Monday, April 30, 2007

No Room For Partisanship

When the Clean Air Act first went to committee, I criticized the initial Liberal reaction, which was decidedly negative. There was a partisan tone that seemed counter-productive, if your chief concern was the potential for meaningful legislation. My attitude, who cares who initiated the process, if there is an opportunity, jump all over it, if it's a fraud then criticize. However, this resistance waned and the Liberals actively engaged, helping to craft a comprehensive bill. Kudos.

Today, I must confess, I heard the same kind of partisan rubbish coming from Ralph Goodale, when asked about Layton's attempt to get C-30 back on the agenda. First the semantics of the Layton letter to the Liberals:
"the letter, typical of Jack the Joker, it came after 3 o'clock, after the deadline for submission. Nice PR gesture, a bit of a trick...but there is no substance in it".

Factually correct, opposition days must be clarified prior to the session, within a certain time frame. NDP MP Nathan Cullen:

"We came together on Friday after question period, a few of sitting around the table, and said was is available to push this. We looked at who had the next opposition day and it was the Liberals. The sincere effort was to bring something to Mr.Dion and Mr.Duceppe, we all have tools available to us, will you work together"

"There was no holding of the letter, anything like that. We brought it forward as quickly as we could."

I can't convey body language, but Cullen did appear sincere, speaking with CBC's Don Newman. What I find disturbing, not so much the debate of timing, but Goodale arguing the following:
"The focus for the debate on the environment is going to continue to be question period, that is the hot crucible of the day. Were the coverage comes from, where the public focus is achieved is in question period."

"We are not losing focus, we are focusing on it during the most intense period of the parliamentary day"

The Liberal path will be question period, which might be high profile, but serves no purpose, as it relates to legislation. Goodale argues a different path on the environmental file, which is suspiciously at odds with the NDP proposals. Can the Liberals not do both? I don't understand the need for a decision, as though the two are mutually exclusive. Hammer Baird in question period, and do everything in your power to bring C-30 back from the dead. The posture is disappointing, the opposition must work together. Have the Liberals concluded that they will await the Rodriguez motion, ignoring the NDP overtures. I could care less if Jack is a Joker, if the process could lead somewhere, then that is the primary concern.

Also odd, Goodale admits that the two major issues for Liberals are currently Afghanistan and the environment. Why then, two opposition days last week, both devoted to Afghanistan, and the decision this week to focus on the Native residential school issue? Don't get me wrong, but this week's decision doesn't quite jive with the priority argument. Count me as hardly impressed at this stage. There is an air of partisanship here which is decidedly unattractive.


Woman at Mile 0 said...

The important thing is we get it done Steve. Good post.

Cliff said...

The posture is disappointing

The word is predictable.

janfromthebruce said...

That's right, we get it done. And demeaning someone sure puts blocks up to getting the job done.
When I hear on the one hand, the environment is the most important thing, a crisis, and on the other, I hear this crap, playing political games, it makes me think that the 'environment' is not the MAIN THING.
Is it a wonder why the public turns away. Enough all ready!

Good post.

Anonymous said...

Cullen - sincere. Haven't you noticed that the NDP always act self-rightious and oh so sincere.

I don't fall for their act. It's a political ploy so that we all think they are the only ones interested in getting things done.

Steve V said...

On many occasions I find Cullen annoying and pius, today wasn't one of them. It all boils down to- what is the harm in trying to get a collective success back to the front burner? Whether or not the NDP is playing games, it really is irrelevant to how the Liberals should proceed, if the planet is the number one concern. If the rhetoric matches reality, then....

Tomm said...


Interesting enough.

What is the point of the LPC tactic?

I'm not sure I understand why they would block this. It seems that CPC remains vulnerable on the environment. We had the new plan thrown on the table, we've had Gore calling it a fraud, it seems to me the opposition should be going for the throat here.

The detainees issue does not contain the same opportunities since ultimately we are all against torture.


Scotian said...

Steve V:

I agree with you regarding Cullen's body language today and that his account of how this came together is reasonable, but then that forces asking a rather important question. Why then since last Friday was I listening to Layton and company chastising the Libs for not taking their motion in the spirit of bipartisanship when they should have known that they were too late, for whatever decent reasons still too late this time, for the Libs that time out? I'm sorry Steve V, I am not willing to grant as much slack here as you are, I see Layton pushing C-30 so hard because for his political future it is essential, his "proof" of showing how he made this Parliament work just like with the Martin NDP Better Balanced Budget (tm) we heard so much about in the last Parliament and election.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying in Layton's case it is totally driven by partisanship (unlike Harper whose conversion I do not buy at all) simply that in this case it is also something his political future requires or he will lose his leadership. He did after all invest considerable NDP effort and credibility into this legislation and if it dies on the vine after all this while giving Harper and Baird another half year to come out with what we just saw, well then I think he is some degree of difficulty, don't you? So I see him scoring shots everywhere he can here despite it clearly pissing off the Libs making them less inclined to work with him on this. Why?!? Is it more important to keep casting the Libs as obstructionist on this than actually getting this vote? Is it he figures this works more for him politically than forcing a non-binding vote on c-30?

I don't know, but given his history of the past couple of years I am not willing to extend him any benefit of the doubt where partisan political considerations are concerned any more. I find it very interesting to listen to NDP representatives on TV talking about how the Libs wouldn't play on the opposition day motion when they themselves knew from the outset that they had unfortunately approached them too late for the next Lib oppo day yet curiously appeared to have forgotten that in their lecturing about Libby intransigence. That clearly makes it harder not easier for Libs to be willing to trust working with this Layton led NDP when they are continuing to blatantly misrepresent such things for clearly partisan advantage and then once it comes out that they were simply too late they shift gears again. That is what I watched between last Friday and tonight from the NDP, and that makes me very skeptical.

I would find the calls from Layton and the NDP for less partisanship on this issue far more credible/believable if they would start practicing what they preach, otherwise I find it hard to fault the Libs for not being willing to trust them to work with. After all, Layton has not exactly been friendly to the Libs for the past two years; indeed he has been quite hostile in many respects. He has clearly placed a high partisan interest in damaging the Libs as much as he can, yet he claims to be the voice of bipartisanship?!? It is this smug self righteousness in this that I find Layton reminds me of Harper and his own smug self righteousness in his beliefs.

So while I agree with you Steve V and so many others that this issue needs less partisanship, I would also suggest that no one side/party/leader has a right to a high horse here in this issue and therefore it might be prudent for all the opposition parties that believe in Kyoto and global warming to act that way and none of them be playing this kind of holier than thou games. Layton is just as big an offender as anyone else, and for him and his party and their defenders to claim/act otherwise is not helping reduce partisanship on this issue, it is making it even worse IMHO. So I and I suspect the Libs as well will be far more receptive to such calls from Layton's NDP when they demonstrate they are willing to at least practice what they preach as they clearly did not with this Liberal oppo day motion over the weekend.

Steve V said...


I appreciate you hesitations, and you know I generally agree. In this instance, Layton's motivations are irrelevant, in my view. This bill is quite close to Dion's position, so by extension, you could argue that this act reflects the Liberal approach (other parties can make the same claim). If you accept that premise, then Liberals should proceed with the idea of pushing this to the fore, where possible. Anytime parties work together it has a mutual benefit aspect, and I see plenty of partisan positives if the Liberals move in concert with others.

I take the same view, as I initially did when Layton secured the committee. There is an opportunity to get something done, we should embrace it honestly, if others are playing, it will be exposed.

On principle, it's a no brainer. Tactically, why not use your opposition day to embarrass the government, with the added bonus of the "appearance" that you are leading the charge.

Anonymous said...

If I’ve got my parliamentary procedure right, Goodale’s explanation just doesn’t fly.

As I understand it, the Liberal opposition day motion had to be placed on the order paper by Friday at 5:00pm, but they could have put forward several potential motions and then decide later which one they choose to call.

In other words, the Liberals could have simply added Layton’s motion to the order paper and then taken the weekend to decide whether they wanted to bring it forward for a vote on their allotted day.

But I fear the Liberals don’t want C-30 to pass for the same reason they attacked the special legislative committee that produced it: if C-30 does pass the Liberals lose their biggest political advantage--strategic voting.

C-30 was crafted by a committee created largely by the NDP. It’s far tougher than anything that the Liberals brought forward when they were in power. In fact, it’s probably the most groundbreaking piece of environmental legislation in Canadian history. If parliament were to pass C-30 with the Grits in the opposition benches, it would take a sledge hammer to the argument that blindly returning the Liberals to power is the best way for progressives to get things done.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure the Liberals aren’t all sitting at home twirling their mustaches. I’m sure many of them believe they’ll pass a great piece of environmental legislation--once they’re back in power. But it seems pretty obvious--based both on their opposition to the special committee itself and their current refusal to try to force C-30 to the floor--that this is indeed their strategy. They want the issue, not the bill.

Steve V said...

"But it seems pretty obvious--based both on their opposition to the special committee itself and their current refusal to try to force C-30 to the floor--that this is indeed their strategy. They want the issue, not the bill."

I would just add it was "initial" opposition to the committee, because in the end, everyone agreed they came to the table with serious proposals and worked hard in committee. That fact suggests they did want the bill, now its a question of, how hard will you fight for it?

Anonymous said...

“I would just add it was ‘initial’ opposition to the committee, because in the end, everyone agreed they came to the table with serious proposals and worked hard in committee.”

Steve, I must admit that while I normally disagree with almost everything you write with regard to the political dynamic between the Liberals and the NDP, in this case you deserve high praise for taking a very honest and a very open-minded look at the Liberals’ position. I also think it’s fair to give the Liberals credit for, in the end, coming forward with constructive amendments at the special legislative committee. I honestly mean that.

That being said, I must disagree with your analysis.

After the C-30 committee was struck, the Liberals repeatedly voted with the Conservatives to delay its work (1). These delays--particularly voting for an eight week process rather than a four week one--put the day that the committee would report back to the House several days after the first vote on the spring budget. Had the government fallen on that vote, the eight week timetable would have, in effect, ensured the committee was scuttled.

Furthermore, the NDP released its first list of proposed amendments to C-30 in November, while the Liberals waited until six days before the committee reported back to bring forward theirs. It was only once it became clear that (a) the committee WOULD have time to finish its work and (b) the NDP was planning to put forward the toughest environmental provisions in the country’s history (and make the Grits vote them up or down) that the Liberals acted.

Obviously, the Liberals were not going to cede the entire issue of climate change to the NDP. And faced with the choice of publicly opposing environmental action, or acting as part of a multi-party process, they DID choose the latter. On the substance, they do deserve credit for that.

But--whatever their reasons--they also did everything they could to scuttle this entire process. Those actions are far more telling as what to their political and strategic motives are and have been from the start.


Anonymous said...

So let me see if I understand.

Layton spends 18 months or so slagging the LPC for everything the Parl't hill cat herd could vomit onto his rug...and now its the LPC that is supposed to be the party that refrains from partisanship.

I get it. OK, it's clear now.

This would of course be because the LPC is so well known for being composed of the vomit of cats.

Jaysus, the man has cojones, I'll give him that.

Try it yourself sometime - spend a year and a half telling someone that they're a snake and worthless to boot and criminals in all probability and then tell them that you'd like them to help you out with something.

I don't care if the issue is your dying grannies last wish, you're not going to get a warm and cuddly reception.

To expect you would is naive to the point of dangerous.

lept said...

When you are in an 'out of control car careering directly toward a wall at high speed', it isn't naivety it's simple self-preservation, isn't it?

JimBobby said...

Whooee! Steve V, yer boog title sez it all. If we accept the opposition's sincerety on Mother Earth, there is no room. My conclusion is that the Liberals care far more about their own political fortunes than they care about the environment.

This is what happens when a party sees a chance to form a government. All other issues fade in importance. The Cons and the Grits are fighting for the crown and the crown - not the public good - is what's motivating them.

The Cons have been campaigning for a majority since taking office. Governance and service have taken a backseat to campaigning. As you illustrate, the Liberals aren't much better.


Anonymous said...

Doesn't anyone find it odd that Jacks expects the Liberals to use their opposition day when the NDP just wasted theirs to try to move a motion to bring troops home now despite the fact they knew there was no support?

Jack also is dealing with Harper behind the scenes. One less liberal opposition day is one less day to move one of our own motions. To hell with Layton and his constant liberal bashing.