Are Progressives Insane?

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. If last night’s by-election results are any indication, then Canadian progressives are certifiable.

For all their talk of support for evidence-based policymaking, progressive parties are overlooking a major piece of evidence: they can’t win elections without each other. That’s the lesson the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative parties learned in the early 2000’s, and it’s the lesson that the Liberal, NDP and Green parties will learn someday too, hopefully sooner than later. I say this as a non-partisan, progressive-leaning voter, deeply concerned about the direction our country is heading in under the current Conservative government.

While I respect differences in policy among progressive parties – things we should always discuss and debate - what I don’t understand is the need for ideological purity on a host of small issues, while we lose out on the big ones.

While progressives were arguing over excrement in Victoria (the city pumps its raw sewage into the ocean), the Conservatives shut down the section of the Department of Oceans and Fisheries responsible for monitoring marine pollution – just one step in an unimpeded march against science. At this rate, there won’t be any evidence for progressives to argue over, let alone make policy on.

Most progressives can probably recite in unison the most egregious Conservative assaults on Canadian science and democracy over the past two years: Cancelling the long-form census, the omnibus crime bill, the federal government’s lawsuit against Vancouver’s supervised injection site, the gutting of the Fisheries Act and Canadian environmental laws, and the list goes on.

Pardon my language, but if we agree on these issues, why can’t we get our shit together enough to forge a new political alliance? Let’s call it the Liberal Democratic Party of Canada. Progressives can and will argue about the name, and they can and will argue about the issues, but that’s what a political party does. That’s what the Conservatives do. Their coalition includes Reformers and Progressive Conservatives, and many of them strongly disagree each other, but they also understand that in order to win on the big issues, they have to swallow their ideological purity and work together.

Currently the Liberals and the NDP are deluding themselves into believing they can win on their own, while the Green Party is playing its role as a single-issue party a little too strongly (they actually need a larger progressive party in power to advance their issues). Last night’s by-election results prove that divided, we fall. The Liberals were dismal in Durham and Victoria (ridings in the provinces they need to win in), and the NDP narrowly fought off a Green challenge in Victoria, while doing poorly in Durham, and barely registering in Calgary.

Together, a progressive coalition would have taken Victoria, Calgary Centre and given the Conservatives a run for their money in Durham (probably winning there too if residents actually felt that their votes would change government).

The next time someone from a so-called progressive political party asks me to support a specific policy issue, I will respond with a question: "What’s your policy on merging with other political parties?" If they respond negatively, so will I: "Don’t waste my time."

Together we can accomplish so much more.

Troy Media columnist Andrew Frank is a public relations consultant and an instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in the School of Business and the Environmental Protection Technology program. To find out more, visit