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.
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