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Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

Brian Gable

Tom Flanagan has a gift for stating his case using what Orwell called "window pane" prose. To wit:

"The 2003 merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives turned the tables in Canadian politics. Before then, the Liberals formed majority governments by winning 38 to 41 per cent of the vote against a divided right. Now, the Conservatives form minority governments by winning 36 to 38 per cent of the vote against an even more badly divided left. As long as the Liberals, New Democrats, Blocquistes and Greens fight among themselves for the left-of-centre vote, the Conservatives continue to win.

… [The Tories]seize issues on which the opposing parties are all on the left of the debate, so they can have the right to themselves. For example, the long-gun registry, whose dismantling the other parties oppose; global warming, where only the Conservatives espouse the economically grounded approach of tracking American policy; and Afghan detainees, where the Conservatives stand by the Canadian Forces, while the other parties ask whether General Walt Natynczyk, Chief of Defence Staff, and Rick Hillier, his predecessor, are war criminals. Such polarized positioning is perfect for the next election."

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Put squarely, if you assume that the Grits and the NDP are incapable of crafting a common electoral and policy agenda - one that maximizes the potential of the centre-left vote across the country - then Flanagan's argument is sound. It is in fact more than sound, it's a stone-cold lock. On Dec. 23, Chantal Hebert suggested:

"These days, a disquieting number of New Democrat and Liberal political operators are eyeing with envy the hardball partisan tactics Harper routinely uses to advance his vision of a dominant federal Conservative party.

It is his willingness to take bold risks to reshape the political landscape to his liking that they should want to copy."

Well, let's see, the Tories by their own account are willing, happy even, to run on their indifference to commonly held international standards of law (Afghanistan), political process (prorogation) and environmental stewardship (Copenhagen). They do so because in their view "the left" cannot reconcile themselves so as to afford the electorate a singular alternative.

In short, the cards have been dealt - now it's just a question of whether the Grits and the Dippers are willing to pick them up and play the hand.

(Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)

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