Tuesday, December 02, 2008

An historic day in Canadian politics

What an amazing press conference yesterday with Stéphane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe. Three political leaders that disagree on a lot setting it all aside to work for Canada (and Quebecers), agreeing to form a coalition government that could well change the face of Canadian politics forever. It’s high-risk but high-reward, and was an example of a statesmanship that fits the times, and that has been sorely missing on the other side of the House of Commons of late.

We’re a long ways from nirvana still, but as a Dionista from day one who had given up hope of ever seeing Stéphane in the PMO this was a heady day indeed, bringing back memories of the heady idealism of the Montreal convention. Even if it’s just for a few months, to see Stéphane leading our country will be sweet indeed.

And I have to say full credit to the NDP, and to Jack Layton. Both our parties have had to compromise to get this agreement done, but from compromise and negotiation comes good, stable, moderate and responsible government. With the best of both our parties, I’m excited to see what a progressive coalition can do for Canadians. I haven’t been a big fan of Jack Layton in the past, that’s no secret. But I liked the Jack Layton I saw in that press conference yesterday. Articulate, reasoned and passionate.

Certainly, there is risk involved here for all parties. For my Liberals, we risk elevating the NDP and giving them a new legitimacy and prominence. A move to the left may alienate some of our centre/right supporters. The NDP, as well, risks alienating their leftish supporters with a move towards the centre. Both sides are having to compromise.

However, I feel, and obviously Stéphane and Jack agree, that these risks are worth it to provide Canada the leadership it need in a time of economic crisis. The kind of leadership Stephen Harper has been continually unwilling to provide.

I’ll have more to say later about the challenges of the week ahead, and bringing this thing home. For now, let me just say that I do truly hope that this coalition, should it take government and should it prove successful, will herald a new era of cooperative Canadian politics.

With the fracturing of the political spectrum, any party getting a majority these days is highly unlikely, and that may never change. It’s time for a new norm in federal politics. Hopefully this progressive coalition will show Canadians the way.

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Anonymous said...

I would have to agree with you, after these recent events I'm actually starting to like Jack Layton a lot more. I wasn't entirely thrilled with a lot of his economic polices in the past, but when he steps away a bit from "spending" being central to his plateform, suddenly he seems like a pretty cool guy. Being able to negotiate with the Bloc is pretty impressive.

Anonymous said...

Stephane Dion sells his soul to the very people he fought to oust, mainly the seperatists.

Jack Layton sells his soul by agreeing to leave the billions of dollars of corporate tax cuts on the table.

What does that leave? A very happy separatist party more than willing to gouge Canadians for more money.

And you seem to have no problem with all of this.

I believe the backlash from this will be very severe and have years of consequences for the parties involved.

And so much for the majority of Canadians who didn't want Dion and his archaic ideas to lead this country.

Jeff said...

Well PK, you've hit on every Conservative talking point. Unfortunately, they're really crappy talking points.

Dion has sold his soul to the separatists? He has fought them all his life, don't be stupid. Layton sold his sole by giving up on something you no doubt thought was bad policy? He compromised. If Harper was willing to compromise, he wouldn't be about to lose the leadership to Jim Prentice. And money for Quebec? Wake-up, Harper has sent untold billions to Quebec these last three years, where was your anger then, pray tell?

And finally,a majority of Canadians said a big No Way in Hell to Stephen Harper's conservative policies as well. A majority of Canadians did vote for progressive parties however, and a progressive government is just what they're about to get. I think they're going to like what they see, particularly in a few months when they've had a chance to govern.

Anonymous said...

1. If Dion and Layton want to give 3 - 4 billion dollars to bail out the auto industry, they need Duceppe to agree. What do you think he will do? He has absolutely no stake in the auto industry because it's in Ontario. So, he says, fine, as long a Quebec gets a similar amount. Now add 2 or 3 more packages and you can very well see what would happen.

2. You call Jack Layton's decision a compromise? The NDP's ENTIRE platform in the last election hinged on taking away the 50 billion dollars in subsidies to corporations. That's how they came up with their budget. Now Jack takes the entire package off the table and says that's fine. That's not compromising. That's a flat out lie from what he told Canadians in the last election.

And speaking of lying, didn't Dion say during the election that he would never form a pact with the NDP and especially the Bloc?

Yvan St-Pierre said...

I must say my head is still spinning here. I think you hit right on the nail, BCer, when you say high-risk high-reward. The problem is, this is probably what you shouldn't want in times like these, when people are actually gowing risk-averse.

It is true that the possibilities that this opens are extremely interesting, but we also must think - contrary to Harper - about what happens if this goes sour for any unforeseen reason - and there may be plenty of those when the going gets tougher. Then the prospects may not be so rosy, I'm afraid. And as both a Quebecer and a Canadian, I find it important that we make appropriate compromise with the west - is this going to be helped by this move, in the longer run?

I don't have an answer to this question. But what I know is that this should be a time for prudence, not wrecklessness. Harper has not shown that he understood that, but we must.

Jeff said...


1. Actually Duceppe has agreed, and what he has agreed to is completely transparent and was discussed yesterday in the presser. For example, how for the forestry sector, which will benefit Quebec, as well as the Maratimes, Ontario and BC. And changes to EI eligibility and benefits, which will benefit all Canadians. Quebec will benefit equal to its population and its issues, it's not going to be $3b for ROC and $3b for Quebec, let's be serious. Quebec will get its fair share, that's all he's fighting for, and what has been agreed to.

2. Lie, pk? Kinda like I will never tax income trusts? Or I will never run a deficit? Or I will never appoint unelected senators to my cabinet? Glass houses.

Anyho, yes, the corporate tax cuts were a key part of the NDP platform, just like a carbon tax was a key part of the Liberals. But we're doing neither. We're focusing on what we have in common, and working together to give the economy the help it needs. Unless you really want higher corporate taxes, your anger is pretty transparent.

Yvan, this is a high stakes gambit to be sure, but it's my view Harper has brought it upon himself. He chose to play political games instead of working with a majority of parliamentarians, and giving Canadians the assistance they need during this economic crisis. The stakes are high, that's why the opposition must act: because Harper won't, and the cost of inaction is even greater. There's no choice left.

As for the West, many Westerners voted for progressive parties, just like many Ontarioins and Quebecers voted Conservative.

Barcs said...

A veto for the Bloc concerning any matter?

Layton and Dion have sold out the RoC in their grab for power.

There is alot.... and I mean alot of east bashing going on today (the day after the biggest point drop ever on the Canadian indexes). Was it you that posted a few days back about a 500 point gain being a positive of the coalition? Yeah... good stability.

The left can talk all it wants about its "62% majority", The fact is the man given leadership (temporary) posted the worst showing ever for his party in an election... will of the people anyone?? Out here in the west, the 4 western provinces.... The tories walked away with 50% of the vote, a real majority by 1 party.

"Captain Canada", the man fighting the separatists.... may have just done more to separate Canada than anyone in history.

I suggest you get yourself a passport Jeff... you might need it the next time you try to travel back home to BC.

Gayle said...

Oh the drama! Nothing like overstating things Barcs.

People were joking about this in the elevator today (I am in Edmonton). People just want the parties to get one with governing already.

"And speaking of lying, didn't Dion say during the election that he would never form a pact with the NDP and especially the Bloc?"

Didn't Harper say our economy was sound? Didn't he promise no deficit? Didn't he promise to be more conciliatory during this session?

Barcs said...

I think Dion promised no deficit too gayle.....

where is that 30B funding package coming from?

Layton promised to cancel corporate tax cuts... some how they are goin g though.

And y'know... I think all parties promised to be more conciliatory towards the gov/opposition divide..... Layton sure did a good job of working with the Tories.... wait he went to the bloc the day of the election and started scheming how to fight the tories.....

Seems to me the tories aren't the only ones who are hyper partisan or break promises...hmmm?

Gayle said...

Barcs - if your point is that the other party leaders lied as much as Harper, well OK.

Politician lie. Big revelation.

Jeff said...

barcs, the bq has no veto, no one has sold out anything, and i haven't written anything on the markets recently. and markets dropped globally yesterday, i don't think we can blame that on our three super friends.

on alienation and separtism, let's be serious here. in alberta, many people voted liberal and ndp. and in bc, the ndp have many seats. granted, overall the west is more conservative than the east, this is true. but all the parties have support across the country. indeed, this coalition is more geographically diverse than the conservatives are.

i live on Ontario now, and i didn't get pissed off when stephen harper formed a government. i didn't cry Ontario alienation! because we live in a democracy, where all the people have a say. and because i'm a Canadian first, and my Canada includes Alberta and Ontario, no matter where the PM is from.

you know what is very dangerous for national unity? Conservatives trying to stoke western alienation for narrow political aims. just because something is bad for the Conservative Party does not mean its bad for westerners.

It's a dangerous game conservatives are playing, and as a BCer, I think they should be ashamed.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

I would have to agree with you, after these recent events I'm actually starting to like Jack Layton a lot more.

Jack is great when he's allowed to be himself. He's much less believable when they slicken him up and give him a script.