The Mess In Canada

I have to admit a certain fondness for our neighbours to the North. Like many other Bermudians fortunate enough to go to university, I went to Canada, and lived there for about five years in total, mostly in Peterborough and Toronto in Ontario, but I’ve also travelled quite widely throughout Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. I’m an ice hockey fan too, albeit a Pittsburcg Penguins supporter. And I’m a sucker for maple syrup and those maple sugar treats one gets in the airport up there. And Sleemans beer. And dim sun on lazy weekends in the Spadina Chinatown. More importantly, Canada served as one of the main cradles for my political thought, from campus activism with the Trent Socialists, to party politics within the Canadian New Democratic Party (NDP) and its Socialist Caucus. My brother has emigrated to Canada and most of my close friends from uni are still there.

So what I’m trying to get across is that Canada is a place I check out quite alot, their news, politics, all of it.

So I can’t reflecting on the mess in Canada right now. For those who haven’t been following the news of late, the ruling Conservative Party was just returned to parliament in minority position qa couple of months ago. Their leader, Stephen Harper, promptly went ahead and played a bit of brinkmanship with the Opposition, putting forward very right-wing economic measures and threatening the financial futures of the opposition parties by proposing to scrap public financing for Parties. This promptly led the official Opposition, the Liberal Party, to enter into a coalition agreement with the NDP and the bloc Quebecois. This would have been enough to topple th econservative govenment with a no-confidence vote and install a coalition government of the Liberals and the NDP, supported by the Bloc. In response to this Stephen Harper successfully convinced the Canadian governor general to suspend parliament until late January, with the hope of conducting sufficient spin and backtracking to take the steam out of this opposition threat.

Thats the news in brief at least.

Now, I’m certainly sympathetic to the actions of the opposition there. I think they did what they had to do really, both in the line of self-preservation and for what they thought to be the best for Canada in light of the Tories budget proposals. There are indeed a majority of Canadians who did indeed vote against the Tories, and no doubt would be happy to see them out of power. Thats fine.

The problem I have though is with the nature of the coalition deal put forward. I am a firm believer in cooperation, but not compromise to the point of rendering your principles null and void. The NDP seem to have really just totally sold out to the Liberal positions with this coaltion deal. One would have expected some degree of compromise, but not a sell out. I really don’t see anything that the NDP would have gained from this coalition other than a handful of ministries and increased paychecks. Policy wise, they gave in to th eLiberal positions. Despicable. Especially with the Liberals doing their best to excel at UBPesque incompetence, epitomised by their leader Dion, the very acme of political mediocrity.

Its kind of hard to foresee what the results of this mess in Canada will be. My best guess is that the Tories will backtrack and spin sufficiently to take the wind out of the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition, and Canadian politics will return temporarily to another shaky period of Tory minority rule. Longer-term, I think there is going to be fall-out first within the Liberal Party, where Dion is already a political ‘dead-man-walking.’ Within the NDP I think alot of the activists are going to get very angry at this sell-out deal, and will either translate this within the Party itself or move out of th eParty altogether.

For mor einformation I suggest the website ‘Fightback‘ which is a Marxist current largely modelled after the British Militant group within UK Labour, but within the NDP.


23 thoughts on “The Mess In Canada

  1. Disappointing that you would label the NDP as sell-outs for taking the best possible option in a very difficult situation. Besides that, this is probably the best thing that has happened to the NDP since Tommy Douglas and they WILL get something out of this whether the coalition takes power or not. The NDP can remain on the fringes of main-stream philosophy, rock-solid in their principles and unwilling to compromise but that is not in the best interest of their supporters.
    What is it that makes you say that they gave in to the liberal positions policy wise? As far as I can tell both parties have compromised and it is becoming increasingly clear that this kind of cooperation is the only way Canada is going to be able to make any progress in the current political climate.

  2. The main reason for many people calling the NDP sellouts are because they are, in order to be part of the coalition, having to go back on several of their defining campaign points, the very same points that got many Canadians to vote for them over the liberals in many cases.

    Of these, the two primary ones that they have to give up are their stand on reversing Harper’s 50-billion $ in corporate tax-cuts and their commitment to an immediate end to Canadian involvement in Afghanistan.

    During our election here back in October, NDP leader Jack Layton assured the people who voted for him that these, and other issues, stood as a dividing line between the NDP and the Liberals, however, in giving up on those positions, essentially everyone who voted for the NDP voted for a party that was willing to give up its on positions and implement Liberal policies.

  3. Sorry, hit the enter button to soon.

    The main thing the NDP are likely to get out of this politrickal manoeuvring is an actual loss in credibility in the eyes of those who support them. Again, because they had to give up essentially everything they stood for. Who wants to vote for a party that has now demonstrated that its stated values mean nothing when compared to the prospect of gaining a few cabinet jobs?

  4. Rowland,

    If you were Jack Layton, what would you have done in the same situation?

    The NDPs values meant nothing when they had no power. With cabinet seats and as part of the government their values actually might mean something. Jack Layton’s promises like all election promises were contingent on the NDP winning an election. He is not breaking any promises to his voters, he’s giving them the best he can with the amount of seats they delivered to him.
    Lots more people will vote for the NDP now especially if they come to see it as a viable party. For years potential NDP and Green party voters have viewed a vote for these “alternative parties” as a wasted vote or worse yet a vote that could actually get you an NDP MP which was sure to see your riding starved for “treats” from whatever government actually did get into power. Anyway, if people stopped voting for parties in Canada that had to come to the table in a spirit of compromise, noone would vote. History has shown that coalitions benefit fringe parties in future elections so I am willing to bet they increase their seats or at least their popular vote at the next election.

    Tim Wise sure was spot on about left wingers always pissing on their own parade.

  5. The NDP managed to make the gains they have recently because they sold out on their core principles. This is nothing new. All it proves is they have no ethics.

    But most importantly, NDP supporters have been big fans of proportional representation. And now they’re supporting a coalition that absolutely nobody voted for?? 😦

  6. “The NDP managed to make the gains they have recently because they sold out on their core principles. This is nothing new. All it proves is they have no ethics.”

    Now that is probably a valid accusation. And the worst part is that it has only resulted in further splitting of the Liberal vote giving the liberal majority of Canada zero clout in government. The NDP also owes Stephane Dion a huge round of applause for sending liberals dashing for any reasonable alternative.

  7. Talking about Poitics, Phillip Butterfield said that “one in five hold University degrees”.

    So what. There are limited jobs available that require this degree. Tourism is null and void. Exempt companies are leaving et al.

    We can only employ so many postal workers, bus drivers, garbage collectors, ferry operatives, Government employees. Already covered that.

    What does this have to do with the thread you may ask. Well, reflect on what happened there and what is happening here.

    Who’s right? The guy that wins for the day and pockets what we loose for the future.

  8. Well in terms of how this coalition has impacted broad Canadian support for the parties (back to the idea that this could make the NDP look MORE legitimate), a recent poll (yes I know polls are evil) conducted by the CBC and EKOS shows that this fiasco has lead to the conservatives gaining support since the election.

    At the time of the election the CPoC polled 37.6% and are now up to about 44-45%, putting them much closer to majority territory, while the Liberals are down from 26% to 24% and the NDP have had the biggest loss at 4-5%, taking them down to 14.5%.

  9. If you look at the actual outcome of the Canadian election you’ll see that, outside of Quebec, Harper actually won a very serious majority. Quebec is at best an anomoly because of the Bloc which is purely regional party. Only a relatively small percentage of Canadians even had the option of voting for the Bloc. If you look at the outcome in Quebec, excluding Bloc votes, and he didn’t do badly there either.

  10. Rowland,

    The polls now are bad for the coalition but to me that is a testament to the good performance of the Tory PR machine and extremely poor performance of the Liberals in selling this to Canadians. Still, I think that as long as an election is not held in the next 3 months, this could benefit the NDP. If the coalition managed to stay together and form a government that lasted for more than 2 months, I can’t imagine the NDP doing worse in the next election.

    Still wondering what you would have done if you were Jack Layton.

    What’s your point about excluding the votes of Quebec? Discounting Quebec sounds an awful lot like the PLP saying, “but if you take away the white voters…”.

  11. Not at all – it’s simply pointing out that the Conservatives did a lot better in most of Canada than the left would have you believe.

    And I don’t think this could help the NDP.

  12. My position is that the NDP, Liberals and the Bloc should indeed have united to oppose the budget proposal and other draconian measures by the Tories. This may very well have led to an equivalent of a no-confidence vote, leading the Governor General to call for either new elections are to the Liberals to form a minority government. Its not so much the prospect of an NDP-Liberal coalition that I have a problem with, its that the NDP seems to be getting the worse out of this deal, that their positions seem to have been sacrificed in the negotiations for the coalition government.

    It would have been better for the NDP to argue their positions, agree to work with the rest of the Opposition on common positions, but continue their independent positions. This would almost have led the Liberals to prove themselves as barely left of the Tories in practice (all rhetoric aside) and bolstered NDP support. The Liberals would be seen for what they are and consigned to history, and the real opposition to the Tories would be seen to be the NDP itself. Afterall, why bother voting Liberal when you can vote Tory or NDP?

    I can’t speak for Rowland, but I reckon he will share my position of being for the defeat of the Tory government, but opposed to a sell-out coalition with the Liberals, and for advancing an independent NDP alternative to the Tory-Liberals.

    The Tories did indeed win a greater support than any other Party, that cannot be denied. And yet they did not win a majority. The changing dynamics there, in light of the Democratic successes in the US and the ongoing economic depression, lead to the current political situation to be extremely fluid and potentially beneficial for building an alternative to the status quo.

  13. My position is that the NDP, Liberals and the Bloc should indeed have united to oppose the budget proposal and other draconian measures by the Tories.


    The Canadian budget is not due out until January. Unless you got an advance look at something that likely hasn’t been drafted yet I’m not sure what draconian measures you are refering to.

  14. And exactly what in the statement precipitated the crisis?

    It was the simple statement that federal funds would no longer be used to finance election campaigns. Imagine that. Parties would actually have to receive financial support from their own supporters. Predictably the NDP and Liberals complained about no longer being allowed to feed at the public trough. Just more proof that the “left” is far greedier than the “right”.

  15. From today’s Toronto Sun:

    Ottawa ‘experts’ wrong again
    Do the chattering classes in the nation’s capital have any idea of what Canadians actually think?

    Years ago on Saturday Night Live, the late, great, comedian Gilda Radner, portraying perpetually befuddled Weekend Update news commentator Emily Litella, would work herself up into a festival of indignation about some topic making the headlines, before learning, mid-rant, she had her basic facts all wrong.

    At which point, she would pause, smile sweetly, and blurt out “never mind!” — as if everything her character had just said could be magically cancelled out by telling the audience to ignore the reality she had no idea what she was talking about.

    Whenever Radner, as Litella, would deliver her famous punch line of “never mind!” — which became a pop culture phrase of the 1970s — audiences would explode into laughter.

    Based on last week’s festival of indignation in our nation’s capital, it’s clear Ottawa today is filled with real-life Emily Litellas, in Parliament, in the media and in the political backrooms, especially wherever Liberal strategists meet.

    Once again, our left-leaning chattering classes, including politically partisan academics trotted out as neutral constitutional experts, have, according to polls released at the end of last week, managed to get it all wrong, from the start. To wit:

    Flawed, Emily Litella-like assumption — Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a hugely unpopular and anti-democratic blunder by proposing to cut off public funding for political parties.

    Reality — 61% of Canadians surveyed want to end the $1.95 per vote annual public subsidy instituted by Jean Chretien, compared to only 36% who support it, according to pollster Ipsos Reid.

    Flawed, Emily Litella-like assumption — Harper was mortally wounded by last week’s events.

    Reality — Harper and the Conservatives would be returned to Parliament with a huge majority if an election was held today, according to polls by COMPAS Research, Ipsos Reid and The Strategic Counsel.

    They showed Tory support at 51%, 46% and 45% respectively, compared to 37.6% on election night, which left them 12 seats shy of a majority government.

    Flawed, Emily Litella-like assumption — There would be outrage if Harper prorogued Parliament until late January, in order to avoid a non-confidence vote in the House of Commons tomorrow, bringing down his government.

    Reality — Almost seven in 10 Canadians surveyed approved of Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean’s decision to grant prorogation, according to Ipsos Reid.

    Flawed, Emily Litella-like assumption — There was nothing controversial about the Liberals and NDP forging a formal alliance with the support of the Bloc Quebecois to oust the government.

    Reality — Six in 10 Canadians were concerned about a separatist party holding the balance of power as part of the Liberal/NDP coalition, with only 35% unconcerned, according to Leger Marketing.

    Similarly, 60% opposed replacing the Conservative government with the separatist-backed coalition, compared to only 37% in favour, according to Ipsos Reid. The Strategic Counsel reported nearly identical numbers, 58% opposed to 37% in favour, with 60% opposed to the coalition depending on the Bloc for its survival.

    Indeed, a case can be made that only among Ottawa’s chattering classes could you possibly find so many people so out of touch with ordinary Canadians.


    Canadians who, inexplicably to the chattering classes, preferred that a back room deal cooked up by the parties that finished a distant second, third and fourth in the $300-million election completed just seven weeks ago — one of them committed to the political destruction of the country — not succeed in throwing out the sitting prime minister in a matter of days, in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Depression.

    And further, to replace said PM, Stephen Harper, whom Canadians generally see as competent on economic matters, with Stephane Dion, possibly the most unpopular and ineffective Liberal leader in history. A man whose major economic policy was a carbon tax he couldn’t explain or defend which his party has now abandoned, and a leader whose political judgment is so distrusted by his own party, it turned on him the moment the election was over, demanding he quickly step aside for a competent successor.

    Gee … who could ever have imagined Canadians would be worried about any of that?

    Not our chattering classes, of course.

    None of which means Harper is out of the woods when Parliament resumes Jan. 26, because, as we have just seen, a week truly is a lifetime in politics.

    That said, we already know the explanation of Ottawa’s chattering classes about the many discrepancies between what they thought would happen and what did … Never mind!

  16. Jonny,

    If the NDP, Liberals and Bloc voted down the statement – precipitating an election after parliament had been sitting for only 2 weeks – what do you think would have been the response of the electorate? My guess is, the same people who are calling for an election all last week would be crying foul over going back to the polls so soon. I think the voters in that situation would have delivered the Tories the majority they are looking for.

    Aside from the fact that I support the coalition in principle; I think they have blown their chance. They will almost certainly back down when the statement is retabled and without actually being able to form the government, it is going to take much longer for them to get the opinion numbers back up.

  17. Blankman,

    Please don’t call me disingenuous friend. That’s just not me, I assure you. I am just here to have a dicussion and I have no reason or desire to say anything except what I truly believe.
    These guys have been talking together about the possibility of a coalition since before the election so that whole conference call thing was never a big surprise to me. If Harper had never backed them all into a corner, I don’t believe for a second that they would have pulled the trigger. The fact is, Harper has been playing these games since he first took power and I can’t blame the oppostion parties for not trusting him to play nice as he promised he would do after the election. They made plans to fight back this time around and they all warned him that they would not be bullied any more. Harper made very similar arrangements with the Bloc and wrote an almost identical letter to the GG when he was in opposition too.

  18. Harper made very similar arrangements with the Bloc

    Actually no. Speaking from memory, Harper’s deal was intended to defeat the government. It was not to form a new government supported by a purely regional party whose stated purpose is to disolve the country.

  19. Blankman,

    Actually it’s pretty widely accepted that that is exactly what it was. The full text of the letter can be found here:

    The Alliance did the same thing too.

    Why is it a problem that the Bloc supported any of these deals? Given the amount of seats they command, no minority govt. can operate without the support of the Bloc so I really don’t understand the criticism. Next year when the Parliament is sitting again and The Tories need the support of the Bloc to pass confidence motions, no one will accuse anyone of being in bed with separatists and rightly so.

  20. Jonny,

    My last post seemed to be up breifly but has now disappeared. Not sure if your spam catcher grabbed it or something but let me know if I need to repost please.

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