Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Taking the fall to avoid a fall vote

I’ve fallen behind on my blogging so writing the lengthily post I’d planned on the avoidance of a fall election with the NDP’s decision to prop-up the Harper Conservatives until their EI reforms are passed now seems dated. I will make a few observations though.

I was surprised by the NDP decision, and I wasn’t. I was surprised because their rhetoric for months about how Harper’s defeat was a moral imperative and how the Liberal decision to support the government to avoid an election and get stimulus flowing was a betrayal of all that is holy and good would make for an embarrassing climb-down I didn’t think the NDP could stomach. And I wasn’t surprised because, really, finding some way to support the government was the only move that made strategic sense for the NDP. They don’t have money, and with their standing in the polls they stand to say good-bye to a chunk of their caucus.

So, they made the tough call to avoid an election, everyone breathes a sigh of relief, and we’re probably clear until the spring. While I was ready and willing to fight a campaign this fall, I’m happy to have more time to organize. And I’m happy to have broken the cycle of bluster and back-down.

While my Liberal friends and I will have much fun needling the NDP over their propping-up of Harper, much as they did the same when the shoe was on the other foot, in the wider picture it doesn’t really matter. While the NDP liked to trumped the “59 straight votes” they cast against the Harper government (and the Liberals for) the reality is, most Canadians don’t care. The Liberals neither took a hit for supporting the government, nor did they get a bump for helping avoid an election. The same will hold true for the NDP. Canadians will say no election, good, and go on with their lives.

Where it will rankle, though, is among the partisans. The constant justifications, the trying to convince yourself the concessions were meaningful, the decision to prop-up a government you fundamentally disagree with, it grated on Liberals. This fall it’s like a weight has been lifted from our shoulders. And shifted onto our NDP friends.

They’re trying vainly to justify the reversal in supposed long-held principles, to claim they’ve extracted great concessions, but their arguments largely ring hollow. First, they didn’t negotiate any concessions Harper proposed some EI changes he’d been talking about for some time, changes that don’t address the major concerns expressed by all three opposition parties, and the NDP jumped on them without even trying to get Harper to sweeten the pot. I think Harper was surprised as anyone they acquiesced so quickly.

The supposed concession aside, while the NDP made the right strategic decision, it’s how they get from A (Harper evil his defeat is a moral imperative he can’t be trusted) to B (Canadians don’t want an election we’re going to work with Harper on EI reform) that they haven’t explained well, and leaves them with a credibility gap.

Now, the Liberals have done a similar complete reversal, from “We’re trying to make parliament work to avoid an election” to “We can’t work with Harper anymore he can’t be trusted so we’ve lost confidence.” It’s also a reversal of position, but you can chart an evolution in thinking for getting from A to B. After trying and trying to work with Harper and getting no-where, always playing the Charlie Brown to Harper’s Lucy, we just can’t trust him anymore. You can disagree with the decision, but it’s a logical progression in thinking.

There’s no similar logical progression I’ve heard articulated for the NDP’s reversal, however. Harper’s defeat was a moral imperative before, but it’s not now? Harper couldn’t be trusted before, but he can now? You’ll vote no-confidence 59 times, but now an election is unavoidable? Many billions in stimulus funding, EI changes and more in the last budget isn’t worth grudging support, but a paltry $1 billion in minor EI reform that will benefit a small percentage of the unemployed is?

It begs the question, what has changed to explain the complete reversal in position? The only thing that changed is the NDP can no longer hide behind the Liberals. So, while the NDP made the only choice they could, it exposes their earlier moral piety as nothing but empty posturing that disappears when the chips are down, and their votes could actually trigger the election they never wanted all along.

And now we hear the NDP will be abstaining from Thursday’s confidence vote, as if that will make them feel better about keeping the Harper Conservatives in power. I know it didn’t when it was the Liberals in that position.

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Robert McClelland said...

It begs the question, what has changed to explain the complete reversal in position?

What has changed is the Liberals are no longer abdicating their role as the official opposition. What liberals like you fail to understand is that it was this mistake that the NDP was capitalizing on. What you're also failing to understand is that all the Liberals have done is correct their mistake. None of this even has anything to do with the NDP despite all the attempts make it seem like it does.

Layton is not the one sitting in Stornaway, Ignatieff is. So it's his job to be the opposition to the Conservatives, not Layton's.

Jay said...

I take it then that the NDP no longer wants to be the official opposition that Jack Layton has been crowing about because it seems the NDP are now according to mr mclelland not the official opposition. They didn't last long now did they. Sucks doesn't it? especially when you realize we need help but the nearest party that you can actually work with is poking sticks in your wounds. When will the NDP realize its existence stands in the way of what it wants.

Gene Rayburn said...

someone's bitter...

ricky said...

Its a little crazy. LPCers trying to defeat the government but don't want an election and the NDP voting with the Government because they don't want an election.

Lets hope there is no crime bill brought forward with a confidence motion attached to it...

marie said...

So it's his job to be the opposition to the Conservatives, not Layton's.

Well Robert, Layton has been trying real hard ever since he helped defeat Martin with his bogus rumor about Income trust in 2005 and he is now facing the fact that he will never be the official opposition and maybe not even the leader of his own party for long.He has realized that the EI put forward by Harper was not what he thought it was once he took the time to read the fine print before voting with Harper. He did admit that so don't try and deny it. His supporters are dropping and he knows his days are numbered,


ricky said...


Have a little grace...

The EI bill came along because Harper needs Jack to support him. Its not all the NDP wanted but its enough to keep all of us from going into an election none of us want, including the LPC which is voting to defeat the government, but knows that the NDP will keep Harper in place for now.

As too supporters dropping, the LPC vote is tanking as well.Iggy and Jack don't wish to have an election now and this is