Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Get Over It

I watched a political roundtable today involving party representatives debating various themes. MP Ruby Dhalla was the Liberal voice for the discussion. During the debate Dhalla articulated the now standard Liberal line in reference to the NDP(paraphrasing)- "The NDP criticizes the government polices, but their own actions leading up to the last election allowed the right-wing to take control". Whether or not there is merit in blaming the NDP for this government is now completely irrelevant.

Canadians won't respond positively to re-hashing the past, in a way that invariably comes across as whinny and bitter. I understand the desire for Liberals to attack the NDP, simply as a function of political survival. However, as a matter of strategy, I don't see any advantage in this tactic. Policy differentiation, an appeal to the true majority opinion, are the avenues that best serve the Liberal brand. There is a certain confidence, that is attractive, by merely making your case. Attack the Harper agenda, contrast it with your own and forget about trying to paint the NDP as faciliator. That soundbite might have worked in the early weeks of this government, but now it just looks tired, and more alarming, feeds the argument that the Liberal Party is an empty shell that lacks ideas.

I get tired of listening to Layton turn every issue into a referendum on the Liberal Party. I feel the exact same way when Liberals fail to articulate valid criticism and instead choose the blame game. Is there anyone who really thinks this is a winning agenda? If you ask me, it just confirms the reasoning that led to the downfall in the first place. Let's move on shall we.


Anonymous said...

I agree. I do think someone has to calm down Brad Lavigne - this guy is wired and very bad representative for Layton.

I think you should write Ruby Dhalla and tell her that many Canadians don't want to hear it any more.

In fact, I could write her too and maybe they'll get the drift.

Steve V said...

"I think you should write Ruby Dhalla and tell her that many Canadians don't want to hear it any more."

Maybe if everyone helps, and we scrape together some cash, I can tell her over lunch ;)

Miles Lunn said...

I think the danger here is it looks arrogant. It assumes that all those who voted NDP would have automatically gone Liberal as their second choice, when in fact there is no way of knowing for sure unless we use a preferential ballot. Lets just accept the results move on and build a bold agenda to win the next election.

I also think we should quit pandering to the left. Just as most Canadians aren't right wingers, most Canadians aren't left wingers either. Canadians generally tend to vote for parties close to the centre, which is where we need to be.

Scotian said...

I both agree with you and disagree with you. I agree that doing so in a whiny manner without other substantive criticism is not a good idea. However, Layton has by his actions left himself open to the charge that instead of being motivated first by the fundamental social justice and other principles the NDP has always stood for he is instead far more interested in increased seats primarily from the Libs even if it gives Harper government and God Forbid majority government in the process. Given the threat Harper is seen as to those values by most center to strong left Canadians this is no small percentage of the voting public.

The trick is to not overdo it and to in a more in sorrow than in anger manner. Indeed, it was Layton's actions last year, and not just triggering the election I might add, that caused me to not vote for my NDP candidate/MP. Why this is significant is that this MP is someone I respect, have known since my early teens way back when she was in Provincial politics, and had voted for the year before on those grounds. However, with my vote being worth $1.75 I did not want it to go to a Layton led NDP which contrary to the NDP I had always known was placing expediency for seats before principles, not something I previously associated with the NDP.

I did not see the interview you are referring to, but given your description I would agree your negative reaction to it has good grounds. I just disagree with part of your larger point about it as you see. I think Layton has left himself vulnerable to charges of selling out principles before votes/seats, which is one of the reasons many left leaning swing voters switch between NDP and Libs, especially when the Libs are seen as needing a reminder in humility by being turfed. However, when that comes at a potential cost of decades of slow gains by the NDP in federal policy being dismantled by a radical new kind of Conservative party/politics that should be the primary focus of any NDP leader in my view.

I also know more than a few people that voted NDP last time out with similar feelings about Layton. Now, none of them are party members or involved in party politics, so I don't really know what value to place on this, but the fact that there appears to be a block of the electorate that would be uncomfortable with the wholesale dismantling of the social structure of this nation not being the first concern of the supposedly principled party of the left should not be ignored by the Libs either.

As I said before the trick is in the presentation and not to go to that well all the time either. It needs to be more judicious than that and it needs to be more in sorrow and sadness than in outrage and anger let alone whiny and petty. Talk about how the NDP used to place principles before anything else and that where the Harper CPC is concerned they seemed more concerned with potential gains to maybe being Official Opposition while allowing a Harper government to come to power than defending those principles and decades of slow gains for those principles.

Well, that's my take on it, and the last comment I make anywhere tonight. Take care Steve V.

Steve V said...


You make a valid point about pandering, it isn't essential given the political leanings of the mainstream.


You're right, in that the fact can't be ignored, but I look at as more a question of degree. The "NDP card" seems a convenient tactic whenever the discussion gets heated. I didn't mean to pick on Dhalla, it was just more a general theme.

Scotian said...

Steve V:

Fair enough, and you have a point about it's overuse as a handy dodge from what I've seen myself. I just wanted to make sure that while your very valid point was taken that the baby is not thrown out of the bathwater regarding Layton's rather fundamental shift in the focus of the NDP as a party more interested in seats than their principles unlike throughout his predecessor's time in office.

I suppose I should explain something. I am personally quite irked by Layton's forcing me to vote against an MP I personally respect on both personal and profession grounds. I also was annoyed at him for costing me an alternative place to put my vote last time out as well as clearly seeing the Libs as the primary focus for his attention in the pursuit of replacing the Libs as the alternate government of the "left". While I have no problems whatsoever with his having them seen this way in part he also needed to make a much better case for what the Harper CPC represented, which is bluntly put something far worse than the Libs were and would likely get. While there was certainly overlap in policies and practices in many respects there was not the culture war element, and Canadian nationalism and sovereign rights were more likely to be protected against their biggest outside threat, our superpower sole neighbour.

In Layton's pursuit of what is fairly described as a good opportunity to make some real gains against the Liberals he failed to consider the implications of what he could be unleashing with a CPC government (especially a majority but even as we have seen a minority, something I believe Layton thought he would have more influence in then he has had to date) by not properly defining them as the very real threat they are to fundamental NDP achievements and principles. He let Harper be seen as moderate and reasonable and therefore not an ideologue or someone that would act so dictatorial even in minority as we have all seen Harper be. He continues to underestimate the effect of his campaign against the Liberals and his weakening of actual power shaping Parliamentary policy/debates as he had in the Martin period with a smaller caucus.

Since he is either unaware of this which makes him too dangerous to be trusted as a national party leader let alone as a PM or he is aware and sees it as an acceptable risk which makes him driven first by power lust/expediency instead of the principles that always marked the NDP as truly a different party whatever one thought of those principles. That made them a safe quality in some political respects, especially for soft Liberal voters, pissed off hard Liberal voters, and socially progressive Conservatives in the days of the PCPC. Layton took that from me and I resent him for being this stupid or foolhardy in how he has chosen to deal with Harper despite the threat he represents to all those that believe in progressive social policy, which given this country's overall nature is clearly a strong majority and therefore needs to be considered first. He also represents a direct threat to the legacies of the NDP in Liberal enacted policies over the last several decades, he represents a direct threat to their long term power in the federal level by making the left half of the binary political operations he has been running equate evil/cowards/unfit, and he has proven to be more willing to deal with Quebecois nationalists/separatists then the NDP in this Parliament.

Layton is too focused on the short term potentials to recognize the risks in the medium to long term in the best case scenario, and over time his tendency to do so will not only cost him but his party as well I believe. I think also this is recognized by other nonaffiliated informed voters (and there are more out there than most party partisans like to admit) and if properly played will attract a significant number of those that left their last vote with the NDP to go Lib next time out. These days with votes being worth $1.75 as well as the traditional value gives a new meaning to every vote counting to aid those you support politically even when they lose in your riding. I understand the temptation Layton was faced with, especially with a near perfect storm against the Martin Liberals, especially with Adscam and the Martin response to it of Gomery. The way he dealt with it though said and continues to say a lot to me though as to why I cannot support him nor his party while he leads it.

You see, while sympathetic to the Liberals and willing to give them the fair credit they deserve along with the fair condemnations they also have earned I am not one nor do I almost always vote so. I really have ranged between NDP, Lib, and PCPC in my decades of voting, and like to do so as much on the local candidate's qualifications/suitability as I do the party and it's leader. If the Conservative government was a PCPC one or even a CPC led primarily by the former PCPC wing of the party that had not lost so many of it's members during the great PCPC sellout/hostile takeover I would not be so harsh against the NDP nor would I think Layton was being as reckless as I do this time. However for reasons I have told you here and many others elsewhere as well I see Harper and his coterie of Straussians and religious conservatives dominating the CPC since it's birth a serious threat to the way this country has traditionally governed. A threat worse even than the chances Mulroney took in his quest for Constitutional legacy as well as to be fair getting the signature of Quebec on the document.

So I do what I do and oppose them as much as possible and I find it both disturbing and irritating how the NDP, a party I would have expected to most oppose this brand of "Conservativism" than any other federal party has not acted so, although I grant during the leadership race they have been able to do some far better than the Libs to date but that will change in a couple months. I would have expected them to see them as the largest danger to not only their future ambitions but to their prior successes. While I can live with his decision to call the election when he did his attempts to pretend it was all the Libs fault and because of his deep concern for the future of medical care in this country because of the lack of appetite for one, especially over Christmas, was disgusting IMHO. It unfortunately tends to characterize much of his operations as a political leader and demonstrates a power lust almost as disturbing as the one I see in Harper.

There is a place here for Liberals to make a real comeback I believe, if they play this smart. I see this as the main way for them to do so, but it requires a careful balancing act, something the Libs have been known to pull off from time to time in our history (dry humour there) and since my first concern is removing Harper and his crowd from federal power first and hopefully from significant influence let alone dominating the CPC and what it stands for and Layton has made himself too toxic for me by his own actions I want the Libs back as soon as possible. Harper must go before all else, his Straussian shaped politics, his admiration for some of the nastier GOP political tools for defining opposition, and his clear belief that his elite thinking is clearly superior to others since he does not consult beyond appearances/form's sake make him a type of politician supremely toxic to the traditional Canadian political and cultural way of life. I can live with Canadian Conservatism in charge even when I disagree with some of their actions because I trust them not to sell out our fundamental sovereignty. This crew I do not, and the softwood sellout only underscored this.

I hope the length of this response was not a problem, I just thought I should try and explain why I see this as so important and why I have such strong feelings on the matter.

Steve V said...


I think you make an excellent point on purity. Layton loves to argue that his decisions are principled, with the implication that others play politics. If Liberal articulate the argument like you have then it exposes Layton as opportunistic, primarily concerned with maximizing his seat potential. Self-interest is the way to knock Layton off his horse. The debates in the last election were a complete embarrassment, with every question posed sidestepped to bash the Liberals and in so doing absolve the real threat to NDP principles, that being Harper.

Maybe the best tactic for the Liberals, speak about Layton's fixation with taking votes away from them, while ignoring the most offensive ideology. Alot of people that voted NDP last time did so despite Layton's car salesman routine, it was certainly not a passionate endorsement of his motivations.

Scotian said...

"Maybe the best tactic for the Liberals, speak about Layton's fixation with taking votes away from them, while ignoring the most offensive ideology." Steve V

EXACTLY! That has been the approach I have been taking, because it is the right reason for having serious concerns about his motives, his vision, and his recognition of the real threats to our traditional way of life in this country. I mean I do believe that Layton means well, in fact likely believes most of what he claims is true with sincere belief (whether though it is actually accurate being of course an entirely different matter, one of the most dangerous forms of deception from a politician after all is self deception) but his actual understanding of the threats his various opposition offers him is completely skewed.

It is over my belief in principles and honesty in dealing with them that forced me to reject not just him but someone I *know* to be a good person and MP. That really rankles for me, but to stay true to my own beliefs I have to do it. I would love it of course if politics and politicians were always principled and honest in their actions but I am not someone that lives in dreamland but in a world operated by human beings. So what I look for is core level principles, general rate of consistency regarding them, under what circumstances they choose to go against them, and then determine which is doing the least damage/most good (it is quite a variable after all) and then support accordingly. The fools in the right wing trolletariat and too many otherwise sincere Conservatives in this country would have us believe that such purity is possible despite the massive historical record of it's impossibility combined with the horrors the attempt to impose such invariably has created.

This is why something like the Grewal affair has been such a big deal for me over the long term and not just then. It was an unprecedented act of dirty politics in our history, was a matter that if it had not involved federal politicians would likely have triggered a fraud investigation on whomever edited the recordings to make the criminal allegation look confirmed (only handing over to RCMP clean full originals unlike to the public for the first weeks prevented that along with RCMP reluctance traditionally to involve themselves directly in political affairs without clear-cut serious criminal violations). This was a core breech of some pretty basic codes of conduct and principle in the Canadian political dynamic/culture/tradition. Anyone that would do that, endorse it, profit from it and then hide the fact they ever did anything wrong is something I cannot recall an equivalent for in my life as a political leader let alone as a PM.

Layton has some of the same problems, although I will grant to a lesser extent and at least his social justice values are ones I can for the most part live with, as I believe is true for most Canadians. However governing is about far more than that and these are the areas I tend to have concerns with, although that varies by the leader and the supporting players that would be likely Cabinet members to the leader. Right now Layton is weak in that regard, he is taking on a fair amount of the lead, although he does have some strong lieutenants like Comartin, Wascalesa-Lees, and Alexa McDonough that he uses well, unlike the Harper road show with bit players Baird, Flaherty, and his favourite substitute windbag, Kenney.

I believe Layton profited last time out because there was real Liberal fatigue and scandal fatigue, especially given the way the Opposition kept talking about nothing else. This is how things like the Afghanistan mission extension and the government tour of the nation explaining what the new mission would be like got lost in the din last fall. I noticed it at the time but few did, but it underscores yet another difference between Harper's CPC and the Libs. The Libs actually did work selling and explaining the mission and the changed nature of it, and they did not make a big deal out of claiming to give Parliament a say and then ramrodding it in 48 hrs with no time for hearings/testimony from relevant experts, an 8 hr debate in which a no vote would extend the mission one year and have Harper fighting an election over it.

The Liberals did their best to not only keep support for the mission up, they did so in a non-partisan manner and they certainly did not exploit the troops and mission for the benefits of their party partisan political aims. The NDP are losing credibility on this issue, and as body bags keep coming back there will be pressure for better than Harper but not a full withdrawal without real discussion nationally first. Layton is weak for not seeing the CPC as the threat to social justice in this country, nor does he see the threat to our sovereignty. Would Martin have signed a softwood lumber deal that gave Washington the right to be consulted before a Province changes forestry policy? I rather doubt it. Indeed for all we hear about the Libs so called less worthy deal we only have Emerson's word about it and given the value of his word being shown to be empty after the last election and swearing in of Harper's Cabinet it can be fairly disregarded.

Layton has left both his right and left flanks open without appearing to realize it, which is something that makes me think he is genuinely not seeing the real threats in their full risk levels instead of callously ignoring them. I do think he thinks Canada will survive such and indeed that such harsh medicine could help the NDP in the longer term by making the right toxic to enough Canadians. I think his clear self interest and clear ignoring of a clearly more black-white threat to the core values and history of the NDP government achievements as mentioned before is what can be used to take him down a notch or two and help the Liberals. I can only hope that some of them especially in their leadership start going at it on these grounds for a while instead of the whinier attacks we have seen to date. A more in sorrow than in anger approach will work in this I believe and I pray someone actually realizes this.

Layton has made the NDP go from being a fundamentally principles oriented party first to a seat gaining one. That is a fundamental switch he appears to have pulled without the NDP itself calling it on him. I don't know why, but I do think that will eventually prove to be a major mistake for him within the party when they realize just how much he gave away to Harper and the CPC in his pursuit of the Libs, especially after the Jan 06 election.

Incidentally, if I ever write something you want to use/expand upon in a post of your own or send to others, please feel free to do so. I write these things more in the hopes of inspiring insights and useful ways of seeing things for others and in turn read other people to gain such for myself. So long as I am credited has always been the only thing I have ever asked of someone in such. I added this since you appeared to really like my previous post's contents and I just wanted to make sure you knew how I felt about such given how some people can be about their work being used by another. I tend to see it as once in the public domain I have given permission for others to do so so long as they do so honestly in accreditation and presentation (as in not edited without showing such). Just thought I should be explicit on it, hope you didn't mind.

Steve V said...


I have thought of putting your comments into a post of their own.

Scotian said...

Steve V:

If you think it is worth your time and effort feel free, as I said I am not someone that minds honest use of my writings by others. It is only those that do so dishonestly via editing tricks to misrepresent what I actually said or do not properly accredit that I will have problems with for doing so. That is something I am certain is not something you would pull, you have demonstrated far too much intellectual honesty for me to ever see you acting in such a disreputable fashion.