Praxis Theatre is currently on hiatus! Please find co-founders Aislinn Rose and Michael Wheeler at The Theatre Centre and SpiderWebShow, respectively.
February 7, 2012, by

Leadnow, Koyczan and #cullenplan: Canadian progressives go post-partisan

by Michael Wheeler

The movement to work outside strictly partisan lines to take Parliament back from a Harper Conservative Party supported by a minority of Canadians has been bolstered recently by some incredibly persuasive data.

95% of the 8000 people who responded to Leadnow support cross-party cooperation to form a progressive government that represents the majority of Canadians.

Last Friday, Leadnow, an “independent advocacy organization that brings generations of Canadians together to achieve progress through democracy” sent an email to their over 80,000 supporters titled, “Maybe the most important question we’ll ever ask you“. The email asked for a response to the strategy of PRE-election cooperation to defeat Harper, followed by electoral reform.

The response: 95% agreed.

This sort of decisive message will necessarily impact the NDP leadership race, with some pundits already referring to it as a game changer.

Thus far, Nathan Cullen has been the only candidate to support this idea and is routinely under fire for promoting what is considered heresy by hardcore New Democrats, many of whom have spent careers battling the Liberal Party.

Yet, it’s hard to imagine an organization more representative of who the opposition parties will need to join them moving forward than Leadnow. These results indicate that what was once a disadvantage for Cullen – promoting cooperation to a heavily partisan audience – may put him on the key side of a decisive issue.

Political observers of all stripes agree electoral success for opposition parties will come from engaging and expanding youth-led groups that have been present in grassroots movements like Occupy, but have been seriously under-represented in recent elections. The Leadnow response makes it clear that a ‘Single Party or Bust’ strategy will appeal to only 5% of this key cohort, or 1 out of 20 potential recruits to the cause.

The almost unanimous response from Leadnow members indicates candidates who promote cooperation with other parties as best presenting ideas and solutions that have the potential to expand party membership and excite voters.

Nathan Cullen talks to poet Shane Koyczan on the lack of youth engagement in Canadian politics and its relationship to political parties.

None of this will come as a surprise to EKOS pollster Frank Graves who recently released ‘Beyond The Horse Race’ a 7-part series on iPolitics investigating trends and issues that are informing the Canadian electorate. Amongst the conclusions reached in Part 5 ‘How Do We Cure Democratic Malaise?’:

  • Canadian views of political parties have declined even more steeply than trust in other portions of government including parliamentary democracy, bureaucracy, or even elected representatives.
  • When presented with the statement, “Political parties have outlived their usefulness and it is time for a new type of political institution.” only 44% disagreed.
  • “NDP supporters are less convinced of the continued relevance of political parties” than Liberal or Conservative supporters.
  • “In younger, non-voting Canada … there is massive mistrust and disagreement with key national decisions. We see that trust in democracy and government is declining to areas which cause one to think about issues of fundamental legitimacy.”

Considered in tandem, the Leadnow response and the EKOS data combine to make a powerful statement:

The younger generation of Canadians, even those who are politically engaged, are opting out of participating in the current form of democracy. The #1 factor that is informing this lack of engagement is the rigid party system that currently exists in Canada. While New Democrats voting in a leadership race should take this information to heart immediately, so should the other opposition parties – the echo chamber of partisan politics is severely limiting growth for all of them.

Moving beyond their own self-interest to that of the country may ironically be their best chance for electoral success. Increasingly, progressive Canadians seem to be demanding cooperation from their political opposition that will allow them to vote FOR and not AGAINST something, through  a serious and credible movement to form a government that represents the majority of Canadians.

You might remember Koyczan from such hits as The Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympic Games.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


  1. dylan says:

    “Increasingly, progressive Canadians seem to be demanding cooperation from their political opposition that will allow them to vote FOR and not AGAINST something…”

    Your conclusions complicate and contradict the very question and findings posed by Lead Now, namely, that Lead Now members support whatever cooperation “left” parties need to take in order to defeat a Harper government. And this in itself is some great triumph of post-partisan principle. Truly, what principles are being championed other than those that are perceived as being NOT “conservative”?

    All that I read from the Lead Now poll is that Lead Now members are principally engaged in politics to vote AGAINST Harper, and therefore are willing to vote “for” anything BUT (be it a Liberal, Green or NDP on in a two-horse ballot against a CPC incumbent).

    MOREOVER, this “cooperation” comes with a condition, or hope, that a progressive minority government presses with a referendum on electoral reform which will only, if anything, solidify MORE partisanship in the Canadian governance and our political economy.

    Lastly, I’d like to see a more complete picture of who are voting in Lead Now polls (asking what their primary, secondary, third and fourth ballot choices are); if they carry a party membership; and of many options which is the best to defeat Harper (pre-election EDA joint party nominations, LPC-NDP/NDP-GPC/LPC-GPC or LPC-GPC-NDP merger, NDP-LPC-GPC party brass selectively running candidates in CPC incumbencies (riding-swapping), vote-swapping, etc); ages; genders; where they live.

  2. Hi Dylan,

    Thanks for your comments. I was thinking about how the “FOR and not AGAINST something” close to this piece would necessarily have me talking to someone in the comments, because I understand how electoral cooperation meaning voting FOR something could seem counter-intuitive.

    The something that the post-partisan activists I talk to are hoping to vote FOR, is a new spirit of cooperation and compromise that will allow the opposition parties to share power and promote the policies that are supported by the majority of Canadians.

    It is different than how politics have operated in the past where you vote on adherence to a singular ideology, that devalues all others and is based on ‘war room’ ‘us vs them’ mentality.

    Because I’m a NDPer, personally I’m pretty pissed off with the Liberal trend of campaigning from the left and governing from the right over the past decade. Nevertheless, Im not going to let my bitterness over this get in the way of us moving forwards.

    What we could vote FOR is to rise above all this partisanship and do something truly historic.

  3. caramel says:

    The Liberal Party is practically a thing of the past anyway. It’s not a question of “should the NDP work with them” but “should they work with the NDP”. Their 10% support faction is all we need to put an end to Conservative rule, which is wronger than wrong, and making people ashamed to be Canadian.

  4. […] is on the right track to unseat Harper and replace him with something better. A friend linked me to this post on Praxis Theatre by Michael Wheeler where he argues that we need to work outside partisan lines to defeat Harper. Specifically he uses […]

  5. nndd says:

    Nathan Cullen is the man….

  6. dylan says:

    “The something that the post-partisan activists I talk to are hoping to vote FOR, is a new spirit of cooperation and compromise that will allow the opposition parties to share power and promote the policies that are supported by the majority of Canadians.”

    Agreed. I think that there is something in voting FOR a new spirit of cooperation. However, I do not find Cullen’s plan to be attractive in that sense. All the progressive parties have policies or proposals to reform our electoral system. So, take what you want from that. Secondly, the two examples of non-partisan “cooperation” are lead by the Liberal party. They didn’t run a candidate against Stephen Harper in the Calgary Southwest by-election when he took the leadership of the CA after Preston Manning stepped down in 2002. The second was when they didn’t run a candidate in the 2008 election in Central Nova when Ms. May ran. In both examples, the NDP ran candidates. The first is an example of parliamentary courtesy; the second is an example of supporting a broadening of the voices in parliament. (It is a shame Mr. Iganteiff did not follow Dion’s example in Saanich Gulf-Islands during ’11 — but happily we have Mz. May in the house nevertheless.)

    I would prefer that kind of riding-swapping between the parties. In some races, it wouldn’t make a difference: such as Elmwood-Transcona in Winnipeg which is a two-horse race between the NDP and CPC and the LPC vote is basically token. Would NOT having an LPC or Green candidate there help it go back to the NDP, probably. Maybe. Same with Winnipeg South Centre. Two ridings with two bad CPC MPs both cases it would have helped, in theory, to only have 1 progressive candidate. There are many ways to skin a cat. And, IMO, joint-nominations is one of the bloodiest way to go about it.

    And maybe it’s time to get over Chretien’s campaigning. After all, most Libs have to move on from the $4B Paul Martin dedicated in the 2005 budget to the NDP only to have Jack pull the rug from out under the government with Stephen Harper 8 months later. So. Yeah.

    Caramel, you’ll look like an idiot if you declare the LPC dead and they begin to poll better and the continually out-fundraise the Official Opposition. The May 2011 election proved that 1 speech, 1 gaffe, 1 hiccup can turn tides. You’d think Dippers wouldn’t be so arrogant after a surprise wave that hardly ANYONE could have predicted in March when the government fell. Moreover the Rae NDP government in Ontario didn’t kill the Ontario Liberals for good.

  7. SRV says:


    Your comments are rational and logical… until you uderstand the scope of the issue with a Harper Government. This isn’t a conservative / liberal issue… we are fighting a Neocon take over of our country if something isn’t done soon… and in this context the plan makes perfect sense!

    Please review this link to “The Powel Memo” written by Lewis Powel just weeks before being appointed to the Supreme Court by Nixon. It is the blueprint for the corporate takeover of America and as you read you will soon understand the events of the last 40 years were not a natural evolution, but a planned takeover by the corporations and the few at the top that control them. Harper and his gang of neocons are following the plan to the letter (Sun News… or Faux News North is a very visible example, as are private prisons and laws that help fill them) and must be stopped.

  8. […] I have to admit I haven’t thought about this as deeply as I think Wheeler has for […]