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What would the House of Commons look like under a Liberal-NDP merger? June 20, 2010

Posted by tomflesher in Academia, Canada.
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It’s been a while since I did any Canadian politics ranting.

Coalition government and/or a left-wing merger in Canada is all the rage at the Globe and Mail, with a Globe and Mail editorial discussing the ramifications of a shift left, Jeffrey Simpson arguing that the whole thing is a stupid idea, and Neil Reynolds talking about the Whigs for no good reason. The arguments on all sides contemplate a merger or coalition of the Liberals and the New Democratic Party, which is the most logical assumption considering that the Greens are nonviable nationally (although I did enjoy discussing the “hypothetical Mango Coalition” that could result from the 2008 election if the red, orange, and green parties joined up).

I’m interested in the effect of a merger, so I’m going to make some assumptions, not all of which are warranted:

  • The Bloc Québecois is not party to any coalition. BQ voters will always vote for the BQ. (This is probably the weakest assumption, since the BQ actively campaigns for votes and almost certainly won marginal candidates.)
  • The Green Party is not party to any coalition. Green voters will always vote for the Greens. (Again, this is a fairly weak assumption and I might examine the hypothetical Mango Coalition in a later post, but they’re not considered relevant by the editorialists so I’ll ignore them. However, they would have made quite a difference in the model below.)
  • Ridings won with a majority by any party remain with that party.
  • A riding won with a plurality by a Liberal or NDP candidate would remain with the merged party regardless of the current vote split.
  • A riding won with a plurality by a Conservative or BQ candidate needs to be reconsidered. I’ll do so by assuming that 66% of the NDP vote goes to the merged party and the other 34% evaporates (to model voters being displeased by a perceived shift to the middle and staying home). Based on those numbers, the party with a plurality takes the seat.

There were some surprising results. The Liberal-NDP merged party ended up poaching 24 seats in total, including 17 from the Conservatives and 7 from the Bloc Québecois. In total, that puts the parties at:Pie chart of the House of Commons under a hypothetical merger

  • Liberal Democrats: 137 seats
  • Conservatives: 127 seats
  • Bloc Québecois: 41 seats
  • Independent: 3 seats

This puts a different spin on the current House. However, we must take into account the Bloc’s behavior. After the 2008 election, there was discussion of a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition government. However, it is not in the Bloc’s interest to form a coalition, since the Grits’ position on Québec sovereignty is not compatible with the Bloc’s. As a result, we must consider this a non-coalition government – a majority run by the Grits.

It’s difficult to imagine this situation as being much better for the Grits. Dion would have run a minority government, but as a weak leader he likely would have been forced into an election some time between October 2008 and now. Ignatieff would still have been waiting in the wings to take over the leadership of the party in the ensuing chaos.

A merger is not a panacea.

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