1.28.2006

lone gunman

In our "how scared should we be of a Harper government" discussion, I asked how much Harper can do on his own, without approval from the House of Commons.

I was surprised at the level of alarm from some leftist bloggers, given that it's a minority government. Wrye noted:
It's usually with the assumption that Harper cares more about implementing radical change than his own (or his party's) longevity. Some changes (like, say, certain tax cuts or devolving tax powers to the provinces) would be very difficult to reverse. If changing the federation is that important to him, he may do it regardless of the consequences.

Ian Welsh drew a parallel with Dave Barrett. [For more explanation, follow the link.]
Sharonapple said that Harper can appoint Conservative judges and senators. How do Supreme Court appointments work in Canada? Does there have to be an opening, when a Justice dies or retires, as in the US? Or can the Prime Minister actually change the makeup of the Court at will? (This has happened in the US, too, but it's not the Constitutional, and it's not the norm.)

I know the Senate is also appointed. (I read the Wikipedia entry, no need to post that.) But I'm under the impression that the Prime Minister can't just disband the Senate and appoint new Senators. And if he did change the makeup of the Senate, what effect would that have?

The discussion began in this thread; let's pick it up here.

41 comments:

sharonapple said...

No, you're right. He can't disband the Senate or the Supreme Court at will. Those are jobs for life. (When the Senate's "reformed" I'll be sad that Romeo Dallaire has been kicked out politics, and I'll hope that he'll decide to run in Quebec. We need more tough talking humanitarians.) If he stays in power for any significant time, it's possible that he could change the outlook of both.

Ambassadors are also appointed by the PM. It'll be a real question of whether he'll decide most of them to put in people who'll reflect the ruling party's "values." A UN ambassador who votes more along with the American one. Canadian ambassadors that try and promote conservative values. Possibilities.

What'll probably bug me the most is what he won't do -- involve himself in international discussions on the environment (no one force the government to involve itself in a treaty), fight the provinces on the Canada Health Act, and fight Quebec nationalists if there is ever another referendum.

sharonapple said...

And bringing something from the previous thread...

The US grew more liberal through the 60s, into the mid and late 1970s. The turning point was Reagan's election in 1980, when the country took an extremely sharp turn to the right.

Canada today seems very different than the US in those days - but then, my understanding of Canada is a work-in-progress.


A Canadian Reagan's my biggest fear. Someone who could sell neo-conservative values. (It's not really conservative because it would involve dismantling the current political system. It's sad when Liberals and NDPs can be considered more conservative than some so-called Conservatives in the Conservative Party.)

In a strange way, we've had a Reaganeque politican: Trudeau. His imprint is so strong that Harper's biographer tried to compliment Harper by comparing him to Trudeau. (I expect that Trudeau was firmly spinning in his grave at that point.)

Will Ferguson's description of what Trudeau did:

In his passionate dislike of ethnic nationalism and his elevation of the individual as the final court of appeal, Pierre Trudeau was, of course, right.... And singlehandedly he moulded the image of Canda into the type of nation he wanted it to become: a billigual, rational, just society based on the ideals of freedom and individual automony.

Pierre Trudeau, you see, had a Vision. It led him by night like a pillar of fire and by day as a tower of smoke. It was a vision of... himself. A vision of himself, projected otwards onto the nation.

And we are all Trudeau's children, whether we like it or not.


One scary part of the Harper-Trudeau comparison is that Trudeau was really quite radical for Canada and he managed to slip reforms by moderating his views for a period.

When he got his first majority, he made the federal government bilingual, broke down immigration barriers, and made the nation mulitcultural -- things that shocked Canadians. In the next election he was re-elected, this time by only a two seats -- and he actually won a lower percentage of the popular vote than he did when he lost to Joe Clark. Trudeau moderated his positions for a period and he didn't unleash another radical set of reforms until he last terms in office.

L-girl said...

Sharonapple, thank you very much for this.

No, you're right. He can't disband the Senate or the Supreme Court at will.

You're too kind, I wasn't right, I was guessing. :)

L-girl said...

It's not really conservative because it would involve dismantling the current political system.

This is an excellent and important point for all of us to remember.

I try not to use the word "conservative" to describe what's going on in the US, because those maniacs are not conservative - they are radical. True conservatives oppose the W regime's agenda.

Several readers of this blog - like James and David Cho, who are polar opposites politically - have asked, where is the outcry and opposition from the right?

Conservatives are said to want to maintain traditional values. In the US, it's the liberals who are trying to do that!

sharonapple said...

You have good instincts then because you guessed right. :)

sharonapple said...

Several readers of this blog - like James and David Cho, who are polar opposites politically - have asked, where is the outcry and opposition from the right?

Good question. The problem is that if they see what's going wrong, they'll have to do something to fix it, and that's one big mess. It seems as though they hope that it'll go away. Or that by ignoring their responsibility no one will notice their part in it.

There's one quote from Gladstone that seems to fit the situation in the USA about the protests against the war:

"If the people are silent, you call them content; if they protest you say that they are given to disorder; and in the one case as in the other they can look to you for nothing."

Trevor said...

Luckily Harper's no Trudeau :)

Re: Senate - Senate jobs are for life as mentioned -- and only once in memory did the withhold their rubber stamp of approval, which lead to much soul-searching, attempts at a triple-E senate, focius on the fact that these guys are rarely even around to vote, etc. I think most of the people there just like the life appointment -- they have less input on whether a radical agenda getsh thru as compared to simply having a minority government. Ambassadors are political appointees, but it's rare for an incoming government to quikcly change their representatives. Unless someone else out there knows better...I sure don't remember any big moves when Chretien took over, short of removing anyone political appointees who were virulently pro-Tory/Anti-Liberal.

Carrie said...

Thanks so much for highlighting this question. I'm following along in the comments but don't have much to add just now to enlighten anyone LOL. The rest are doing a great job! I'm so worried about this question myself and couldn't find answers for it.

Carrie said...

On an unrelated point, have you seen this?

http://thegallopingbeaver.blogspot.com/2006/01/arctic-controversy-rovian-maneouvre.html

It's dead on. Also, it really portrays what we're dealing with - a very very sneaky Harper with backup from the USA government. I have to find that article about Harper going to the USA for training with the Republicans...it's driving me nuts now.

Andrea said...

I didn’t want to impose this question on the thread you have going right now but I wanted to ask L-girl and her amazing commenters about child care. You all seem to be a little more in the loop than me.
When I first looked into the child care issue for this election my basic understanding was that all three ideas basically sucked, so I just ignored it after that.
However, last week, just before the election I read a transcript from a CBC interview with Harper. (I of course can not longer find the link to this transcript now.) In the interview a lady asked about child care and said something about how his plan did not seem to include her in it.
If I have read and understood this correctly (could be wrong), when my hubby and I return to Canada and find half-assed decent jobs we too would not be included in his plan. His plan seemed to benefit those in the lower income range.
I know that I now pay 600bucks a month for my child’s day care and if I am right I don’t see this figure improving when I return in a few months.
Can you all explain this please?
Thanks

L-girl said...

I know the Liberal plan will be in effect for at least another year. We have a friend who works for that agency and he said the money is committed for one year more.

After that, my understanding is Harper wants to give parents some piddling amount of cash - $25/week - towards child care. As if anyone can get childcare for $100/month!

How that will play out in reality, I don't know, but that's what he campaigned on.

Hopefully some Canadian readers with young kids will know more.

Wrye said...

The Wryparents are visiting this weekend--I'll chime in later. The key point, I think, is: Harper is a smart, creative man.

Wrye said...

Trudeau Reaganesque? Equally our Kennedy, I think.

L-girl said...

The Wryparents are visiting this weekend--I'll chime in later.

Ah, the Royal Parentage of Wryeberta. Enjoy.

The key point, I think, is: Harper is a smart, creative man.

Not good. His creativity could be bad for Canada.

Carrie said...

Harper is smart and creative?

Wrye, are you a Conservative?

L-girl said...

Hey, Karl Rove is smart and creative. Nixon was smart and creative. For that matter, so ws Hitler.

Brains and creativity can be used for many things.

Wrye said...

Exactly. He is smart, and creative, and determined to change Canada. That he is also ruthless and wants to change Canada in ways that I feel would damage it, perhaps irrevocably, doesn't change that.

The first principle of conflict is to know your enemy. Carrie's article is a good example--we take this guy lightly at our peril. Bush plays dumb for excellent reasons, after all.

See, what's important is to look at the restrictions on Prime Ministerial power and think, "If I were smart and creative, how would I work around that?" Harper can't work through parliament, but he can negotiate directly with the premiers, say, and unload federal taxation power. He can't redesign the Senate, but he can easily demand that all senatorial candidates recommended by the provinces be elected. And elected senators suddenly have legitimacy and were chosen by actual constituents--making abolishing the senate difficult and adding weight to calls for senate reform that give some provinces (think Alberta) more power.

Two other things I saw that I enjoyed today...

The Canadian Anti-Conservative Media Myth.

and

The Canadian Liberal Sense of Entitlement and the NDP.

a representative quote...

As a blogger who endorsed the NDP I've received my fair share of nasty comments from various Liberal supporters along the lines of "how dare you help elect the Conservatives."
...
The NDP is not a wing of the Liberal party. It does not exist to support the Liberals whenever they are in trouble. It is a separate party. You would think these things were obvious, but it would appear that they aren't...

sharonapple said...

?" Harper can't work through parliament, but he can negotiate directly with the premiers, say, and unload federal taxation power.

And by doing this, it makes it difficult for the feds to enforce the Canada Health Act -- currently, they can do this by withholding money.

L-girl said...

I wish there wasn't such a fuss called "it's too soon to hold an election, we just had one". That certainly works in the Conservatives' favour.

Carrie said...

Right. Okay, I concede, I can give Harper "smart and creative". As much as it bugs the crap out of me to do so. ;)

Sorry all, I'm new at following politics. Getting beyond the "i'm so afraid for Canada" emotion is taking longer than I thought it would.

sharonapple said...

And I posted too early... again...

Another thing to possible get nervous over -- the Bank of Canada. During the Mulroney era, the fight was against inflation, which lead to high interest rates, which lead to inflation being crushed from 5.6% to 1.6%, the national budget growing out of control (sadly, if the interest payments weren't so high, the Conservatives would have balanced their budget), and ultimately job loss -- possibly half a million jobs vanished in this period. The Bank of Canada is independent, the government owns it, and the Minister of Finance can give them a letter with a set of instructions. The ruling party at the time didn't during this period. Most economists thought John Crow, the head of the bank at the time, was doing the right thing. And on paper it was brilliant, but the real impact of their work was completely lost on the people involved.(Linda McQuaig wrote an interesting book on the situation called Shoot the Hippo.) If the Bank of Canada decides to attack inflation -- will the Conservative party be willing to fight it? Who knows.

And I would just like to say one thing: I wish Liberals and NDP would quit snipping at each other. The sad thing is that that they're both progressive parties -- they just have different methods to achieve their ends. Sometimes it seems like the narcissism of small differences -- we really do seem to we save our most virulent emotions – aggression, hatred, envy – towards those who resemble us the most.

Trudeau Reaganesque? Equally our Kennedy, I think

I'm starting to think that being a Roman Catholic is a good thing for a politician. Not always -- as can be seen in that nutty Republican Senator (name escapes me at this moment) -- but it seems to be a thread in a lot of progressive politicians.

L-girl said...

The sad thing is that that they're both progressive parties -- they just have different methods to achieve their ends.

I don't think the Liberals are all that progressive.

At the risk of sounding overly contentious, I think things need to be said, criticisms need to be made, no matter who sits where.

I'm starting to think that being a Roman Catholic is a good thing for a politician.

ARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!!! Not in the US, it's not. (And my apologies to Mario Cuomo, who I love.)

P.S. Canadians: Kennedy was not progressive! That he's known as the "civil rights president" is a bizarre bit of propaganda, as he did everything in his power to resist helping the movement. His desire to get the southern vote set civil rights back years - and cost many lives. (The civil rights legacy is rightly LBJ's.) Let's see, what else did Kennedy do... stole an election, started the Vietnam War, hmm...

sharonapple said...

I don't think the Liberals are all that progressive.

The real question, though, is how progressive is any party when they're finally in power? When the NDP party formed the government in Ontario, they got into the odd situation of freezing wages for their workers, introducing anti-scab regulations, and having members vote against their own bill to give benefits to same-sex couples.

(And I'm not going to make the claim that Conservatives can't be progressive -- that would be an insult to Joe Clark, Flora Macdonald, Diefenbaker (who tried to bring a completely flawed bill of rights to Canada and expanded the vote to the First Nation -- reasons I can't hate the man. He was a lot of things, but he clearly wasn't racist), Scott Brison... ))

The Liberal's progressive attitudes are cut with pragmatism, sometimes a lot of pragmatism, which leads to claims that they campaign left and then govern right -- which I think is harsh. But you can't say that a party that legalized same-sex marriage, created multiculturalism, increased immigration, and added an equality clause in the Charter isn't progressive. Okay, they're not the NDP, they were at the turn of the century, but they have created real change in the country.

At the risk of sounding overly contentious, I think things need to be said, criticisms need to be made, no matter who sits where.

I'm not saying that there shouldn't be criticism made, but it seems as though there is a lot of venom between these two parties to the point where it seems as though they would like to wipe each other off of the face of the earth, not improve each other. The Liberal party sees the NDP as hopeless. The NDP sees the Liberals as being morally corrupt. I don't think either is correct in their judgements.

Bah. The more I think about it, the more I think Satya Das was right about party politics. The adversarial drive of partisan politics has outlived its usefulness.

sharonapple said...

I'm starting to think that being a Roman Catholic is a good thing for a politician.

ARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!!! Not in the US, it's not. (And my apologies to Mario Cuomo, who I love.)


Roman Catholicism has the belief that stress on forgiveness, doing good to others, and on the sanctity of life -- which combined in the right ways can lead to people wanting to help others. (Yes, and it can be combined to create some real nut bars.) Still, it's strange sometimes to compare Roman Catholicism with some branches of Protestantism, where the freedom of interpretation has lead to a smug sense of superiority and an absence of charity (as can be seen in the Left Behind series and the people who read it).

(Trudeau was said to have studied with Jesuits -- really liberal Catholics who differ with the church on abortion, priestly celibacy, homosexuality, and liberation theology.)

Kennedy was not progressive!

Hey, Kennedy did drop sholdiers to protect the integration of the Universities of Mississippi and Alabama. Granted, his record is problematic.

http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/progjfk4.htm

But Johnson's record is not clear as well since he voted against civil rights measures... not once but a number of times, and watered down civil rights legislation.

And Kennedy did play a part in helping Johnson pass the civil rights laws:

The bill didn’t pass unhindered. There were doubters in Congress and it also had to overcome the longest obstruction in Senate history. Its final passing owed much to Kennedy, who had won over the Republican minority before his death. Johnson was sure the bill would have passed if Kennedy were still alive but that it would have been diluted like Eisenhower’s bills. Johnson must also receive credit as he devoted a staggering amount of his time, energy and political capital to ensure the passage of the bill in it original state. He used Kennedy's Kennedy's death, appeals to Southerner’s self- interest and his Southern background to get what has been described as the most important piece of civil rights legislation passed."

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/Lyndon_Baines_Johnson.htm

The whole situation -- Kennedy and Johnson seems to illustrate the typical story of most politicians -- the attempts of flawed human beings trying to do what they believe is the right thing and fighting other flawed human beings who equally believe they're equally right.

started the Vietnam War

Did you ever read the biography on John Kenneth Galbraith? There's the sad section that shows the escalation, the push by the American military to use their tools, and Galbraith's advice (exit strategy, international approval for conflict), which Kennedy tried but ultimately failed to follow.

L-girl said...

Thanks, Wrye. I look forward to reading those.

I should tell you, I went back to your comment from a few days ago, and suddenly I have more of a grasp of the Meech Lake / Charlottetown / Constitution history than I did before. A combination of understanding the country a bit better and your simple explanation, et voila.

I believe the last time I tried to read about these events, it was in the middle of a Rob vs. Lone Primate smackdown. I couldn't locate the facts amidst the fire and brimstone. This time I think I got it.

Wrye, Lone Primate, James, Rob, Kyle, ALPF, G, Marnie, Sharonapple, M@, Scott M - you all should have a line on your resume about educating new residents...

L-girl said...

The whole situation -- Kennedy and Johnson seems to illustrate the typical story of most politicians -- the attempts of flawed human beings trying to do what they believe is the right thing and fighting other flawed human beings who equally believe they're equally right.

I don't think John F. Kennedy especially cared about what was right. He cared about what was political - what looked good, and what would work.

Did you ever read the biography on John Kenneth Galbraith?

Every bio of Kennedy seems to take a different tack regarding the war. It's an interesting study in how the same events can be perceived (and recounted) totally differently by different historians.

I'm a student of the US civil rights movement, so most of my Kennedy info and opinions come from that perspective.

Lone Primate said...

Re: Senate - Senate jobs are for life as mentioned

Senate jobs aren't for life anymore; they haven't been for a long time. They expire at age 75. In many cases, that amounts to "for life", but there seem to be an awful lot of old crocks in the US Senate who get carried out of office on a stretcher too. :)

Lone Primate said...

And I would just like to say one thing: I wish Liberals and NDP would quit snipping at each other. The sad thing is that that they're both progressive parties

There's a piece in the Globe this morning that echoes this sentiment -- which was my own after the election. As I said, the right got its act together. Now we really need to on the left. There isn't much these days the NDP stands for the Liberals don't. As far being a separate party in order to one day implement them -- good luck. It's been about 50 years and the most the country's ever trusted them with is 40 seats or so. They've never even been the official opposition (while, ironically, the Bloc Quebecois has!). If the NDP really wants to preserve the changes it favours in Canada, they need to ally themselves formally with the Grits use their gravity to tilt the party a little more to the left. All they are right now is spoilers who will, at this juncture, accomplish little but to hand elections by default to conservatives who snatch victory from the jaws of defeat thanks to a divided opposition. Layton aimed his big guns at Martin in the election. The man needs his head examined.

L-girl said...

All they are right now is spoilers who will, at this juncture, accomplish little but to hand elections by default to conservatives who snatch victory from the jaws of defeat thanks to a divided opposition.

How can this be true, when the NDP landed one seat away from holding the balance of power?

My understanding of the last Liberal minority government is that the NDP helped make their budget much more progressive.

I don't see how it can be good to have fewer parties, fewer voices, and less progressive representation. I agree with the blogger Wrye linked to (above).

When you ask the left to move more to the centre to merge with mainstream liberals, you're asking for fewer voices, and the general mainstreaming of all parties.

Branding progressive voices as spoilers is how US Democrats became Republican-lite. Instead of building a movement and a party (I'm not against party politics at all), you hold your nose and vote, because you've been told your vote "doesn't count". I'd rather support vote my conscience. (And support any movement for proportional representation.)

I realize this is a very divisive issue. After all, I voted for Nader in 2000 and do not believe I helped elect the Resident.

Lone Primate said...

Diefenbaker (who tried to bring a completely flawed bill of rights to Canada

The Bill of Rights, 1960? I wouldn't say it's 'flawed'; exactly. In its language, intent, and scope, it forms, for the most part, the basis of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the preamble is strikingly similar, in fact). It has limitations in the fact that the provinces were not prepared at the time to depart from the Westminster concept of the supremacy of parliament (in their case, the provincial legislatures) and were not amenable to Diefenbaker's suggestion the Bill ought to be enshrined in the Constitution as an amendement to the British North America Act. Nevertheless, he went on and enacted it alone...

It only applies to federal statues, and is only a piece of legislation (and as such, could be unilaterally amended by Parliament alone), but it has some interesting features. First of all, unlike most pieces of legislation, it's written to explicitly excuse itself from supersession by subsequent pieces of legislation, which ordinarily would take precidence: instead, it applies to them, not the other way around -- unless they, too, are explicitly written to excuse themselves from the application of the Bill of Rights. Another aspect of its importance is that while the Charter of Rights and Freedoms makes no reference to property rights, the Bill of Rights does... enjoyment of property is thus a right protected from federal fiat by the Bill, and not the Charter. And while the Charter does supersede the Bill of Rights, it does not nullify it: the Bill of Rights remains in force, particularly on issues where (like property rights) the Charter is mute. And while it does not technically form a part of the Constitution, is is among the body of documents categorized by the Supreme Court as "quasi-constitutional", meaning it is weighted in import above other contending acts of legislation. In its strange status and unusual function, it is nearly unique in the English-speaking world. Flawed? I don't think that's fair. Unusual, unique, makeshift, utilitarian... sure. :)

Lone Primate said...

How can this be true, when the NDP landed one seat away from holding the balance of power?

If they hadn't been a separate party from the Grits, they wouldn't have been in a position to hold the "balance of power" either. They'd have been IN power right now.

Instead, Harper is.

Does it make more sense to stand on principle and dream of Camelot and get Mordor as a result than to realize you might do better to aim for Camelot while working with others to achieve what's possible in the meantime? Not to me it doesn't. There are progressive Liberals, too. We give the NDP the credit for coming up with Medicare... but it took the Liberals to take it and actually make it the law of the land. Let's remember that without them, all the NDP goodwill in the world would be just so much dusty dialectic shoved on a shelf beside Das Kapital by the Conservatives. Kneecapping the Grits is the best way of empowering the Tories to undo all that. 1988 proved that in spades; 2005 to a lesser extent.

It's great to have dreamers, but they ought to be in a position to implement what they dream about. "Do... or do not. There is no try."

Lone Primate said...

Pardon me; 2006, that is. Living in the past already. :D

sharonapple said...

In its strange status and unusual function, it is nearly unique in the English-speaking world. Flawed? I don't think that's fair. Unusual, unique, makeshift, utilitarian... sure. :)

Interesting, I always thought it was flawed because it didn't have teethg (ie, part of the Constitution) but apparently, it did and still does. I'll tip my hat off at Diefenbaker.

I don't see how it can be good to have fewer parties, fewer voices, and less progressive representation. I agree with the blogger Wrye linked to (above).

I don't think the NDP should join the Liberals. But sometimes I wonder why more NDPers at heart, apparently like Gerard Kennedy, or Red Tories like Scott Brison, don't take control of the Liberal party. The Liberals win elections, and it has a strong backbench that can get legislation into effective policy. Strong personalities at the head have changed the nature of the party in the past. Pearson softened the party's stand on a number of issues. Trudeau was contemptuous of the party until he took it over and remade it in his image.

Trevor said...

re: Senate appointments until age 75 -- sorry LP, you are right -- I guess I just kinda thought of that as "life" but as you pointed out there's a lot of gys down here that i think may be dead already but keeping getting re-elected.

L-girl said...

re: Senate appointments until age 75 -- sorry LP, you are right -- I guess I just kinda thought of that as "life"

If you are lucky enough to live to be 74, you will not think 75 is life.

L-girl said...

It's great to have dreamers, but they ought to be in a position to implement what they dream about.

One of the reasons I'm in Canada is that the party on the left is not just a dream.

Lone Primate said...

One of the reasons I'm in Canada is that the party on the left is not just a dream.

Laura, relative to the US, even the Tories are on the left. No joke. That's a great thing if you're on the left in the States. But here, it's still enough to drag us backwards. I admire the NDP and what they stand for as a vanguard but in so many instances, what they practically amount to is the soap that squirts the Tories up the middle and into office. When the right was split this way for a dozen years, that's wasn't so much of an issue. But those days are over. If things remain in the current state of flux with no clear favourite, that really amounts to the shift from the Liberals as the "natural" governing party of Canada to (thanks to the practical realities of the first-past-the-post system) the Conservatives... despite the fact that most Canadians vote to the left of them. A huge majority of Canada just voted for centre-left parties, but elected a Conservative minority government that came within realistic aspirations of a majority. Under these circumstances -- which may persist for a decade or more -- I'd rather we had the NDP pulling to the left from within the strength of a unified leftist party than dividing the vote and providing practical support to a government we did not, in fact, mean to elect, philosophically speaking. Right now, there isn't room for both. Not if we actually want a progressive government elected. I don't care what we call it... Liberal, NDP, the Rosy Red Party of the People's Republic of Canada; whatever... let's just sew it up and send one candidate in the place of two. At least for a while. Otherwise, if Harper minds his Ps and Qs for a couple of years, I really do believe we're facing a Tory majority before the end of the decade... and one that won't have to show restraint once it has the force of numbers. That's a very different kettle of fish from what we're facing now, and something sharon might be right to get antsy about. So might we all.

Wrye said...

If things remain in the current state of flux with no clear favourite, that really amounts to the shift from the Liberals as the "natural" governing party of Canada to (thanks to the practical realities of the first-past-the-post system) the Conservatives... despite the fact that most Canadians vote to the left of them.

I think your argument rests on this. And I do not think it necessarily follows or will be borne out. And of course, as with Rob, your real argument is for Proportional representation. Talk of national emergencies and desperate times does the argument no credit. No one was talking like this before the election, and somehow it's always "The NDP should stand aside", not "The Liberals should become a wing of the NDP".

I am from BC. My province is spilt between the NDP on the centre-left and a Liberal-Tory coalition on the hard right. Your argument carries no weight here. None. In BC, the Liberals you're thinking of (happy, rainbows, progressive, lalala) were, for a long time, the soap you describe, and traditional Liberals were the de facto enemies of progressive values. I take a dim view of central canadian lectures on the virtue of merging, and note no Liberal impulse to stand aside for NDP candidates where Liberals have no chance of election. Instead of adult talk of partnerships and coalitions, what do we see? Handwaving, "stabbed in the back" talk, and condescension.

In fact, the real battleground is somewhere else entirely.

What exists in the national Liberal party is a very business-oriented, fiscally conservative streak. This enables them to compete for the Red Tory vote and marginalize the Tories, but it does mark the clear difference betyween them and the NDP--and the BQ, if they were ever to abandon sovereignity and become a national party (A champion of language rights and minorities across the country? Stranger things have happened).

Strategically, I think the Liberals need to regenerate their right flank, not worry about the left. They want to rebuild their credibility? That takes hard work, and they can't just borrow the NDP's.

sharonapple said...

I am from BC. My province is spilt between the NDP on the centre-left and a Liberal-Tory coalition on the hard right. Your argument carries no weight here. None. In BC, the Liberals you're thinking of (happy, rainbows, progressive, lalala) were, for a long time, the soap you describe, and traditional Liberals were the de facto enemies of progressive values.

The parties vary across the country. The Liberals out in BC don't take the same stand as the Liberals in Ontario (who seem to occupy some of the political space the once mighty provincial NDP party with their creation of the green-belt, increases in taxes to cover public spending, and legalising same-sex marriage). It would be a mistake to think the two parties are interchangable, or that they have anything in common with the federal party.

As for revitalizing the right-wing of the Liberal party -- there doesn't appear to be any enthusiasm for that within the party. Even before McKenna threw in the towel, there was more support for seemingly left-wing candidates among the chattering classes than for McKenna.

The JLC -- youth wing of the Liberal Party in Quebec and the largest youth group of the party -- have made the following demands of the next leader:

First off, our leadership candidate would HAVE TO support the rights of same sex couples to get married civilly. To all those who have opposed this in the past, they will have to be accountable.

Secondly, our leadership candidate MUST be in favour of a woman’s right to choose. This is one of the most protected values amongst us liberals. We ran attack ads against candidates who opposed such rights. Why would we ever support a candidate to lead our party who had a different position?

Thirdly, our leadership candidate must be an ARDENT defender of the Kyoto Protocol. No province loves Kyoto as much as Quebec does, and we here at the JLC(Q) believe we must support a candidate who will adopt Canada’s action plan in waging a war on global warming. That war we will accept!


The young... they're so... young.

Thinking about all of this polarization makes me wonder... where have all the Bill Davieses (PC, but willing to work the other parties) gone?

Lone Primate said...

I am from BC. My province is spilt between the NDP on the centre-left and a Liberal-Tory coalition on the hard right. Your argument carries no weight here. None.

Au contraire; I was on the verge of using the example of provincial politics -- in the form of your very province -- as a demonstration of exactly what I meant, in fact, but changed my mind because it's reasonably rare enough as makes no odds relative to the ways things are done federally... the only other clear example I can think of is Quebec, where there are the Liberals and the Parti Quebecois, and no one else worth speaking of (New Brunswick and -- not surprisingly for its size -- PEI verge on similar situations). But since you bring it up, let's examine the point. In the previous provincial election, the Liberals and the NDP, for all intents and purposes, were the election. The combined vote of all the other parties barely mustered ten percent, and not one garnered a seat. Under such circumstances, you'd be hard-pressed to find a situation in which, say, the Green Party cost anyone a seat by splitting the vote. It's possible, of course, but examples would be few and far between relative to the example of the federal election we just saw, in which, as the Globe demonstrated, a combined party of the centre-left would (all things being equal) have carried off a sizeable majority. In British Columbia in 2005, the voters reduced the scope of Gordon Campbell's majority, but did not remove it from him. This served both as a warning for him, and an arming of the NDP as a credible government-in-waiting. An excellent result, and one that probably would have happend across Canada last week but for the vote-splitting among people of the stripe likely to comment here. Far from BC disproving my point, it's actually a stellar example of what I'm talking about. In the last 30 years, there have only been two election in BC that didn't result in strict two-party results: 1991 and 1996, when the collapse of the Socreds briefly knocked BC politics out of its comfortable two-party orbit. In the years before that, and since, the comfortable, clear, and unambiguous results were and are the norm there.

I'm not saying I would like to Canada evolve forever into a two-party tug of war with no room for anyone else, like in the States. What I am in favour of is pursuing the obvious advantages to be found in combining the strengths of the two left-leaning federalists parties instead of having them used as diamonds to cut diamonds to furnish crowns for the Tories. Known NDPers in government could only boost their fortunes later, to the point that they might become a credible alternative to the Grits at the federal level in a way they never have been. I really can't see the problem if the NDP and the Liberals combine in an official or semi-official coalition for the next five or ten years... but I can see a whole lot of problems if they don't.

sharonapple said...

I just want to say that whatever happens, NDP, Conservatives, and Liberals should be concerned about keeping people like this out of our political system -- an American from Free Congress (this seems like the original source for that crazed American noted in other articles).

http://www.freecongress.org/commentaries/2006/060125.asp

Scariest point -- it seems as though they do have insiders in the Conservative party.

The morning after the Elections, it so happened I spoke with two Canadian Conservatives who had worked hard to win.

And he's got a lot of facts wrong.
Harper doesn't have 134 ridings (?). There aren't elections every four years like he is implying. Harper will be lucky to maintain power for two years. The previous election was in 2004 not 2005.

How do people like this dominate the political culture in America? No, really.