Saturday, October 29, 2011

Are NDP leadership candidates showing up for work?

The proverbial "knock-out punch" in a political debate is a largely fictional, media-driven phenomenon. At best, it's rare. But if there was one during the leaders debate in this spring's federal election, it was probably this blow NDP leader Jack Layton landed on Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff:

"You know, most Canadians if they don’t show up for work they don’t get a promotion."

Layton was taking issue with Ignaiteff's attendance record in the House of Commons, saying he shouldn't expect a promotion (to Prime Minister) when he spent so much time "not at work" in the House. Of course, Layton deliberately overlooked the fact Ignatieff wasn't on vacation, or at home watching TV, but was touring the country meeting with Canadians talking about their concerns for the country. An unfair shot, but that's politics, and it was a shot that resonated with Canadians (due, in part, to Ignatieff's feeble non-response) around the point the NDP began its meteoric rise up the polls .

Nevertheless, Layton has set the bar. If you want a promotion, get your keester into your seat in the House of Commons while Parliament is in session. Which brings us to the NDP's leadership race, which now features five sitting MPs among the registered candidates. Are these MPs who are asking for a promotion showing up for work?

Let's take a look at this week, which saw the House sitting dealing with issues such as the Wheat Board and the Gun Registry, to name but two of many.

Paul Dewar wasn't at work; he spent Wednesday and Thursday off the job in Saskatchewan campaigning for NDP candidates in the provincial election, as well as drumming up support for his leadership campaign. He also came to Toronto Monday evening to talk cities.

Thomas Mulcair wasn't at work but instead spent the week in B.C., spending four days in Victoria meeting with environmentalists. And maybe tea at the Empress, but that's unconfirmed.

Peggy Nash skipped work Friday to launch her leadership campaign in Toronto, although most MPs tend to skip out on the Friday house sittings. Unfortunately, like most Canadians, my boss still expects me to work Fridays, right until 5pm. And when you put "for a full time MP" on your campaign signs, should you really skip Fridays?

Romeo Saganash was also out in Saskatchewan this week, stumping Monday in Saskatoon and Tuesday in North Battleford. And a Happy Birthday to Romeo, who turns 50 this weekend.

Nathan Cullen didn't have a large Google news footprint this week, so I'm not sure if he left work or not. Once story from this week does have a brief mention of him "campaigning in Saskatchewan and Manitoba these days."

Now, if it were up to me, MPs taking a few days off work to campaign for the leadership wouldn't be too big a deal, as long as they're back for key votes and debates and aren't excessive about it. It's par the political course in this sort of situation. And an MP's job isn't just in the House, of course, but in their ridings too. And they can't let their seatless competitors Brian Topp and Martin Singh have all the fun, can they?

However, it's not up to me. Jack made it clear that if you don't show up for work (in your seat in the House of Commons), you don't deserve a promotion. And since the party seems unable to go a day in this race without invoking his memory or asking "What Would Jack Do?", shouldn't they be held to the standard he put forward?

You want a promotion, you come to work, right? So far, these NDP candidates are earning a #fail.

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Skinny Dipper said...

I'll just state that the NDP leadership candidates are "touring the country meeting with Canadians talking about their concerns for the country."

Since the NDP MPs do not have any power within the House of Commons, the only way for the leadership candidates to exercise a sense of power is to campaign across the country.

Do these candidates not deserve a promotion. It's highly unlikely that Prime Minister Harper will promote them to anything. This leaves the voters. Most voters will not remember the abscence of the MPs during the first year of Parliament. When the next federal election takes place, there will be other important issues on the plate.

Jeff said...

For one thing skinny, I'd note the NDP assured us they'd be "even more powerful" as official opposition despite it being a majority, then they were in the minority, so they've already invalidated the "we have no power" argument themselves. I think they're wrong, but that's their position, not mine.

Secondly, you make a very nice argument. But they dismissed it when they made clear in the debate that only having your behind in the seat counts.

And third, if they believe in the principled argument they put forward, "people will forget" is hardly compelling.

Look, it's as simple as this. Either they live by the standard they set for others, or they admit that standard was empty political bullshit and move on.

In the interim, I don't think expecting them to live up to their own standard and own rhetoric is all that crazy.

Vancouverois said...

Since it seems to have gone missing, let me repeat my earlier comment: what about the Liberal leadership contest?

As a regular citizen with no particular link to the party, I haven't heard a thing about it. I have no idea who's running, if anyone. What's going on? At least the NDP is getting names out there. Who represents the Liberal party?

Both Bob Rae and Trudeau have ruled out a leadership run, so who's left? When are we going to hear more Liberal names in the news?

Jeff said...

There is no Liberal leadership contest yet. This summer, the party membership voted to delay the leadership until Spring 2013, and in the interim focus on rebuilding the party. People may be considering runs but they're not running publicly because the party membership had made it clear they don't want the party distracted by leadership positioning yet. Right now, the focus is on party reform leading into the biennial convention, and beyond. Some time next year you'll start to hear more on the leadership front.

Mike-rra said...

I guess Skinny Dipper missed the last English election debate, where Layton chastised Ignatieff for being absent from the House of Commons. Or perhaps he sided with Ignatieff during that exchange?