01/29/2013 05:33 EST | Updated 03/31/2013 05:12 EDT

Defeating Harper Is Not Reason Enough to Sleep with the NDP

Some are making impassioned pleas for cooperation among "progressives" to "beat Stephen Harper". Those that throw out the term "progressive" are loath to describe its meaning in a Canadian context.

Progressives are generally considered to represent the left or far left. They typically view business as a necessary evil. They embrace social justice, pacifism, environmentalism, human rights, and are rarely in the same corner as Israel in middle-eastern policy.

These might be perfectly legitimate viewpoints. But most Canadians' values are more practical and pragmatic, moderate, free enterprising, balanced, and certainly more centrist.

High on the "to-do" list of some of the Liberal Party of Canada's self-described "progressives" is legalizing pot, banning pipelines to BC's West Coast, and of course, cooperation with the NDP. None of those should be on the top 30 list, much less top three, for the next leader of the Liberal Party.

They also seem to think that the 60 per cent of those who voted for parties other than Conservative are by definition "Progressive", and would vote together, en masse, to defeat the Harper Conservatives. Their assumption also seems to be that "defeating Harper" is inherently more important than what some "progressives" stand for. Or that the Liberal Party is an intrinsically "progressive" political party.

I believe that these are simplistic assumptions, a serious misreading of the election results, and demonstrate a lack of understanding of the priorities of a majority of Canadians.

It also appears to escape the attention of certain "progressives" that Thomas Mulcair has categorically ruled out the idea of "cooperation" with Liberals and the Green Party. So have eight of the nine candidates for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. If that's not a show stopper, I really don't know what is.

But there's more than this that makes "cooperation" impossible. Just this week, Thomas Mulcair tabled legislation that would require a result of only 51 per cent of "yes" voters in a Quebec referendum to trigger negotiations to separate from Canada.

It takes a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons, Senate, and every provincial legislature representing at least 50 per cent of the national population to amend the constitution. Then why on earth would Thomas Mulcair and the NDP believe it adequate or acceptable that 51 per cent of those voting in Quebec can destroy the country? And some Liberals seek "cooperation" with the NDP, a party whose leadership panders shamelessly to those who seek Canada's end?

But wait, there's more! According to its constitution, the NDP says "the production and distribution of goods and services shall be directed to individual needs of people and not to making a profit." To meet this objective, the NDP's core principles call for the extension of state ownership, and active social and economic planning.

This an outmoded, discredited, and dangerous ideology that many Liberals have spent their lives fighting. To us, these notions are as divisive and illusory as the irrelevant theology championed by the far right. "Cooperation" with left-wing ideologues? Forget it!

Proponents of "cooperation" with the NDP suggest that electoral reform will fix everything. Their basic premise, of course, is that Canada's embarrassingly low voter turnout rate is a direct consequence of a "broken system".

This suggests that because we lose and they win, the "system" is somehow at fault. The implication of this argument is that the voter is misguided and wrong. But that is not how a democracy works. You can't call yourself a democrat while believing that the will of the people is consistently wrong-headed.

While it's fashionable for some to talk about electoral reform and promote models such as proportional representation, they have yet to be convince me that our system is flawed.

If there is a flaw anywhere it is with a political parties that have not been relevant to a majority of Canadians, particularly on issues they care about. Instead of issues like legalizing weed and proportional representation, Liberals for instance, must and are focused on the economic bread and butter ones that deeply impact our lives.

As reformers, we should also fix what we know to be broken and impediments to our long-term prosperity, such as health care, education, productivity, and innovation. Canada's economic and social union must be strengthened to meet the needs of the 21st-century economy. And we must move to settle treaties and modernize our relationship with Indigenous Canadians.

Of course, there is urgency in parliamentary reform. However, it doesn't require electoral cooperation; it only requires that MPs do the jobs that we pay them to do. Their main task is to be a check on the executive branch. They must scrutinize legislation and government expenditures. And they must be the guardians of the integrity of our system of accountability.

MPs represent us and it shouldn't be too much to expect them to serve and act with respect and dignity. Watching MPs scream at the very top of their lungs in feigned outrage or reading mindlessly from a preposterous script is an affront to all Canadians. Our parliamentary system is only as good as the people in it. Without the constant and diligent attention of Members of the House of Commons, our system collapses, and so does our trust in it.

The burden of proof is on the promoters of electoral reform and "cooperation". To be taken seriously the case must be a lot more substantial than "We have to get rid of Stephen Harper". Thus far, at least, I have only heard shrill tribal slogans. That may be good for a cheer at a partisan gathering. But it isn't good enough for Canada.