Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Winners And Losers

In the minority on the political ramifications of the whole postal dispute/filibuster, I argued the Liberals didn't "lose", and the NDP weren't the big winners most assumed. Not a question of merit argument, but simple positioning on the issue, while the NDP grabbed the headlines, that doesn't translate to political victory, at least not in this case. Today, I see a poll which tends to support my perspective, rather than Liberals being irrelevant, perhaps wise to not look extremist in tone, all the NDP did is reinforce their big labour moniker. As was clear, Harper is the only winnner in this dispute optics wise, there was nothing to be gained for the Liberals, letting the NDP corner themselves fine politically:
Pollster David Coletto says he's rarely seen public opinion line up so strongly with a decision by the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"When an issue hits people in how they live their lives, and whether they can travel, or whether they pay their bills or get their magazines in the mail, you get a reaction like this," said Coletto.

What is fascinating, even the NDP supporters are conflicted:
NDP led the filibuster in the House of Commons against the Canada Post back-to-work bill, only 44% of New Democrat voters said they opposed the bill, while 43% supported it.

A review of the pdf shows regionally, only in Quebec can the NDP cling to any upside, elsewhere well offside with public mood. The polls also shows union households split over back to work, 49% support, only 40% against. In vote rich Ontario, support is highest in the country at 68%.

My read of this whole debate never saw this great triumph of the NDP, despite pundit claims and supporter angst. Nobody was watching the filibuster, nobody cares about the great NDP caucus morale as new MP's can actually string together two sentences, nobody cares about PROCESS. This poll supports that assertion, which shows once again the disconnect between those of us engaged on issues and the more general mood, based on tertiary focus. Personally, I supported the NDP position and thought the Liberals struck a good balance. However, that belief is truly what's "irrelevant" to the wider picture, in terms of politics, the one sided NDP position wasn't wise, it got attention, but not necessarily attractive. Moving forward, I'll share outrage if the Liberals don't look engaged, relevant, loud and attention grabbing. That said, this wasn't the issue to throw up your hands and say "where were the Liberals?", at least not in a strategic sense, wherein one is weighing political fallout.


Tof KW said...

OK, new rule for the Liberals. When the NDP side with their union boss masters, and revert to being the party of the socialist labour movement; to the point that they're on the verge of breaking out in a unanimous chorus of L'Internationale...

Let them!

The dippers were showing Canadians why they're not ready for prime time here. The only winners in all this were the Conservatives, and on every level. The only thing the NDP won was the support of their union base, which was never in question to begin with.

All the Liberals needed to do was sit back, complain Harper was being heavy-handed by legislating less than Canada Post was offering, and stating the NDP's actions were nothing but a sham (which is true).

At some point Canadians will begin to miss having a level-headed official opposition that understands something about economics. Remember, you're in this for the long-haul.

Steve V said...

I agree completely. What should the Liberals have done, filibustered with the NDP, and get lost in that whole side issue as well? No, let the NDP take an ideological position, they had the spotlight, but it wasn't kind light and this poll confirms just that.

CK said...

I wonder if most Canadians even know what was actually in bill c6? Elizabeth May's blog has a fairly decent summary. Suffice to say that it's completemy bias to management.

Iwill ask again. Should we be pandering to misinformation? Sounds dangerous to me.

"Big labour". Is that going to be a new grossly misused right winged talking point like "socialism"? I really hope not. In reality, "big labour" is every working person - unionized or not.

Another thing I bet most Canadians don't know. Deepak Chopra earned 650 000$ per year in salary & bonuses. Somehow, I don't think he works nearly as hard as posties do. Also, I don't think Chopra would be so willing to take a cut in his bonuses, benefits, & salary. Can somenody explain why he is more deserving of sympzthy than the workers please?

CK said...

Oh & since when do we rely on the sun media pollsters?

Steve V said...

The poll just confirms what I already knew, which is to say, ideological filibusters over the CP union isn't a "winner".

CK, you're speaking to merit, which is a different issue. I support much of what you say on the matter, but that doesn't speak to the optics of each party position. It is scary that people are so decidedly in support of the gov't strong arm tactics, but that is separate from whether or not the NDP "outshined" the Liberals on this issue. I'm addressing pure strategy, and the Liberal one wasn't bad at all, despite all the concerns. It's one issue, there was no upside from our perspective, the NDP lost big, don't get fooled by our political geek blinders, the public didn't share the focus.

Robert McClelland said...

Without a reference to previous opinion polling on this question I fail to see how anyone can arrive at any conclusion about the effect it is or will have on any political party. If for example, support for back to work legislation is increasing then you can make a case it's good for the Conservatives and bad for the New Democrats. But if the opposite is true, then so are the effects.

Furthermore, a political party does not necessarily need to be on the side of an issue supported by the majority simply because 40% support is good enough in our FPTP electoral system.

Steve V said...

Let's forget polling then, I stand by my original argument that the NDP cornered themselves when they started taking direct advice from the union, filibustering, looked wooden and ideological. Now I know you will quibble with that Robert, but I would point you to many in your party who are advocating moving away from close union ties to expand your base. Why are people saying this, if they don't see the potential downside risk? From the Liberal perspective, if the NDP wants to keep itself as a union first entity, it will handicap any effort to kill us once and for all. Your own people, at least some, agree, so the sentiment isn't merely partisan wishful thinking. The final analysis, the NDP lined up where they always have and particularly in English Canada this will do nothing for their prospects. Having said that, it was always a minor issue in the grand scheme, so it's not fatal, it just isn't the positive spin some are putting on it.

jad said...

I think the Liberals have to remember they are now the 3rd party in the House, therefore they have to try harder to get media attention. They cannot simply sit back and pick their fights or they will look completely irrelevant, as they did here.

In this case, Rae made some comments that were interchangeable with what Layton was saying, they half-heartedly supported the filibuster with about one-third of their members in the House, and although Elizabeth May stuck it out, Rae was completely MIA by the weekend. They are not going to make a successful comeback any time soon if Elizabeth May does a better job of differentiating herself from the two main parties than the Liberals do.

Steve V said...


I agree in a wider sense, Libs have to fight to be heard now. However, this isn't the issue to make that point. Again, nobody cares or knows for that matter about May or Rae, all they know is that they wanted CP back at work and the NDP had a silly filibuster that nobody supported. That's the bottom line, to extrapolate any further meaning fails to look through the real lens outside of Ottawa and we geeks that obsess over every turn in the road.

Agree, big picture that Liberals have to fight, but here, played well, no upside to take the lead on obstruction.

Tof KW said...

Most Canadians realize there is a reason for the existence of unions, and they still have their place in our society, but I'm not sure if the dippers or NDP sympathizers here realize just how unpopular CUPW is. Everyone over 40 remembers the classic (and frequent) strikes and CUPW militancy back when Canada Post was an essential service. For taxpayers of that age, now it's payback time.

The Harper Government knew what they were doing by legislating an even lower pay package than Canada Post was offering. That's helping their support, and not just with their base. In fact, I think the government could have pulled a Ronald Reagan here and fired them all ...and they'd erect a statue of Harper in downtown Calgary the following day.

Again, I think the Liberals did the smart thing by avoiding following the NDP on this. You have to pick and choose your battles, and might I suggest the upcoming scrapping of the LGR later this fall? The NDP are squishy on this, so it up to the Grits to fight to the end for responsible gun ownership.

Niles said...

I thought the outcome of it in the public eye was:

a/the Cons prove that the other parties can't stop them. They let the NDP have their little yap fit from the yard where they're fenced and then strolled on to do just what they wanted.

b/the Cons prove they can dictate to mean old unions and punished them for going on strike by forcing them to take even less than Canada Post was willing to do.

c/the NDP were damned if they did and damned if they didn't on this, because it *is* dictatorial and very ill boding of the Cons to do this and the Loyal Opposition SHOULD be protesting loud and long about it. Yet, the only takeaway in the public eye is 'the NDP=whining Unions' which is all the Cons want.

I can't call what the NDP are doing a sham. It was the only thing they could do inside the House, other than step back and let Harper waltz on through and look like they condoned crap.

If the Liberals were in the NDP's LO position, I would have wanted to see them do the same thing. There's no getting around the fact the Cons will do as they please, because they can. That's no reason for the MPs representing the other parties to give up without a fight and just sit back with a paycheque for four years.

Since they're not, they could put cardboard cutouts in their seats and go to their ridings full time and have the same publicity effect.

Maybe the NDP and Liberal MPs and their offices should all become investigative journalists. Skip the Legislature since they're ghosts there anyway and go for getting out the stories the mainstream media doesn't want to touch.

DL said...

The conventional wisdom is that everyone hates unions. yet in the US all these Republican governors n Wisconsin and Ohio and Florida who are attacking public sector unions using the same tactics and rhetoric that Harper is starting to use in Canada are all now extremely unpopular and the Democratic party seems to be making a big comeback in all those states. Notice that the Democratic Party in the US (a country that is far more conservative than Canada and where unions are far weaker etc...) is similar to the NDP in its willingness to defend organized labour and be somewhat "populist" etc... in fact unions have vastly more influence over the Democrats in the US than they do over the NDP in Canada since they actually donate big money to Democratic candidates - something that is illegal in Canada. The Liberal party in Canada likes to pretend to be analogour to the Democrats in the US - big difference though as Democrats (like the NDP) have some history of populism and embracing working class symbolism while Canada's Liberals are busy trying to appeal to the "brie and chablis" crowd who look down their noses on unions.

Polls about an issue can be very deceptive. What matters are the people who actually care about an issue and will remember it four years from now. Look at the gun registry - poll after poll after poll shows that the vast majority of Canadians support the long gun registry in some form - yet we saw in the election that only the people opposed to the registry actually cared enough about the issue to vote on it and as a result Liberal MPs from rural areas who were forced to vote to keep it - almost all lost their seats, while in urban areas - the issue did the Tories no damage at all.

The people who just want their mail and don't care what principles the government has to shatter to get them their mail - won't care because - they are getting their mail now (and given that the filibuster was over a weekend - they are getting their mail just as quickly as if there had been no filibuster at all). The people who support collective bargaining rights will remember who was willing to stand up for them.

People point to the Manitoba NDP under Gary Doer as an example of the NDP being "mainstream" and moderate etc... guess what? the Manitoba NDP has the word "socialism" in its "mission statement",won four elections under Gary Doer - who was previously the leader of the Manitoba Government Employees Union and has a caucus that is choc-a-bloc with MLAs with backgrounds in the labour movement. Doesn't seem to bother Manitobans - who are hardly the most leftwing people in Canada.

FWIW, I saw that 19 year old Pierre Luc Dussault who won Sherbrooke for the NDP with just a handful of volunteers had a nice visit to his office from 70 grateful local postal workers - all pledging to support him any way they can in future elections. Not a bad way for NDP MPs in ridings where there is no existing organization to jump start a donor base, memberships and organizers for future elections...

Steve V said...


What a robot you are, honest to goodness. SO boring.

DL said...

Come on Steve, you're capable of better than that. I think I've tried to put forward some valid and possibly thought-provoking points that you don't have to agree with. You ought to welcome people actually engaging with you rather than being so dismissive of anyone who has a different perspective from yours.

Steve V said...

No seriously, no matter the issue it's all good for the NDP, you've never once in the long while you commented articulated any divergence from pure NDP spin. I frankly don't care, it's not thought provoking, it's PREDICTABLE and it bores the living shit out of me to be honest. Cheers.

DL said...

I'll diverge from "pure NDP spin". I think it might not have been a bad idea for the NDP to have opposed extending the mission in Libya instead of going along with it (though that may change in September).

And incidentally, I do respect the fact that you're willing to criticize your own party when you see fit. I will do the same when I think the federal NDP is making a big mistake about something - so far it hasn't happened. You may be right that over the past two years I have taken some "contrarian" points of view about how various events and issues would work to the NDP's advantage - when the conventional wisdom was the opposite. I was dismissed for taking those positions. Meanwhile the NDP has 103 seats and the Liberals 34 - so obviously the NDP was doing something (actually a lot of things) right.

Steve V said...

Nobody said the NDP didn't do somethings right, but winning over 100 seats doesn't mean they did everything right, nor does it necessiate a Liberal dig on every occasion. I actually think you're a sharp fellow, but it's always diluted by the sales job. I await your future criticism ;)

Tof KW said...

DL, you're first mistake is trying to correlate Canadian politics to the US.

Yes broadly speaking most functioning democracies have political parties, or coalitions of parties that can be categorized as either 'left' and 'right', but that's about where it ends.

Domestic issues, nationalism, religion and collective history all play major rolls that prevent any meaningful direct comparisons between nations, even ones as close as Canada and the US.

For example, you claim the Liberals see themselves as comparable to the US Democrats. I've never heard any Grit friends say this. Aside from broad strokes that the Dems are generally to the left of the Republican party, then yes the Grits can be compared as being generally to the left of our Conservatives. But then so are the NDP, Bloc and Greens.

And then take a real look at our Conservatives. Stephen Harper represents our hard right-wing, yet he supports Canadian-style universal health care. Likewise he supports Canadian-style tight control over the banking and financial sectors. Though he is an evangelical Christian, Harper rarely mentions religion, and is never caught at Sunday services for a photo-op. Also he stifles any mention of anti-abortion sentiments from his fellow Conservative MPs.

DL, you want a real comparison between Canadian and US politics? Well if Harper was a US politician, he'd be a Democrat ...and a pretty liberal one at that!

Now you know why I think anyone making such direct political comparisons shouldn't be listened to very seriously.

Also, don't kid yourself, if Harper fired everyone in CUPW and re-built Canada Post as a non-union crown corp, he'd get re-elected with an even bigger majority than he won on May 2nd. You can't compare us to Wisconsin. They never had their postal unions striking every other year and holding the taxpayers to ransom like ours did over most of the 70's.

CK said...

Here's something else I bet didn't cross too many folks' minds. Only crossed my mind recently. I wonder if c6 also was means of revenge on some level for Harper? I remebered cupw did write a letter to Harper in 2010, asking him to basically to block Israel's membrrship to the OECD. We all knox Harper's obsession w/ Israel; right or wrong & how he feels about its' critics. Again, sets a fzngerous precedent. Just another sad period when Cznadizns can't think critically.

As for the opposition parties, what would u have suggested? That they all roll over & play dead? Harper & Lisa were never going to accept any amendmendments to their bill.

To read the blogging tories, most Canadians fon't want opposition to their precipus Stephen Harper. Why don't we just senf home every opposition Mp & without a byelection, bcause, most Canadians don't like elections, just appoint those seats w/ conservatives.

What was the point of the above paragraph you're probably asking? Well, you keep sticking to the meme that most Canadians liked bill c6, so so the opposition shoildn't, well, oppose. Even though those same Canadians didn't educate themselves on the bill, nor even consider how it could impactrp them later, down the road.

If Harper wanted to deregulate financial industry & most Canadians would blindly & wholeheatedly support it. Should opposition pzrties simply give Harper their blessing or do whatever necessary to oppose?

This is what I mean about pandering to misinformation

Another thing I have to ask after seeing the comment thread here & related posts. I hopr Liberal bloggers are not going to start going all Mc arthyist and start grossly misusing the word socualism.

DL said...

"They never had their postal unions striking every other year and holding the taxpayers to ransom like ours did over most of the 70's."

ummm....the last time there was a strike at Canada Post was about 15 years ago - in other words ancient history.
What happened last week was a LOCK-OUT not a strike. I notice that the CEO of Canada Post kept paying himself his $600,000/year salary during the lock-out. There should be a law against that.
The one really big postal strike in 1981 was over getting maternity leave - something everyone now regards as a right no matter where you work - but when CUPW struck over it in 1981 - it was seen as "crazy" and "communistic" to suggest that women ought to get any maternity leave at all!

sharonapple88 said...

My read of this whole debate never saw this great triumph of the NDP, despite pundit claims and supporter angst.

It would have been a triumph if they'd managed to derail the law or get some amendments passed. Or even if the NDP managed to shift public opinion.

I wonder if most Canadians even know what was actually in bill c6? Elizabeth May's blog has a fairly decent summary. Suffice to say that it's completemy bias to management.

That's the kicker. It may have been easier to point out the flaws if they filibustered during the amendment stage. Instead, the filibuster was on the hoist measure. Yeah, this thing isn't going to be delayed six months. Try presenting things that will make it better.

And incidentally, I do respect the fact that you're willing to criticize your own party when you see fit. I will do the same when I think the federal NDP is making a big mistake about something - so far it hasn't happened.

Take a second to think about why was it important for the NDP after the election to note that they were
1. going to be civil;

2. going to make Parliament work.

The filibuster threw all of this out the window. Was it a mistake to a mistake? Well know for sure in a few months.

As it were, if the Conservatives want to limit debate i the future, they could always point to this moment -- the NDP filibustered a bill that inevitably passed unchanged. Staffers got time and a half, which added $X to the costs....

Tof KW said...

DL, I wrote the 70's, not the 90's.

Back in the 1970's there were postal labour disruptions happening on a regular basis. And the mail was very much an essential service, so CUPW had the government by the balls.

Yes things are very different now, and believe it or not I in fact sympathize with the postal workers. But a lot of older Canadians still remember the bad old days of the striking posties and their strong union holding up the economy.

Never said that public perception is fair, actually it's very archaic and silly. Kind of like how MPs still get letters from constituents complaining about Air Canada, even though AC's been privatized going on close to 20 years now. But from that bad history, Canadians don't have much sympathy for CUPW now.

And that's why I think Harper won this stunt hands-down, and the NDP went to the mat for the right reasons, but the wrong union.

sharonapple88 said...

The filibuster threw all of this out the window. Was it a mistake to a mistake? Well know for sure in a few months.

"Was it a mistake to go back on this?"

(Make more sense than "Was it a mistake to a mistake?") :P

DL said...

I see no contradiction whatsoever between being "civil" in parliament and also trying to delay legislation that you find objectionable. Having every MP say his or her piece in order to delay a law you don't agree with is a perfectly legitimate way of expressing dissent. The opposition MPs made good respectful speeches where they simply expressed philosophical disagreement with a Conservative government policy. That is what parliament is supposed to be all about.

Making parliament more "civil" means no more heckling and yelling stupid mindless ad hominem attacks on the other side - which only turns people off politics. It doesn't mean - no more debate and no more exchange of ideas.

I think Canadians LIKE seeing impassioned debate where people argue about what they believe in. it sure beats opposition "Liberal-style" where it was all about personal attacks and mindless heckling to make up for the disturbing lack of substantive difference between Liberal policies and Conservative policies.

Greg said...

Frankly, I don't think it matters in the long run. I think the Harperites are coming after pensions. Eventually this is going to bite and the NDP is well positioned on the issue.

sharonapple88 said...

I see no contradiction whatsoever between being "civil" in parliament and also trying to delay legislation that you find objectionable.

I don't either. But there was heckling for all sides during the filibuster, including the NDP.

Here's an example from the hansard.

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: I believe the New Democrats could learn a great deal if they listened to individuals like the Leader of the Liberal Party and many others.

An hon. member: We tried for four years.

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Remember, no heckling. No heckling was your leader's rule, right?

An hon. member: It was.

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: It is okay. I do not mind if the member heckles.

sharonapple88 said...

The opposition MPs made good respectful speeches where they simply expressed philosophical disagreement with a Conservative government policy. That is what parliament is supposed to be all about.

I suppose that's one way of seeing it. The NDP communicated the fact that this was a lock-out, not a strike well.

There were a few points that missed the mark. There were a number of speeches where they implied the government were the ones directly responsible for the lockout.

Mr. Alain Giguère: Mr. Speaker, since the country is run by the Prime Minister of Canada, not the head of a crown corporation, it is clear that the 55,000 Canada Post employees were ambushed in an attack that was planned and directed by the Prime Minister's Office.

Canada Post is independent of the government.

I'm not saying that the government and the board may not have been working together... but unless you have some hard evidence -- a tape recording, some photos of Harper, Raitt and Chopra in a cafe together -- it'll be hard to get people to believe you. It's just an accusation.

sharonapple88 said...

As for being respctful -- everyone was taking cheapshots at each other.

Here are a few examples from the NDP.
Mr. Alain Giguère: If anyone here thinks that the Prime Minister of Canada was not informed that there was going to be a lockout, they are about as broad-minded as a skinhead and they are not too bright either.
Mr. Marc-André Morin: Mr. Speaker, I believe that some parts of Canada are very right-leaning. I advise my friends opposite to monitor the situation. Perhaps one day their party may be called the Wildrose Alliance of Conservatives, or something like that.
Mr. Pierre Nantel:Mr. Speaker, I can only applaud the member's dedication to her party. (Directed to Nina Grewal.) Honestly, it is admirable that she continues to repeat these comments. It is a real act of faith. [...]If the member would like to ask me her second question again, she should go ahead. I seem to have forgotten it.
Mr. Nathan Cullen: Gone are the days of having the red-flag-waving surrender monkeys sitting in these benches. One “boo” and they were gone to their weekends. We now have an opposition that is dedicated to standing up for what is right in this country.... This must be so difficult for my Conservative friends as we sit through this debate. I almost want to put quotation marks around the word debate, because debates are usually judged on the merits of logic and intelligence. This is not a fair fight we have going on here. Time and time again we have Conservative members standing up with so-called questions, which are more like diatribes. They ask why, if the economy is so important, we cannot get these workers back to work. They know full well that the power rests in their own hands. Rather than deal with the situation, the Prime Minister has gone off to barbecues.
This isn't to single out the NDP, or to say that some of the shots weren't deserved. As I noted earlier -- the whole House was cranky. Let's please stop pretending that everyone was nice and polite in there.

Anyway, I agree with Elizabeth May here:

Elizabeth May: I am uncomfortable with some of the accusations. Some of the members of the official opposition make a good point and then take it one step too far. I find myself thinking it was too partisan, it was a cheap shot. On the other hand, in defending the position of the government legislation, some government members have gone too far. If we could tone that down, it would help. I do not mean to sound like I am preaching or lecturing, and I hope members will forgive me.

Gloria said...

If you read, Harper in New York for Council of Foreign Relations.

Also Google: Harper delivers his speech on Global Governance for Canada.

We will see our mundane, little views and opinions, won't matter a damn.