Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Is Layton Right?

As expected, Jack Layton is taking full advantage of the opportunity to criticize the Liberals. Today's musing:
The NDP says Stephen Harper's Conservatives now basically have a majority government - and it's all thanks to the weak Liberal opposition.

Leader Jack Layton says that by agreeing to roll over on the Tory throne speech vote, the Liberals have helped the prime minister govern without fear of being defeated in the Commons.

"What effectively has happened is the gift of a majority government has been given by that party (the Liberals) to Mr. Harper."

"It's going to be very symbolic to watch our members rise in the House - willing to put their jobs, their principles, their commitments on the line - and then to watch the official opposition sit it out."

Not normally a fan of Layton's persistent attacks on the Liberals, this particular point might have merit. I guess it depends on how things proceed, but the logic for avoiding an election doesn't evaporate anytime soon, which means that the Harper government won't be defeated. If bringing down the government was Liberal "suicide" last week, that thought process will remain for the foreseeable future, which gives Layton's charge context.

It would appear that the number one issue for the Liberals in this session is too find ways to avoid a direct confrontation, manoeuvre to sidestep a confidence question. We can all live in denial land, but this posture has consequence, both for the relevance of the party and the prospects for the leader.

How do you create the "winning conditions" within this environment? Simple, you don't, not even close, you merely survive. With that reality in mind, you then are forced to entertain the idea of a long Harper reign, possibly a dodge and weave until 2009. It is this scenario where Layton's comment find solid ground. The main forum for the Liberals is effective opposition in the House of Commons. This opportunity is eliminated, with Layton and Duceppe attacking, Harper poking at a toothless tiger and Liberals pre-occupied with avoidance. Someone please explain to me how this improves the situation for Dion?

In the coming weeks, there will be tests and how the Liberals react will frame the debate one way or the other. I would suggest the emerging theme in the last days tells us all we need to know, either we act like the opposition, or someone else will do it for us and our arguments will largely surround the question of relevance.


Gayle said...

Steve - I know we have gone through this before, but I maintain that the first step to a strong party, and a strong party leader, is loyalty to that leader.

The liberals can ill afford another leadership battle, and quite frankly (again, as I said before) I cannot see how that will help anything. The problems are infighting and that will not stop by putting someone else at the head of the party until the party learns to accept the electoral process they agreed to - even when the result is not the one that some people wanted.

As far as Layton is concerned - there are just as many people who say Dion did the right thing for the country as those who agree with Layton. It was a damned if you do, damned if you don't proposition.

Nor do I agree with you (and Layton) that Dion handed Harper a de facto majority. Time will tell, but there is nothing wrong with bringing the government down on a specific piece of legislation. There is a lot wrong with bringing them down on a vague statement.

Besides, if Dion had not listened to his caucus and forced us into an election, the liberals would have lost and the conservatives may have gained that majority.

Layton is trying, very hard, to continue flogging what for most people is quickly becoming a dead horse. He desperately needs to keep this idea alive or all his bluster will have been for naught. Most of the rest of the country has moved on.

Steve V said...


I don't agree with the link provided, I use it as an example of what we can expect moving forward.

You and I actually agree, there will be opportunities coming on legislation. I just think we need to stand our ground, or else we spin our wheels. The risk of a majority doesn't wane through inaction or unattractive perceptions, we just delay the inevitable in my mind.

Borges said...

Sometimes manouevering is the only way to avoid further defeat. Mr. Leyton does not have the responsibility of of trying to keep the Conservative government in check, and if we go to elections the Conservative majority will surely be increased, and that is good for no one.

Steve V said...

"if we go to elections the Conservative majority will surely be increased, and that is good for no one."

I understand the logic, I would just like someone to explain how cowering, giving Harper a wide berth and allowing the other parties easy and effective talking points, all the while feeding into the "not a leader" meme changes the dynamic moving forward. I'm of the opinion, this strategy will make it worse in the long run.

Anonymous said...

IMHO - The Liberals need a policy conference which involves the grass roots from across Canada before they can even claim to have any credibilty on ANY issue.

At the moment the catch phrase is "The Liberals are divided on this issue" on just about everything.

Garth Turner is now giving out copies on HIS platform and when asked if it is the LIBERAL platform he boasts that HE has power within the party. This is scary in itself. He is not the only one freelancing policy ideas.

There is no coherant voice for the Liberals policy on anything. If THEY don't know where they stand on any issue besides "Harper bad Liberals good" WHY would Canadians believe a word they say on anything.

Until the caucus speaks with ONE VOICE with ONE set of policies there is no hope.

Remember WHY Martin called a snap election when Harper became leader. It was BEFORE the new Conservative party had a chance to have a policy conference.

They had one in 2005 and from there they are unified in what they stand for, their priorities and their goals. You may note that "Garth" then tried to freelance HIS OWN ideas after that and because the policy was set by the grass roots he was turfed.

My two bits anyways.

Steve V said...

Not bad advice :)

Anonymous said...

I have voted NDP for the last few federal elections, am represented by an NDP MP, and am on the verge of writing both him and Layton to tell them what I think of the NDP and it won't be positive.

Harper framed this whole throne speech debacle (timing, content, significance, threats) the way he wanted and Layton has done nothing but to reinforce Harper's framing. If the throne speech passed unanimously, the country would not change one iota until some actual legislation and/or budget was passed. Harper timed it and framed it to take advantage of the Liberal's weakness, just as he picked the byelections to run, while letting others wait (likely for the maximum 6 months).

Layton is being totally predictable every step of the way and the Conservatives are exploiting it to the hilt. The Blogging Tories and National Post are giving NDP space and praise for a reason. Their enemy is Dion and the Liberals. I hadn't realized until recently that these were also the main enemy of the NDP, or I would never have voted for them in the last election.

Don't be taken in by Con-spin. Dion has to manuever through Harper's landmines and Dion is at least keeping them guessing. I don't know what the best strategy is, but it isn't just doing exactly what Harper wants. You can be sure the NDP and Harper would have a field day if Dion caused an election over the Throne Speech, and that field day would be during election time. Harper carefully wrote his Throne Speech so that he could waffle on the details of the resulting legislation during election time if he wanted. If Dion is going to force an election most Canadians say they don't want, it had better be over an issue which isn't open to interpretation (like the TS) and which is worth fighting over for Canada.

Anonymous said...

Liberal Life and Times, blogger on Liblog has an interesting question about the NDP and their constitution - they hide it - why?

Worth a read.

Anonymous said...

If Dion tries to call an election based on no other issue than the Liberals believe it is their divine right to "get back to POWER" it will be a cremation.

If Dion tries to force an election BEFORE Dec. 1 when the 308 Liberal party presidents are scheduled to meet it will be seen by all as his desparate attempt to save his own skin because the rumour is that the presidents will be discussing askiong Dion to resign.

An election would be his only pre-emptive strike and do you think Canadian taxpayers want to spend $300 million to help Dion save his job?

Just get to work on some policies and rebuild the party. You have 30 or more MPs NOT planning to run again. Get in some new fresh faces that are NOT affiliated with PowerCorp, Bob Rae, Maurice Strong, Chretien and Martin to start getting rid of the old guard that was the reason for the corruption.

Just thinking here....

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I'm being naïve, but can't both the government be defeated AND an election be avoided? There seems to be a number of issues that all three opposition parties agree on, Global Warming and Afghanistan (for the most part) to name two. Wouldn't it be wise for the opposition parties to agree to a short-term coalition government, tasked with pushing through a limited agenda? That way they could dethrone the Conservatives, progress the common elements of their agendas and then call an election when the electorate has an appetite for it.

Anonymous said...

YOu would want SEPARTISTS to have governing power in our country!!!!!!

Give your head a shake. My G-D!

And, there are those who believe that the Liberals are so broke and in so much debt that the further they are kept away from the taxpayer's money for a while the better.

Put your country FIRST man - not a pack of power mongers who seem to have usurped the once proud Liberal party and are Liberals in name only.

ottlib said...

Short answer: No.

As has been pointed out by a few people Mr. Layton and Mr. Duceppe voted against the Liberal amendments to the Throne Speech. Those amendments would have made that speech more in keeping with the professed desires of both with regard to Kyoto, Afghanistan and the fight against poverty.

When this was brought up by such people as Jeff over at BCer in TO NDP partisans were quick to come to the defence of this action by stating that the NDP did not support the government Throne speech.

To which I say, yes they did. By not approving the proposed changes they chose to support the Throne Speech as it is written. The fact they will vote against the actual speech will not change that.

So the question becomes why would they support the Throne Speech? Perhaps, it is because they do not want an election any more than the Liberals do and are more than willing to "go against their principles" to prevent it.

Incidently, politics is all about compromise and it is sometimes necessary to temporarily compromise your principles for a greater purpose. I have no problem with that, which is why I have no problem with the decision of Mr. Dion, Mr. Layton or Mr. Duceppe.

My problem is with hypocrits who say they would never do such a thing while they are doing just that and both Mr. Layton and Mr. Duceppe were guilty of that last night.

CuriosityCat said...

Both Duceppe and Layton had a chance to turf the Tories out by voting for the Liberal amendment to the Throne Speech. This would most likely have caused Harper to call an election.

So its seems that if Layton thinks its all Dion's fault that the Throne Speech is going to pass and Harper is going to pass legislation to give effect to it, then it is a case of the Pot Layton calling the Kettle Dion black!

Greg said...

To which I say, yes they did. By not approving the proposed changes they chose to support the Throne Speech as it is written. The fact they will vote against the actual speech will not change that.

Dude, whatever gets you through the night, but do you really believe this? You last sentence could have come straight out of Catch 22.

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't normally think I know more than the bloggers but in this case I think I have a fair shot, much as I respect you all. Gayle's comments are spot on, by the way.

But you are seriously fooling yourselves if you are partaking in the seriously delusional kool-aid that Harper is "governing like he has a majority."

If Harper ever gains a majority, ala Layton being blinded by his desire to gain seats by tearing down the Liberals 24/7, you will see just what it really looks like. And what will come forth in legislation and government "reorganizing" will give us all a Canada we won't recognize.

Your far too intelligent to be playing in the margins like this. Layton's puffery speech today should have been left on the podium after he stepped off stage, not expanded upon in the blogosphere.

It isn't worth the paper it was printed on. And I fear the liblogs clan are really starting to miss the big picture.

ottlib said...


My logic is no more twisted than that of Mr. Layton and the supporters of the NDP who have been supporting his decision to vote against the Liberal amendments.

The NDP has stated they do not support the Throne Speech. The Liberals introduced amendments dealing with Kyoto, Afghanistan and poverty that are very close to what the NDP believes. In other words the Liberals proposed to make the speech more in line with NDP thought.

The NDP refused to support that amendment thus accepting the Throne Speech as written. The fact that they are going to vote against it is irrelevent because they know that the speech is going to pass anyway.

They had a chance to change it. They did not take the chance thus allowing the original to pass.

As they say talk is cheap. By their actions the NDP has shown that they find the Throne Speech, as it is written, to be acceptable because they have not taken any real action to prevent its passing.

Steve V said...

I guess it all boils down to which talking point wins the day. I suspect the NDP line is more effective, primarily because it feeds an already established narrative.

Anonymous said...


Obviously before agreeing on forming a coalition, the agenda would have to be agreed upon first. Items of a constitutional nature, proposed by the Bloc, wouldn't be accepted by either the Liberals or the NDP. Contrary to what you may believe, the Bloc isn't a one-issue party and may be able to set aside their desires for Quebec separation in order to press their agenda on other, non-constitutional issues.

Sadly, it is because our current government seems unwilling to put our country, it reputation or its citizens first, that I proposed the coalition.

However, as you have so astutely pointed out, our parliament is comprised of a "pack of power mongers", of all political stripes, and it is highly unlikely that any of them would be able to come to any sort of agreement to work together.

Anonymous said...

Everyone seems to have forgotten that it was VOTERS, not the NDP, that put Harper in Sussex Drive. Can even the most devoted Liberal partisans can seriously imagine them putting the current hapless Dion team in government? If the NDP disappeared tomorrow, it would be those same voters that would give Harper a majority, so we're going to need an effective opposition, and right now Dion & Co can't even manage that. Yeah, Layton's right.