Friday, April 20, 2007

Liberals, Greens and the NDP, ruining an opportunity...

So, the Liberal party, under Stephane Dion, is probably currently as "progressive" as it has ever been. There's a greater possibility of the Liberals adopting NDP policies than ever before. A greater possibility of the Liberals killing off their conservative wing, and finally moving from "kinda progressive and better than the Tories" to "actually progressive". And, OF COURSE, this happens at a time when the Tories are in power, and the Liberals are just weak enough that the NDP can get delusions of grandeur.

So what do we get? A world in which the NDP leadership is more interested in dragging the Tories to the centre than in dragging the Liberals to the left. A world in which the NDP will negotiate with the Tories to change the Clean Air Act enough that they'll support it (and keep the Conservative government alive) but won't even answer the phone if it's the Greens calling. A world in which the LIBERALS are talking about electoral reform and cooperation, while the NDP shouts for the status quo, calls bipartisan cooperation "undemocratic", and works with Stephen Harper, but not Elizabeth May.

Now, I understand why the NDP feels that the Liberals moving to the left endangers their partisan standing, but as an NDP voter in the last two federal elections, I'm disappointed that they don't see the bigger picture. Personally, I don't care about the NDP, or the Liberals, or the Greens. I care about Canada. I care about who we are, and what we stand for. I think there's currently a unique opportunity to purge the Liberal party of Canada of people who aren't liberals, without giving up the farm to the Tories. The Liberals, Greens and NDP could form a coalition government that would be historic, and put Canada on what I would see as a truly exciting path. And I get the feeling that for the first time in my lifetime, Canada's "natural governing party", the people with the most to lose in such a coalition, and for whom (being in second place in a minority Parliament, and having always felt within a breath of governing when in opposition) this would be most difficult to consider, might actually consider it. I for one don't care what party name Canada's government rules under, I care what policies they implement. I don't care which party wins how many seats, and who occupies what cabinet job, I care about the policies the government implements, and the course they set for the nation. I thought the NDP's willingness to work with the Liberals in the last Parliament was great. I'm much less happy about their willingness to work with the Tories in this one, and their stubborness in spurning the Greens and Liberals.

It's 2007, and the NDP would apparently rather be in third place cooperating with the Tories, than in third place cooperating with the Liberals and the Greens. It seems they'd rather pull the Tories to the centre (and keep the Liberals there) than pull the Liberals to the left. After decades of complaining that the Liberals were basically just the Tories in red, the NDP seems adamant that the Liberals REMAIN just the Tories, in red.

This may well keep the Tory government from drifiting too far to the right. It may also hand them a majority government. I suppose the NDP believes that by that time, they will have so moderated the Tories that a Stephen Harper majority wouldn't be that bad.

I beg to differ.

There's a historic opportunity afoot to realign politics in Canada, and deal a historic blow to conservative ideologues.

But it's not going to happen.

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7 comments:

Devin said...

So, the Liberal party, under Stephane Dion, is probably currently as "progressive" as it has ever been. There's a greater possibility of the Liberals adopting NDP policies than ever before. A greater possibility of the Liberals killing off their conservative wing, and finally moving from "kinda progressive and better than the Tories" to "actually progressive". And, OF COURSE, this happens at a time when the Tories are in power, and the Liberals are just weak enough that the NDP can get delusions of grandeur.

Say wha'?

There is not a single true sentence in that entire paragraph. If I thought even for a second that the Liberal Party was left of centre, I would join it, because it is easier to legislate from the position of government. The reason New Democrats don't do that is beacause we have been down this road a thousand times before. The Liberals spend a decade in government, as one of the most right wing in Canadian history, then as soon as they are out of power they suddenly get all principled and progressive. Then they get back into power, and the cycle repeats. I don't buy it for a second. The most progressive things that the Liberals have done in this parliament is work to repeal their own legislation.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Devin,

Well, if you believe Dion's Liberals are the same as Harper's Tories, fair enough. Then there's no differnece between coming in third with the Tories in first, and coming in third with the Liberals in first.

I don't think it's true, and that even if it was this is the best opportunity in decades to change it. But I understand your point of view, even if I disagree with it. I just think that where you think the centre of Canada is politically is to the left of where the centre of Canada is politically. I'd imagine you and I would like Canada to be in basically the same place, but I think we disagree significantly on where Canadians AS A WHOLE actually are.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

I also think Devin's comment is the kind of sentiment that's going to get the Tories their majority. This whole idea that the Liberals and Tories are just the same is a great slam on the Liberals, but also a great boone to the Tories. As long as Layton slams the Greens and Liberals while working with the Tories, Liberal voters who would otherwise not necessarily vote Tory (but the type who would never vote NDP) start to think "Well, I used to think Harper was too right-wing for my taste, but if JACK LAYTON can work with him, how right-wing can he be?"

I'm not convinced that this whole "the Liberals aren't progressive enough, vote NDP" strategy will ever get the NDP more than they currently get in the polls (those left-leaning Liberals who stuck around through Gomery, ain't goin' nowhere now that Harper's the PM!) but I'm also almost certain that for every voter on the left end of the Liberal Party scared into voting NDP by Layton's rhetoric that the Tories and Liberals are the same, another voter on the right end of the Liberal Party is comforted into voting Tory by Layton's rhetoric that the Tories and the Liberals are the same (especially since these voters are not comfortable with Dion, whom they see as much too left-wing). What happens in the best case scenario for the NDP is that they get closer to the Liberals, who lose votes on both sides, some to the NDP for not being progressive enough, and some to the Tories when "blue Liberals" peel away from Dion's progressive leadership, having determined that "if Jack Layton can deal with Harper, surely so can I". Dion's clearly making "conservative Liberals" uncomfortable, and Layton's message to them is "go ahead, switch to Harper, he's not so different". End result? Bigger NDP caucus, smaller Liberal caucus, Tory majority.

Of course, some NDP partisans will only be convinced of the disaster on the horizon when Harper gets his majority, but by then, it'll be too late.

If you don't think the Liberals are to the left of centre now, wait a year. 'Cause at this rate, the "centre" is bound to lurch pretty far to the right of where it is now. It may seem worth it on election night if there's a big surge in NDP votes (which I doubt). I'm not sure how satisfying it will remain after two or three years of a Stephen Harper majority government.

I think Jack Layton has to seriously consider what's best for Canada. Jack Layton as leader of the third party in a Liberal minority, Jack Layton as leader of the third party in a Tory minority, or Jack Layton, leader of the official opposition in a Tory majority. 'Cause those are his only options, and right now, it seems to me like he's trying pretty hard for option #3.

Sean Shaw said...

it seems my last post didn't actually make it up..sigh, it was a long one too...so an abridged version the second time around:

1. When have the current Liberals under Dion ever spoke about electoral reform???? this is news to me and I would love to see it.

2. The NDP does not have the power to bring about electoral reform, repeat, it is not up to the NDP!

3. The NDP has never "propped up" the Conservatives. Infact they are the only party to vote against the government on every single confidence motion.

4. The NDP attempted to salvage a deeply flawed "clean air act" by having an all party committee rewrite the bill, which was eventually done (to great praise by environmental groups). Sending it to committee did not keep the Cons alive, it was not a confidence bill. So instead of having a dead bill we now have a very progressive piece of legislation before the house on GHG reduction.

5. The NDP will not join forces with the Liberals, it doesn't make sense. Remember the PC/CA merger, is there any PC voice in the Cons at this time...The Liberals, in their current form, are not interested in anything besides a governing, preferably a majority....

So please don't mis-characterize the NDPs actions so blatantly, it does a disservice to an honest discussion.

Psychols said...

" currently a unique opportunity to purge the Liberal party of Canada of people who aren't liberals"

What could you possible mean by this statement LKO?. Are you hoping to alienate red tories so that they vote for the CPC instead of the Liberals? These are not lunatic right wing idealogues we are talking about - they are moderate Canadians who, for the most part, favour fiscal responsibility and moderately progressive social policy.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

psychols,

I mean mostly just the most "extreme" (such as it is) of the right end of the party. It's idealistic, and naive, I know, but I might have hoped, at one point, that with Dion as leader the party would inch a bit to the left, cooperate with the NDP and Greens, initiate reforms to our electoral system and really shake things up. I see now that it's never going to happen, which I think is sad, but now my bigger worry is that all this NDP/Green/Liberal fighting is going to give the Tories their majority, and perhaps even worse.

I saw the May/Dion cooperation as a first, positive step. Layton saw it as a first shot across the bow. And right then, my hopes were dashed.

Psychols said...

LKO,

I suppose it would be positive for the progressive parties to better cooperate to defeat the Kyoto-hating, top down economics loving, anti-social program, war-loving political idealogues in Canadian society. To do that we need to win over moderate voters and Dion-May have taken positive first step in endorsing principle over politics. The environment has taken its rightful place as a key political issue and Dion-May have managed to take ownership.

Layton has never missed a chance to attack the Liberals in the past and continues the tradition now. It is Ed Broadbent that has been a real dissapointment in all of this. He has always appeared to be a man that puts principle above politics but he is showing his partisanship.

It will be interesting to see if the Liberal machine will be used to help May campaign. It will also be interesting to see if any of the ex Progressive Conservatives such as Joe Clark endorse May in that riding.