the role-out of Obama's administration and his new ethic of bipartisan cooperation. The "Coalition for Canada" is Canada's admittedly smaller, less sexy version of what's happening down south. It is a symbolic exercise, and an important one that has the potential to change politics in this country for the better.

Here's to the occassional bout of instability!