Friday, January 26, 2007

If You Were Jack?

Increasingly, it would appear that Layton will decide whether this government lives or dies. Layton has already stated what his demands are, essentially an ambitious series of amendments to the Clean Air Act. If you accept the premise that Layton is genuine in wanting effective environmental legislation, then it becomes a complicated calculation. Do you prop up a government that you have little in common philosophically, or do you pull the plug and go to the polls?

What Layton enjoys right now is leverage. The makeup of parliament allows Layton to be aggressive in his demands. Public sentiment has Harper on the defensive when it comes to the environment, which applies enough pressure to move him more than he otherwise would want. In other words, the current climate might just allow Layton to get what he wants. Assume that Layton does force an ambitious agenda, it just might be worth propping up the government. Afterall, the issue isn't partisan consideration, it really should be about achieving something effective.

If we do go the polls, with no progress on the Clean Air Act, there is no guarantee that the future looks brighter. Layton forces an election, with the knowledge that the next parliament could well see another Tory government. If Harper were to win re-election, the leverage is gone and Harper would be more inclined to produce his own legislation, independent of others. You have to wonder if an emboldened Harper would mean a less effective piece of legislation. In the aftermath of an election, the government has the momentum, as no one would accept another quick vote.

The problem for Layton, despite what could be achieved on the environment, there will still remain a myriad of issues that contradict any "alliance". It just seems counter-intuitive to believe the NDP rank and file would be comfortable with Layton propping up the government, for any length of time, no matter the one "result". If Harper did agree to Layton's demands, you woud assume there is some assurance that Layton wouldn't turn on the government quickly. You have an important achievement, but there still remains the inherent contradiction on so many other issues. Layton is in a tough spot no matter where he turns, both ethically and politically.

UPDATE
Interesting Travers piece that suggests another consideration:
If Conservatives are successful in sweeping the environment off the table, voter attention will shift from monumental issues to the more mundane management of national affairs. Advantage Harper and the ruling party.

If Layton helps Harper take the environment off the table, does he in fact remove the achilles heel and all but guarantee a future re-election? You help your ideological foe, ensuring a longer neo-con reign.

9 comments:

Mike said...

If you think the environment is the only thing the Conservatives are susceptible on, or the only thing the Liberals can use to defeat them, then the Liberals deserve to be out of power for longer anyway.

As an exercise, can you think of something OTHER than the environment you could use in an election? Afghanistan, Fortier, Emerson, $5 Billion sell out of softwood....

If Jack Layton succeeds in getting the total changes to the Clean Air Act he wants, then it will no longer be a piece of Conservative legislation - I hardly think the Conservative swill be able to make hay out of stuff the NDP likes, especially with the base.

Sometimes its about getting the right legislation passed and not about who is in power or gaining it...

Steve V said...

"Sometimes its about getting the right legislation passed and not about who is in power or gaining it..."

You can't argue with that.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Getting the environment off the table would be helpful to Jack too, it's an issue the NDP is vulnerable to the Greens on. Even better if Jack can be seen as having forced an environmental fix.

And that's what it will come down to. In order to justify propping-up the Cons to his base Jack will need substantial green movement by Harper. Moreover, he'll need to be able to take credit for it.

If the NDP and Cons can reach agreement on a package that meets both their needs (a very big if) then it's hugely beneficial to both of those parties to be able to declare victory on the environmental file and move on. It's in neither's interest to fight an election on it.

WestmountLiberal said...

If Jack's smart, and I think he is, this will be the NDP's 2nd federal budget.
Don't forget fellow Liberals that M Layton has played this card once before - on us.

Steve V said...

"Getting the environment off the table would be helpful to Jack too, it's an issue the NDP is vulnerable to the Greens on. Even better if Jack can be seen as having forced an environmental fix."

Hi Jeff, that's a very good point.

Kuri said...

I guess the conclusion of this is that the Liberals would be best suited to prevent any action on the environment just to ensure that it's an election issue? Forgive me for finding that just a bit cynical.

Steve V said...

"I guess the conclusion of this is that the Liberals would be best suited to prevent any action on the environment just to ensure that it's an election issue?"

Not sure how you reach that conclusion, considering the post is about Layton and what he should do.

Kuri said...

Well, if having action on the environment will help the Cons and the NDP (which was the analysis of this post, as well as BC in TO's comment) then it's implied that action on the environment hurts the Liberals. One gets the impression that the consensus here would be against action on the environment or "getting it off the table". Just because you're talking about Jack doesn't mean you're talking about him in isolation. Politics is relational.

Steve V said...

"Afterall, the issue isn't partisan consideration, it really should be about achieving something effective."

I guess you missed that line.