Monday, September 14, 2009

Are Jack Layton and the NDP Getting Ready to Sell Out Their Values in a Cynical Political Game?

(originally posted at

There are early rumblings from all corners that the NDP may be getting read to support Stephen Harper’s Conservative government from being defeated later this month, either through a vote on a ways and means bill currently scheduled for later this week, or later this month when the Liberals are likely to call for a vote on a confidence motion. It would come as a personal shock to me if Jack Layton and the NDP do not use one or both of these opportunities (particularly the confidence motion) to defeat the Harper government, given the NDP’s track record of opposing Stephen Harper at every opportunity. And quite rightly, I might add, particularly given the NDP’s ideology, which is completely out of synch with the Conservatives.

But there are signs that Jack may be willing to support Stephen Harper for a very, very low price indeed: EI Reform.

Now look, I’m not suggesting that EI reform isn’t an important issue, because it is, and certainly reform is needed. What I am suggesting is that the Conservative government of Canada remains a menace to the future of this nation, and that’s something that Jack Layton and I have agreed upon wholeheartedly...up until now. How on earth, I have to wonder, will Jack justify propping up the Conservatives at the price of EI reform, while ignoring the lack of action which Harper will be taking on so many issues which are of importance to Canadians?

Even just this past weekend, Layton laid down a number of items which would need to be addressed by Harper should the Conservatives look to the NDP for support on. The media and pundits alike universally panned this list, insisting that Conservatives would have no stomach for it. I wasn’t all that impressed with it either, as the calls for credit card reform and green job creation really seemed pretty wishy-washy to me. And that’s when I began to get nervous that the NDP was once again selling itself out for short term gains, just as they did when they helped defeat Paul Martin’s government.

Yes, for Jack Layton, it’s to be "politics as usual". He’ll prop up whichever party is in power to buy himself some time, because his own Party apparently isn’t ready to face the Canadian electorate, as they really have nothing new on offer. Sure, it’s true that Canadians don’t want another election, and I have to respect acceptable efforts where parties figure out ways to work with one another for the good of Canada. But the price the NDP may be settling on here is not in Canada’s interests, and really tells us all a lot about the NDP.

My main issue with the New Democratic Party is that the Party really stands for very little. They will bend in the slightest political wind, looking for political opportunity at every opportunity. They present their uncosted platforms with slick marketing, rather than with careful consideration. They look to fooling to electorate, rather than working for Canadians. They are not a party of action, but they are a party of results: results defined in the electoral success of their party.

(I’ll avoid a significant rant here on the NDP’s continuing desire to prop up the brown economy and refusing to walk the talk on the environment; please just take that as a given for now)

In short, this kind of thinking by the NDP, this political game-playing, led me to joining the Green Party, which, as far as I can gather, actually has some integrity and will stand up for what it believes in. Since we also don’t seem to possess the political acumen to play the sorts of political games the other party’s play at, I have high hopes that we Greens will never find ourselves in these same silly situations.

Look, I don’t want an election either. I sincerely hope that the other Parties figure a way to get their act together and actually get down to doing the job that we elected them to do, that being governing our nation. What I can not accept, however, are these cynical ploys by the NDP to pretend to be doing Canadians some good by propping up a government which they have claimed on so many past occasions to have irreconcilable differences with. And as I said, up until now, I’ve found myself in agreement with the NDP on this.

Jack Layton will pay a price within his own Party if he decides to lend his support to the Conservatives for such a low price. Sure, some Canadians will be relieved that we’ll have avoided another election (or at least put it off until February or so), but true NDP ideologues will realize that Jack’s support is simply a power play. Some might applaud because it will buy the NDP time to organize. But many, already disenchanted with the "politics as usual" tenor within the NDP will recognize this as a cynical political ploy.

The NDP can do better than this. If they can’t, or don’t, it will certainly be time for many of the NDP’s supporters to turn to a party which is focussed on taking action, rather than playing politics. It is time for them to vote Green.


Sudbury Steve said...

Well, this is surely going to be an interesting week. While Jack Layton has apparently begun “dialing down” the election rhetoric, making signs that he is ready and willing to support the Conservatives, it looks like Stephen Harper is busy engineering his own downfall. Whether the other parties are looking to compromise or not, it seems that Harper is really aching to go to the polls again.

At this time, I can not find the source from which this information came from (I’ve been reading way too much print media these past few days), but it looks like Harper will be adding an unpalatable “poison pill” to the ways and means bill: a motion of support for moving ahead with free trade with Columbia. While the bill itself will not enact free trade, by having to vote to support the notion of free trade with Columbia, it is expected that many New Democrats and Blocquists will be forced to vote against the ways and means bill. The problem is that many in parliament do not support Canadian free trade with Columbia, given Columbia’s appalling record on human rights.

So, what Stephen Harper gives with one hand, he takes away with the others. New Democrats will find themselves in a very awkward position on Friday. How far will they go to keep this parliament alive? How many of their own principles are they willing to compromise?

Maybe slick Jack Layton will prove to be made of sterner stuff than I think he is. Or perhaps he’ll have a caucus rebellion on his hands.

Either way, reports of an election being put off for now are completely premature. Harper wants to go to the polls. He can smell his majority. He’s playing puppet-master, and is doing a pretty good job of it. Let’s see if Jack dances.

Sudbury Steve said...

The question I originally asked, "Are Jack Layton and the NDP Getting Ready to Sell Out Their Values in a Cynical Political Game?", now appears to have an answer. The Globe & Mail reports that Layton has announced his support for the Conservative government until the EI bill works its way through the House and the Senate (which could take months, especially if the Cons drag it out...although ideally such a bill should be passed quickly so that it can be implemented sooner rather than later).

Jack Layton, man of zero principles.

Well...good for us. More time to organize, and potentially more ex-NDP supporters looking for a Party to vote for which actually stands for something.

Chris KN said...

If Jack Layton didn't prop up the Harper government to get concessions on EI, we would be headed towards a Conservative majority government as we speak. As long as Harper is willing to bend in a minority parliament, the non-Conservative agenda can move forward. Unlike the Liberals, at least the NDP were able to get something for their support. It's far better than the alternative: four years of unopposed Conservative majority rule.