Friday, September 18, 2009

Jack and Gilles Went up the Hill

Anyone who has regard for the Canadian political tradition or the great things we have done together in the past as a nation should avert his or her glance today as the NDP and the Bloc vote to keep the Harper government in office on a confidence motion.

There is no glory on this day for anyone. All four parties in the House gain and lose from what is happening in Ottawa.

The Harper government gets to stay in office, having thrown a few crumbs on the table to win the support of the NDP and the Bloc. The Conservatives who relish their take-no-prisoners approach to governing are tall in the saddle. What they have lost is the ability to frighten Canadians with the terrors of last autumn’s failed attempt to create a Liberal-NDP coalition government with the backing of the Bloc. Now it is Stephen Harper who is being kept in office by the socialists and the separatists, the very political forces he earlier portrayed as unfit to have a say in governing the country.

Michael Ignatieff is a winner because his bluff paid off. The Liberals are now free to vote against the government on every confidence motion. They have succeeded in shifting the burden of determining the fate of the government to the two other opposition parties. While the Liberals may be the major victors in this week’s brawl, that doesn’t reverse the remarkable shrinkage Ignatieff’s stature has undergone over the past year. Once thought of as a sparkling intellectual, a second Pierre Trudeau, the Liberal leader bumbled his way into and out of the coalition, gave his support to the Harper government in return for a few report cards, and spent the summer who knows where.

Jack Layton delayed another trip to the polls, which may have been his short-term aim. He has lost his position as the stalwart opponent of a deeply reactionary government. Principle gave way to expediency. Chiding the Liberals for their previous votes of confidence in Stephen Harper doesn’t amount to much if the NDP backs the government when it really counts.

For the Bloc Quebecois to vote confidence in a government that excoriated their movement and party as having no right to a role in running the country shouts the message that all Gilles Duceppe and his MPs care about is saving their seats. Quebecois who were furious about Harper’s demagogic campaign to de-legitimize their members of parliament can only shake their heads in disgust.

Jack fell down and broke his crown and Gilles came tumbling after.

Canadians grow cynical as they watch. Last year, a smaller proportion of Canadians than Americans voted in their countries’ respective elections, and that was unprecedented. At a time when Canadians need political leadership to cope with a broken economic system, they get this.


leftdog said...

You do a great disservice, sir, to Canadian progressives with this rhetorical nonsense.

There are times when those who are academically trained to critique, need to move beyond typical knee jerk reaction and to focus on the road ahead with a new and more positive attitude.

Anonymous said...

This is hardly a "coalition".

Maybe it is time to mock those that use that term in this instance...

The BQ is voting on a case by case basis. That is responsible governing instead of the "let's have an election now" Liberals...

janfromthebruce said...

ditto Jim, with the two previous posters. Tell me, what you would have done differently if you had been the leader of say, the social democrats?
I am keenly interested in how you would have maneuvered as leader of the NDP? Also, I am wondering if the NDP should have thrown those unemployed workers under the bridge?

Oemissions said...

I usually like the Bloc's approach.
They seem to tell it like it is!

Dame said...

I always hoped one day Canadians will realise all these fringe parties/ Block, NDP Greens / are blocking real progress and won't vaste votes on them ..
the time for real Decision is now.... this is not democracy at work... It is cacaphony ..

Anonymous said...

Hey janfromthebruce:

The Harper EI bill throws unemployed workers under the bridge. No REAL stuff there.

Anne-Marie said...

Anyone who expects progress from the Liberals or Conservatives might as well sit under a thorn tree waiting for it to drop mangoes.

The contrarian economist Hyman Minsky said there's nothing wrong with macroeconomics that another depression won't cure. I will now translate that for the investor class: “Your goose isn't laying golden eggs because you killed it when you tried to dig them out with a knife, you dumb shit.”

janfromthebruce said...

Anon, it's the crumbs we are getting thanks to the corporate Liberal party who changed the EI while they were in power. Oh, and stole workers' money to say look at us - we slew the deficit - with our money.
The libs talk a good gig but they are just another corporate party doing elites bidding, and why not, that's who runs them too.
For a good read, rather than echoing Iggy soundbites (like Laxer) read Was the NDP right to delay an election?
Short answer: yes

James Laxer said...

Hi Jan: The whole country is being thrown under a bus by Stephen Harper.

I believe the NDP could have done well in a fall election. The victory in Nova Scotia is fresh and there is a great deal of anger about the state of the economy and its impact on families and communities.

Because Ignatieff has been so relentlessly right-wing, the potential opening for the NDP was there to be seized. Unfortunately, the strategy that has now been adopted by the NDP yields the high ground to the Liberals. The NDP should have retained its clear record as the real opposition to the Harper government. The party could have presented itself as the real alternative.

This chance has now been squandered. The next opportunity for an election will come in late winter or early spring. Until then the NDP will be stuck propping up the government. My read of the economy is that there will be more unemployment and more dislocation in coming months.

My worry in the next election is not Harper---he's going to lose. I fear that Ignatieff is going to get a free ride, much undeserved, and will become the alternative to Harper.

The NDP could have seized that ground. To do that would have required much bolder ideas about how to rebuild the Canadian economy to serve the interests of working people.

That's the opportunity that has been squandered.

Anonymous said...

Hey janfromthebruce,

How does criticizing this NDP move mean "echoing Iggy soundbites (like Laxer)"? HAVE YOU NOT EVER HEARD OF THIS CONCEPT CALLED DISSING *ALL* THE PARTIES WHEN THEY'RE *ALL* WRONG? And how can you dare say Laxer "echoes Iggy soundbites" when he has bashed Iggy (correctly) *often* here? Don't you read?

Get a life and quit being so partisan.

Anne-Marie said...

Is isn't enough, obviously, but what leverage does Layton have? The media and other parties would have a field day with the NDP not supporting the EI changes, and the public would play along in applying the usual double-standard.

When Tommy Douglas was voted The Greatest Canadian, the Depression was the invisible co-recipient of the honour. If Medicare was an election issue now, it wouldn't have a prayer, because most Canadians are only prepared to consider bold (and egalitarian) ideas when enough oxes, preferably their very own, have been gored. All the strategy in the world doesn't change that.