Politics is the art of compromise. There is not a single elected official in the world that personally agrees with every chapter, page and paragraph of his or her political party's platform, and for that I'm glad - I'd rather have government of independent intellects than a panel of spineless yes-men and yes-women that are incapable of thinking and acting for themselves.
And yet politicians will go along with ideas that they don't necessarily agree with because in this world that's the only way to get things done. If you pick your battles carefully you might actually win one once in a while.
That's why I had mixed emotions recently when it was rumoured that the federal New Democratic Party and Liberal Party were considering a merger into a new "Liberal Democrat" party.
It turns out that some discussions have been taking place among party insiders, but soon after word got out both party leaders were quick to rush out and assure us that it would never, ever happen. It was a perfect example of a Canadian political tradition of speaking first and thinking later, quashing the debate before the merits of the arguments could be weighed.
The progressive in me was disappointed. In my view, as long as the political left is divided into two and a half parties (given the Bloc's usually left-leaning position on most issues) then the conservative minority will be in a position of power in Canada for a long, long time.
Think about it. In the last election the ruling Conservative Party won just 37.65 per cent of the popular vote compared to 26.26 per cent for the Liberal Party, 18.18 per cent for the NDP, 9.98 per cent for the Bloc Quebecois and 6.78 per cent for the Green Party - the real majority in this country.
It's also a fact that Canadians generally lean to the left on pretty much everything except the economy and most types of crime. In poll after poll we're progressive in terms of our priorities (health care, child care, education, environment), in our views on issues like same sex marriage, legalizing marijuana, abortion, getting out of Afghanistan, etc. Yet the opportunity to represent these collective views has been lost in party politics that have become all about accentuating small differences of opinion.
I say that while also acknowledging that the Conservative Party is doing a decent job at the helm. I doubt that I would agree with Mr. Harper personally on 99 per cent of issues - I would have raised taxes as well as increasing our national debt to get us through the financial crisis, for example - but I give his party full credit letting public opinion guide their decisions in a way that's fair and democratic.