Monday, February 13, 2006

Watch the Left...

There’s been some talk about the relevance of the NDP today by some of the Progressive Bloggers and I wanted to expand on my thoughts a bit rather than trying to condense it into a comment.

Say what you will about Jack Layton but he's no dummy. Jack dreams of making the Liberals irrelevant and being the party of the centre to the left, opposing the Cons to the centre right. A two (national) party system.
The Liberals have shifted rightward in some respects in recent years and have been adrift on other issues for a variety of reasons. Nobody knows what we stand for anymore, and so people looking for a party that reflects their views and values are looking elsewhere.

The Cons are trying to make the Liberals irrelevant from the right by moving to the centre on policy, presenting themselves (before the election, anyway) as the Liberals minus the stuff you don't like. Jack has been playing a similar game from the left, striking a more fiscally cautious tone and moderating in some areas to appeal more to the centre (where most Canadians are), and presenting the NDP, not the Libs, as the party to keep the Cons honest.

While the Cons are in government the real danger long-term to the Liberals is from the NDP on the left. I think the Liberals need to move leftward on the policy front, and use this time of renewal to develop some real, substantive policies that our party and our caucus can get behind.

I think we need to do something a little radical on the policy front, poach something from the NDP and get behind it as a policy we will implement. Maybe it’s electoral reform. I was on the fence about the Single Transferable Vote (STV) referendum in B.C. last May, mainly because I think the proponents didn’t do a very good job of explaining it. But I think its time has come. Support for electoral reform is growing across Canada, and will only keep growing. Incidents like L’affaire Emerson and the rage it has generated only serve to fuel the desire for change.

The establishment, natural governing Liberal Party implementing a system that would make it far more difficult for it to form a majority government? Crazy, I know, but that’s what I meant by radical. I think we could do it though. After all, only Nixon could go to China.

And to close the circle, how would this help us fend off the NDP? They can promise electoral reform, but they’re not going to form a government. The Liberals can, and that may move much of their electoral reform-supporting vote over to us.

I’m not sure if electoral reform is THE issue, and frankly it’s not as simple as cherry picking an issue from the NDP. Before we can do anything we need to decide who we are as a party and what we want to be, and that goes deeper than individual issues. It’s about philosophy and outlook. The basics.

If Stephen Harper gets the ship of state back on track, and I don’t doubt for a second that he will, and manages to go from now to the next election casting himself as a competent, prudent, and not scarily Conservative manager, people will find it a lot easier to vote NDP in the next election and the stop Harper Liberal strategy of strategic voting (which shifted seats to the Libs from the NDP) won’t work anymore.

Strategic voting isn’t an electoral strategy. Neither is bad mouthing our opponents or questioning why they exist. We need to give people reasons TO VOTE Liberal, not just give people reasons NOT TO vote NDP or Conservative.

My point is this: don’t obsess with the Conservatives, for the real threat to the Liberal Party is the NDP.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers


Robert McClelland said...

My point is this: don’t obsess with the Conservatives, for the real threat to the Liberal Party is the NDP.

The NDP didn't swipe nearly 30 seats from the Liberals. And how much do you think the party can grow by cutting into the NDP's 17% of the popular vote? The real prize for the Liberals is on the right where they have 36% of the vote and 125 seats.

A BCer in Toronto said...

I'm not saying the Liberals don't need to fight a two-front war. But I think the Liberals run the risk of being eclipsed by the NDP. Are we going to gain much on the left? Probably not, but we risk loosing a lot. It's a holding action that needs to be fought on the left.

Plus, I'm a centre-left Liberal so I'd strategy aside I'm more comfortable when the party inhabits that space.

JD said...

I think that you make a lot of good points. I don't entirely agree with your belief that Harper will get his "ship of state back on track" for the long term anyways. There is no evidence that Mr. Sanctimonious and his cabal will competently do the job. Furthermore, I think that there may very well be a recession on the way. I agree with a lot of NDP philosophy, but I don't think that they could ever form a federal government. The "scandal plagued" Liberals who ran the worse campaign in modern history only got about 20 seats less than the Conservatives who ran an excellent campaign and had the media fawning all over them. IMHO a new dynamic leader and a continued focus on childcare, healthcare, the environment, and future energy technology is where it's at. It's already a given that the Liberals are better fiscal managers.

Andrew said...

To say that we need to give people a reason to vote Liberal, not just reasons not to vote Con/NDP is to completely ignore what they did in the last election. I agree we need a sound policy platform, but we also need to clearly define why the other parties should not be in government. I'd like to think there's a less sleazy way to do it then the way it has been done in the past.

Cerberus said...

The NDP will "eclipse" the Liberals???

The Liberals are facing a number of problems and the problems will be exacerbated if they go left. The NDP are not a national party but a cities party. The Conservatives are not, historically, a cities party but a suburban/rural party (leaving the squirrely politics of Quebec aside and the it-doesn't-matter-where-they-are-from-we're-Conservative Alberta for a moment). The Cons made great inroads into cities across the country but not in the cities.

So, for the Liberals to go left will leave even more space for the Conservatives to expand their base while the "left" is split like the right was split since 1993. Conservatives. With conservative policies. In our cities. In Canada. I'm not making this up.

And going more left on what policy ideas? You've mentioned one (which isn't really a left-right issue but small party-big party since the fundamentalis Christian parties are the ones who will benefit the most after the NDP and Green parties) but it really has no widespread, "electric" support (i.e. it's not going to "turn people on" to one party or the others, it's a sub-policy issue). On all the basics, the ones that may sway voters, we are already there in platform. So I would say on that front they don't need to go more left, if that is the problem we have to somehow convince voters we'll actually implement the leftish policies that we have already adopted.

But I don't think that's the problem. There has been a two pronged tectonic shift in Canada: an economic and social and demographic shift to the west (which is apolitical or has as much left as right effect outside of Alberta); and a growing American-style polarization of left and right.

The polarization is a defiance of Canadian history which has always more or less found a balancing act between progressive and conservative, modernity and traditional, not exactly centre but at least a balancing of left and right.

Even Trudeau's vision of Canada was somewhat along these lines even though he was personally very polarizing because his idea of a rights-based culture, his vision for Canada, was anti-thetical to the group rights based Canada that evolved from it. Most Canadians don't consider themselves strictly left or right. As a Torontonian, I recognize that it is a Toronto or a cities' conceit to think that all or most voters think as we do.

The Liberals need to continue to reject this polarization. But they have to start grappling more seriously with the other great change: to the west. There is a lot of NDP in BC that are closer to your rank-and-file centrist Liberal in Toronto (think Dosanjh) than the champagne socialism of Layton.

Unfortunately, of all of the good candidates rumoured to be interested in the leadership of the party, none seem to be coming from out west. This highlights the fundamental problem in the Liberal party right now, it's disconnect with Canada in 2006. We don't need a Liberal leader from out west necessarily but we do need candidates from out west. Desperately. To get the natural publicity out there. To create a western "star" when the election comes around. To bring western issues and a western flavour to national issues.

Christy Clark, where are you? Gord Campbell, are you done yet? Want to leave provincial politics at the top of your game? Roy Romanow, tired of golf yet?


Cerberus said...

Sorry for the long comment. I'll have to turn that into a post at Cerberus at some point.

Keep up the policy chatter though. Bloggers can drive a part of this process if we get into it.


Budd Campbell said...

"There is a lot of NDP in BC that are closer to your rank-and-file centrist Liberal in Toronto (think Dosanjh) than the champagne socialism of Layton.

Unfortunately, of all of the good candidates rumoured to be interested in the leadership of the party, none seem to be coming from out west. This highlights the fundamental problem in the Liberal party right now, it's disconnect with Canada in 2006. We don't need a Liberal leader from out west necessarily but we do need candidates from out west. Desperately. To get the natural publicity out there. To create a western "star" when the election comes around. To bring western issues and a western flavour to national issues.

Christy Clark, where are you? Gord Campbell, are you done yet? Want to leave provincial politics at the top of your game? Roy Romanow, tired of golf yet?"


Er, ... Ted, ... or Cerebus if you like, ... I think it's time for you to re-read this and reflect on one or two things. First, and probably most important, there's your use three times of the telling phrase "out west".

Second there's your total lack of knowledge about personalities. If Jack Layton is a "champagne socialist", where do you classify wealthy lawyer Ujjal Dosanjh. Christy Clark and Mark Marisen is all washed up, and Gordon Campbell is not credible outside BC provincial politics.

A BCer in Toronto said...

JD, Harper has been underestimated before, and last week aside it's never wise to underestimate your opponent. I think the late campaign scare tactics salvaged a very embarrsing situation for the Liberals, and those scare tactics won't work next time. The NDP won't form govenment but they can pull off enough Liberal support to do a reform/PC vote split=Liberal majority scenario in reverse.

Andrew I don't think it's an either/or choice. I'm all about the oppo, I just think we've gotten away from the positive policy side a little too much in an obsession with winning at all costs and power for power's sake.

Cerebus no need to apologize for a long comment on policy. I won't be able to respond to everything but a few things.

I think the Cons' rightward base is small, which is why they're moving to the centre. We can't ceed that ground, but the Liberals need to more clearly define who we are. We're sound fiscal managers, yes, but I think outside fiscal matters most Canadians are on the left.

My biggest problem with the Liberals policywise though (and frankly I've always been more of an organization wonk than a policy wonk) is we seem to pull it out of our ass to suit the polls. I think policy flows from a core set of principles, and we need to redefine ours.

The NDP aren't just an urban party. I worked in two ridings in coastal BC that they now held. They won in Skeena-BC in 04 by out-Liberaling us and working harder on the ground.They have a history on the praries, and when we pissed off the maratimes in 97 they made major gains there. I'm not saying Jack will succeed, but it's important we recognize his gameplan.

As a westerner I'd like to see credible BC leadership candiates (howabout Emerson? oh, wait...) but Christy has too much baggage and Gordo will have to wait until Harper leaves, and then I still think McLay woould probably beat him out for the Conservastive crown. Campbell is no Liberal. Carol Taylor might be interesting.

Long story short it's a two-front war. Stabilize our left flank with some leftward policies while pushing the Conservatives back to their rightward enclave by strengthening and regaining our hold on the centre. With the ethics argument taken away from the Conservatives now that will be easier next time.

Anonymous said...

a bcer in toronto... I think I'm in love with you... how old are you? Are you single? You're opinions are so dreamy!

I totally agree the Libs need to start defining themselves and I don't mean, "we're not the other guys".

JD said...

I totally agree that Mr. Sanctimonious should not be undererestimated and that the Liberals need to be socially progressive. Under no circumstances should we take it for granted that Mr. Sanctimonious will "self-destruct". A very intelligent and "streetsmart" opposition from the Liberal Party is required. The Emerson and Fortier situations are a good place to start.

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

Go left, young man!
Or, asymmetric strategic voting and its dire consequences ...

I was wondering whether Liberals would wake up to the fact that the NDP under Layton has far, far more credibility among many voters than it had under more recent leaders. His personal credibility outstrips the willingness of voters as of now to vote for his party. This could change, if the Liberals do not change.

Jack Layton ran a very astute campaign, given that his party stood no chance of becoming the government, and the attacks from Liberals for voters to vote strategically. Unfortunately for Liberals, voting strategically will not work every time – voters will balk at simply voting for Liberals in order to keep some other party out of power. There is no longer any need to call for strategic voting on the right wing, though – a very significant change.

Voters need to vote for something, not just against something.

Harper has done one remarkable thing: negotiated the amalgamation of two parties on the right wing spectrum of Canadian politics. In so doing, he effectively caused the demise of the old Progressive Conservative Party, and ended up in full possession of the centre-right political space.

On the centre-left, we have the Liberals and NDPers. The logical thing to expect is a merger – not takeover! – of the Liberal and NDP parties, to form a new party – let’s call it the Liberal Democratic Party, or Democrats for short.

To do so would mean the Democrats would have to fuse the social policies of the old Liberals with those of the NDP, to arrive at a centre-left mix.

On the economic front, the fusion would result in a centre-left set of policies, which would incorporate many of the worker-protection policies found in European parties.

I could see an agreement to incorporate individual economic rights in the next round of constitutional amendments; protection of union rights; policies designed to educate young people as a right; protection of the aged and others falling between the cracks, accompanied by a commitment to capitalism. Tony Blair moved his party to the centre; Jack Layton could easily do so.

Such a merger, resulting in the Democrat Party, would give voters a solid choice: the centre-right of the new Tories under Harper (similar to the Republicans), and the centre-left Democrats (similar to some European parties).

The voters in Quebec would be faced with three choices: two national ones and a local separatist movement. I would expect the Bloc’s support to drop to around 35% with the other 2 parties sharing the balance, but the Democrats taking the lion’s share.

Cerberus said...

I think many make the mistake of equating a socially liberal Canada (abortion, equal marriage, parole) with an economically left Canada.

First of all, Canada is not nearly as socially progressive as my fellow Torontonians and Central Canadians believe. On equal marriage it's pretty much split down the middle across the whole country. While this is lamentable, we have to face reality: it was the right thing to do, but the demonization of about half the population has to stop.

Secondly, Canada is very definitely not economically left. We are New Deal Canadians but not socialist-lite. There is almost no general call among Canadians to amend the constitution to add economic rights or union rights. To even try to open up that as a policy front will guarantee a decade of Conservative majority. Guaranteed. Sorry Curiosity, with all due respect, but that's just how I see it. If that were not the case the NDP would be performing better in Ontario federally and provincially. It won in 1990 largely on a protest vote and polling showed that there were a very large number of PC voters who went orange and then back to blue.

Thirdly, to the extent that Canadians are progressive, we have to recognize how concentrated that progressiveness is. On economic and social policies, the cities are but the rest of the country doesn't see things exactly the same way. Part of the problem with our party is that very disconnect: we believe our own story too much and haven't opened up to the fact that much of the country does not in fact share our values.

That, for me, would be the starting point.


Mark Francis said...

And, heck, Trudeau went to China before Nixon did. So the Liberals can do this thing doubly so!

Scotian said...

Ted's post at 4:38 pm is one I have to agree with pretty much in toto. While on certain fundamental human rights Canada is quite socially liberal/progressive, it is not something that has ever really extended into the economic realm. The description socially liberal fiscally conservative with moderation in both would probably describe the clear majority of Canadian voters IMHO. Indeed, one of the problems of the Trudeau years was while he was wonderful on the socially liberal/progressive side for his day his economics unfortunately were not so wonderful. I personally think his positives significantly outweigh his negatives, but one cannot deny the debt/deficit he had rung up by the time he retired permanently in 1984.

I think it is important for the Liberal party to retain the creds on fiscally conservative, but I also think it is time they started returning in many ways to the core of Liberalism that celebrated/created the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There was an underlying cohesiveness to that perspective that I find quite lacking in the Liberals of today. While I supported them in the last election it was reluctantly because their negatives had significantly increased over the last several years, which is not surprising given the number of continuous years in power. For me though the CPC as it was constituted by Harper/MacKay with the power of the Reform wing (or as it is starting to turn out the Harperites from that movement with some old style PCPCers like Mulroney) running the CPC and my distrust of their ethics was significantly more than the Liberals. The Liberals were primarily fiscally corrupt, my concern with the CPC is that it is morally/ethically corrupt and to date I have seen little/nothing to make me think otherwise since he came into power. Granted that is only nine days now, but still this was a really bad opening.

It was Grewal that sealed this fear in me, although the PCPC merger and the subsequent lionizing of Peter MacKay's clear betrayal of all he campaigned on to gain that leadership, not to mention his signed word in a deal that got him the leadership win in the first place, and the underlying demonstration of the willingness to subordinate any principles in the name of expediency certainly had a role/part in it as well. Now while I understand in government that can be necessary it is also important not to do so routinely. It is vital to recognize that there must be some significant gains for such behaviour. What I feared from Harper, and appear to be seeing come true, is his willingness to use any expediency and then rationalize it no matter how strongly it contradicts his prior positions some of which he had claimed for well over a decade now.

The Liberals have been the governing party through most of the history of this country, and this is one of the best countries on earth to live in. That cannot be refuted, and to try and pretend the Liberal party has had little to no part in this is to blind oneself to reality IMHO. While yes they have also made some significant blunders along the way overall for a country our size and makeup we cannot deny the peace within our society, the willingness to accept differences and fight prejudices far more so than pretty much any other western culture/country, and our serious advantage in terms of available resources for the future and our ability to attract the best and brightest throughout our planet to learn here, live here, and further help improve this country.

I do think you are correct BCer in the need to reevaluate the policy foundation of the Liberal party, it has become too much a party of the moment blowing in the wind instead of the party with a core center and much acceptance of diversity within its ranks. Right now there is a very good chance to do so, especially with Harper reminding Canadians what Conservatism tends to mean in our culture.

I do not though think the NDP are as much of a threat as you do, I tend to agree with Ted on what the NDP really is overall. I have watched it change significantly over the last 30+ years, and it is in many ways a very specialized party. One that represents some worthy beliefs, don't get me wrong, but also limited in their actual ability to execute such idealism in a cost effective manner. I watched what we had to do to restore fiscal sanity before we had it done to us once, I do not want to have to see such again in my lifetime. However, now that this has been done it is time to be reinvesting in the healthcare system and especially in education and Research/development in high end technologies, especially but not limited to those areas we already have advantage in like robotics and telecommunications.

I belong to no party, and I want the CPC to moderate itself so it becomes a truly viable and stable alternative choice to prevent a de facto one party state unlike Alberta. There are times when Conservatism provides a valuable period of consolidation of the gains from the previous progressive/Liberal government, for while some of the aims/goals have been well intended the actual execution has been anything but, and there needs to be an alternate view of how to achieve put in place for a while. I liked having the ability to see the Liberals ejected when they got too arrogant and the same for the PCPC. The situation over the past 13 years was unstable, but thankfully nowhere near as long as Alberta has managed.

However, given the overall success of this country I like the idea of the Liberals being able to regain power, so long as they understand that for some time they are going to need to be extra careful on issues of ethics and corruption. I also like having the NDP around so that at least one of our federalist parties is one of idealism and creativity/innovation in those ideas for the other two to consider adopting, especially when they are the ones in power, be it minority or majority government. I like having a Conservative option as well, so long as it is Canadian Conservatism. Unfortunately what I see today is far too much American Conservatism and rhetoric adopted by the CPC, and that is a problem for me. If nothing else that rhetoric was developed for a different cultural/legal environment with different problems, so it cannot simply be imported wholesale thinking it will have the same effect up here or for that matter even addresses the problems of our society.

It will be interesting to watch and see which way the Liberals go this time. I hope they recognize the reality of the situation and actually get their act together, otherwise I fear Harper and the CPC may well end up governing by default for one majority (assuming they do not botch this first government up sufficiently to prevent that, which doesn't seem as unlikely now as it might have none days ago) and by then the damage done may well permanently alter the direction of our country.

I apologize for the length, especially as I am not a member of the Liberal party myself. I do think though its revitalization this time will be quite significant to how our country goes for the next decade or two. While there are many conservatives in this country I respect and trust, they are not the ones calling the shots right now in the CPC. Until that is rectified the Liberals are in my view the only sane choice to support. The NDP for all their idealism is not a party I am generally comfortable with, but one that I do value in our political environment as I noted already. So good luck with the rebuilding of a Liberal party that suffered a modest defeat last time out, and not the humiliating one so many seem to think it was. If there was anything humiliating to come out of the last election it was the humiliating victory of the CPC and Harper given the perfect storm of a mood for change, a scandal plagued Liberal party that ran the worst campaign I have seen in over 30 years of watching politics, and a extremely smooth and well coordinated CPC election campaign and friendly media coverage while the Liberals got clearly hostile coverage for the most part. That they only got what they did speaks far more to the anger at the Liberals then any support for CPC policies and principles beyond the very centrist ones they put forward in the election.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to piece together the pieces that you've assembled here. The NDP is the threat to the Liberals?

If anything, the Liberal party itself has put itself in the present reality it finds itself. But you know what? It isn't that bad of a situation in all honesty. I'm expecting it to be pretty difficult for the Conservatives to operate in the current make up of parliment. Not only is it a slim minority, anything that is truly divisive and pushed through is going to face getting bounced back down from the senate. I am expecting there to be more continuing clumsyness as the Tories also deal with being back in power not only as a reconsituted party, but a party that hasn't been in power for more than a decade. We've already some stumbling out of the blocks by Harper.

In all honesty, this situation is exactly what the party needs right now. The Liberal party has been very much adrift for the last few years and seemingly unfocused on a whole range of issues. It needs to spend time in opposition so that it can not only continue to critisize the other guy but also come up with it's own unique (or at least unique sounding) ideas. It needs to spend time looking for a new leader that's A) in no way connected to the sponsorship mess and B) has some new energies to bring to the party.

The validity of the NDP is a valid point for discussion during this political lull. The NDP are once again celebrating a great last place finish. Huh? Nowhere near as bad as the Greens but hey, we have double digit support again. How exactly is that something to be celebrated? What in the last 3 elections has been earth shattering about the NDP's election platforms? What percentage of these platforms has had national appeal?

In all honesty, the only reason the NDP have garnered any kind of attention is due to the minority government situation and the presence of the Bloq Quebecois in the mix. No federalist party can align itself with the Bloq for several glaringly obvious reasons. Grits and Tories are not going to work together being government and opposition. That leaves smiling Jack to work with who has yet to show initiative to take advantage of the political situation to push any kind of truly NDP policies as part of a power horse trade.

The NDP continue to be one election away from holding onto a few seats from a handful of ridings and looking for yet another leader.

I'd say that's pretty valid reason for questioning how exactly is the NDP relevant.

A BCer in Toronto said...

I don’t think the Liberals were necessarily too out in front on SSM, it was the courts that left them no choice but to act on the issue. And sure, there may not be overwhelming support in the populace (although I think once you allay fear mongering over church rights, and consider that the world hasn’t exploded since c-38 support will increase a fair bit) what’s right is right and sometimes I think political parties do need to lead, not just follow.

Perhaps I should clarify what I meant by move left. I think we’ve moved right in some respects, and while right of centre on fiscal issue is where I think we should remain, I think we need to reclaim the centre-left on social issues. That is where most Canadians are. And we can build support there across the spectrum with smart policies. Gun control as a policy is good, but the execution was bad. Mismanagement aside, the needs of rural Canadians weren’t addressed. If long-guns, which rural Canadians have a legitimate need for, were excluded from the registry, and it had been combined with a range of other anti-crime initiatives, there would have been more support in the West. With our child care plan, it’s good in theory but it doesn’t address the needs of stay-at-home mothers. We needed a more comprehensive approach, with one some of the legitimate concerns many had with the Liberal plan would have been addressed.

If we’re smart and comprehensive with our policies we can bridge that urban/rural gap. However, this won’t be popular but I think the regionalization of our political system is likely to continue, although we should continue to strive for a pan-Canadian approach.

As to the NDP I think it is a party in flux and in conflict as much as the Liberals and Conservatives are. There are those who want the party to moderate its positions to appeal to the vote-rich centre and gain seats, and those who want it to cling to the left and remain ideologically pure. I’d put Layton in the former group, which is why I think the Liberals need to redefine ourselves and reclaim our traditional territory.

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

On a lighter note, why not go to this site and fill in the questionaire to see if you are a liberal/conservative in social/economic terms?

The quiz is the OK Cupid Political Test.

Ask your friends to do the same - but fill in one as you think they would answer before you do! Could end some beautiful friendships!

I guess commentators could guess what the political leanings of the bloggers are and do the same, eh?

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

I wholeheartedly endorse your suggestion that a Liberal Party which had as one of is main election planks the changing of our electoral system to some reasonable form of proportional representation (PR), would be a formidable opponent indeed!

It would achieve several things:

• attract all those voters who have up felt that their votes did not count because some first past the post denied them a voice in their parliament – this would be both Tory and NDP voters;
• pull voters from the NDP;
• more realistically address concerns about regional voices not being heard in parliament;
• appeal to women (especially if some of the parties could – or had to – allocate a portion of their discretionary seats to women so as to boost women MPs to close to 50%);
• steal the thunder of the Tories Triple-E Senate (which is less democratic than true PR reform of the House of Commons would be);
• be an issue which clearly puts the Liberals in front of the drive to cure the “democratic deficit” people see happening.

I would suggest four more pillars to add to the above:

1. Eliminating abuses of the political system;

• A platform of real reform re campaign financing;
• Improvements to the ability of MPs to voice concerns and vote on issues;
• This would take away the Tories’ Accountability Act advantage – by the Liberals standing for an Accountability Act Plus program.

2. A new “green” energy policy:

• Change the federal tax act and add other programs designed to encourage massive movement away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources;
• Do this through encouraging greater usage of the vast oil reserves in the Albertan heavy oil sands, such as a tripling or quadrupling of output within a decade;
• BUT link such increased oil sands recovery incentives to demonstrated energy-reduction schemes in north America;
• If necessary, terminate NAFTA in order to enter into a new agreement which achieves these energy goals.

3. Free Education:

• A commitment to free post-high school education for every Canadian’
• Starting the second year of the government’s mandate;
• Achieved by a combination of tax breaks for parents and cash grants for the students.

4. Mortgage Interest Deductibility:

• Allow this for homeowners;
• One residence per homeowner;
• It would boost homeownership, a major driver of our economy.

What a powerful platform these would make!

Cerberus said...

BCer: great discussion thread. This is the kind of debate we need to have, especially with the disagreements frankly. We should all be following your lead.


Kara said...

Off-topic, but interesting (from pubiceyeonline):

It looks like the campaign to recall federal Liberal turncoat David Emerson is about to get organized. In an interview with Public Eye, White Tiger Consulting president and chief executive officer Kevin Chalmers, who was a senior volunteer for Minister Emerson in the last two elections, said "It's officially going to be called the Campaign to De-Elect David Emerson - which probably after a few coffees sounded wittier in my mind than it might be. But that's what we're going with. But it's not being done by the (Vancouver-Kingsway Liberal) riding association. The riding association is going to be involved in supporting it. But I'm chairing it and driving it at this stage. And we're welcoming participation from all political stripes."

Mr. Chalmers added "We're having out kick-off campaign get-together on Sunday at 2:00 in front of David's office to sign-up volunteers and obviously get the message out that this is taking place. As you can imagine, I've got people from all walks of life just passionate about this issue."

And what actions will the campaign be taking? "I can tell you our colour scheme is going to be black and white because we think the issue is black and white. I can tell you it's going to be driven as a political campaign. We're going to be doorknocking to put up signs. There will be lawn signs. We ultimately expect to see a sea of black signs (reading) de-elect David Emerson. We'll be mainstreeting. We'll be burma shaving - which David always seemed to dislike."

When asked whether he would be fundraising and running phone banks in support of the campaign, as has been rumoured, Mr. Chalmers replied "It's going to be an escalating campaign. We're preparing to make sure that the constituency's voice and British Columbia's voice is heard on this issue until the prime minister does the right thing. Mr. Emerson has made it very clear he's not stepping down until the prime minister asks him to. We'll take him at his word."

"So my message is to the prime minister. And the prime minister has indicated, in all fairness, that he expected to make mistakes when he started government. And I think that's fair. But the question is will he do the right thing and take the corrective action that's so clearly demanded," by asking Minister Emerson to resign. A Website for the campaign is in the process of being setup.

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

Know Your Enemy. Or: Which war are we fighting – the last one or the next one?

If Liberals are to select a new leader and cobble together a platform designed to convince voters to return them to power soon, then perhaps they should find out a bit more about the enemy they face in Harper and his new Conservatives.

Consider this quote:
“And if Mr. Harper conducts himself with the same savvy in the next few years as he has in the past few, the question that Canadians will be asking themselves in the next election will not so much be about Mr. Harper, but of whether the opposition parties have sufficiently reorganized themselves to be considered viable alternative governments in the new reality of Canadian politics.”
The source? An article called Replacing the Pan-Canadian Consensus by Ray Pennings and Michael Van Pelt, in the Work Research Foundation, found at their website

The thrust of this article is that Harper’s New Tories are more evangelical than traditional party, seeking revolutionary change to the Canadian political landscape. For thirty years, the authors maintain, the right has been working towards a new political infrastructure to replace the pan-Canadian consensus of the NDP and Liberal parties.

Let’s examine their theory, because there are more than a few indicators that they might be right, at least as far as the New Tories see themselves. If – like me – you assume Harper’s takeover of the old ProgCons caused a paradigm shift and introduced into Canada a clone of the evangelically inspired anti-statist new Republican Party under Bush, then their take on what the last election meant is meaningful for these reasons:

• It sketches the difference between many Liberals in their quest to rebuild their party, and the revolutionary New Tories quest to change society forever;
• It highlights how the Liberals might fight the Tories during the next session of Parliament and in the next election, rather than fighting the past war.

Lesson number one: Know your enemy if you wish to defeat your enemy.

The authors spell out 3 possible reasons for the results of the last election:

1. Liberals were spanked and sent to the penalty box to atone for their sleaze, with voters prepared to re-elect them to government in a short while. Harper’s New Tories are simply a placeholder for a short time.

2. The Lazarus theory – the Conservatives are cut from the same cloth as the Liberals but now have assumed an equal role as a national party, rising from the grave to do so when Harper and Mackay cut a deal to take over the old ProgCons; the voters will be able to choose between two parties both occupying essentially the same political space.

3. The Breaking of the Mould – Harper’s New Tories represent a new set of political forces, aimed at irrevocably changing the political contours of Canada in such a way that the old pan-Canadian consensus is replaced by their revolutionary (imported from American) anti-statist model.

The authors believe in the Breaking of the Mould.

What does this mean for the Liberals and NDP?

First, the pan-Canadian consensus which Harper’s New Tories will bury, is an agreement that politics in Canada revolves around five poles: a strong central government, multiculturalism and bilingualism; an activist government developing new social programs; rights-based social agenda; peacekeeping instead of fighting enemies; solving crime through programs aimed at causes rather than beefing up police and increasing punishment.

Sound familiar? Just go through the list again and state the opposite for each consensus value. What to you get? A mirror image of the theocracy espoused by the Bush Republicans. To uses an American analysis, the consensus model is the nurturing family model in the USA, while the New Tory model is the strict patriarchal model of the Republican right.

The authors give an example of a Harper plank in his election platform which demonstrates the revolutionary intent behind his New Tories – the so-called fiscal imbalance issue. Note the framing of this issue by the New Tories: there is a problem; it is a money problem; it is based on fairness because the central government is taking more money than it should.

They state:
“A similar example is the Conservative policy regarding the fiscal imbalance. Several analysts have suggested the turning point of the campaign was Stephen Harper's December 19th speech in Quebec City. Although a lot of groundwork had preceded this speech outside of the public eye, until that day the Conservatives were perceived by virtually everyone to be a non-factor in Quebec, with less than 10% support in that province. In one month, they converted that to 26% and ten seats in the province.
Though the competing bravados from every leader on patriotism, the maple leaf and the fleur-de-lis were hard to penetrate, the Quebec City debate hit its stride on the "fiscal imbalance" or, to oversimplify, the appropriate powers and responsibilities of federal and provincial governments when it comes to taxation. It was here that the Conservatives unveiled their (awkwardly named) proposal "Charter of Open Federalism". The details of this document have understandably escaped the notice of most Canadians, but its impact is significant.
Essentially, under this plan, no new federal proposals regarding national cost-shared programs (such as daycare) can be proposed without majority provincial support. Even then, provinces that wish to opt out can receive financial compensation provided they offer a comparable provincial program. Since finding ways for the provinces to pay for health and education is among the most difficult tasks facing Canadian politicians for the next decade, the ground rules established by this plan could scarcely have been more timely.”
Read that again carefully, only this time think of revolutionaries of the past: Mao; Marx; Stalin; Gingrich ... Can you see the implications of this carefully framed “fiscal imbalance” issue?

Harper and his New Tories wish to change the political contours of Canada in a way which cannot be reversed. They wish to change major strands which have defined the Canada we now have, for a model which has not proven to be successful anywhere else in the world.

What does this mean for the Liberals and NDP?

Very simple: when choosing a leader and a platform, make sure you understand your enemy, and are fighting the right battle. If you let the New Tories frame the issues their way, and introduce their changes, rather than fight them tooth and nail because you are opposing their revolutionary changes, you will lose not only the next election but possibly the country you now live in.