thoughts on her majesty's loyal opposition, such as it is

A funny thing happens whenever I write about the Liberals or the NDP on this blog.

When I criticize the Liberals, someone comes along to say the Libs are really not that bad, the media is against them, Ignatieff is the best they have (goddess help us!), I'm overlooking some key bit of strategy, it's all Harper's fault, or some other excuse.

When I criticize the New Democrats, someone stops by to accuse me of supporting the Liberals! When I was angry that the NDP propped up the Conservatives, a commenter said, "Why don't you just admit you're a Liberal partisan and get it over with?" A Liberal partisan? Obviously you don't read this blog - ever. As much as I loathe the Harper Government, I credit a good deal of their political success to the horrifically inept Liberals. If the Liberals were any kind of opposition, Harper would be a thing of the past by now. The Conservatives are vulnerable on so many fronts. Every week they create another opening for their own defeat. Yet... nothing.

Years ago, when I would vent my outrage at the Cheney administration, trolls would stop by to rag on John Kerry. What, you thought I was a Democrat?

Here's the thing. I don't have a party. The New Democrats are the party in Canada that are closest to my values, and I'm damn glad they exist. If a similar, viable party existed in the US, rather than a few representatives tolerated at the progressive fringe of the Democrats, things might have been different there. I have no doubt I'll vote NDP as soon as I'm able.

However, I don't think in terms of parties. I think about issues, and values, and how we can achieve a more just society. When that work involves Members of Parliament, any MP who will help us achieve our goals is welcome in my book. Any one who doesn't is the opposition.

I wish the NDP would recover its socialist roots. I absolutely reject the so-called wisdom that claims everyone must shift rightward in pursuit of the mythical centre. Follow that illogic, and you end up with the Democrats, a party whose actual policies are usually indistinguishable from the Republicans they claim to oppose.

A Liberal Party that tries to out-conservative the Conservative is a loser out of the gate. If people want conservative, they'll vote Conservative. And an NDP that chases the tail-end of the Liberals is a waste of seats. But an NDP that speaks to core values of labour, peace, environment and justice speaks to people the other parties have abandoned.

(I'm not including the Bloc Québécois in this discussion, but I admire much about the Bloc's platform, and I see them as allies in our struggle in many respects.)

Right now the NDP is all we have. That party is doing all the heavy lifting of opposing the destructive, reactionary, radical-right policies of the Harper Government.

  • The NDP passed the Climate Change Accountability Act, their private member's bill that is Canada's only federal climate-change legislation, and the only attempt to hold government accountable for action on climate change.

    The big obstacle to the bill's passage, obviously, will be the Conservative-controlled Senate. If you haven't done so already, add your voice to the long list of Canadians who want to see this bill become law: sign here.

    All Conservative MPs voted against this bill.

    I have it on good authority that Michael Ignatieff opposed Bill C-311 and was going to vote against it. A strongly-worded letter from David Suzuki changed his mind. While the outcome was positive, this tells us more about the Liberals values.

  • NDP Agriculture Critic Alex Atamanenko (BC-Southern Interior) tabled Bill C-474, aimed at protecting Canadian farmers and consumers from harm from genetically engineered crops.

    Bill C-474 just passed second reading. The Liberals did support this bill, but neither Ignatieff nor Ralph Goodale, who represents farmers in Saskatchewan, voted. Both are pro-GMO. Bill C-474 now goes to the Agriculture Committee for study and amendments - and a major fight from the biotech industry.

    Two Conservative MPs broke with their party to support this bill: Ron Cannan (Kelowna-Lake Country) and James Lunney (Nanaimo-Alberni).

    Atamanenko is a really good man, deeply committed to justice on many fronts, including peace and the inclusion of US war resisters in Canada.

  • The NDP is carrying the ball opposing Bill C-11, the Government's anti-refugee bill disguised as a "reform" of Canada's refugee system. Liberal immigration critic Maurizio Bevilacqua, soon to leave the House of Commons to run for Mayor of the City of Vaughan, argues on behalf of the bill nearly as strongly as Jason Kenney. Any Liberal opposition to this unjust bill comes mainly from Gerard Kennedy (Parkdale-High Park). NDP Immigration Critic Olivia Chow has vowed to do everything in her power to slow the rush to passage, insisting on real debate and many amendments. That is, democracy.

  • This week, Bill Siksay (Burnaby-Douglas) tabled Private Member's Bill C-389, a historic call to update the Canadian Human Rights Act to include gender identity and gender expression. Bill C-389 would bring explicit human rights protections for transgender and transsexual people. More about this important bill here, and a report on the first hour of debate here.

    Bill Siksay was the first Member of Parliament to call for the support of US war resisters in Canada, long before the Liberals were on side. He's a stalwart supporter of everything we stand for.

  • NDP Environment Critic Linda Duncan (Edmonton-Strathcona) has tabled a ground-breaking Private Member's Bill calling for an Environmental Bill of Rights. Bill C-469 would bring Canada in line with more than 130 other countries that recognize the importance of citizens' input into the health of their local environment, and protection for environmental whistleblowers. The bill had its first hour of debate last week.

  • I've already blogged about my admiration and support for Bill C-232, tabled by New Democrat Yves Godin (Acadie-Bathurst) to bring the Supreme Court of Canada in line with all the other federal courts, requiring bilingual justices.

  • The Liberals made a complete mess of opposing the Government's international maternal health initiative. That's been blogged to death; I don't need to elaborate on it here. I'll only add that my own MP, Albina Guarnieri (Mississauga East-Cooksville), was one of four Liberals who did not vote for her own party's motion calling for the inclusion of contraception and abortion in the initiative.

    Guarnieri was absent from that vote, and she voted in favour of Ken Epp's anti-choice bill in 2008. If Guarnieri opposes abortion, that's a matter for her own conscience. But in opposing abortion rights, she should scuttle over to the Conservatives where she belongs.

  • The Liberals are spending a lot of time and effort on the Gun Registry, which I think is a very minor issue. I do think firearms should be registered, but the whole commotion over long-gun registry is purely political posturing. The Conservatives can play to their rural base while the Liberals can appear "tough on crime". Neither stance effects anyone very much. Farmers can register their long guns without great hardship, and registering long guns accomplishes very little.

    Any party that is serious about reducing crime should be focused on fully funding education, slashing tuition fees, providing quality day-care for children of working parents, and guaranteeing good jobs in Canadian communities. That's how you reduce crime: by giving young people a future.

  • On the war resisters front, I must acknowledge significant support from all three opposition parties. The Campaign never could have gotten this far without the guidance and steadfast commitment of NDP Immigration Critic Olivia Chow and every New Democrat Member of Parliament. Olivia is our rock. Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy (Parkdale-High Park) is sponsoring Bill C-440 in support of US war resisters in Canada, and is working hard to ensure its passage. Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj (Etobicoke Centre), an unfailing supporter of US war resisters, traveled on his own dime to San Diego, along with Olivia Chow and a Campaigner, to visit war resister Robin Long in prison. Many other MPs from all three opposition parties have gone out of their way to support war resisters and tell the government to Let Them Stay.

    * * * *

    Michael Ignatieff is a stunningly incompetent leader. Anyone who thinks that statement needs to be backed up by evidence should look elsewhere: I'm stating it as an indisputable fact. But even beyond Ignatieff's shallow incompetence, I find little in the Liberal party to recommend it. They appear to stand for anything and nothing.

    I watch Question Period almost every day and I scan the both the Liberals' and the NDP's websites regularly. Other than strategic voting in certain targeted ridings - like what the Catch 22 Harper Conservatives campaign is focused on - I honestly can find no reason why any progressive person would ever vote Liberal.

    Jymn Parrett said...

    My problem with the Liberals is that they cannot capitalize on the gifts the corrupt Con party keeps giving them. The Libs do nothing. The Cons fail upwards while the Libs sit idly by. Look at the way the Cons have forced the CBC to become right wing. No fight from the Libs. Or the NDP. No opposition from either party. The progressives in our country have no sense of the importance of PR. The Libs especially need to fight and fight back hard.

    L-girl said...

    My problem with the Liberals is that they cannot capitalize on the gifts the corrupt Con party keeps giving them. The Libs do nothing. The Cons fail upwards while the Libs sit idly by.

    Yeah. I think that's everyone's problem with them.

    Joe Gravellese said...

    I just want to let you know that reading wmtc archives for two hours was one of my procrastination techniques last night!

    there are some real gems under the "new york city" tag.

    also: Eff Harper and Eff so-called liberals in the US and Canada who 'tack to the center,' then lose elections and popularity, and respond by saying 'oh, we just have to be more conservative.'


    L-girl said...

    Thanks, Joe! I'm honoured!

    Your comment caused me to look back through that category myself. You could play a drinking game with the words "miss" and "homesick". :)

    Scott M. said...

    Just to expand on the hat-tip to the BQ -- I'd actually say BQ is doing the vast majority of the heavy lifting when it comes to holding the Government to account (albeit mostly in French). They tend to ask the right questions at the right time. They do their homework and their critics *really* know the files (often much better than not only the other parties, but the Ministers themselves). They also are quite responsive to their constituents, and take seriously their jobs as MPs both on committees and in the house.

    I genuinely wish they'd just give up on the sovereignty thing. Fortunately, a BQ MP will *never* be in a position to do anything to promote sovereignty, which is why I would seriously consider voting for them in any upcoming election. Note to those saying I'm supporting sovereigntists: many people confuse the BQ with the PQ (Parti Quebecois) who, if they became provincial government, could possibly push another referendum. The BQ could never be in a position of power, but they're one damn good opposition. Many federalist Quebeckers (like myself) know this and vote with that in mind.

    L-girl said...

    Scott, thanks for that, and very nicely said. I enjoy watching the Bloc MPs during Question Period. I'm glad to know that their MPs are doing their jobs for their constituents.

    CK said...

    I can't believe this. We have further evidence of the growing Christian Evangelical sub-culture's growing influence on the Harpercons with the release of Marci McDonald's book and all they need is a majority to complete that. And you're still going to lament about the Liberals? yikes!

    The majority centre; the Timmy's crowd which is happily being steered right ward is far from mythical, they are real and to ignore them, or worse yet, not acknowledge their existance would be a big mistake.

    You want to fight Harpercons, first things first, face realities; yes, especially those that are not pretty.

    The NDP isn't as great as you think these days. Jack would go to bed with Steve probably faster than with Iggy, it almost happened in 2005 at the end of Paul Martin's short career as PM.

    Layton isn't even trying to pretend to be interested in the long gun registry. Unlike Iggy, he didn't even offer any compromises or propose any modifications to the registry. Very disappointing.

    He is no longer even fighting for universal health care.

    As for the Bloc, well, Quebec sovereignty is back at the forefront and it's waking up Quebecers again; don't count on too much cooperation from him.

    Again, Jack will never ever be PM and the only way for Jack to get any power, that is, into cabinet would be with a coalition, and again, something tells me it will be with Steve, not Iggy.

    Obviously, Jack is more interested in keeping Steve in power rather than work with the Liberals as they can't seem to get through a panel on tv or radio without slamming the Liberals.

    In otherwords, desperate times call for desperate measures. And it's up to us.

    johngoldfine said...

    wmtc is slowly educating me about Canadian politics, though I confess it all seems a million miles away, though I could cross the border at either Jackman or Calais in an hour or two and my brother-in-law moved to Vancouver some 40 years ago. In my heart of hearts, the dark chauvinist core of me, somewhere well south of actual thought, I say, "Well, why don't those Canadians do things a la USA since really what's the point of being different?"

    Don't even bother telling me how wrong-headed that is on how many levels, 'cause, trust me, I know.

    Anyway, this old English major and English history grad student still finds the UK a lot closer than Canada, and so I'm off to England and Wales today for a week or so. I'd like the RS to pick up a game or two or more in the standings while I'm away. See what you and JOS can do, will you?

    I'm going to miss my dogs, who have all forgotten about yesterday's fracas, but not quite completely, I hope.

    You might appreciate how I enlist Jehovah's Witnesses into my training regimen. I tell them I will be happy to invite them into the house, take pamphlets, and discuss the approaching endtimes (quoting only the KJV of the Bible, please) IF (and only if) they will first walk up and down the road in front of my house and scream NO NO NO at any dog that approaches within 30 feet of the road's edge.

    "They don't need any more friends," I say. "They need to fear the road and all it contains. Much as we humans need to fear Jehovah!"

    A surprising number go along. Girl Scout cookie moms ferrying their kids from door to door are much more suspicious....

    L-girl said...

    John, bon voyage and happy trails. We'll miss you, although not as much as your dogs will.

    L-girl said...

    I can't believe this. We have further evidence of the growing Christian Evangelical sub-culture's growing influence on the Harpercons with the release of Marci McDonald's book and all they need is a majority to complete that. And you're still going to lament about the Liberals? yikes!

    Yes, CK, I am. Because (a) I can blog about more than one thing and (b) it's my blog and I write about what's on my mind, not yours.

    Marci McDonald's book, however fascinating may be, is not the only potential topic of conversation.

    In the circle I travel in, we are all "lamenting" (very kind word, that) the Liberals. We are all puking in disgust over Michael Ignatieff. Because he's utterly and completely useless.

    This has nothing to do with whether "Jack will never ever be PM". That is completely irrelevant to this post.

    If you bothered to read this blog, rather than just using it as a platform for your own rants, you would see that I criticize the NDP all the time. Go back and read the first few paragraphs of this post.

    Or don't. But whatever you do, please stop coming here to post the same thing over and over. We get it.

    L-girl said...

    Murray Dobbin, Rabble:

    The agreement reached at the 11th hour on the uncensored Afghan torture documents is hardly a victory for democracy. It is precisely the opposite and it is the Liberals we have to thank for it. We have come to expect nothing better from the Harper Conservatives -- the most dishonest, anti-democratic and arrogant government in living memory.

    The Liberals -- fearing the possibility of an election and too cowardly to face down the bully Stephen Harper -- went along with what will be a terrible precedent...

    Great piece, worth reading.

    L-girl said...

    In the circle I travel in,

    To clarify, I said this only to note that my disgust with the Liberals is not exactly a bizarre, fringe opinion. Michael Ignatieff's incompetence as a leader is common knowledge, talked about so much in progressive circles that we're speaking in shorthand now, just rolling our eyes and saying "The usual Liberals..."

    My intention with this post was not to cover new ground in Liberal bashing, only to highlight some really good things the NDP has done lately, as well as to clarify my perspective as not a partisan cheerleader.

    It's not surprising that a Liberal defender has to come around and bash the NDP, "reminding" us that Jack Layton will not be PM (what political insight! what a revelation!). But it is very tiresome.

    L-girl said...

    Also... At this point, does anyone seriously think Michael Ignatieff will ever be the Prime Minister of Canada?

    redsock said...

    At this point, it is not unreasonable to think Layton has better odds at becoming PM than Ignatieff.

    While CK disagrees with L's post, she offers absolutely nothing to show that the Libs are doing anything constructive. It's not completely her fault -- she has very little to work with.

    Still, if she's going to tout Michael Ignatieff as a wonderful leader, her argument should be stronger than "Jack Layton is a poopyhead."

    Bungle Jerry said...

    I wish the NDP would take a look at Gordon Brown - it's tempting these days to see the NDP as Canada's Lib Dems, but obviously they're not - both Labout and the NDP are their country's members of Socialist International. Both have in some way 'sold out' to so-called 'third way' centrist politics. For Labour it gave them 13 years of power, sure - but at the moment that crowding-to-the-centre has left them at their lowest levels of public support in almost a century. The NDP already fight to get a mere 20% of public support: crowding the middle isn't helping them either.

    I think the three progressive parties (there are three, not four: I don't see the Liberals as progressive) need to find ways to work together. This is a proposal: http://a-proper-blog.blogspot.com/2010/01/uniting-left.html

    L-girl said...

    I think UK Labour is much more analagous to Cdn Liberals and in some ways US Dems - none are progressive. Perhaps they were once in certain incarnations, but none is now.

    I don't believe in the existence of the "third way". I think that just means a so-called liberal party that moved rightward.

    Working together is good. Merging is not. I look forward to reading your post - thanks.

    Dharma Seeker said...

    I'm a fan of the gun registry. If handguns have to be registered, why not long guns? The only people who have an answer for that are Reform/Canadian Alliance/Cons who think they should be able to shoot what they want, when they want. Most domestic violence related shootings are done with long guns - sawed off or intact. All guns should be registered, all gun owners licensed.

    L-girl said...

    I'm certainly not opposed to a gun registry. As I said in the post, I do think all guns should be registered. I just don't think a gun registry is important enough to deserve the noise that goes with this one. To me it's an example of how the Liberals are out of ideas.