NDP demands

The NDP have been floating conditions, under which, the fourth party would be willing to continue supporting the Liberal government. Areas of interest include electoral reform, protection for pensioners, and protection of the environment. The NDP seem to be in a favorable position now, but Canadians should not expect massive changes in government policy before the PM’s election promise comes due. Liberals and NDPers are too far apart for electoral reform to be achieved any time soon. The Liberals have already made concessions in the amended budget for the environment, and will be unwilling to keep writing cheques. There may be room for compromise on pensioners, but only because it is under the radar, and only to the extent that business confidence (and corresponding Ontario Liberal votes) will not be sacrificed. However, it is wise for the NDP to continue to press the government, stay in the news, and raise awareness for the issues on which they will eventually be campaigning on. They may find themselves in a similar or stronger position after an election, and the Liberals will be more willing to bargain at the beginning of their next minority term.

Buried in the Back Pages

Last week saw a star Conservative cross the floor, saving the government and blasting Peter MacKay back in time 100 years in one fell swoop. Cadman stood with the Liberals, Martin slipped out of Harper’s trap, and Harper seemed happy to see him do so.

Yet I think the event that holds the most significance was one of the least covered. During last Monday’s provincial election in BC, 57% of voters supported adopting BC-STV, a preferential ballot, proportional representation system of voting. This support was just short of the standard of 60% that had been established, yet Premier Gordon Campbell has said that the results “opened the door” for electoral reform in the province.

This tentative victory gives hope to those of us who have never voted for a winning candidate at the federal or provincial level. If B.C. does follow through with reforms that provide a more representative legislature, and with a willing premier and populace it seems possible that they will, the province could serve as a role model for the rest of the country. Monday’s vote could have implications which last long after the floor-crossings, broken hearts, and minority governments of the day have become historical footnotes.

The idea of having an elected representative that actually represents my views, rather than the exact opposite of what I stand for… it may be too good to be true, but suddenly it seems a little more possible.

Is that all there is?

It has been quite a week in Ottawa. It appears Parliament will keep dancing, at least for a while. Today’s vote is obviously a victory for the Liberals, but it will be no easy task maintaining their government in such a divided house. The Conservatives will likely retreat to lick their wounds, at least until the next favorable poll or day of explosive testimony at the Gomery inquiry. As bad as this week has been for the Conservative Party it is many degrees worse for Stephen Harper whose list of political disappointments continues to grow. Today’s vote will likely not harm the Bloc support in Quebec, and should give the NDP another boost.

The vote today leaves many questions unanswered. Will civility return to the House? Will the Liberals work to earn the NDP’s continued support? Will Kilgour and Cadman get another opportunity in the spotlight before Paul Martin’s promised election early next year?

Stay tuned as the work of Canada’s 38th parliament continues!

Have you no decency, sir?

While the media hype surrounding anything Belinda Stronach does is regrettable, it pales in comparison to the juvenile treatment she receives from her critics. So, in an effort to raise the level of discourse surrounding Ms. Stronach, I present a partial list of inappropriate vocabulary. The briefest reflection should make clear that any respectful, reasoned political dialogue has no need of these terms:

  • blonde
  • bombshell
  • daddy
  • dame
  • “It” girl
  • Judas
  • Paris Hilton
  • Prada
  • prostitute
  • schoolgirl
  • spoiled
  • whore

Trading Spaces

When Belinda Stronach ran for the leadership of the Conservative Party last year, many political observers questioned the fit. Belinda had familial ties to the Liberal Party, she promoted progressiveness and inclusiveness… and she wanted to be Canada’s top Conservative?

Today Stronach announced that she would cross the floor, becoming Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, citing concerns over the Conservative direction and the rise in separatist support in Quebec. Harper has suggested Stronach’s ambition is her true motivation to cross the floor, but there is no doubt that the Liberal Party is a better fit for her brand of politics. (Memo to Stephen Harper: don’t sit your most progressive MP next to Stockwell Day in the House). It is true that Stronach’s star had likely risen to its peak in the Conservative caucus; her open opposition of socially conservative ideals would make her longshot in any future leadership race. But supposed leadership goals will be just as unfulfilled in the Liberal Party, where becoming leader now takes a decade of behind-the-scenes campaigning and organizing- made all the more difficult with the taint of crossing the floor. Conservatives have been quick to label Stronach a disloyal traitor, but such labels pale in comparison to the message Liberals can spin from such a high profile Conservative defection. After all, it’s not as though Peter Mackay will be posting on his website Belinda’s scrap paper promise to vote down the government on Thursday. Instead, Belinda becomes the poster woman for a fear based campaign directed at the Conservatives.

Stronach’s defection makes Thursday’s vote all the more exciting. The budget now has 151 votes in favour from the NDP and Liberal caucuses. The Conservative and Bloc now have just 152. With Parrish committed to the budget (152), the other independents Cadman and Kilgour will surely be courted even more vigorously today and tomorrow for their winning votes. Let’s not forget, as Gnomes pointed out in his last post, that MPs may change their vote at anytime! With that being said, let us continue to keep our eyes on Conservative MPs from Atlantic Canada. Loyola Hearn, for example, only defeated his Liberal competition by the slimmest of margins last election, and is certainly in the hotseat this week. I do not expect Hearn and Doyle to vote against their party without Harper’s blessing, and the only thing worse for Harper than failing to defeat the government on Thursday is if he is forced to put the brakes on the attempt by allowing a free vote for the benefit of his Newfoundland caucus.

Charles in Charge

There are those who complain, when Parliament becomes as closely divided as it is currently, that the balance of power falls into the hands of a small minority. They lament that the NDP are able to hold sway over the Liberals, or that a lone independant gets to decide whether the government stays in power or not.

Yet this view overlooks the fact that every elected MP is free to govern his or her own actions in the House. In the case of the upcoming budget vote that will determine the fate of Martin’s government, Chuck Cadman is often described as the one swing vote that will determine it. Cadman may have the appearance of greater importance because of this, yet every MP in the House has the power to change their vote. They may appear bound by party lines, but have a say in determining the fate of the government nonetheless.

Can the NDP stay relevent this campaign?

With so much attention being paid to the Liberal’s postponement of fate, and the Conservative/Bloc maneuvers this week, the NDP are once again in risk of entering an election campaign playing the role of ‘fringe party’ in the eyes of the national media. The NDP had experienced a media renaissance since they recently adopted the legitimizing roll as potential crutch to the Liberal minority.

However, media coverage of this weeks events suggests that the NDP had best increase their visibility or the usual “two horse race” frame will overtake the media even before an official campaign begins. This would be unfortunate for party supporters because the NDP seemed positioned to make actual gains at the expense of both the Liberal and Conservative seats in the upcoming election. According to John Geddes of Macleans, the NDP are in the unusual position of being most Canadians’ second choice. Layton suggests that outrage at the Liberals will prevent NDP supporters from voting Liberal out of fear. If this is indeed true, the main focus of the NDP from this moment through election day should be keeping in the public eye, a task more easily said than done when TV cameras notice the giants of Canadian politics fighting in the mud.

Local boy does good

In a third daily demonstration that Martin’s government does not have the confidence of the House, the Conservatives and the Bloc voted together to force an early adjournment today. This seems to be a decent bit of strategy, which is surprising, coming as it does from the party that thought accusing the Prime Minister of child pornography would be a good idea. Has Harper, at long last, found a mildly successful gambit?

If Parliament has become a train wreck, surely the blame rests on the government that does not have the support of the majority of MPs, yet refuses to resign. I suppose the Liberal protestations that MPs should do the work they are being paid for might carry some weight with some, but I must believe that any fan of responsible government is more than a little concerned at the Liberals’ manouverings to only demonstrate the confidence of the House on their own terms. Steadfastly remaining in power in defiance of the House should play upon voters’ concerns of corruption and arrogance in the party.

Harper may have found a winner here. Ah well, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

A perfect pair

With the numbers as close as they are in Parliament, and the situation so volatile, we are greeted with the disturbing notion of ill MPs being forced to attend the House to either save or vote out the government. I can’t imagine why Stinson, Chatters, Cadman and Efford haven’t set up a pairing agreement. Have things decayed so far that such deals cannot be made?

While I admire the fortitude of a seriously ill MP travelling across the country, it is surely unwise. Even if an MP is able to make it to the House against his doctor’s orders, it would be sensible and honourable to agree to a pairing with a Member from the other side who is suffering from similar difficulties. Surely they would have empathy for each other’s plight. It would prevent the spectacle that has turned Parliament into something like a deathwatch.

What they said

While watching CPAC yesterday I heard something quite amusing. However, now that I check Hansard I wonder if I should get my ears checked. I thought I heard Conservative Richard Harris make a Star Wars reference, a sure sign an election is near. However, Hansard recorded what I heard as light sabre to actually be lifesaver (see third and fourth paragraphs). Luckily the quote is still amusing so I will post it and encourage others to post similar examples of things misheard in the House, or samples of politicians mixing their metaphors.

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