Category Archives: NDP

Crafting a realistic headline

Jack Layton says the NDP, if elected, will eliminate poverty in Canada by 2020. An admirable goal, but I think reducing poverty by 80% would make a better headline.

Talking in absolutes (“eliminate”) sounds idealistic to the point of being unreasonable.

Any values from 90% up are used too often to mean “virtually all” and that’s barely better than “eliminate.”

But 80% sounds like a realistic yet ambitious goal.


Imported Solutions

One of the fantastic things about stealing another country’s system of government wholesale is that we can also take their op-eds and apply them to our own situation.

In the Guardian,  Jonathan Freedland writes about that most perennial of issues in both Canada and the UK: reforming the Upper House of Parliament. It’s on the agenda in the UK for next week.

The House of Commons will be debating, as if it were a matter of controversy, a principle which most other democracies accepted a long time ago – a principle which we send our armies half way across the globe to impose on others by force. It is the principle that people should elect those who govern them.

Still, holding out for full election could mean no election. That’s what happened last time, when too many pro-reform MPs let the best become the enemy of the better: they voted down some election in favour of more election, until they had nothing. (A fully elected house and an 80% elected house both fell by an agonising three votes.) MPs can remedy that next week by voting yes more than once, to all of the three options that would create a mainly elected upper house.

There is a lesson here for us Canadians. Though our problems are more between provinces and parties, rather than MPs, the British experience can still be applied here. If everyone holds out for their ideal reforms, we will get no reform at all.

The NDP wants to abolish the Senate alltogether, the Conservatives want elections and probably a redistribution of seats, and as far as I can tell the Liberals are happy enough to continue exploiting the system as it stands today. Obviously, the can’t all have their way. Before anything else can happen, the parties in the Commons will have to find some points to agree on. Hopefully, they will eventually be able to agree that there needs to be an election in some form.

The other barrier to Senate reform is the provinces. Unlike in Britain, there are ten provinces in Canada who have a say in any changes to the constitution. And many of these provinces would like, if there have to be any changes at all, equal representation of provinces in the Senate, regardless of population.

At least the NDP plan to abolish the Senate eventually achieves the goal of an entirely democratic government, albeit by a difficult and unlikely path. Compare this with the provinces’ wishes for equal representation. If we are making these reforms for the sake of democracy, equal representation actually perpetuates the unrepresentative quality of the body. It may represent the regions, but this isn’t a democracy of regions, it is a democracy of people.

The first-past-the-post system in the Commons is bad enough, but turning the Senate into a chamber that even more poorly responds to the will of Canadians is a move in the wrong direction. Today, the Senate is subordinate to the Commons. This is at least more desirable than a Senate subordinate to the provinces. If we are actually in this to strengthen Canadian democracy, the provinces are going to have to give up their quest for more power. It’s a long shot, I know.

Once the provinces can agree that equal representation is not truly democratic and the parties can agree on the need for reform, we can move forward.

Lip Service

The most distasteful thing about majority governments is that they are essentially 4-year dictatorships. Excepting something so outrageous it drives the Governor General to use his or her significant but unused powers, there is nothing standing between a majority government and it’s agenda.

This is why it should come as a breath of fresh air when a minority government radically changes it’s policy to better suit the electorate, as the Conservatives have been frantically trying to do regarding the environment.

But it does not.

The Conservatives are only paying lip service to the environment, and normally this would be more than enough. As Michael Ignatieff said about toppling Saddam Hussein, “if good results had to wait for good intentions, we would have to wait forever.” The thing is, the other parties are either paying exceptional lip service, or good intentions and good results are actually lining up.

Every other party (or at least the leader) had cast itself as green long before the Conservatives identified the environment as a path to their own 4-year dictatorship. So if you’re concerned about the environment (and everyone’s been saying lately they are) you should vote that way. We shouldn’t settle for half-measures when the other parties are offering the real deal.

[image credit]

2007: Domestic Outlook

Polar Bear swim 2007 by *

What’s in store for 2007? I doubt there will be a lack of things to blog about!


There is a provincial election scheduled for sometime in October, the first of it’s kind in this province. I don’t doubt Howard Hampton when he saysI expect we’ll see 10 months of photo ops and press conferences.” On the other hand, the government doesn’t get to choose when to call the election, so I suppose it’s a worthy trade-off.

With the election still ten months away and polls reasonably close, it’s anybody’s game. Well, anybody except the NDP. Regardless of how well Bob Rae did at the Liberal leadership convention, his ghost still haunts the Ontario NDP. Still, this being the first election since the departure of Mike Harris, vote-splitting, and all that fun, the NDP stands to gain a handful of percentage points at least. But I digress. It is more accurate, and less distracting, to say the election comes down to Dalton McGuinty and John Tory.

I think McGuinty has done a decent job leading the Liberal government so far. Things were a bit shaky at first with the infamous broken promises and budget deficits, but aided by a cooperative economy things have gone (un)remarkably smoothly of late.
Tory has spent his brief time running the PC party by building up a personal image of respectability without committing to anything too substantial. The impression I’m getting is that he will govern more-or-less like the Liberals, except more honestly. He has cast himself, successfully I think, as a Bill Davis PC: Big on common sense and pragmatism, where common sense is always uncapitalized and never revolutionary.

All this leaves me pretty apathetic about the election, because either way we are going to end up with a pretty decent government. I’ll probably vote for the Liberals at the end of it all, only because they are already known and tested. But who knows what will happen in the intervening months. I certainly wouldn’t have to choke back my own bile to cast a ballot for John Tory, and I won’t lose any sleep if the pull ahead in the polls.

Speaking of losing sleep…


Stephen Harper is our Prime Minister. This whole business of minority governments is too complicated for me to follow without quitting my day job, so I won’t even speculate about when the government is going to fall or under what conditions. What I can tell you is I will not, under any conditions, be voting for a Conservative. I had high hopes after the last election, but they were quickly dashed. It makes me angry just thinking about it, and a bit nervous thinking about how much worse it could be.

Setting aside all that, I was very impressed with most of the Liberal leadership hopefuls, and have a good feeling about Stephane Dion. I’m glad too that Michael Ignatieff is now deputy-leader or whatever title they gave him. It would have been a shame (and a very bad way to signal “renewal”) if they had ostracized such a smart guy. Compared to the last few years, the Liberals have a bright future ahead.

I voted for the NDP candidate in the last election because it was the best way to vote against the Liberals without voting for the Conservatives. However, the way the NDP has been trying to work with the Harper government while criticizing the Liberals only makes sense in an abstract way. In practice, the enemy of your enemy should not be your friend when your party is as idealistic as the NDP usually is. Wearing the Liberals’ clothes does not become New Democrats.

And don’t forget about the Greens! They have a new leader who comes off a bit, shall we say, flowery compared to Jim Harris, but there’s no denying they have momentum. Could we see our first Green MP in 2007?

It doesn’t look dull from here, and we haven’t even stumbled across the best unexpected stuff yet.

*credit where credit is due

Spying on Tommy, spying on me

The Canadian Press, through Freedom of Information laws, have recently been able to get their hands on the the RCMP’s massive file on Tommy Douglas. Information was collected on Douglas from 1939 through the late seventies.

Perhaps fittingly, the file contains articles noting Douglas’s concern about rumours of RCMP surveillance of Canadians, though there is no indication the politician suspected he was being watched.

“Setting people to spy on one another is not the way to protect freedom,” he wrote while NDP leader.

His concern remains germane today, when we are prepared to give up our freedom piecemeal for protection from a threat that essentially amount to the boogey man: anonymous terrorists who walk among us and could strike anywhere at any time.

According to CP, the RCMP kept files on 800,000 Canadians, including 650 politicians and beaurocrats. Spying on the people for their politics – or today, their ethnicity – is no way to run a free country.