Siddiqui: Layton to the rescue April 28, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Canada.
Tags: Canada, canada conservative, Canada election, canada government, canada liberal, Canada NDP, canada policy, canada politics, Jack Layton, Michael Ignatieff, NDP, new democratic party, roger hollander, siddiqui, Stephen Harper
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Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, right, gestures to Prime Minister Stephen Harper as New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton looks on during the English language federal election debate in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 12, 2011.
The list of Stephen Harper’s sins is long. Yet Michael Ignatieff has failed to convince enough Canadians to switch to the Liberals. This means either that Harper is not as bad as he is made out to be, or that he is but fewer and fewer Canadians are thinking of Ignatieff and/or his platform as a persuasive alternative.
The anti-Harper vote is coalescing around Jack Layton and the NDP. He has run a good campaign. His platform is no less credible than those of others. Indeed, its ideas on the environment, seniors’ pensions, social housing, immigrant integration and a federal infrastructure program, especially urban transit, are progressive and eminently doable. His budget projections are no more irresponsible than the Conservative promise of doing away with the deficit without any pain.
Ignatieff’s failure is all the more stunning given how vulnerable Harper has been on a range of issues, including his disdain for democracy and abuse of power.
We’ve had good debates on Harper’s Republican-style policies on the environment, corporate giveaways (that added to profits but not jobs), fighter jets of questionable value and unknown costs ($24 billion, as per a Pentagon report), and mega-jails when crime is, in fact, going down. Be afraid, very afraid, especially if you are a senior citizen — that’s been Harper’s message. It’s the Canadian equivalent of George W. Bush’s politics of fear, played with the astronomically expensive and ultimately failed war on terror.
But let’s also not forget that:
• Harper is the first prime minister in our history to have been found in contempt of Parliament, to have failed to get Canada elected to the UN Security Council, and to have been our most profligate PM ever (record $40 billion deficit and a record $519 billion debt).
• He has broken a string of promises. He flip-flopped on Afghanistan. He decried the appointed Senate but made a record number of appointments to it and had it overturn the will of the elected Commons. He deplored patronage but stuffed federal bodies with partisans. He passed the Federal Accountability Act, only to squash disclosure and transparency. He opposed taxing income tax trusts, only to tax them. He passed a law on fixed election dates, only to break it.
• He has been an autocratic leader given to compulsive control (meddling in every aspect of the administration, from cabinet to the civil service and independent agencies), excessive secrecy (to the point of rendering Canada’s excellent diplomats mute), vindictive rule (firing a dozen senior mandarins and cutting off funding to 25 groups for not toeing the line).
• He used the treasury for partisan purposes, funnelling funds into ridings and groups to help his party.
• He defended ministers who tampered with documents, attacked federal judges and meddled in independent agencies.
Yet Ignatieff failed to develop a coherent critique of this sordid record.
On foreign policy, there’s little to distinguish between him and Harper. Both have been in broad agreement on the most defining issues of our age — post-9/11 Canada-U.S. relations (including a possible harmonization of immigration and customs) and also Iraq, Afghanistan, indefinite detention and coercive interrogation, Israel and, lately, Libya.
On Arab Awakening, if Harper embarrassed Canadians — saying of Egypt’s transition from 30 years of autocracy toward democracy, that “they’re not going to put the toothpaste back in the tube” — Ignatieff had nothing profound to say, either. One would have thought that this former professor of human rights would have rushed to address this historic dawn of democracy in a region suffocated by authoritarian rule.
With Layton surging, the Conservatives and Liberals are lashing out.
But Layton is no doctrinaire socialist. No one who has served successfully on Toronto City Council — which, sans political party caucuses, works on pragmatic individual give and take — can be.
His appeal to Quebec nationalists constitutes no more pandering than Brian Mulroney’s in the 1980s, or even Harper’s in the past, including his 2004 plotting, in writing, with the Bloc Québécois to bring down the Paul Martin government.
Layton is the first NDP leader born in Quebec. He speaks their lingo. If he does as well there as polls suggest, he’d have made more inroads into separatist turf than Harper, Stéphane Dion or perhaps even Jean Chrétien. Not bad for a guy accused of being soft on separatists.
Coalition Deserves a Chance December 3, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Canadan Coalition.
Tags: bloc, bloc quebecois, Bob Rae, Canada, canada government, coalition, coalition government, conservatives, Economic Crisis, gilles duceppe, governor general, house of commons, ignatieff, Jack Layton, leblanc, liberals, NDP, new democratic party, new democrats, non-confidence, parliament, roger hollander, Stephane Dion, Stephen Harper, toronto star
The Conservatives’ reaction was fast and furious to news that the opposition parties have signed off on a historic deal to kick them out of office and replace them with a coalition government.
His voice dripping with scorn, Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday accused Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion of playing “the biggest political game in Canadian history” and of relying on “socialists” (New Democrats) and “separatists” (Bloc Québécois) to vault himself into power. Harper’s ministers and MPs used language like “deal with the devil” and “secret cabal” to describe the arrangement.
The suggestion was that the coalition deal was illegitimate and undemocratic, a coup d’etat.
It is nothing of the sort. It is the way our parliamentary system works, especially in the immediate aftermath of the election of a minority Parliament. Furthermore, the Harper government created an opening for the opposition parties last week by tabling a provocative “economic statement” that failed to address the economic crisis but contained poison pills it must have known they could not swallow.
Harper and his government took some steps away from those toxic measures last weekend, but it was too late. The opposition had made up its collective mind that Harper could not be trusted.
With their demise perhaps less than a week away (a non-confidence vote is scheduled for next Monday evening), the Conservatives are arguing that a change of government at this moment would be “very destabilizing” for the economy. As if to underscore that point, the markets plunged yesterday (although most analysts attributed the bulk of the losses to bad economic news from the U.S.).
But consider the alternatives to a change in government: either there would be another election (which would leave the affairs of state suspended for the duration) or Harper would remain in office with the opposition ready to pounce and defeat his government at every opportunity. That is as unstable as it gets.
The coalition, meanwhile, has agreed to hold off elections until at least June 30, 2011 – 2 1/2 years from now. (The Bloc, which would not have a cabinet seat, has signed on until June 30, 2010.) That should provide the stability needed for the government to grapple with the economic challenges facing Canada.
And grapple they promise to do in their accord, which features an economic stimulus package that includes “substantial new investments” in infrastructure and housing, support for the forestry and auto sectors, and enhancements in Employment Insurance. All this should have been included in last week’s economic statement.
To be sure, there are questions to be answered about the coalition. Canadians will want to know whether there are any worrisome side deals with the Bloc. (Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe said yesterday there is no agreement on “concrete” measures to enhance Quebec sovereignty.) And what about the coalition’s foreign policy, notably on Afghanistan, where the Liberals and New Democrats have differed sharply in the past?
Also problematic is the fact that, under the deal, Dion, the Liberals’ lame-duck leader, would serve as prime minister, at least until the new party leader is chosen next spring. In the Oct. 14 election, Canadians resoundingly rejected Dion, who finished a poor third behind both Harper and Layton as “best prime minister” in all the opinion polls. A wiser choice for interim prime minister might have been a Liberal stalwart like former finance minister Ralph Goodale.
It is also unclear whether the Liberal leadership candidates – Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc – would be given cabinet posts. Again, it would be wise to keep them out, as they are going to be busy campaigning for the next five months.
Issues like these could still derail the coalition before the crucial vote next Monday.
That being said, a coalition government of Liberals and New Democrats is preferable at this time to a Conservative regime led by Harper, who has demonstrated that ideology and partisanship are more important to him than providing good government.