Sunday, September 30, 2007


Call me crazy (again), but I'm of the opinion that the NDP victory in Outremont is anything but a "fluke", in fact more a watershed moment. For a party with no lineage or context, the biggest hurdle is credibility, the appearance of viability. Mulclair's victory at the very least allows the NDP into the conversation in Quebec, to what extent is dependent on how other parties react and the NDP's own strategy. The best way to capitalize on the momentum, draw other high-profile people into the party, demonstrating that this victory isn't a one off. If the latest news comes to pass, then the NDP might just be on their way to establishing a real foothold in Quebec:
Constitutional lawyer Julius Grey is pondering a step into federal politics, most likely as a candidate for the New Democratic Party.

"I haven't made up my mind; I'm weighing the pros and cons," Grey said yesterday in a telephone interview from his home.

On the heels of Thomas Mulcair's decisive victory for the NDP in a federal by-election in Outremont on Sept. 17, there has been a flurry of interest in signing up other well-known candidates to run in Quebec.

"I have been approached and I have been talking with friends," Grey said

I've heard talk that the NDP will focus on a few key ridings, in an effort to pickup a seat here and there. That is a shrewd stategy, because if the NDP can elect more than one MP in Quebec, it is easy to see how you can build from there, for the future. I don't know of Grey, but by all accounts a very impressive person, which would amount to quite a coup for the NDP. If Grey does run, it would also provide an interesting contrast to the Liberal "star" candidates who have taken a pass, another indicator of momentum.

There is no question in my mind that Layton and Muclair are playing for keeps, partisanship aside you have to give them their due for tenacity and focus. How it all plays out remains to be seen, but the NDP has already punched through the first obstacle, and given the phase two push, people would be foolish to dismiss any future prospects.


Cliff said...

Okay good first step, now here's a challenge I put on my blog and repeated over at Scott's place:

‘Name any progressive social or economic policy -deeds not words- by a federal Liberal government that wasn’t forced on them by the courts or a minority government position.’

I've yet to have any takers.

More and more Canadians - most dangerously for the Liberal Party, in Quebec - are asking what’s the real difference is between the Conservatives and the Liberals aside from a slightly hipper rap?

I promise not to break into a chorus of ‘Liberal, Tory, same old story.’ but explain to me the advantage to ordinary working Canadians of voting for the party that gutted and looted Unemployment Insurance, betrayed workers on the Anti-Scab law based on the knowing lie of a threat to essential services, kept the Free Trade Agreement that has murdered our manufacturing sector after campaigning against it, paid lip service to Kyoto while totally abandoning any leadership on actually achieving its goals, kept the regressive GST after promising to kill it and who’s biggest criticism of the Conservatives on the economics file is that they haven’t sucked up to big business enough, in re: Income Trusts.

Would I rather see a minority Liberal government than a minority Conservative one? Sure, if they were more realistic than Martin’s was, but if the choice is minority Conservative or majority Liberal - then the only difference I can see is that some control can be exerted over a minority - so that’s what I would choose.

Talking like progressives and legislating like conservatives just won't cut it anymore, it’s actually kind of sad that Canadians fell for it as long as we did.

Steve V said...


Go to the last thread on marijuana, if you think there is no difference.

Cliff said...

I repeat: Deeds not words.

The Liberals had years of unassailable majority in which to begin the real process of decriminalization or even legalization.

Result: nothing.

Thank you for helping to make my point.

burlivespipe said...

Perhaps Cliff can list off all the accomplishments, progressively speaking, that a Tory minority have brought in?
From 2004-05, Martin, considered a ditherer, got 10 provincial leaders to agree on a childcare/early education strategy, got the same group of leaders to sign on the dotted line on a plan to improve the plight of Canada's First Nations people;
During the Chretien majority years, it broke some promises so that it could deal with the major gambit of debt. Progressives may argue on the importance of having a balanced budget until they go home to their partner and tell them they'd bought a big screen TV, a new kayak and some new hydroponic equipment on credit. The other partner will quickly note that the checks for Unicef or United Way will possibly be fewer down the road...
The Liberals have often failed to reach for the stars after talking a good game come election time. But they have implemented enough items to make us a progressive state when compared to our neighbours. Getting our fiscal house in order gives the likes of a Dion-led government, which would have a cabinet that includes far-thinkers like Rae, Ignatieff, Dryden, Bennett, Hall Finday and Kennedy, the resources to reach higher.

Cliff said...

Have you heard me defend the Tories? No you haven't. The classic 'Yeah, but the Conservatives are worse, and they're scary too' fear-mongering, just won't cut it anymore.

Thank you for helping to make my point by providing your only progressive examples from a minority Liberal government.

As for the debt issue - it was and is completely possible to address proactive, progressive social and economic policies while also tackling the debt and avoiding deficits. Any suggestion that it isn't flies in the face of the record 'unplanned' surpluses of the Liberal years - and the current one from the Conservatives - and yes it's hypocritical of them to run such a huge one after condemning the ones that regularly popped up in the Liberal years. So yes the Tories are just as bad, what's you point?


burlivespipe said...

Well, if you must, lets then tackle an NdP gov't's accomplishments. In BC we had a couple majority's recently that talked about the stars. In the end, its two bookend groups - environmentalists and labour - saw clearcutting at Clayquot sound, the investment of millions into ferries that could not ply the waters of Burrard Inlet and Howe Sound, and deficits. Oh, there were some accomplishments that fell within the spectrum of 'achievements' and I provincially traditionally support the NdP. But the compromises required of a gov't, majority or minority, often get in the way.
I'd agree that the Liberals have for the past 10 years been struggling for a vision and major strategy to deal with items that sorely could qualify as necessities -- ending child poverty, improving the conditions and inherent claims of Aboriginals, etc. But lets not pretend there's a perfect political tribe out there waiting with all the answers and no baggage that clamours after it.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

While what you say is certainly possible, I really don't think we know it for a fact yet. It's too soon. The NDP got a huge bounce from Outremont, as you can see in the Quebec polls, but bounces rarely hold. It's up to Layton and Mulcair now to make something bigger out of it, and that's hardly a sure thing. If we're still seeing movement like this in six months, we're in business.

And while I happen to agree with Cliff that it's empiricably demonstrable that the Liberals don't actually implement progressive policies when they govern alone, I take a different tack on the long-term solution to that. See, if we can make this growth of the NDP happen without seeing the Liberals completely wither and die, and if each of the two parties can get their heads out of their asses long enough to allow the other to exist and be distinct, we could eventually form a coalition government that could actually implement some pragmatic progressive policies in Canada. You can't tell me, as a former swing voter, that that vision wouldn't look a lot like your own.

But the thing is, that vision would entail not only a shift in thinking within both parties (which is difficult but possible) but some real reform within the Liberals (which at this point seems to be impossible without decimating the party first). Way too much of your party is focused on winning at any price to actually stop trying to be everything to everyone, damn the torpedoes, and really start forming policy from conviction. Just look at all the Liberals who, after Outremont, said some version of: "it's time to have a policy convention and actually figure out what we stand for!" Um, if you have to figure out what you stand for, you've got no business trying to serve the public. And all partisanship aside, I actually do find that unfortunate.

Cliff said...

If you want to to go to the provincial government place you have to mention Saskatchewan and Manitoba as well - balanced budgets and social spending hand in hand - would I like to have seen more on the spending side? Sure, but there's lots of examples of responsible progressive NDP governance to debate.

But we're talking federal here and I'm still waiting for those examples I asked for, not evasions. You still haven't provided any - and this is bigger than a recent lack of vision issue as you suggest.

The biggest debate I see among Liberals right now is that most seem to think you haven't slid far enough to the right. Lots of regret over not having picked that nice neo-con Iraq war supporter Michael Ignatieff.

Here's the Liberals problems in a nutshell:

A:)You aren't in power and holding the party together has always been about sharing out the spoils of government - same strategy for holding the country together - 'we promise everybody will get their cut.' - well almost everybody.

And B:) All the identity politics social policy issues are basically used up. What's left are progressive economic issues and on those there's no daylight between Conservative and Liberal policies.

Steve V said...

"The NDP got a huge bounce from Outremont, as you can see in the Quebec polls, but bounces rarely hold. It's up to Layton and Mulcair now to make something bigger out of it, and that's hardly a sure thing."

ID, anything but a sure thing, but a far sight better than a month ago. Hope would be the best word.

rob said...

Cliff - Good point. The only ones that I can think of off the top of my head are the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Medicare, Canada's founding role with the United Nations, ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, the Kelowna accord, the creation of the Supreme Court of Canada, establishment of a Department of Labour, public pensions, unemployment insurance, first woman in the Senate, first woman to head a senate standing committee, an extensive social security program, a re-establishment plan for the benefit of servicemen, the establishment of the Industrial Development Bank to provide credit for small business, the National Housing Act, the Farm Improvement Loans Act, old age pension legislation without a means test, old age assistance, allowances for the blind, extension of health grants, enactment of the Disabled Persons Act, the appointment of the Royal Commission on the Arts Letters and Sciences, the establishment of a municipal loan fund and an Atlantic provinces capital assistance fund, expansion of welfare services, the Old Age Security Act, the Canada Pension Plan, the Guaranteed Income Supplement, the Canada Assistance Plan, Official Languages Act, Multiculturalism policy, the Department of Regional Economic Expansion, the Anti-Inflation Board, introduction of the spouse’s allowance under the Old Age Security Act, the Canada Works scheme, the Young Canada Works Program, the Human Rights Act, the abolishment of capital punishment, the televising of all the proceedings of the House of Commons, the creation of a national oil company, the Canadian Home Insulation Program, the 6 & 5 program, appointment of the first woman Speaker of the House of Commons, the appointment of the first woman justice on the Supreme Court of Canada, the peace initiative for arms control and disarmament, the appointment of the first female Governor General, restoring funding for literacy programs, the creation of a prenatal nutrition program, the Child Tax Benefit, a National AIDS Strategy, an aboriginal healing fund, the Canada Millenium Scholarship Foundation, the $500-million cultural investment agenda under the Department of Canadian Heritage called “Tomorrow Starts Today”, being the first country to sign and ratify the Ottawa Convention – the Convention on the prohibition of the use and transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines, our instrumental role in establishing the International Criminal Court, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the forgivement of the debts of some of the most heavily indebted countries, the decision not to participate in the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the Species at Risk Act, the Canada National Parks Act, the amendment to the patent act and the food and drugs act to give many developing countries easier access to pharmaceutical products needed to combat HIV/AIDS and other public health problems, Project Green, a $5 billion investment to begin the creation of a national system of quality Early Learning and Child Care, and the $5 billion investment to preserve the natural environment and to address climate change, the $2.7 billion increase in the Guaranteed Income Supplement, the $3.4 billion in increased international assistance, legislation to speed up the provision of low-cost AIDS/HIV medication to African countries, and a comprehensive charter for Canada’s veterans.

Cliff said...

Well if you're going to repeat yourself everywhere I go I'll give the same response:

Thanks for a bunch of examples from minority governments with a few forced on the Liberals by the courts and some that are almost completely cosmetic.

And thanks for helping to make my point for me.

Steve V said...


Well done. Cliff, minority governments? Be fair, you asked, and many of those are legit. And, we would have had the marijuana legislation, had it not been for Layton bringing down the government. I voted NDP last election, so spare me the kneejerk response.

Cliff said...

'Many were legit' but they had to be padded with examples from minority parliaments didn't they? I specified progressive policy from majority Liberal government's that weren't forced on them. It would have been a much shorter list.

Lot of examples from decades ago too wasn't there?

Steve V said...

"Lot of examples from decades ago too wasn't there?"

Oh, there was a time constraint? Actually, you hijacked this thread with the boring "lib tory, same old, blah, blah", which is your perogative, but in my mind, as someone who voted NDP last election, Green the time before that, I think it nonsense. BTW, I'm no fan of a certain wing in the Liberal Party, but such is the case if you ever hope to govern and the NDP is learning that game- see Mulcair. Actually, one of the funniest things I heard just last week was Joy McPhail telling a panel that the NDP drew on people across the political spectrum
"from the center-left to the center-right". I almost fell off my chair.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Cliff, minority governments? Be fair, you asked, and many of those are legit.

Not to defend Cliff's snarky tone, here, but his original formulation included the words "that wasn’t forced on them by the courts or a minority government position." So all of the examples listed off in minority governments wouldn't fit the guidelines of his challenge as laid out in the beginning.

Cliff said...

More frustrated than snarky I hope. ; )

Cliff said...

Right off the top his second example - and there was a reason for it being at the top wasn't there? - was Medicare. Invented by the CCF and a requirement for their support for the minority Pearson government.

Kelowna Accord - Minority government and purely theoretical as they only got around to it when they were about to lose an election, so too little too late.

Ratifying the Kyoto Accord is really a rather breath-taking example as the same Liberal government went on to ignore it utterly and let emissions sky-rocket.

Pensions: Minority government. Original under Mackenzie King's minority, updated under Pearson's minority. Indexed to the cost of living under Trudeau's minority.

Government loans for university students: Minority government.

The Canada Assistance Plan: Minority government.

Creation of PetroCanada: Minority government.

The example of Unemployment Insurance is also breathtakingly ballsy, as it was the Liberals who gutted and looted it.

Keeping us out of Iraq: Minority government, with an overwhelming majority of Canadians telling them they'd pay at the ballot box if they got us into it. So they bent over for Bush on star wars and policing Afghanistan to make up for it.

There's more, in fact you'd have a easier, quicker time of counting the examples Rob presented that weren't forced on the governments that brought them forward.

How about promising a child care plan for twelve years before bringing it up in the panicky dying days of a doomed minority?

burlivespipe said...

Uhh Cliff -- Chretien never had a minority and it was he who said no to the Coalition of the Willing.
As to all your other 'disappointing legislation' I'd say show me another government that attempted to bring in half those things. A government usually requires representation from across the country and from people from all walks of life. Whether it was minority or not, we've got 'em. You want to give 95% of the credit to someone else other than the gov't of the day, be my guest. However, besides collecting their paychecks and getting all those perks to power, they agreed on multiple amounts of progressive ideas and worked together with other parties -- hey, i bet there's even something in Rob's list where the CONs likely may have been supportive.
Your hypothetical hijacking of history doesn't include the imperative of reality. Politics that work for the people tend to be politicians who are willing to conform the system, as opposed to the system conforming the politician.
You do bring up a valid point, that for a while now there has been no progressive 'mantra' driving the liberals. But can you tell me what the NdP's is, and why that hasn't been a hot seller?
If we want just the two ideologically driven parties to choose from, can you tell me why Tony Blair morphed into a centre-right compromiser Bush-enabler? And how does that make the true Labour supporters feel when they go to sleep?
To mis-paraphrase a famous movie ending -It's just politics, Jake.

Cliff said...

Fair enough on the Chretien Iraq correction - although he got a lot of pressure from the right wing of the party to join Bush in Iraq and he recognized an electoral annihilator when he saw one that was a majority decision - you're right.

As for the other examples, the whole point of my challenge was pointing out that almost all of the Liberal Party's progressive reputation comes from legislation they were forced into. Your examples made my case for the Liberals deserving a minority - but certainly not a majority.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


I actually think you're making my point--that in a saner political culture, and with a smart caucus, the Liberals would make a damn fine coalition partner.

Cliff said...

Never actually denied it - over the years they've earned the right to represent Canadians - with a minority. My point is, and always was, that they manifestly have not earned another majority.


rob said...

I was under the impression that I was to disclude legislation that was forced upon Liberals during minority governments. I didn't realize that if a Liberal government ever accomplishes something in a minority situation, then ipso facto it was forced upon them.

The reason I didn't realize this, of course, is because it is a ridiculous assertion.