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Thu Feb 9, 2012, 11:50 PM

Nathan Cullen and Peggy Nash struggle for the NDPís soul

Thereís a great family drama going on just beneath the surface of those nearly unwatchable NDP leadership debates. Watchable TV isnít everything.

We owe it to Nathan Cullen. Heís the brat who insists on bringing up what everyone else at the table is determined, with gritted teeth, not to mention. It involves the fate of the nation. Good for naughty Nathan.

For three elections now, the split between Liberal and NDP voters has let Stephen Harper govern, turning Canada slowly in his direction. The two parties arenít the same but they take about 60 per cent of the vote and reflect a broad if mild social-democratic consensus among citizens. If we had proportional representation the two would easily have more seats than the Harper Conservatives and would likely form coalitions that agree on matters like the national child-care program that died with the Harper win of 2004 or the defunct Kelowna accord that made a serious response on aboriginal issues. But with our stupid first-past-the-post form of voting, Harper looks assured of future victories, too.

This week we learned his government supports torture as a way to gather intelligence. Itís contrary to all evidence but soís their prison agenda. Theyíre floating changes on abortion and capital punishment. This is less about specific policies than democratic process. Hereís where Cullen comes in: since the voting system wonít change short-term, he proposes Liberal-NDP coordination, like choosing a single candidate between them in ridings held by Conservatives.


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