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The NDP's latest strategy may actually be very clever

I read the news story about NDP leader Jack Layton making “conciliatory noises” towards Stephen Harper, indicating he’d like to make Parliament work. Some bloggers of my political persuasion or my allies immediately go after Layton and the NDP.

It’s not hard to do this, if you’re an opponent of the NDP. After listening to all of their party members/ MP’s. strategists and bloggers preach ad naseaum how they’re the “real” opposition party because of their voting all those times against the Harper government, and now seeing them in a position where their votes actually matter for something, it’s easy to accuse them of being hypocrites, but I’m actually prepared to think another scenario is happening here.

Mr. Layton, knowing he and his party are probably the key votes of either keeping the government alive or causing it’s downfall, comes out sounding very conciliatory, trying to get out the message to the voters that the NDP is trying to “make Parliament work”, if Harper and the Conservatives are willing to make concessions for the greater good. If Harper rejects that (and indications are he will be), then Layton can claim that he tried his best to keep the Canadian public from that “unnecessary election”, but Harper just wasn’t being reasonable. That line of argument might help both the NDP, and indirectly the Liberals, against the charges of the Conservatives that this is an “unnecessary election”.

Is that what the NDP strategy is? We’ll see. Some of my Liberal blogging brethren may not buy it, but when I saw how Layton was wording his statements to the media, I began to think that is what he and the NDP might be up to, strategy wise. After all, it’s the Prime Minister’s duty (and the governing party’s duty) to maintain the confidence of the House of Commons. With the Conservatives playing partisan games with the EI Commission, and then potentially spurning the NDP’s offer of conciliatory gestures, the counter charge that this government is unwilling to work with the other parties certainly can be made, and made by multiple opposition parties.

(Of course, this may all be irrelevant speculation this time around if the BQ decides to support the Ways and Means Motion, as they’ve indicated they might).

23 comments to The NDP’s latest strategy may actually be very clever

  • Well it should be a big week. Two more damaging items came out today: Clement coming down hard on Ablonczy to make sure no goddamned faggots unwarranted groups got any federal monies on Harper’s watch in both TO and Montreal; now a scandal eerily reminiscent of Adscam. Iggy might as well invite the CTV cameras into his crypt and let his eyebrows grow out if this keeps up.

  • Marie

    Sorry Barney but Jack Layton will do what he has to do to save face and if it means votoing for Harper, that is what he will do. He’s an opportunist and that’s a fact. You can love him or leave him and I choose to leave him. H’s nothing but a joke.

    • @Marie, Spoken like a good LPCer blogger. The LPC party has had little to contribute to date. They got caught in being Mr Yes men. Now that they decide to say no, everyone else is suppose to fall on the ground in thanks. Not going to happen Marie, I think Jack never had your vote and the LPC Party should pay you a pension for your devoted but perhaps willful blindness….

  • Hey Scott, I agree that the NDP stand to gain if Harper rejects their overtures. The NDP will not, I repeat WILL NOT sit on their hands so Harper can stay in power so the NDP can eliminate any debt they might have.

    In the end the NDP will either extract significant concessions or will vote against the Harper government. Further rest assured the NDP will not support the Columbia free trade deal like the Liberals will.

  • Joseph

    If people are still trying to convince themselves the Liberals don’t want an election, then they are really grasping at straws.

    Wake up. Look at what’s going on. It’s real.

  • Scott, I think you’re on the right track. This is what I wrote on the topic on September 2:

    Tomorrow, Jack Layton will likely announce a set of reasonable conditions that could form the basis of a compromise, which the government will immediately reject wholesale. Then Layton will be able to say he tried and cast his vote of non-confidence with, well, confidence.

    But there is, in my opinion, a further dimension to this. Ignatieff doesn’t actually want an election here. He was and is working under the false assumption that there will be some kind of deal between the Conservatives and the NDP. I’m not sure how he convinced himself that that would happen, but now he’s accidentally plunged the Liberals into an election they aren’t ready to fight (unless, at the 11th hour, he finds a way to rationalize continued confidence in the Harper government).

  • We’ve been saying this all along, kudos for finally smelling the rhetoric.

    Of course the fact that our support would be conditional on real and significant policy changes, the kind Harper is openly rejecting, also demonstrates just how cheap a date the Libs have been the last several years…

  • Northern PoV

    It seems that one of the Cons talking points:
    “An election can result in only a Con majority, a Con minority or a Liberal minority”
    has taken hold over a huge swath of our gullible media and many blog commentators too.

    Given Canadas’ flawed FPTP voting system and the relative “efficiency” of the Liberal support (ie less concentrated than the Con strongholds like Alberta where many of their votes “go to waste”) if the Liberals can attain minority territory during the campaign (say 35% in the polls) then a further swing to majority is only a few points away. A Con gaffe or a decisive debate moment (“Sir, you had an option”)could do it.
    Harper’s call for a majority to end the squabbling may well backfire into a Liberal-red-majority.

  • kwittet

    One fact the everyone seems to forget is that all polls point out that CANADIANS DO NOT WANT ANOTHER ELECTION!! Whether it is the Liberals or the Bloc or the NDP that are all going to vote non-confidence and trigger another election is just plain wrong. What ever happened to governing and doing what the people want? This is our government whether or not you like the party in charge. That fact is clear. If this was the opposite and the CPC were threatening this to the LPC then I would still be screaming this is wrong. All it is is political grandstanding on the parts of ALL PARTYS who want to be the leaders.
    Some one is going to really pay this time and I guess time will tell but if we end up with another minority(which the polls suggest right now that we will) then this whole farce will be nothing but a great waste of taxpayers dollars!

  • Does Gary Doer support the Canada-Colombia Free Trade deal? Oh, nevermind.

  • Wilbur

    The Dr.’s point is not that the NDP is without contradiction, but that Liberals have absolutely no ground to stand on here.

    He is 100% correct to say:

    “Funny. It’s not hypocritical to support the government budget, even if it includes measures to gut pay equity. No, it’s sound strategy, forcing the government into stimulative measures (and Liberals, of course, will come to the aid of disposable Canadian women after the Revolution).

    But the NDP, a much smaller force, actually exacting concessions from the Harper regime…why, that’s pure hypocrisy!”

    Putting that aside, what is really despicable is that the Liberals and Conservatives are going to join forces this week to approve the Canada-Colombia Free Trade deal, yet Liberal so-called “progressives” will say nothing, because they don’t even understand or care about these issues. They don’t care about murdered indigenous people, American militarism, and assassinated trade unionists when there are silly polls to dissect in Canada.

  • The Liberals’ ass may be worthless–but there is no way that the NDP can win. The choice is either Harper, majority or minority, or Liberal minority. Harper is downright scary. A Liberal minority tempered by the NDP is the best that I can hope for. The bigger problem, as I see it, is that Harper might trounce Iggy. And if Harper is this unruly in a minority, I hate to see what he’d do with a majority. But there is no alternative to an election sooner or later. Iggy has to have his day. And for all our sakes, I hope it’s a good one. I want my Canada back, the one that isn’t Bush-lite.

  • There were no concession in that budget? Oh, okay, must have missed that November statement. Are you for real with that, every non-partisan called it a “liberal” budget, so to say it gave nothing is just beyond ridiculous.

    People miss the point entirely, you guys called us hypocrites and political for doing the exact same thing you’re preparing to do now. The NDP strategy is to avoid an election, barring that, they want to appear concilatory so the Liberals “wear” the election call. It’s borne of weakness, which reasonable people realize. The NDP have been exposed, all the previous rhetoric rendered meaningless, because they can no longer hide behind the Libs and vote non confidence.

    It really boils down to one simple fact, the NDP are really no different than any other party in terms of rhetoric and political posturing. If we want to conclude that all parties are hypocritical, I’m on board. All I wish is that we stop with the sanctimony and absolute principle driven rhetoric. This example illustrates the bullshit in spades.

    I understand the strategy, Liberals know the dance well and it’s borne of a real practicality that isn’t trivial. But, let’s keep it real here. EI is now a NDP pawn to “get something”, so they can clamor once again. This isn’t to say there isn’t genuine concerns on the issue, but it’s a political football now, nothing more, nothing less. The NDP walk amongst us- oh, the horror!

  • Kudos to you, Scott, for at least looking for another explanation. But your–and I don’t say this to be mean spirited or contemptuous–liberal arrogance has blinded you to the most likely explanation.

    Liberal Party supporters simply have no basis in reality to believe their party has really grown a spine this time. You know this is true. We’ve been here many times before and each time the Liberals have lost their nerve when it became obvious it was going to be up to them to decide if the Conservative government lived or died. It’s not so obvious this time though, now is it. So there’s no reason for Liberals to panic and begin talking themselves out of it.

    • @Robert McClelland, I am rather confident that the Liberals will be opposing the government on non-confidence measures in the upcoming session. If they don’t and they back off, particularly after all this tough talk by Ignatieff, I’ll be the first one(of many Liberal bloggers I suspect) to be critical of them. But I have good reason to believe that won’t be the case.

  • Funny. It’s not hypocritical to support the government budget, even if it includes measures to gut pay equity. No, it’s sound strategy, forcing the government into stimulative measures (and Liberals, of course, will come to the aid of disposable Canadian women after the Revolution).

    But the NDP, a much smaller force, actually exacting concessions from the Harper regime…why, that’s pure hypocrisy!

    What you folks aren’t admitting is that Jack Layton is riding in on his white horse to save the Liberals’ worthless ass. Go look at the polls, and give your heads a good shake. Miss Dion? Yeah, thought so.

    • @Dr.Dawg, I’ll believe they’ll get concessions when I see it. I think they (they being the NDP) have probably no desire to go to an election at all, what with their big party debt they have, but Layton senses he isn’t going to be able to stop it, short of a massive surrender on his part, so he might as well make the best of it and try to use it to his party’s advantage to appear reasonable.

      (I’m actually giving your party credit here, Dawg, if that’s the strategy they’re following… so not sure why you’re a tad irritable today).

      As for the polls, they’re snapshots in time that mean little when an election and an election campaign is still a month away. The hit the Liberals have taken in the polls this past week is manageable. The Harper closed door speech has come out, and the Liberals new ads are just in rotation. I’m not particularly worried about our party’s fortunes over this last set of polls.

    • @Dr.Dawg,

      The fiscal year ends for our current #1 trading partner in 2 weeks. Very quickly after that a number of shoes will begin to drop as the reality of America’s collapse begins to sink in. This will include another round of price increases at the grocery store, and shrinking of pensions here in Canada. It will become obvious to all, as it has been to many, that we need to grow and diversify our trading relationships, rather than pinning our survival to the American bubble machine. The choices between Harper: who has been badmouthing trading partners other than the US, refusing to do anything about climate change to get good trading with the Europeans, and coddling the Americans as they grow increasingly protectionist, and the Liberals: who have had their senior statesman(Chretien) establishing trading relationships in Asia for years, their previous leader trying to cozy up to Europe, and their present leader campaigning openly that we need to develop Asian trading relationships will suddenly look like an intelligent vote even to you totally money concious types.

      But, please, by all means continue to gloat about current polls. A cold and half-eaten dish is coming, as you savour the picture on the menu in your mind now.

  • You are absoluely correct. The conventional wisdom is Harper is eager for an election, since the economy has ‘hit bottom’, and he can ‘run on the recovery he has created.’ However, he does not want to derail the recovery since even though an election would be good for him now, it will be better next year as Canada returns to growth. This is simply not the case. Come October it will be obvious there is no bottom in sight, let alone a recovery. US and China are entering a trade war. China is not going to pay the American banks for derivatives. Its going to heck and a hand basket out there.

    Harper does not want an election now, or ever, and will sell his soul to stave one off. The only reason Jack doesn’t want an election is he has no campaign ready, and its good politics to not take the steam out of this will he or won’t he business until its game day. Layton also gets to play this ‘I was the last politician who actually tried to make parliament work’ card.

    However, he will not be put in the position of propping up Harper until its obvious the economy has gone off a cliff. It would be disasterous for his party. His best strategy is to let the Liberals have a win ASAP, and then campaign next year, or the year after, that Liberals are not radical enough a shift from Harper to fix this country. And it will get some play, because you can be sure no matter who gets in power(morons, or geniuses), Canada is in a bad spot for quite a long time. Ignatieff’s 2017 horizon does sound like a realistic time to stage a recovery to everyone who actually knows how deep a hole we’re in.

  • That’s exactly what their strategy is Scott. I thought that was obvious. It’s not an either/or proposition on the hypocrisy front.

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