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Liberals call NDP's bluff

I was given a hint from an LPC member last night that this maneuver might occur, but that person wasn’t really sure the Liberals would go through with it. The party apparently decided to do so, however, and  I think it’s a very clever strategy on forcing the NDP to make some choices:

The Liberals have offered to speed passage of Tory EI legislation, hoping to rob the NDP of its rationale for propping up the Harper government. The Liberals proposed Thursday that the bill – worth up to $1 billion in extended employment insurance benefits for about 190,000 long-term workers – be whisked through all stages of the legislative process in the House of Commons by Friday. That would all but ensure the Liberal-dominated Senate could give the green light to the bill before the first week of October. That’s when the Liberals intend to introduce a motion of non-confidence in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government. The move is clearly designed to embarrass NDP Leader Jack Layton, who has said his party will prop up the government at least until the EI reforms are implemented. “We don’t want to give Mr. Layton any alibis,”Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said.

The strategy is simple: The NDP says it will support the government until the Conservative government’s EI proposals are passed. Normally, bills like this take months to get thru Parliament, and it’s clear the NDP was hoping for the breathing room in order to avoid going to an election this fall, since they simply don’t have the funds to do so. However, the Liberals offer to speed up the passing of the legislation – even if they believe it falls far short of meaningful EI reform – robs Jack Layton of his reason for supporting this government for all those months.

So, if the NDP doesn’t wish to fast-track this EI legislation, they can rightfully be accused of being more concerned about their party’s election financial well-being then the workers who they profess they want to help by passing this legislation. They then would have another hard choice to make over whether to vote for the Liberals non-confidence motion expected in the first week of October. After all, with EI passed, their professed reason for propping up the Conservatives is gone.

I know some NDP bloggers are out there today trying to shriek that Ignatieff and the Liberals have actually caved, but anyone who is objective (including the quoted media piece above) sees this for what it is: an attempt to put Layton into another tough spot and forced to make another tough decision on whether to prop up the Conservatives or not.

And just as I’m about to end this piece, this interesting newsflash comes across from Kady O’Malley of Macleans:

The four parties in the House of Commons are nearing a deal to fast track the government’s new employment-insurance legislation and put it to its first vote as early as Friday…Following the meeting, NDP House Leader Libby Davies told The Globe and Mail that all sides are close to a deal and that negotiations are expected to continue throughout the day.

The NDP has apparently decided the optics for not agreeing to fast-track is worse then falling into an obvious Liberal trap.

And Kady asks the crucial question: What next for the NDP?

Will the much-anticipated EI reform bill make it through the House in time to allow the NDP to vote its conscience on the next confidence motion to come before the House?

The irony of all this is : the reason Harper even gave a half a bone to the NDP on this EI reform was the Liberal’s seriousness of bringing down the government. It will be interesting to see what the NDP will try to use for an excuse a reason to back the Harper government if the EI stuff is fast-tracked through and the non-confidence vote comes soon thereafter.

UPDATE @ 4:49 pm: Strategic moves within strategic moves: Could the BQ also be trying to force the NDP’s hand? Initially, Kady reported the BQ was holding things up.. but there now may be a method to their madness:

If the bill goes to committee next week, the Bloc can issue an open invite to Quebec union leaders to come forth and voice their near universal outrage over the paucity of the proposed measures, thus fortifying the party against any future accusation that they failed to stand up for unemployed Quebeckers — and since the House wasn’t scheduled to sit anyway, it’s not like it would drag out the process; the bill could, in theory, be reported back the following Monday, and make it through third reading by Wednesday afternoon, make a brief stop in the Other Place for a sober second look, and be primed and ready for Royal Assent by the end of the week.

Depending on when the government tables the final stimulus update — which has to happen sometime during the week of September 28th, according to the June agreement — that could, in theory, allow the NDP to vote against the government when the Liberal confidence motion drops two days later.

I like that “in theory” statement.

26 comments to Liberals call NDP’s bluff

  • kwittet

    I read everything above and it makes me SICK! The one good thing to come out of this is that the Ei reforms may get passed sooner. Can you people read what is written starting with Scotts post? All this bickering on who is going to look bad and who is going to look good and how is this going to make Jack or Iggy look. What a bunch of BULL SHIT. Is this what the LPC and the NDP are all about is how to make the others look bad and who gives a shit about what is good for the country? Very very sad indeed. I wish for the first time that more people could read this just to see how small minded this whole political game is. This is exactly why I don’t go the the left in politics is because of all the infighting and pettyness.
    How can some of you sit there and slam Harper (and at times rightfully so) for some of the things he has done yet what some of you are suggesting or promoting is more petty. Hypocrites!!
    If this is the way partisan politics is played behind the scenes in this country I may just ruin my vote next time or maybe for the first time just not bother to waste my time not voting. And if someone suggests that if I don’t vote I cant complain..yes i can because the people who don’t vote still have to live with the decisions that these morons in power decide for us.

  • TofKW

    Agreed, I don’t think it will be much of a good news budget either. But Harper is probably counting on a glow from the winter Olympics to help his numbers, then shortly after present a budget that shows modest signs of recovery that proves his handling of the economy (more accurately thanks to the global recovery and despite his mismanagement of our economy) should convince voters to give him that majority he wants.

    But the damage has been done, almost 10% unemployment which will probably take a minimum of 2 years to get back down to mid-2008 levels again, and 55 billion (probably more) in the red for fiscal 2009.

    By the way, a simple method I use for finding out the real figure is to take whatever Flaherty tells you it is, then subtract another 16 billion from it. Worked when he was Ontario’s finance minister – he reported a 12 billion surplus which we found was a 6 billion deficit once the ONT Conservatives were defeated.

  • DL

    “As for the Cons, I’m pretty sure Harper would like to wait until after a good-news budget next spring to go to the polls. ”

    I’m not sure how much of a “good news budget” Harper can bring in in the midst of a recession or very weak recovery and with a deficit that will be AT LEAST $55 BILLION and probably more. I actually look forward to a Spring budget where Harper is forced to either run an even more stratospheric deficit – with no end in sight (which drives the Tory base NUTS) or they can start unveiling savage cuts in social spending or they can raise taxes. The days of “good news budgets” died when the recession hit and government revenues crashed.

  • TofKW

    Um DL, actually we really would like an election this fall because, you see, we have nothing to lose. We are down to our core support and can only grow. We’re not going to convince any Conservatives to switch their votes, and we don’t need to. We are out to convince the soft votes and undecideds that the Liberals are the only alternative to ousting Harper and the high-drama partisan showdowns going on in Parliament, and to make it work again. The voters only other choice is to give sweater boy his majority, and that ain’t likely as the CPC is really down in Quebec (no Quebec, no majority – do the math).

    Now we are clearly aiming at the NDP for all your 79 times that you’ve been attempting to embarrass the Liberals. Either you really mean that you will never support the Harper government, and vote non-confidence with the Libs in October. Or you prove that your ‘holier than thou’ stance was pure bull and the NDP is a political party after all.

    Election now suits us well. Election later is nice too as we can raise more funds.

    As for the Cons, I’m pretty sure Harper would like to wait until after a good-news budget next spring to go to the polls. But he’s probably perfectly fine to hit the campaign trail now so long he can stick the nasty to someone else (his first choice would be the Libs of course) for causing the election. And of course he’ll campaign as Harper vs the coalition, but we’re taking the wind out of his sails as we continue to shove the coalition, and the NDP into irrelevance in the next election.

  • DL

    I think the Liberals may be overplaying their hand. i don’t think the Liberals actually want an election this fall. They need more time to raise money and more time to make sure Iggy has something to say. In their haste to exchange school yard taunts with the NDP – they may end up giving Harper exactly what he wants more than anything else – a Fall election.

    Don’t kid yourself, if the Tories were eager to avoid an election they could easily stall things etc… I think Liberals ought to be very cautious. If the Tories feel strongly that an election now is in their interest, you have to wonder why the Liberals would want to go ahead with it.

  • I completely get into these discussions. But, people arguing ‘moral this’ ‘moral that’ ‘details this’ ‘details that’ have got to remember that most Canadians do not and will never know what the heck is going on here. What will people take out of the various soundbites is the question, and what will they remember in a month?

    Under all of that, are the layers of preconceptions people have about the parties themselves, and perceptions of the leaders.

    If Ignatieff comes out of this looking decisive and strong, and Jack weak, then the underlying argument of who was right to do what will not matter.

    Frankly, if the whole thing does get fast tracked, most people will just remember, at most I think, that Parliament bickered and passed the EI bill.

    The media will remember, however, that the Liberals played this rather well. They will have maneuvered Jack out of propping up Harper for months on end. Advantage: Liberals, because the NDP can’t afford an election right now, and yet the Liberals are still on track to force one depsite NDP efforts to the contrary.

  • Jimmy

    you dont know what fast tracking is do you?

    With support of all parties you can skip readings and proceed to whatever stage of the bill you like.

    Liberals are the majority in the Senate, they can fast track this bill at the request of the leader. The bill could come back from the Senate and receive Royal Assent as early as next week if everybody wants to do it this way.

    Time for Layton to react to the new scenario

    • jimmy

      @Anthony Di Domizio, Accept if you openly state you are going to fast track something Harper is going to stick something in it. Possibly a hit EI premiums or something then the Bill has to be amended and we are back to square one.

      PS Remember when the Liberals “fast tracked” the stimulus spending it only took a month and a half to pass. LOL Liberals.

      • @jimmy, The Libs didnt fast track the stimulus spending

        Maybe it takes New Democrats weeks to read a bill but this thing shouldnt be longer than 10 pages. Even if it is 100 pages, the New Democrats have the whole weekend.

        If there is a poison pill, election time…simple enough

  • Ted

    The Liberals fast-tracking this or not has nothing to do with whether Jack! has flip flopped and his bluff was called.

    It’s pretty simple.

    Jack said in January and again in June and again in August: he will not prop up the Harper government, he can’t trust Harper and would not support him.

    Now, Jack is and has promised to continue to do so until the EI “reform” bill is passed.

    Pretty crystal clear to me.

    And now the Liberals have said, OK, we’ll let you guys pass the EI “reform” bill on Friday. And then we’ll introduce our non-confidence motion.

    Back to you Jack! and Gilles and Stephen.

    • jimmy

      @Ted,

      You really don’t know how parliament works do you? This bill needs three readings and royal assent to pass not one. Ok you will pass it on Friday, then it will come up again in about a week for second reading maybe faster, it then goes to committee another weekish or a few days maybe some amendments proposed depending on what the Cons put forward (cause passing a bill with out reading is only a Liberal thing to do.) OK now third reading great it is passed again up to the Senate where there are more then just Liberals who can hold this bill at least a little while. It goes to Royal Assent bam the bill is passed only a month after it was introduced. You Bring down the government anywhere in there and the bill is killed. SO no you wont introduce a non-confidence motion unless you are lying about supporting this. Sorry to burst your Liberal bubble.

      • @jimmy, No you really don’t know how parliament works Jimmy. With all party consent you can move it through first reading, second reading, waive committee, third reading and send it to Senate in one day with consecutive votes. Likewise, the Senate can fast-track it with all party consent as well. Then it goes to the GG, she signs it, and its passed well before the Liberal confidence vote.

        This happens all the time with back to work legislation. All party consent and its passed in a day, driven to the LG, signed, wam bam its law in a day.

        Sorry to burst your bubble Jimmy.

        • jimmy

          @BCer in Toronto, Yah just like the Liberals fast tracked the stimulus spending. Only took a month and for the Finance minster to go up to the Senate and beg them to pass it.

        • @Jimmy, No, the budget bills were never fast-tracked, not until it was learned they had buried some stuff in there, possibly on EI. Then it was passed in a day.

          So what say you, why not get this passed right away? Or does the NDP want to keep this excuse for propping up Harper as long as they can, even if it means delaying this supposedly vitally important help for the unemployed?

        • jimmy

          @BCer in Toronto, I don’t know I haven’t read the bill. I certainly don’t want it fast track a bill that has something in it that could hurt Canadians, I want parliament to work. I want my MP to read the bill and if it what the Cons say it is I want to fast tracked if it isn’t I want it amended to be what they promised. Sometimes it is about Canadians and not the Liberals or NDP BCer.

        • @Jimmy, I’ll note that the NDP agreed to support the bill before it was even available to be read, but wanting to read it first is an entirely reasonable position that I wholly support. It’s my understanding the bill is available now. It may even be on parl.gc.ca for you to read personally; if not, it should be soon. But it is available to the Members of Parliament and their staffs, so there’s no reason they can’t pour a cup of earl grey and give it a read tout de suite.

        • jimmy

          @BCer in Toronto, Funny because I got a call from the party today saying they supported the idea of the bill but wanted to read it before they supported it. Hmmmmmmm do I believe a Liberal or the Party…..A Liberal or the Party…… I think I will go with what the NDP called me and said before the Liberals said they would fast track this bill. Nice Lie though I bet it plays well in Liberal circles as most lies do.

          PS as of 12 O clock this afternoon the Bill was not given to the NDP, Liberals, or Bloc. Maybe it is out now I haven’t seen it.

  • Greg if the Tories put a poison pill the NDP would immediately remove support anyway…so as far as expediency goes, this is small help for a segment of the population.

    If Harper offers more, it will be considered. If not, the NDP can vote its conscience

  • So you’re suggesting that the Liberals new found support for the legislation you’ve been bashing the NDP for days for supporting is embarrasing to the NDP? What’s the weather like on your planet?

  • EFL

    I’m not sure I see the cleverness in making it easier for Harper to get the election he wants (see Calgary Grit) and that will be bad news for the LPC & Canada. Iggy as Lucan-Cardigan, “into the mouths of cannon”, as Bell quoted? WTF? IggyHQ is clearly smarter than everyone else in Canada. Cleverer than Martin’s o so clever bunch, even. Joy.

  • Greg

    What I don’t want is a repeat of the C-6 fiasco. Fast tracking is great if you a) trust the Tories not to put some crazy section in the bill, deep in its bowels and b) trust the other parties will carefully check it, in their haste to get it passed. I am not so sure.

  • jimmy

    The Bill needs three readings, AND to go through the Senate. We are looking at a Christmas election or close there too if the house is brought down after EI reform passes Scott. Wont happen. This is a Liberal fold plan and simple. They saw the polls after they opposed helping 190,000 workers and didn’t like them. Good thing the NDP are around for the average Canada and they can have someone to count on.

    • @jimmy, No jimmy, you’re wrong and what you’re saying makes no sense. If all parties agree to fast-track the EI changes it can be through the House by Friday, in and out of the Senate next week, and signed into law before the Liberal confidence motion at the end of September. Then the NDP can either vote with the Liberals to defeat the government, knowing that EI has passed, or they can find another reason to support the government.

  • So basically what you’re saying is that the Liberals only reason for existing right now is make the NDP look bad.

    • @Robert McClelland, Well, that’s what the NDP were trying to do, with their false bravado of “voting against the government 79 times when the Liberals didnt” (and they knew it didnt really matter). So, if the tables have turned, count me as one of those hardly sympathetic to the NDP and their supporters crying about their own tactic turned against them.

      Of course.. all the NDP has to do is support fast-track, support the Liberal non-confidence motion, and all will be well.

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