There is no doubt that many people on the left of centre are in serious quandary concerning October 19th. Now I'm not talking about the diehard partisans here - those who are more motivated by some abstract partisan belief than by actual policies or events. Some people, even leftists, would NEVER vote NDP because of the actions of Jack Layton a decade ago, or because of the NDP has succumbed to Balanced Budget Fetishism, or because of the suspiciously Harperesque style of Anne McGrath and Tom Mulcair. Others would never vote Liberal because Paul Martin was the founder of Canadian-style austerity, or because the Liberals helped to keep Harper in Power for years, or because they gutted EI and legitimized the raiding of the fund for their short-term political gain. Some traditional NDPers have a naive faith in the Party, imagining that their childcare program or pharmacare allows them to maintain their socialist roots. Others think the Liberals really have changed their stripes and are now actually more progressive than the NDP which, whether we like it not, has shifted right.
I actually think that, as a progressive, you can make a coherent argument to reluctantly support either of the two major opposition parties at the moment. Leaving past indiscretions and failures aside, both parties are too far right and both are trying to capture the (sort-of) progressive vote. And if you are not caught up in grudges and hyperbole, both the parties could be supported at least from a pragmatically progressive point of view. Maybe they would both let us down in horrible ways, I suspect that they would regardless of which one we opted for. If they managed a majority (a possibility that seems very unlikely) the NDP might be able to institute a National Childcare program and maybe even a pharmacare program. And that would be good. They might actually bring in PR. That would be better. If the Liberals got elected they might spend billions on infrastructure. That would be a big help to many people as well as to the future of the country. On the other hand, at this point neither party seems very interested in actually doing much about climate change or actually addressing the terrible economic inequality of the country.
In other words, regardless of which way you jump, if you are a progressive there will be disappointment. On the other hand, if either party manages electoral reform, we will have reason to celebrate.
The problem, of course, is that while we are considering such imponderables, Harper could just come out and win a majority again, in which case none of this matters. If Harper wins then democracy in the country is totally finished. Another four years of Harper will mean the total elimination of those parts of our state that we once took for granted like the right to collective bargaining, an independent judiciary and national police force, any vestige of environmental controls, an economy autonomous from foreign corporations, nationally motivated independent research, and an independent electoral body. All these will be effectively gone.
And you can take that to the Bank. (Or to the voting booth, whichever you prefer.)