After much prodding by other bloggers, I set this up for my own writings. The name is in honour of the two women that mentored me throughout my life on politics and intelligence issues, as well as being wonderful family members, now alas deceased. I hope to live up to their standards at this site.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

What is the matter with the NDP? An analysis of how they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and why their initial reactions to that are so worrisome.

Well, I know it has been a few years since I last graced this place with my words of (LOL) wisdom, but here we go again.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been watching the NDP reaction to the events of Oct 19, 2015.  Now, I need to point out from the outset that I am not a NDP partisan nor supporter, and in this last election I was a Liberal partisan, unlike in prior elections, but that was because Trudeau sold me on his vision and its AND his ability to defeat Harper and not because I am by nature a Liberal partisan.  My pre-Harper default setting was unaligned swing centrist voter that literally voted NDP, PCPC, Lib, and even once Green depending on the election cycle and based on local as well as national considerations.  I want this understood because I am more concerned with the overall health of our political culture and the process side of things than I am who is necessary running it.  This post is not because I want to rub salt in open wounds, it is because I am really concerned with what I'm seeing.

I've always, since my earliest years of beginning to understand the world of politics onward thought the NDP provided a very important and valuable role in our political discourse and culture, even at the federal level when they never seriously considered for government.  They prevented the binary dialogue which I saw in the US which made it too narrow in my view.  I saw the voice of the NDP bringing a very important progressive element to the dialogue which helped keep us a more compassionate society than we might otherwise have been, and I was grateful for that.  I saw how they actually practiced what they preached even when it could be politically damaging for them, and so I trusted them to prevent the rise to power in Canada of one of these right wing extremists I saw starting to gain power in the US from the late 70s onward.

Now, that started to change for me with the election of Jack Layton to the leadership and watching his shifting of the party from a principles first to a seats first expediency mentality.  I've made many comments about that in the past as well as referenced at this blog and I will not pretend I haven't.  Indeed, I hold Layton responsible as the man most responsible for the rise of Harper to the PMO and his majority, although on the majority front the man I blame right behind, and not by much behind is Ignatief, so it isn't just the NDP side I've had issues with where the rise and maintaining of Harper as PM is concerned.  I'm putting this up front because I will not have someone claim I am trying to hide where I have been when I do this dissection.  I try to be fair honest and accurate with the facts in my comments, and this is not going to be a pleasant read for any NDP supporters, especially Mulcair supporters.

Ok, now that that is out out the way, lets get to it.

First off, lets go back to the beginning of the year.  Back then after a near 2 year high in the polls Trudeau was starting to slide, which gave the NDP some room grow and replace the Libs and especially for Mulcair to replace Trudeau as the agent of change placeholder and focus until the election campaign actually started.  Trudeau's trouble looked to have begun with the aftermath of the Parliament Hill shooting.  Then came bill C51.  This was the moment that caused so many soft Lib voters to back away and take a second look at Mulcair and the NDP as their vehicle to remove Harper in the next election.  While the polls did not move all that much for the federal NDP until after the Notley win, I submit it was ground that had been prepped by the C51 fallout for the Libs and how it had allowed Mulcair to look not just the more progressive voice but also the true principled defender of our democracy especially against Harper who looked increasingly not just dictatorial but tyrannical in his reaching , not least being C51.

Note I said that this prepped the ground for the Notley win to cause a significant increase in the polling support for the NDP as the main anti-Harper vehicle.  This is important to a point I believe is crucial in understanding what came next.  Ironically enough I also note that the Notley win and the decision by Mulcair I believe prepped the ground for the slide of the Mulcair NDP in the election came within the same month.  May 5th was when Notley had that surprise majority win in Alberta which made the idea of a federal NDP government suddenly seem not so outlandish nor impossible a goal.  Yet it was also in May that the Consortium debate negotiations discovered that Harper was unwilling to participate, and instead of holding Harper to account for it Mulcair, within 24-48 hrs no less, sided with Harper and said he would not be at a debate without Harper.

This is something I believe was a critical strategic mistake by Mulcair, compounded by the willingness of the NDP machinery to support the line of reasoning behind it.  Specifically that Mulcair felt that since he was after Harper's job there was no point to a debate without Harper being present.  This was something I pointed out in many blogs and news sites was a reason that if any prior LOO had given to a prior PM trying this stunt would have had the then third place NDP up in arms about how inherently undemocratic it was, how this was collusion to shut out the third voice in Canadian politics, that this was something to be opposed on both moral/ethical grounds and practical grounds, and they would have been entirely correct to be doing so.  Yet I got this reaction of "meh" fromthe Mulcair/NDP partisans on this front, or that I was making a mountain out of a molehill, that this really wan't something that would have much real impact, epsecially with other debates being schedualed.

Obviously I profoundly disagreed from that initial point onward.  This was revisited in the public mind at the beginning of the campaign in August,  when Mulcair ended up pulling out of the Consortium debate he had agreed to, and then in late August pulled out of the Women Issues debate he agreed to the year prior and had made much of at the time being the first to commit to it, instead substituting interviews as his "compromise" solution.  He used the argument that since Harper wasn't coming therefore he wasn't going either.  I think part of the problem for many with this specific example was that it is hard to believe anyone ever seriously expected Harper to show for this debate, it was not a demographic that his support came from, the kinds of women that tended to support Harper were more of the old REAL women variety than those who would have been following this debate.  So it seemed to me and I suspect many others that Mulcair was fine with no Harper being there back then to still participate, but since then things changed because of how he was now the frontrunner instead of the third place person and now suddenly it was a bad idea for him, not the practice of a principles first honourable person, not at all.  Having this come back up though, and over something as I believe obvious as this was being about expediency over principles at the start of the campaign was something that had an impact.

I prefer to liken that impact to the support of Mulcair and the NDP being the solid ice with a dusting of snow to keep the visibility of the ice opaque upon which they stood.   With this debates issue that was a heavy blow, heavy enough to set into that ice very deep cracks yet the surface showed little to none of this at the time.  After all, I believe that much of what got Mulcair the lead was his positioning as Captain Canada and defender of democracy with the C51 issue and the stance he took combined with the Notley win suddenly making him and his party look like a real potential governing contender.   So having Mulcair not only aid and abet Harper in his avoiding the Consortium debate (as it turned out just the English one in the end, still though that was the one with the widest viewership by far of them all) but argue that only Harper mattered was something that ran deeply counter to the message of being defender of democracy.

This is important, because I believe a lot of the anti-Harper sentiment in the wider public came down to how much Harper was undercutting our core democratic beliefs and how we governed ourselves.  So for Mulcair who was trying to get ready and positioned to ride the clearly gathering anti-Harper wave in the electorate to do something which ran so profoundly counter to that sentiment, and to have his party defending it in an equally profound counter to that premise  AND to what everyone would have expected the NDP principled position to be were they the third party this was being done to gave a lot of second thought grounds for those that were currently in the Mulcair camp.

Still though, this by itself was clearly not enough to be the cause of what we saw happen.  No, I believe that was a three part event on one issue, and it was the second great impact on that metaphorical ice I mentioned earlier.  That blow caused the cracks to become fissures and for the water to start ring, the surface to start breaking up, and the NDP support to start sinking.  This was not, btw the Niqab issue, I believe that has become a comfortable fable that the NDP uses to pretend they died on a noble hill, albeit a fable mainly created and enabled by media pundits at the time and afterwards.

No, that triple event was this:  Right before the economic debate the NDP announced it was going to provide their costing document to show how they were fiscally responsible and could be trusted to managed the finances of the federal government.  Yet the roll-out was poorly managed and presented, and then worse, it became known that the numbers the NDP was using in their, as Kevin Page called it Swiss Cheese costing document, were based on the assumptions used by the Harper government in the last budget, a series of numbers and assumptions that reality had already shown were WILDLY overly optimistic by this point and therefore unreliable.  That week between those two elements were a real rough ride, but they weren't what I believe was the true shattering event.

No, that was the promise of Mulcair to run in his first government a balanced budget even after all the spending announcements he had made, even after it was clear the basis for his numbers were suspect, and after they had just bungled that costing roll-out.  That was something many people found suspended disbelief one step too far.  Then that left the chance for Justin Trudeau to roll out what I believe was the first political equivalent of an 8 count punch on Mulcair and the NDP, one they never really recovered from, that willingness to run a modest deficit for targeted infrastructure spending to try and get the economy running better and as a part of an actual jobs program.  Then to make it worse Mulcair joined Harper in attacking Trudeau for that policy announcement.

This I believe is at the core of what caused the NDP slide from being seen as the vehicle of choice for the anybody but Harper vote.  Of course there are other elements in the demise of the NDP in this campaign.  Things like Mulcair sounding a lot like Harper on tone, especially where Trudeau himself was concerned.  That was a bad move for someone trying to present as the anti-Harper AND it ran counter to that last message Layton left his party.  There was the purging of those candidates not sufficiently pro-Israel for Mulcair that happened at the beginning of the campaign causing some problems within the NDP core base.  Mulcair not joining Trudeau on the F35 cancellation policy also didn't help, nor, did his initial trying to straddle the divide on the Niqab at Citizenship ceremonies when hit with it in the debates.

There a lot of additional minor reasons that helped to further make the NDP seem like the wrong choice for most of the anybody but Harper vote, but that wasn't all that happened here.  Something else that needs to be taken into account is the Liberal campaign itself.  We know that the Libs got a bit over 4 million more voters than they did in 2011.  We also know that roughly 200k came from the CPC , and about 1 million came from the NDP.  That left almost three million more than were new voters that went to the Liberals.  That was not just about being anybody but Harper, that was about things like generational change.  It was especially about IMHO the decision of Trudeau to follow the "Sunny Ways" approach to campaigning even when he and his party were in third place and looking like they might be out of the running.  Whereas once the NDP started sliding they went harder and more negative against Trudeau and the Libs, that contrast was pointed and I believe possibly the fatal blow.

So now we come to election night, and the Mulcair speech.  I literally was left speechless and with a sense of deja vu.  I say that because I watched the coverage of the Ontario Provincial election night speeches of the three leaders, and I remember listening to Horwath talking as if she had this great victory on her hands instead of what was arguably an electoral disaster.  Now I was hearing Mulcair talking in the same manner, almost as if he was in a minority government balance of power situation instead of being reduced to the third party rump of Parliament again, albeit with the 2nd largest rump they ever managed, yet a far cry from where they started in both seat count AND where they were at the beginning through the first half of the election campaign itself.  While I understand and accept the need to keep the spirits of your supporters up in the wake of such a defeat, you also need to show you understand at least something of what just happened to you and the reality you now face, and that was totally lacking in both tone and substance in that speech.

Then for the next 2 weeks Mulcair stayed out of public sight, even one place he should have shown up for, which I believe was the first anniversary of the Parliament Hill shootings (not the place to stay "closeted" I submit, especially given how Harper had acted in the heat of that moment last year) .  He didn't need to do more than simply attend, he didn't need to answer questions or anything involving public speaking but he should have been there as he was the LOO when this happened and was still a party leader even after the election, and one claiming to still be there for the long haul.  Instead he sent a deputy.  I said then that was a mistake, and not just for the day either.  One of the long term image issues the NDP has always had was on security issues, and showing this apparent disrespect was something that could be used against the NDP down the road later, ESPECIALLY if Mulcair stays on as leader

So now we come to present day.  The day after Trudeau officially became the PM.  On that day is also the first time Mulcair speaks in public (sorry dancing for This Hour Has 22 Minutes while funny doesn't count in my books) and what does he say?  He says he and his party are the reason Harper lost, mission accomplished/check that box.  That only he and his were any real opposition to Harper and his government.  This was NOT the tone he needed to be setting, he needed to be show in that he understood the message the voters had for him and his party, and that he and his would start fresh at working hard to regain their trust.  This triumphalism is more cognitive dissonance in action, not smart IMHO.

So now we come to the bottom line.  Why did the NDP crash and burn, and was it the responsibility and/or actions of the Leader, or was it forces beyond his control as he and so many NDP voices have been arguing as they say Mulcair should stay on.  From where I watched it all unfold, I cannot unerstand how anyone can look at what happened and not place primary blame/responsibility on Mulcair and the campaign team he put in place. 

One point which I have not yet mentioned but which I believe is one of the more telling incidents early in the campaign was with the purge of the NDP candidate for Kings-Hants here in NS.  When that candidates defenders rightly pointed out that his position was entirely consistent with the NDP policy convention set position, Brad Levigne came out and said that it wasn't the policy convention that defined but the campaign platform,which was was disappeared from NDP websites some weeks earlier in July.  Now granted Kings-Hants being Scott Brison's riding was a long shot at best, but still.  Something a lot of people forget is that the NDP policy conventions are supposed to by the Constitution of the NDP itself be the final say on what the policies of the NDP itself are, and that it is not the purview of anyone, not even the leader to make arbitrary changes to them without following the policy convention process to do so with.  So this action by Mulcair and Levigne ran counter to core NDP practices and principles, and I think for many that were still in the loyal base was a signal of concern for them as to where the Mulcair NDP really was going and what it was.  The way Mulcair handled his former comments praising Thatcher probably didn't help in this respect either, but I count that as a secondary irritant rather than a primary motivator.

I placed that point where I did because it underscored just how much this campaign was being run by Mulcair himself by his wishes and beliefs in what should be important and what the NDP stood for.  This Israeli policy clearly was from Mulcair directly and not something that organically grew within the NDP but imposed from the top down.  This campaign was about Mulcair even more than it was the NDP, and we saw the result.  How that means Mulcair should not be wearing the onus for this result is something I find very difficult to grasp/understand.  I personally thought he should have come out election night, owned up to what happened, made clear he would not be leading the party in 2019's election campaign but staying on as interim leader while the party organized over the next period of time a leadership race to replace him with.  This way the stench of that failure would attach to him and not the party and allow it the best chance of moving forward and redefining itself back into something seen as acceptable to the voting public again.

I understand about how the federal NDP like to not be overly bloodthirsty towards a failed leader in a bad election result.  I also understand that this was historically speaking a strong finish for the NDP in terms of seats.  However, when you take the context and reality of what the NDP came into the election campaign into account, that indeed for halfway through the election campaign itself they were in that statistical tie with the other two parties, and then ended up with this result, then it is impossible to see this other than as a massive failure and setback of profound proportions.  It also needs considering that some of the new NDP seats were as a result of anti-Harper voting just as the Libs got in other ridings, so the true core of the NDP cannot be assumed to be this seat count nor the votes they got.

As well it needs remembering what happened here in Atlantic Canada.  Most of the ridings the NDP lost were not ones where there was much risk of a vote split with the CPC running up the middle.  What happened here was as much a repudiation of Mulcair and his approach of running the NDP and what it was standing for as it was making sure Harper was removed, as well as finding in Trudeau the message of hope and true Canadian spirit we had long been missing.  There was also clearly some distaste in the arrogance and sense of entitlement that Mulcair exuded for so much of his time as LOO and as NDP leader, and especially in his decisions around the debates for the elections.  I would be very surprisedif this was the vibe only in my region to this point.

The bottom line is this defeat was AT LEAST as much the direct responsibility of Mulcair and the decisions he made, and the way he campaigned, pure and simple.  That this fairly obvious reality is being studiously ignored by Mulcair and NDP MPs both outgoing and remaining I find a very troubling matter.  The NDP needs to take a very hash and strong look at what happened in the light of reality and truth, and the longer they stay behind these comforting fictions, things like the Niqab being the real downfall, that they were collateral damage and innocent bystanders to forces beyond their control, that it was all the evil media conspiracy out to put the Libs back in power, etc, the harder seeing and admitting these painful truths will become.  THAT is why what I see worries me.

I fear the NDP is going to continue down this path of delusion.  For two weeks now I've read defences against criticism as being how Libs are afraid of Mulcair's strong questioning in QP.  Well, part of why Mulcair was so good in that was structural in terms of the position of LOO gives an MP, now I'll freely grant Mulcair made excellent use of it, but as the leader of the third party he will not have anywhere near the resources nor the number of party given questions to use that he was able to use to great effect against Harper, and I also suspect that his style will not work well against Trudeau either.  It certainly didn't throughout the election campaign.

I want a healthy strong NDP to come out of this mix, I think they once provided a powerful voice and service to the health of Canada.  However the NDP of the past decade, first from Layton and then Mulcair was built on the premise that they could replace the Liberals as the option against the CPC, and part of that was moving to the center.  That they as well as the CPC combined could finish off the Liberals as a national party and therefore become the only alternate for government.  That project clearly failed, and failed MASSIVELY with serious long term negative impacts for Canada in terms of how it enabled the rise of Harper and his ability to stay in power for as long as he did.  As Terry Glavin says here the NDP needs to discover who they are, who they represent as their base, and what their long term agenda as a political party truly is, and so long as they stay in this mindset and keep Mulcair on I simply fail to see this happening, not just to the detriment of the NDP but for the wider nation as a whole IMHO.

P.S.  I may add further links as I track them down, this is only my first attempt at this after several years away so I am rusty, and a lot of the specifics I am referring to I know I've gotten correct but I would like to try and build this up into a better hypertext linked piece than it is at the moment.  Please bear with me.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A bit late Thwap! Not to mention more than a little selfserving too!

I preface this with pointing out I know this blog has been silent for about a year and a half now, and this post is not evidence I plan on returning to regular blogging anytime soon, but this post of Thwap's just infuriated me to the point I just had to write the following, if only for my own peace of mind and stress relief.

Regarding this post...

This time was almost six years ago Thwap, as I said again, and again, and again, to no avail while you and other Dippers were more focused on replacing the Libs than in stopping Harper. You and yours cannot escape your responsibility for the political reality we live with now, and for you now to suddenly see the light when you think a merger means your side gets the most in the process dressed up as being the last chance to save the Canadian way of life is well quite frankly more than a little offensive to me.

I WARNED you OVER and OVER about what the problem about Harper was, that the issue was a fiscally corrupt and tired Lib party or a radical power abusive Harper CPC government, especially if the latter made it to majority and which was far less destructive to our federation, political culture, indeed society as a whole, and instead I got branded a Liberal shill for my troubles by you and your fellow Dippers. I pointed out time and again the problem with the idea that the Layton NDP could become the government was that most voters judging by their actual records will not go for it, which was why I said support the Libs long enough for Harper to be deposed and THEN feel free to take them out, that the risk of Harper outweighed all else.

It *IS* too late Thwap, he got his majority, and what he does over the next several years will mostly be unrecoverable from, especially when he kills things like the Wheat Board (because under treaty once we surrender it that's it we can't restore it), when he delegates/decentralizes powers to the Provinces and/or municipalities they aren't going to give them back easily if at all, and the dangerous precedents he creates will invite further abuse. I've been warning about how dangerous Harper was in these respects for almost a decade now, it was bloody obvious to anyone that knows his record and takes him seriously, and I could never understand how Dippers who claim to be politically intelligent (and by this I mean the party members, MPs, and strategists far more than bloggers like yourself) failed to understand this, so I have always been forced to believe that they and Layton saw this as the "lesser evil" in the pursuit of increased NDP seats and in trying to replace the Liberals.

As I repeatedly said before, if this had been the PCPC this was being done with I would never have been shrieking all this time, but it wasn't, I was never a Liberal shill, member, operative, what-have-you, what I was was what I always said a Harper opponent who was a member of the largest voting plurality in our electorate, the swing centrist/moderate middle, just one that paid closer attention to politics than most of them.  I just understood that Harper had no real connection to the middle all along unlike too many others who don't follow politics as closely as I have. Layton, the NDP and you own a lot of the responsibility for Harper's rise to power and majority government, to suddenly claim to see it as necessary to stop him at this point date by merging with the Libs when it *IS* *TOO* *LATE* by finishing your goal of taking out/over the Libs rings very hollow to my ears indeed.

This blog of mine has chapter and verse about why I opposed Harper from back when it would have made a difference, why it was important, and how to do so, it showed I had no partisan bias for any party (the fact that I saw the Libs as the best way to stopping Harper was rooted, as I've said repeatedly for years now, was based on how I read the electorate's voting patterns and what they would go for more than what a party partisan would want to admit) because I simply opposed him, I did not spend my blogging time cheering on Liberal leaders, policies, MPs or attacking the NDP EXCEPT as it related to the prevention of the blocking of Harper from power. If I HAD been a Liberal partisan I would have been doing all those things, but noooooo, I was trying to convince people of the real fundamental risks to our core ways of life and governing by Harper if he ever got to power, especially majority power. Yet now, less than a year after you and yours finally enabled it, now you suddenly see the dangers and think maybe we should take the path of the lesser evil, once the *GREATEST* evil has already WON!?!?!? You have *GOT* to be kidding, especially since your version of the lesser evil just happens to suit your partisan goals all along where the Liberal party is concerned. Funny that.

PCPC after Mulroney, and that to count the Libs out was foolish, and clearly you and yours still fear Liberal resurgence because you now feel you must get rid of it even though it hurts your partisan purity to consider so, and claiming the noble motive argument your proposed was particularly nauseating I might add because as I've said for years now the damage is already done, the best chance was in 2006, the next best chance two years later, and the last real chance was when they were found in contempt as a government last year, but at each time you and yours placed party before country. Well, you get what you pay for don't you...

Sorry Thwap, I know I said goodbye after the last election, but I like to read the blogs still and this post of yours just really sickened me.


There was not a this sudden mass of Blue Liberals that stopped the NDP from reaching government, which I have seen many Dippers argue, those were non-aligned centrist swing voters who don't like supporting what they see/perceive as having strongly ideological policies/positions, something the NDP have had and still do, and the Harper CPC managed to downplay thanks in no small part to the silence (relatively speaking to their shrieking about the centrist Liberals and their evils) from Layton and the NDP core/base about Harper. Again, a point I kept making for years prior to his majority and seeing dismissed by you and yours in the Dipper movement. The fault was not in the stars but in yourselves, and you all need to accept this reality instead of trying to pretend you folks were just innocent bystanders whose hands are clean and are the only ones capable of saving us from the evil ones and it was those dastardly Liberal voters who are the reason evil now governs us all. It is this kind of thinking and acting which kept the NDP from being a party I could support for long periods of time, and made it hard to vote for NDP candidates in my riding that I knew were the best people in the riding to chose.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

A continuation of an argument I have been making for years, this time with Thwap from a thread at Doctor Dawg's blog.

original link to Doctor Dawg's post that these two comments came from titled Michael Ignatief: the "cave" man?

I just read through this thread and in the main I agree with ck's arguments, but then I have been saying since before Martin was beaten that Harper was the greatest threat to Canadian democracy out there because of his contempt for how we govern ourselves. I said back then that stopping him should be the most important thing for anyone of any progressive bent regardless of where they stood on the spectrum, but was I listened to? Nope, I was called a Liberal shill and flack by both right and left. I said back then that if the NDP really were a principles first party as they always had been prior to Layton's leadership they would have made common cause with the Libs to block Harper's rise to power and sustain Martin, that even a tired corrupt Liberal government under Martin would be less damaging than a Harper led government. Again, time proved me right in spades.

So now I see a lot of Ignatief bashing and you know what? That is EXACTLY what Harper counts on to stay in power. I don't like Ignatief, never did, never wanted to see him as Lib leader (I much preferred Dion in that role, and think that he got a really raw deal between the early on the job missteps and of course treachery by Ignatief partisans sticking knives in his back and the way the CPC attack machine went after him in the advertising manner they did destroying someone I think would have been a good leader of the country in policy terms as well as with a far less confrontational governing approach than what we have been forced to accept in the past several years) but reality is what it is. However, a major reason the Libs are still as politically weak as they are is that their opposition rivals are spending as much time as possible weakening them as they do attacking Harper. Which if we were dealing with traditional Conservatives in power I would have no problems with (as I have also been saying since Martin's days), the problem is Harper is anything but and I think most of you and the wider activist political community out there know this by now.

What made me so anti-NDP in recent years was the decision to place beating the Libs on an equal or greater footing than beating Harper. That to me betrayed all those principles the NDP stood for regarding progressiveness and social justice. The NDP could have gotten (and did get) more out of the weak Martin minority than they ever have with the Harper minority, and Harper has reversed a lot of what NDP policy has pushed for since the party's creation. If we want to see Harper lose, we need to see this pattern by the NDP stop. The Bloq will always go its own way, which is why I am leaving them out of this, but if the Libs and NDP were always in alliance politically against Harper instead of at odds for an extended time over most to all issues this would create a much larger voice of discontent against Harper, make it harder for the media to give Harper cover, and show the wider electorate that Harper is something so dangerous he unites those that normally do not stand together. Now THAT would make it more likely that Harper loses an election! I might add it would make the NDP look more like a responsible party fit to govern down the road as well for many soft Libs and swing voters that really don't like Harper that still aren't willing to trust the NDP with governing power, something the NDP has always had a problem with and still does according to all the poll results including the election results of the last few elections.

I have said this since Martin's minority days and I say it again! What matters most is stopping Harper if we want to have anything we recognize as Canada left! Therefore, the Libs and NDP need to stop this infighting and be mutually supportive until Harper is brought down. Then, once that happens then you can go back to the more usual distrust and sniping at each other and competing to win the same seats. For better or worse the electoral reality has been the Liberals are the more electable, even with the scandals that have weighed them down, so they are the party more likely to get plurality (I really don't see a majority as possible given the current political climate/dynamic out there) so work for that with a strong NDP contingent to allow for a Lib minority that must work in collaboration with the NDP to have a functioning government.

The Libs are in the bad spot they are politically speaking not just because of Harper and their own issues, but also because of Layton and the NDP too. Most Canadians that look up once in a while see this happening and figure that well if the NDP still sees the Libs as such a problem for them then Harper can't really be all that bad, it must be more rhetoric (this is btw a result of the principles first history of the NDP, people that don't follow politics closely are going to think that if he really threatened the principles the NDP stood for they would not be attacking the Libs so much but working together, which makes what the NDP says about Harper being empty political rhetoric) than substance. That is the perception this creates. Start actually acting like Harper is the far greater threat that he actually is and then it becomes more likely to defeat him. I would argue for Layton as leader/PM if I saw anything in the last few election results (the polls that counts and can be trusted most) that showed he had the better chance of being the plurality party of the two, but the results have NOT shown that no matter how well he polls as leader. Oh, one last point about leadership polling, go compare how Harper polled that way just before the election that gave him his first minority and tell me again how important that number truly is to electoral success.

DD, sorry about the rant, I know you are an honourable person with convictions, I don't mean to be derisive with this comment, it really is how this looks to me now and has all along and why. Do I want Ignatief as PM? Not really. Do I think he is fundamentally far less dangerous to the welfare of Canada as a progressive country and will do far less damage than the milder things Harper has already done? Oh hell yes! This is the problem I have with too many in the NDP about the Libs, they want to both defeat Harper and the Libs, and I simply don't see that happening, if it was going to it should have already happened, the Libs were as weakened as they could be post Adscam, yet they held on to as many seats as they did and likely will, nor did the NDP see a surge beyond their best ever seat count, which to me shows which party is the more likely to make the plurality and which is not, which is why I say the NDP needs to be the subordinate one to the Libs while getting Harper out of power, not because I inherently prefer the Libs to the NDP on any sort of ideological or partisan basis, a point I have made many times before alas to disbelieving ears too many times.

Yes, Ignatief sucks and is not a wonderful choice, but he is what we have and he is far less ugly than what we have now in that Office, and he would be far more likely to work with the NDP on progressive legislation in a minority than you will ever see out of Harper. That should be enough incentive right there to work together and stop the sniping, so why isn't it? The perfect is the enemy of the good, something I think those that bewail the state of democracy in this country and how bad the system is and how they must see a minimum commitment to reform before supporting someone could stand to remember. Harper counts on these divisions between Libs and NDPers, and it has gotten hims a few seats short of the majority he craves with all his being. We all thought he'd shown enough of his true colours when the last election came around to defeat him, instead he got more seats and almost a majority. And for those that say let him get the majority, the damage he will do with that power even for just one term will fundamentally damage the ability of any progressive agenda from being possible in the future, the cost is too high. You think what you have seen in the last five years is bad, it will pale to what a Harper majority will bring!

*prior was edited for spelling mistakes only from original post, no new content was added*


I really don't know where that came from. Do you not remember the 2008 proposed coalition? The NDP was more than willing to make common cause with the Dion Liberals to get rid of harper. It was Ignatieff who pulled the plug on that one.

And Layton took a lot of flak for the support to the Martin minority that he did give, both from the left and the right. Except for a few recent instances where Layton and the NDP showed that they were blatantly posturing, counting on Liberal cowardice to make their own rejection of harpercon evil irrelevant, has the NDP been unprincipled.

I rather think that Layton has been very mature regarding "making Parliament work," ignoring the idiotic harper/Duceppe rejection of the Martin government Throne Speech, getting concessions from Martin. All the while being accused of "propping-up the corrupt Liberals." Layton told Martin his price: stop the privatization of health care in this country. In his response, Martin showed everyone what he was made of. He rejected Layton's ultimatum, because he'd rather serve corporate profits, even at the expense of Canadians' health.

Layton was even mature and conciliatory to harper in the beginning, for which he received cat-calls from the detestable Liberals.

Nobody has come out of this looking good, but you've a hard row to hoe if you want me to believe that divisiveness among the opposition parties is all the NDP's fault.


I am not saying it is all the NDP's fault the Libs also have more than a little to do with their own problems electorally, and I never said otherwise as there is a difference between being a major factor and the only one and I said they were a major factor not even the single largest one just a major one, but reality is they are a major component to Harper's electoral success. BTW, the coalition thing is not a good example to use, and is not what I was talking about I might add, I was talking about once the Libs got plurality as has happened before in our history. I am talking about the near constant focus of the NDP to attacking the Libs at every turn to the same degree they do the Harper CPC, which helps make it look like to the less politically involved voters that there is little difference between the two when that is clearly not reality. Not to mention how much easier it makes media to present the CPC in that light as well, and not just the CPC supporting elements of media either.

We have seen time and again how our political media is far more interested in covering conflict than they are substantive issues, and the more between the Libs and NDP the more they focus on that rather than the issues actually involved, even the issues on which the sniping is based upon. Our current national political media is in large part not very good at doing much else from my observations (and others too I believe) which is another way the Harper CPC makes itself look less out of the mainstream of Canadian politics to the voters that do not follow politics as closely as partisans and those of us that are actually interested in politics for our own reasons (like process issues, thinking it is an important civic duty, that sort of non partisan person that follows politics closely).

Look, what I want to see is the two sides working together against Harper as much as possible, leaving the partisan sniping with each other at the door, until Harper is gone. I also want to see the same from the Libs, as I said before I am not a partisan of theirs and I have never liked Ignatief since he first showed up in our political scene and never wanted him as Lib leader.

Layton makes conciliatory moves when it suits his political needs to do so, but then he goes back on the attack, so don't try to make it sound like he has ever been serious at this beyond the same tactical approach Harper uses when he works with the NDP to attack the Libs. He has not shown from where I watch any serious desire to work with the Libs long term against Harper, because that would threaten his desire to supplant the Libs by letting them be seen as credible again. He has shown he does not want to give the Libs any chance to recover credibility as a viable choice, which under normal circumstances I would be fine with, but as I have said for years and years now with Harper and his CPC we are not dealing with normal circumstances!

Also, remember the timing that Martin was brought down? Kelowna had literally just been agreed to but not yet ratified, and if Layton had waited the three months that Martin had asked for Kelowna 's ratification would have happened, and instead he threw it all away. How can you argue that was anything good for progressives and aboriginals in this nation? Then there was the national child care initiative Martin appeared to also be implementing at the same time frame. But Layton could not let those happen because that might have allowed Martin to salvage some credibility and support for himself and weakened Layton's clear wishes to replace the Libs in an election. Not to mention the health care bit you mention was clearly aimed to be refused, this was noted at the time by most political observers when it happened, and it also showed Layton's unwillingness to accept that while he was in a position to make demands that didn't mean he could call all the shots, he placed Martin in a position he could not agree with at that moment, and also sold out child care nationally and Kelowna, the latter being particularly offensive given the long work that had gone into it not just by the feds but the Provinces as well.

Also, I was talking about how Layton made the Libs his primary focus for attack at the end of Martin's time (which since he was government is reasonable even if I personally think it was a bad call because of Harper in the mix, but the role of opposition is to hold government to account first after all so it was fair even if I think unwise this one time) and the first year or two after when Harper first came to power. You cannot tell me there was much basis for saying Layton was doing anything other than trying to discredit the Libs including siding with the CPC and having their operatives side with CPC operatives to trash the Libs at every chance he got in the various media forums, which I might point out also made it hard for Libs to trust Layton when the coalition notion was raised and attempted. Besides, the coalition was unlikely to have worked and clearly not going to have the support of the wider public (regardless of how well it was being trashed by the CPC, the reality is that it would have been hard to sell to the average voter that their votes didn't matter so soon after casting them which is why I believe Harper was so successful in trashing the concept and selling his misrepresentations of it as a coup when it clearly was entirely a legal option in our system), and that presupposes it would have happened in the first place, an assumption I have seen from far too many NDP partisans as a given when it never was.

Look, I am not saying the Libs don't have their own dirty laundry in all of this, that they too need to be more supportive of the NDP in this notion, but from where I sit as a partisan of neither and someone whose only concern is the removal of Harper (something I have been completely consistent about since well before he became PM, I am saying nothing I haven't said before on many occasions, as I am sure you know, and then to be dismissed as a Lib partisan as a rule too I might add) I see far more coming from the NDP side in terms of attacking their primary electoral competitor the Libs over the Harper CPC than the reverse, much of what I've seen from the Libs over the past few years has been in response to NDP attacks, not initiated by them (again, not all, but I would say the majority of as in more than half)

The reality is the NDP is not positioned to replace Harper next time out, but they are placed to split the vote enough to help Harper retain power or worse get that majority. You want to know where the comment came from, it came from reading the attacks on Ignatief and the Libs in this thread instead of keeping the focus on Harper alone, it is exactly the sort of thing that I say this nation cannot afford to have happening while Harper is in power, period. That all the evidence of actual elections shows that this is how he is hanging onto power, and *one* of the major reasons the Libs are not able to regain enough ground to actually replace him. As I have said every time I have spoken to this I am fine with business as usual between the NDP and Libs once Harper is gone, and if we were dealing with the PCPC of old I would never be making these arguments to start with, but that is my point, we are not and never have been, and the destruction Harper does to ALL of us Lib, NDP, swing centrists etc in the kind of Canada we cherish has been obvious to all of us that are politically aware and yet we still see the same old games from the NDP placing Lib Tory same old story ahead of the reality for far too long with entirely predicable results.

Harper and company have said openly that they count on this dynamic Thwap, and the fact that it is that obvious and yet still going on really frustrates me beyond all end, especially when I listen to NDPers go on about how horrible Harper is. Bottom line is you helped him come to power and so long as you treat the Libs as equally threatening to you and yours as Harper and his CPC you continue to help him, that is the sad and ugly reality of the Canadian political scene. I would love it if it were different than this, but I deal with reality as it is, not as I would prefer it to be, and I wish more NDP partisans as well as the leader could do the same, which is why the frustration and yes the feeling of bitterness I have on this point.

You may think Layton has been very mature on all of this, I don't. I think he has been more opportunistic than any NDP leader I have ever seen on the federal scene and not by a small margin either, and at the worst possible time for that kind of conduct too. Part of the problem with partisans is that they always see their side/leader in the best light and those they are against in the worst light, this is as true of CPC partisans as NDP and Lib partisans too. I have watched your leader spend as much time working to discredit the Liberals as I have seen him attacking Harper and the CPC even recently, and it was worse during the first year or two of Harper's reign when it was obvious Layton had placed killing the Libs as more important than removing Harper.

He has turned the NDP from a party of principles before all else to one that places seats before all else, and it disturbs me greatly how many NDP partisans and supporters are blind to this reality or worse excuse it by saying well now they are playing the same way the Libs do and that is why Lib supporters are crying unfair (which regardless of the truth of it depending on whom it is said to misses the point, that was never the policy of the NDP federally until Layton came to power and it was never actually discussed at any NDP convention I ever saw to make that fundamental a change to the nature of the party). Yet Layton and NDP partisans still claim to be the party of principles and different for that? That hypocrisy and holier than thou attitude is not only irritating but it is also one of the reasons many swing/soft centrists are unwilling to trust the NDP with power.

I used to trust and respect the NDP for that Thwap, even voted for them more than once for that very reason, but since watching the way Layton works and how he has been able to make this change without much of a peep from within the NDP leadership nationally to this change of fundamental approach that has gone away. In many ways the past 7 years has cost me two parties as a viable choice for me to vote for. I can't vote PCPC, they no longer exist thanks to traitor MacKay, and I can't support the Layton NDP for the reasons I have already cited. The Harper CPC is anathema to me so they are right out, leaving me only the Libs or the Greens in the riding I live in.

While under other circumstances I would probably have voted Green (like many I think the Libs deserved to be reminded that they cannot act as they did under Chretien and not pay a political price for it, which is why I said under normal circumstance I would be fine with what I see Layton trying to do with the Libs), they also are not positioned to have a shot at replacing Harper and his CPC, so that leaves me only one place to vote, Liberal (I really do not like feeling I have no opetions I might add, that *REALLY* rankles me personally). That does not mean they are my actual preference currently (as I said I am a swing voter, my support changes from election to election depending on issues and people and circumstances involved) on a political philosophy basis, leadership basis or indeed any other basis than the one I have already stated, that they *are* the most likely party to replace the Harper CPC given their seat numbers and the political dynamic we have seen to date.

One more thing, I would note that the NDP under Layton have yet to come close to beating Ed Broadbent's seat count, and he got that 43 versus the current 37 in a Parliament with 295 seats versus the 308 currently in place, and Layton has not exceeded either Broadbent's voting percentage or even raw number of votes cast. That shows me Layton is not seen as a preference for PM despite his good personal leadership numbers, for that matter the fact he tracks well ahead of the support for the NDP itself speaks volumes about the actual chances they currently have to even replace the Libs as official Opposition, the odds are better that the BQ would do that currently. So this is why I see what Layton and the NDP have been doing as ultimately a major assist to Harper and as one major component for the Libs to be as weak as they currently are in popular support.

Sorry about the length and the moving this to here Thwap, I wanted to give you a proper (in my case that means detailed) comment to my thinking and reasoning, and the character limit at DD's place made that more difficult. Please understand that while I may strongly disagree with you about this that does not take away one whit my overall respect and regard for your writings and beliefs. We do after all tend to agree on a lot more than we disagree I would say given what I have seen you write over the years, and I would hope you would agree that the same is true for you with me aside from this area of disagreement. The fact I think you are wrong on this does not mean you are wrong on most things, unlike some I am well capable of separating one area of disagreement from others nor to assume that because I think someone is way wrong on one important matter means they must be flawed in their thinking in all. I am not a member of the CPC partisans in the blogosphere after all...*weary chuckle* I hope you are able to accept this in that spirit even if as I expect you think I am quite wrong about it and where we do agree do so without this being in the way. I know I can and I have no reason to believe you can't either, any more than I have of DD where he and I have disagreed on this argument (which we have on more than one occaison in the past).

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Coyne to Harper: The Speaker's ruling *IS* the only applicable law, period!

For once in my life I can say I am in perfect agreement with everything Andrew Coyne has written in this piece. Something those arguing Harper has some sort of statutory legal duty to protect documents are not understanding (intentionally or not I really don't know, and since it matters not at the practical level I don't really care at this point) is that the power of government is derived from the Parliament, not the other way around. Harper is PM because he commands the plurality of seats, he was not elected PM, he was elected a MEMBER of PARLIAMENT who then as the leader of the party which garnered the most seats was given the chance to form the government and hold it by showing it has the confidence of the House, which this government has managed to date.

What this shows is that the powers he holds as PM and his government has comes from the institution of Parliament itself first, and therefore no government can arbitrarily decide it has powers to dictate to Parliament itself, only Parliament can do that with a majority of the MPs voting for explicit limitations on its own powers, something which has NEVER happened in terms of the power to compel release of any government documents, period, end of sentence, full stop. Therefore the only law Harper as PM has to accept is controlling at this point is the ruling of the Speaker of the House. If he does not then he is fundamentally breaking the law of this land, the fundamental process by which our government is designed by our Constitution to operate, and is showing the most naked contempt for the rule of law applying to his Office that any PM in our history has shown.

This went beyond a partisan issue with this ruling people, at least for anyone that cares about our system of government, how it works, and the fundamental laws and processes by which we govern ourselves. Anyone that is a real political conservative (as in the non party/partisan kind) that is not horrified by what Harper appears to be saying/doing now that this ruling has been made either does not understand how our system of government works or has allowed their personal biases against other parties and political philosophies/ideologies to blind themselves to what is happening here.

I have always opposed Harper not because I was a party partisan of anyone, but because I feared the damage he would do with dangerous precedent setting actions at the process level to how we governed ourselves, anyone that had followed his speeches and writings throughout his adult life could see that he held how we operate as a system of government in naked contempt. Here we have the proof positive of this, where he is saying that his concerns about security trump the fundamental law of the land even after being told in no uncertain terms that he is completely wrong, as Coyne points out in this article as shown in the ruling by the Speaker.

Now, what I really find a terrifying thought is that Harper is doing this knowingly and that he knows he is legally in the wrong, but thinks he can slip it past the wider public as some arcane niggling little piece of nonsense that doesn't really matter, and given how he has been able to sell some of his other misrepresentations about how Parliament works in the past he may be right. That reflects poorly on we the citizens and the media we rely to keep us properly informed about such matters in a factually correct manner. After all, no democracy (whatever the model) works if the citizenry fails to be informed about not just basic political issues and personalities but also in how we operate our governments.

What that doesn't change is that Harper is committing a power grab in our system worse than any of his predecessors in that Office, and when you consider some of the other things done in our political history that is no small thing at all. That there are so many people out there that refuse to understand/accept that Harper is committing serious illegality in his argument, and if he refuses to completely comply with the Speaker's ruling and claims to do so would somehow be breaking the law shows to me at least too many people that are either ignorant of some basic civics (bad enough) or worse know and don't care because they place their partisanship ahead of the law (which is far worse and more contemptible).

This goes to the core of the "hidden agenda" argument about Harper, it was never so much about his ideology, it was about his naked contempt for the way in which we govern ourselves under our Constitution and Parliamentary processes and his desires to change things to suit his political/ideological preferences whether or not the processes and limits of our system of government permitted it or not. This is only the most egregious case of his placing his desires above our way of governing, not the first, but it is clearly the most dangerous to date as well. I really wish more people would understand that Harper is not a conservative by any rational sense of the word, he is something foreign to the concept in any Canadian rooted sense of the term, indeed he betrays the honourable legacy of Canadian conservativism with this action and it is too bad there are as many self described conservatives that fail to grasp this basic reality. At least Andrew Coyne clearly does.

Now I know I will likely continue to be branded just another partisan for writing this, and I don't really care because I know I am not. I am someone that always cared about the process side of things as much as the policy side, and I say this, what Harper is doing here is far worse than any other scandal in our history. This kind of naked contempt for the basic operating principles of our government is far worse than any money scandal in our history by anyone, it is the worst abuse of power scandal I know of in our history by anyone at the federal level let alone an actual sitting Prime Minister. To stay silent about such when you see it happening before your eyes is to be selling out our history and our honour as a nation and as a people, pure and simple, and this would be true no matter what the political philosophy of the person attempting to do what Harper is doing.

I place my honour ahead of any partisanship in such matters, and I know that most Canadians would as well if they actually understood the argument and issues involved here as clearly as Coyne has shown he does. We can only hope that if Harper goes down this road any further that the Opposition leaders and members and the responsible political journalists (not opinion writers but those that are supposed to be more concerned with the facts, you know journalists/reporters) of this nation make this all clear, because it really is about as important a political issue as any this nation has ever faced in its history, no ifs ands or buts about it. It would also help that those that understand this write to their local papers and media sources about this too to try and help make sure that this is treated with all the serious consideration it truly deserves.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

KNB is exactly correct and some other musings

KNB at Liberal Arts and Minds has a post up from Monday Feb 9 09 regarding the disproportionate voice the political far right has in this country currently and the way they abuse it and their fellow citizens who disagree with them and their positions, most recently the poor principal in New Brunswick over the Anthem being played (see these posts at Dr Dawg's and The Galloping Beaver for more). Not to mention how poor a job the corporate media has been doing in holding the Harper CPC government to account for factual honesty in what it claims and does. As she correctly notes we have a very small media ownership circle and far from being the so called liberal media Conservatives claim it to be it has shown itself to be far more sympathetic to the right side of the spectrum, which given the economic interests of the owners and advertisers of the national media makes perfect sense. This notion of the liberal media is a fiction where Canada is concerned and always has been. Indeed, it hasn't been true within America either despite the claims of the GOP over the past few decades. The media is largely owned by very wealthy families and/or corporations, neither of which tend to be known for having much liberal/left leanings, something which the why of should be blatantly obvious to anyone that actually uses their brains to think for a minute about it.

This is something that has drifted across the US border and been jumped on by the Canadian far right to explain why they have been shut out of national power for so long (as the last majority Conservative government was Mulroney's and that was mainly made up of Progressive Conservatives with a bit more of a pro-American lean than typical for PCPCs historically, but hardly representative of the far right as exemplified by first Reform, CA, and now the CPC). It is after all easier to blame others acting in a conspiracy to keep you down than it is to accept the fact that the supermajority (2/3rds) of the population clearly disagrees with you and your core political positions and policies, and that the vast majority of the public is at the minimum center-progressive to strongly leftwards progressive, especially where social policy is concerned. It allows you to not have to take a hard look at your positions and beliefs and wonder why if they are so superior why that supermajority doesn't share them, indeed rejects them as strongly as we see in Canadian society where the far right's beliefs are concerned.

Indeed, one of the other disturbing aspects of this Americanization of our political dialogue within the far right is how much more aggressive it is inherently as compared to traditional Canadian political context/discourse (including traditional Canadian Conservativism too, aka Progressive Conservatives who clearly are still a large segment of the CPC support despite the clear contempt those that actually run the Harper CPC have for them and their beliefs) since in this country the concept of a loyal opposition is inherent within its structure. The problem with Harper's kind of Conservativism is that it believes that anyone not with them is the enemy which is to be destroyed at any/all costs and never compromised with because they are traitors/evil/etc, an attitude not typical to Canadian culture/society/politics historically.

For years I have harped on about the dangerous of the Calgary School and Straussian political philosophy, which is what PM Harper and his inner circle believe and practice. I have done so in no small part because of two core beliefs within it, that the elite are the only ones whose opinions on governing philosophy and policy should count (indeed have a right to any opinion at all for that matter), and that the "noble lie" is acceptable political practice. It is one thing to expect politicians to exaggerate/lie about how good they and their ideas/policies are (especially in an election cycle) , that is alas inherent in human nature itself let alone politics, but at least politicians have to appear like they value being honest and truth telling. The Straussian though is proud of his noble lie to gain and hold power with, he believes it to be necessary and entirely justifiable/appropriate, and given that the core of a democratic governing system is the informed citizenry making decisions based on the facts this is a profoundly anti-democratic philosophy, and when combined with the elitism attitude shows a fundamental contempt for facts, democracy, and the citizenry of a democratic nation. Cheney showed us where this goes within the American system, and the only reason Harper has not managed to go as far yet is because he has failed to get that majority, although even with the minority he has already done a lot of long term damage.

So when we have a corporate media unwilling to challenge the CPC government on its many Many MANY lies, when it acts like it has no recollection of the contradictions Harper and his government have repeatedly committed, when it sits back and feeds such insane political hatred as happened to the poor NB principal, when the media does not take the attitude that the government is always someone to be viewed skeptically no matter who it is in power then we have a serious problem. This business with the anthem though underscores just how bad the followers of Harper can get over the smallest things (it is not like abortion or gay marriage, two hot button topics for the far right that also breeds this kind of hyper emotionalism), both in terms of getting the fundamental facts wrong as well as going to any lengths to use fear and smear against anyone in their sights. Apparently one of the complainers whined about how the pledge of allegiance had been dropped as well from schools (see this post from Allison at The Galloping Beaver), except this is an American tradition and not something we ever practiced in this country that I am aware of, at least not in any sort of organized/national manner. I freely concede some schools (especially private ones) might have had some sort of pledge especially in the past, but to the best of my knowledge this was never a broadly accepted tradition in this country.

Many of these Conservative voices also have shown that they believe this country works more like the USA in both structure and rights than it actually does. Take the free speech absolutism of some of these folks (as selective as it tends to be of course in terms of application), the underlying premise within our Constitution is not that there are absolute rights but a balance between individual rights and the collective rights of a society, a significantly different approach than that of the American Constitution and Bill of Rights. Also these so called Conservatives have shown themselves to be willing to either display gross ignorance or outright deception when it comes to how this country is governed as recently demonstrated by the claims that a coalition as suggested last year would be a coup d'etat, treason, usurpation of a duly elected government (since as I noted in my prior post we do not elect PMs and governments we elect Parliaments, and whoever is able to show by a majority of the votes in the HoC they have the confidence of the House forms the government), and yet this was not vigourously challenged by the media, no it mostly appeared to go along with letting the government spew this nonsense.

So we have a convergence here of a media owned/controlled by a small wealthy elite whose political preferences are generally going to align with the right/conservative side of the political spectrum, a small percent of the populace following a far right/American conservative belief structure that demonstrates fanatical traits in a very vocal (and other, someone cut those Liberal supporters brake lines and that was never typical prior to the rise of the Harper CPC) manner claiming to represent the silent majority when they clearly by all election results do not (when the best you can get is high 30% of just over 50% of eligible voters you clearly are not representing a majority of the public no matter how loud you scream it), and a party birthed in treachery and betrayal led by a man whose entire political career and adult life has been arguing for the adoption of a radical far right American variant of conservativism (while trash talking Canada's progressiveness both domestically and internationally especially to American right wing think tanks as well as regions of the country like the Atlantic region with its so called culture of defeatism) that embraces profoundly anti-democratic means and beliefs who has demonstrated his complete contempt for all that do not agree with him AND his utter contempt for the rule of law that we all are supposed to be bound by. With this combination I would argue that we have a greater threat to the long term viability/survival of a distinct Canadian identity, indeed a Canadian nation itself than even the Quebecois separatists have presented. At least the Separatists have abided by the outcomes of referendums that went against them and stayed within the legal framework of our nation, which is more than can be said for Harper and company.

So KNB is correct in saying we need to find better ways to counter these voices and to take down the Harper CPC and the underlying core beliefs of the Calgary School it represents AND the anything goes no holds barred total war scorched earth approach to politics as well. Already we are seeing an increasing corruption of this approach within our discourse from other than the CPC when it comes to rhetoric and dealing with opposing/competing parties. Take the recent refrain by the NDP and its supporters claiming the Liberals are in a coalition with the Harper CPC. This is going well beyond acceptable rhetoric in my view because it profoundly misrepresents the facts and the basic requirements/definition of what a coalition is. It is one thing to claim the Liberals are sellouts and such for supporting this budget, but to claim they are in a coalition with a party that clearly has shown its primary goal in power is to destroy the Liberal party is just nonsensical. Worse, the meaning of being in a coalition means that the various members of a coalition have the ability/power to shape policy and to share the powers of office between those members, something which clearly does not exist with the Liberals and the CPC. So calling it a coalition is a gross misrepresentation at the very minimum and well beyond playing fast and lose with the facts/reality in my judgment.

If the Liberals and CPC were truly a coalition then the Liberals would have some of the cabinet positions and would be able to significantly mold the policies coming out of the government before they were introduced at first reading. To misrepresent it this profoundly, ESPECIALLY after so recently defending the concept and legitimacy of a potential coalition government against the lies of the Harper CPC so recently all because it makes it easier to smear the Liberals instead of the more technical and truthful/accurate approach is the same sort of attack Harper has been using all along and for me personally underscores why I find Layton no more trustworthy than Harper (I do think Layton would be a less damaging PM than Harper, but only because Harper has far greater plans where remolding Canada at the most basic and profound levels is concerned, it is not because I consider him at all more trustworthy where placing power before principle is concerned on that front I see little difference between the two men).

I know this post has meandered a fair bit from the starting point, sorry about that, but generally this post is to agree with KNB's basic points and to underscore some of my own issues/concerns. One of the main things I have held against the Layton NDP since the days of Martin is that it deliberately chose to place trying to replace the Liberals as a greater priority than to protect the principles it always stood for that a Harper government directly threatened and threatened in a manner far greater than can be honestly argued ever came from the Liberals, even when the Liberals were dominated by their conservative wing. Layton and the NDP are very lucky Harper failed to get to a majority, because if he had the chances are that not only would he have emptied the coffers worse than he already has but also that powers needed to create new national social programs would have been devolved to the Provinces to prevent anything like medicare from ever being created again (given how the far right in this country sees medicare this should be obvious, especially for something like national day care as an example, or even say the Wheat Board given their repeated attempts to dismantle it to date).

As bad as the Liberals might be for advancing many NDP ideals, they are at least not fundamentally and totally hostile to them for the most part, and they can be moved in the direction the NDP wants at least some of the time. The same can not be said for the Harper CPC, indeed how much progress has the NDP made in advancing ANY of their agenda since Harper came to power as compared to when they had the Liberals to deal with and worse how many of their policies in place already have been rolled back (like womens rights, aboriginal issues, that sort of thing) under the Harper government? It is because of these points that I say the Layton NDP is placing power before principle, and has sold out those they claim to represent, and worse many within the NDP base either don't see it or see it as the price to pay to replace the Liberals, even though the two best chances in a row to do just that went by and they have yet to break their record for most seats within a Parliament (as I believe Broadbent still has that record, although if I am wrong it was broken by less than a handful, I am sure of that).

What is needed and what I have argued all along is to place traditional conflicts aside between the progressives, centrists, and socialists within this country and get rid of Harper first and foremost. Then, once he is gone, his policies undone and his way of playing politics discredited then go back to fighting each other, because whatever else the base of both the Liberals and the NDP care about Canada as a progressive nation and want it to continue to be one, there is disagreement on how far and fast this evolution should go between the two camps but at least they are in the same league whereas Harper's CPC wants to destroy all that both groups hold dear. Given the volume of the CPC base and the way they manage to get media attention the need to truly work together to defeat Harper by discrediting him at every turn the idea of playing destroy the competition between the NDP and Liberals is absolutely moronic and potentially suicidal politically speaking for progressives generally.

I have said that it is the Liberals that should be supported not only because of my issues with Layton but also because the polls (as in the cast votes in elections) have repeatedly shown there is not enough support to make even a NDP minority let alone a majority out there and will not be anytime soon, certainly not while Layton is still the leader. If it were going to happen it would have shown itself by now after the last two elections where the Liberals were as weakened and discredited as they could be. That it did not cannot be ignored/brushed aside no matter how many NDP partisans might like to, and the more they refuse to accept that dealing with Ignatief fairly and honestly is their best choice as opposed to standing apart and continuing the approach they have to date the more they will give Harper time and ability to further his anti-progressive, indeed anti-Canadian agenda.

Remember folks, I am a swing voter, in my quarter century or so of voting I have voted for every party except Reform/CA/CPC/BQ federally, it always depended on who was leading each party and the policies they advocated, the context of the national environment at the time, and how much I trusted (or distrusted least really) each to follow through at least in part on what they promised. I have been forced to the side of the Liberals the last few elections not because I see them as all that much better overall (especially now that Ignatief is the leader) but because despite everything I see them as the best chance to remove Harper and his anti-Canadian policies and restore some sanity and humane (not to mention competent) government to this country. I do so not just on my preferences but what I see the voters being willing to do. It has always been my primary priority to remove Harper, and I have always argued based from that perspective first.

BTW, before some Dipper comes at me about the coalition and Ignatief's sinking of it, I should remind folks that there was no guarantee that there would have been that choice from the GG instead of an election. That there could (and should) have been under our system given how soon after the last election should have been that offer made I have no disagreement about. However I wouldn't have thought she'd give Harper a proroguement to avoid a confidence vote he clearly would have lost, and I suspect that if there had been an election instead the CPC could have increased its seat count to a narrow majority thanks to voter fatigue by the less partisan minded (since of all the voting blocks Harper's is clearly the most motivated and likely to get out, especially if they think the evil lefties are trying to usurp his power, Harper's defeat was far from a sure thing) and further apathy in terms of turnout. Granted this is not a given, but even if he was held to another minority what would that have done except strengthen him yet again and weaken the opposition parties? I think some Dippers got so caught up in the thrill of the idea of being a part of a government that they blinded themselves to anything other than the coalition as the only way things could have gone, and when it failed to happen reacted as harshly as they did because of that disappointment as much as anything because some of the reaction I've seen from some Dippers has been way over the top even for partisans IMHO.

Well, in closing I just wish to underscore my agreement with KNB about the need to counter the loud voice of the far right in this country, they have a disproportionate voice to their actual size of the population. That we have a media that is clearly unwilling to hold the CPC government to the same standards of criticism and scrutiny prior governments were held to is also a problem needing to be focused on, although it is more because of economic reasons/positions than ideological I'd say, at least for most of the national media owners. I also think it is long past time the partisans of the NDP stop taking on the Liberals primarily because it helps Harper, and helping Harper should be the last thing we all want, and that while I dislike him myself Ignatief may have made the right decision in supporting the budget (at least in not bringing down the government at this time especially without any assurance the GG would actually consider a coalition replacement) even if I think he should have pushed for far more alterations to it before doing so (yes, I don't like the budget one little bit and am much less than pleased that Ignatief let it go through as he has and think he seriously failed Canadians on this one).

People are free to agree or disagree with me as they wish about all this, but it is what I think and see in all this, and I give fair warning now I will not be answering combative/hostile comments to this post. Indeed, my comment policy is that people are free to leave them about my work but that I feel no requirement/obligation to answer any comment unless I feel like it. I realize this offends some people's idea of how a comments section should work, but the bottom line is for me that I have only so much stamina and reserves to work with these days and I will decide who and what I respond to accordingly. I do believe in allowing my critics to have their say, I just don't feel I must automatically respond to them. I also would add that to date I have banned no one and censored no one ( the only comments I have deleted to date were ad spam) I reserve the right to do so if someone becomes too offensive, abusive, or goes beyond what I feel is legally defensible. My tolerances are fairly broad on these points, and so far no one has crossed these lines but there is always a first time for everything and if it happens I don't want people saying I never warned them.

One last thing, I am going to be away from my computer for the next several days, so I may not be able to respond to any comments left until Sunday at the earliest. It is possible I may be able to use the computer where I am going when it is not in use, but I know that will not be often during this absence. This post is mainly a stream of consciousness one, which is partly why it skips around as it does. It was also to vent a bit of stream on a couple of issues that have been annoying me. Take care and be well everyone.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

We elect Parliaments in this country. not governments when we vote.

Kady O'Malley at the MacLeans blog has a very good article from Friday Jan 23 09 up with an interview with the representatives of a group of Constitutional experts regarding how our system of government ACTUALLY works as opposed to the fictions we have been hearing from the Harper government and its allies/defenders in the media and in the online world. The core basis of how we are governed by the House of Commons is that each riding in this country elects an MP (that belongs to a political party or is independent, granted the former is more common than the latter but the latter still occurs as Bill Casey exemplified in the last election showing it is always the people's choice to support and not the parties that defined who runs all by themselves) to sit in the House of Commons. Then in turn the MPs decide who is going to be the government by voting for that government once in the House. The fact that we generally have one party with either a minority or the largest minority automatically being assumed to be the government does not change the process by which it is officially granted the authority under our rules of government.

That phrase I just used, the rules of government, are what is key here. Too often I have seen defenders of Harper claim that the "technical details" (as one of KO's commentators called it) aren't what is important to understand when discussing how governments are elected and operate in our system, an attitude which is terrifying when one actually thinks about it. Those "technical details" are how any government is granted the legitimacy and the authority to govern in a democratic system of government, and therefore are ESSENTIAL to the operating of a smooth transition to and from power for ALL governments. This is axiomatic in a society that is run by the rule of law, which ours most certainly is supposed to be.

That anyone can cavalierly dismiss these "technical details" off so lightly shows not only an ignorance for how our system of government is supposed to operate but naked contempt for it as well, and given we have been seeing that attitude not just from supporters of the Harper government but from that government itself (the way it called the proposed coalition government a coup is but one example of that contempt, there are so many more out there) this shows we are currently governed by those that not only would misinform/lie to the Canadian public about differences of political policy but on the very foundations of the rules by which we govern ourselves all for political partisan benefit. That is something corrosive to any democracy let alone ours and underscores yet again why I maintain Harper is not a traditional Conservative but a dangerous radical or worse revolutionary who cares only for power and how he can use it to remold this nation into his own idea of it regardless of the actual rules of governance as set forth in our laws and Constitutional framework.

though has shown time and time again that for it the only concern is its own grasp on power at any costs, regardless of what the rules say, and this goes back to when they were In this we find the reason why I have come to see Harper as a greater threat to the nation than the Quebecois Separatists. At least the Separatists are open and aboveboard in what they want and how they would go about getting there, and they have shown a willingness to play by the rules (the two referendums being examples) and accepting when they lose. The Harper CPCfirst elected to power. Impolitical has a post up regarding the 2006 in and out election advertising scandal the CPC has managed to keep covered for the most part now entering its latest phase where the Elections Commissioner is forced to go to court to have 5 million CPC documents unsealed to be examined for the evidence that this fraud occurred at the order of the highest levels of the CPC. One of those people just happens to be one of the 18 new Senators the Harper government is appointing making it impossible to compel his testimony before a committee (and when they tried to serve him last summer he ducked it), a man by the name of Irving Gerstein who headed their fundraising arm as well as being the party's official agent in that election.

When a party/government shows such disrespect and contempt for the basic laws that govern how we elect our governments and how they are required to operate we have a very dangerous situation on our hands. The Harper government has shown Canadians to believe itself to be above the same rules/laws that bind all parties and Parliamentarians, indeed to the same rule of law principle that binds all Canadians period. If you act as if the rule of law no longer applies to you while it must apply to all else (especially your opposition/opponents) then you have shown naked contempt for the most fundamental aspect of our democracy, which when a government does so is about the most dangerous situation imaginable in a democracy given the central critical role the rule of law plays in keeping a democracy viable.

Worse, this government shows this disrespect not just on minor matters but in the most serious and fundamental aspects, in how we elect governments by way of our Parliamentary system and the laws which govern how we run our election process itself. When a leader and party refuses to play by the same rules/laws that govern all then they are placing themselves above those laws and showing their contempt for our system, our way of life, and every single Canadian citizen. THAT is what makes the Harper CPC so inherently toxic to our nation, to our way of life, and why I have always been as hardcore and dedicated an opponent to Harper from the outset, for this was apparent in his thinking long before he became a sitting PM.

This latest example of his contempt with misrepresenting how we elect Parliaments and not governments is but the latest in along line of deceits and acts of contempt for the nature of Canadian democracy and governance, and no PM has the unilateral authority to change how our system of government is designed to operate. At the minimum that requires a majority of a Parliament and in many cases (like the Senate) requires Constitutional change requiring either 7/10 Provinces with 50+% of the population or unanimity (which is why Harper blaming Senators and the Liberals for blocking his Senate reform is yet another such a lie to Canadians).

The GG has every right to ask the LOO to form a coalition in the event of a loss of confidence in the Harper government this soon after the last election, it is after all how our system of government with its "technical details" is actually set up to function. The GG is not an elected person and a non-partisan so that they stand apart from such considerations and only follow the rule of law and the requirements of the Constitution where her Office is concerned in the role that she is required to play. To start claiming that it is undemocratic for her to do so is to further use the old FUD method of propaganda by the Harper CPC, and to further misrepresent the fundamental operating structures of our system of government.

Her office is defined by the Constitution and that Constitution was passed democratically by the House of Commons and Parliament which makes the calling of her position and her authority undemocratic yet another attempt to misuse the term and to so misinformation for partisan purposes, the hallmark of the Harper CPC. What I find truly sad though is how easily Harper has managed to get away with it in the media and with many in the wider public, because it speaks to an ignorance of how our system of government actually works, which I find a sad thing indeed. Mind you those in the media should know better since it is a part of their job to understand what they are reporting on (how else can the be sure they are reporting facts and not fiction otherwise) which is one of the reasons I am so glad to see this article from Kady O'Malley that this post is inspired by.

I missed a lot of commenting abut this sort of thing with my hiatus through last year. I am sorry to have had that happen, but I was not totally unaware of what was going on either. Believe you me I will be doing my best to stay on top of things this year, especially as they pertain to the Harper CPC abusing power, misrepresenting our laws and system of governance and in general why they must be removed from power as soon as can be done. I do not trust them to manage this country through such uncertain times, and while I understand the political calculus of some to let Harper stay in power for a while longer to wear this recession and economic mess I consider that too high a price myself. I am more concerned for the health of this nation than I am for partisan considerations for any political party.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The end of the G. W. Bush era, if it was only that simple...

I have seen many people celebrating the inauguration of Obama and the departure of GWB from office as if this day marks the end of the damage Bushco does to America and the rest of the world. As much as I would love to share that sentiment, reality compels me to recognize that the damage the Bush/Cheney Administration have done to the global security, economic, and political environments will continue to carry on through the inertia already built up for months to years to in some respects decades to come, no matter what Obama says and does (with the limited exception of rooting out the criminality of the Bush years and having trials to expose all the rot that can be at this point, and even that will only go so far) now that he is President.

Considering the massive amount of fiscal corruption within the Bush executive branch there is much to be exposed, but it is the abuse of power corruption and the rewriting the Constitution to create a separate executive unaccountable to the other once seen as coequal branches of government that really requires such exposure and consequences IMHO. Otherwise not only do the people that did this get away with taking the US Constitution and legal structure and using it as vomit and excrement cleaner, it sets even worse precedents for further abuse down the road the next time the GOP comes back to power, just as it did post Nixon and the pardon, and again post Reagan and Bush the first with Iran Contra given that so many of the same players kept returning, with the future to worry about their understudies (aka the next generation of insane Straussians and other equally dangerous far right wing ideologues/"idealists" and religious zealots that got their training under this Administration) from this tenure under GWB.

Then there is the economic disaster that the Bushies created with not just their war spending and rampant allowing of profiteering by their cronies in the private sector but also with their moronic tax cut policies drying up revenues, finance free home ownership and talking up how many new homes were bought by people that could never afford them outside of the bubble in that market and the near nonexistent interest rates of the day, and causing massive borrowing (both domestic with the keep shopping admonitions and internationally to fuel their budgets) and their tendency to keep little minor things like war spending off book as much as possible which still has to be truly tallied up.

I mean Bushco doubled American debt in eight years and that from a surplus position when they came to power. That money had to come from somewhere, and when you are talking about the ballpark of 5 TRILLION DOLLARS of new debt (not including what dealing with this crisis is going to require Obama to spend through borrowing on top of that staggering amount) being absorbed by the global community that is money not available for spending elsewhere. The ripple effects here are just beginning to be felt, and while I am not convinced it is on a par with the Great Depression, it is most certainly the first economic crisis to come close enough to it for fair comparison and still has the possibility of getting to that level or worse depending on how the next year or two goes.

Politically, Bushco has done massive damage to the international reputation of America as a beacon of civil liberties (which granted was somewhat inflated prior to the Bush years but was still seen by many in the poorer parts of the world as a shining beacon of hope, not a small thing I would argue for helping people from reaching absolute desperation and the ills that come from such mindsets) , especially with its open endorsement of torture and extraordinary renditions to governments to torture for them a la Mahar Arar (which of course they took one last stab at via another travesty, Omar Khadr yesterday, as Dr Dawg and others took note of here). The damage done to the process of international relations and diplomacy is not inconsequential and I suspect that will also be a long time healing, both directly for America vis a vis the rest of the world and the impact on the global balance of power that inevitably brings along with it.

Then there is the damage to international security thanks to the Bush policies of torture, renditioning, preemptive war, and essentially blanket suspicion of Islamic peoples (despite all the mealymouthed comments about how it was only those that abused Islam). The impression the bulk of the planet was left with was a white Christian crusade against the dark infidel Muslim, especially after the rationale for invading Iraq collapsed beyond any resuscitation (except by ideological allies around the world of course, but then their capacity for self delusion is already well known) and ended up looking like nothing more than a crusade.

Then there is Afghanistan which WAS a legitimate target after 9/11/01 because of AQ being based there and the Taliban's reluctance to act swiftly enough against them and bin Laden. Yet that was never given anywhere near the American military resources to do the job, and much of what started there ended up being more prepositioning for Iraq in the end. Not to mention the total lack of serious infrastructure building there despite promises not to forget them again as happened after the USSR pulled out during the tail end of the Cold War. Nor for that matter America being the one attacked yet America then left her foreign allies to carry the bulk of that conflict and reconstruction costs to pursue the idiocy that was Iraq when it should have full well known they lacked the capacity in both military and civilian resources to manage that theater.

That not only strained the resources of the countries involved (including Canada's) but also did more than a little damage to the relationships between America and her traditional allies as a direct result on top of the damage done by the deceptions in claiming Iraq was a necessary war. The long term implications on security arrangements between traditional allies and alliances involved cannot be ignored nor understated as well. Not to mention also damaging the international reputation of many of those allies because of how Afghanistan was mismanaged and what the Americans made many of these other democracies a party to directly and indirectly while claiming to be the ones in charge, especially in the first few years.

I mean these are just a few major elements from the Bush years that will continue to have long lasting effects long after today has passed, and not even near a total list of such, just enough to make my point. GWB may now be no longer in a position to continue furthering the multiple disasters he and his minions have spawned both domestically and beyond, but their impacts will continue to ripple for a long time to come. Facing that I find it difficult to feel any real sense of hope and optimism with today's change, the most I can muster is a sense of relief that at least no further damage can be done by Bushco's abuses of American Presidential power.

While I would like to hope Obama is up to the task, he never impressed me all that much from the outset, and watching the way he won the primary really put me off on him overall. Too much symbolism and not enough substance. I would love to end up being proven wrong, but I can't shake the feeling he is the wrong person for this job at this time, all the symbolism of hope having an African American President symbolizes notwithstanding, and while he will clearly be a major step up from what we are losing today that does not mean he is truly up to the myriad of massive challenges facing America (and in all to many cases the rest of the world by extension) today left by the worst President in American history, let alone modern history.

Well, at least we all can have some basis for relief and hope that things will finally start to improve with the departure of Bush and the office of President not being retained by those with an active interest in covering things up and furthering many of these disastrous policies that would have occurred under a GOP victory by McCain. That in itself is worth no small thing, even if when compared to the overall situation it is still a small to almost minuscule value thanks to the unprecedented damages done by Bushco.


I know this sounds rather bleak and cynical of me, but it is what I see, and the one thing I try to do in everything I write about, be it here or commenting elsewhere is to call things as I see them, even when others disagree. I also would like to add that I hope this is not my last post for a while again, I am trying to be back on a regular basis, but I do have some medical issues still overhanging, and I have a procedure coming up at the beginning of the next month (nothing major, but given I have limited stamina and resources it may take a lot out of me nonetheless) so I can't promise anything.

My thanks to those that have wished me and my health well, and my gratitude to those that have let me know I was missed, to this day I find it hard to believe that my well known predilection for a long winded writing style is read and welcomed by as many people as I have seen it to be. In this day and age of short attention spans I sort of take it for granted that my style doesn't work well for the times I live in, but it is the only style I have. I write the way I think and speak for better or worse, and I will not change it to suit those that prefer short bites instead of the density that is my style. At least I am trying to limit my paragraph size to make reading me easier...:)