Sunday, May 29, 2005

The West is not conservative

A funny thing happened on the way to Gordon Campbell's second majority government in British Columbia. Not only did the NDP get 41% of the vote--a higher percentage than it got when it formed a majority government in 1996--but the combined NDP and Green vote topped 50%. That's an impressive total for what are generally considered to be the third and fourth parties in English Canada. Together with the popular-vote results in the western provinces from the 2004 federal election, it represents a striking repudiation of the idea that the West is painted conservative blue. Alberta is the odd man out, not the standard-bearer for the West. Admittedly, the NDP under Carole James is hardly a party of flaming Bolsheviks; the party's campaign was noticeable for its excruciating avoidance of taking any stand that might be controversial. The big word for James was "balanced", whatever that meant. (Perhaps if elected, the NDP intended to do some good things and then balance them off by doing some bad things?) The Greens under Adriane Carr ran on a much less wishy-washy progressive platform, but, thanks to the first-past-the-post electoral system, failed once again to elect any members. The vote-split on the left kept the door open for Campbell's return. As the federal Tories are discovering, it's not good enough simply to run against the ruling party; you have to be for something positive as well. Now that they've returned from their near-death experience, it's time for the NDP to become a little less balanced. A good start would be reaching out to build bridges to the Greens.

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