Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Medicine for the LPC

Jason Cherniak has caused a storm among NDP bloggers by claiming that their party is "sick". Jason starts off by asking the following questions:

Why does the NDP exist?
What is their purpose in Canadian politics?
Should a political party be celebrating because they won less than 10% of the seats in the House of Commons?
Should a political party be celebrating because the group most opposed to their ideology is now in government?
Should a political party be kicking out lifelong members because they do not adhere to party policy?
What is the purpose of the NDP?

The short answer to these questions would be:

1. Because the Liberals and Tories refused to accept the "big government" concept in the 30s.
2. "Results for people!"
3. Yes
4. Not really. But...
5. No
6. "Results for people!"

But this is probably worthy of a bit more of a response than that, so I'll give my take on the NDP.

Right off the bat, let me say that I agree that an NDP government would lead to some problems. There are a lot of things about the party I'm uncomfortable with and a lot of extremists in their ranks. But, that said, I think the NDP serves a valuable purpose in Canadian society. And, over the years, the NDP (and CCF before them) has done a lot of good for Canada.

I don't want to get into a history lesson here, but the only reason that old pragmatist Mackenzie King ever brought in the child allowance (which, as an ironical aside, is kind of like the Tories childcare plan) or any single government program was because he was scared out of his mind about the CCF. King, like all good Liberals, was concerned about staying in power and he recognized that to do this, he'd have to steal a lot of CCF policies, something he went about doing quite effectively. We've seen this pattern repeat itself over the years with Liberals either adopting NDP policy because they needed their support in the House or because they were afraid of losing votes to the left.

The NDP has always been about keeping the Liberals "honest". There are enough lefty-socialist-pinko-commie Canadians who would never feel comfortable voting for the Tories under any circumstances. Without an alternative to the Liberals, the Grits have no reason to work for their vote. It's the same reason I think Alberta would be better off with a strong Alberta Alliance party capable of pulling in 17% of the vote and a half dozen seats. At the very least it would keep the Provincial PCs on their toes and working for their votes.

As for NDP supporters being happy with election results, they have every right to be happy. To quote their mustached hero, they "elected more NDP MPs" and 1 in every 6 Canadians voted for them. I was happy when the provincial Liberals got 17 16 MLAs in the last provincial election and I'd streak down 17th Avenue naked if we ever got a federal seat in Calgary. I'm sure a lot of NDP supporters aren't happy about seeing Harper elected but that's the fault of the Liberal Party, not of NDP voters. In the eyes of a lot of people, the Liberals betrayed their left wing values and were a corrupt government in need of defeat. Blaming voters for not holding their nose and voting Liberal is just another example of Liberal arrogance that turns a lot of people away from the Liberals. Another example of Liberal arrogance that could turn people away from the LPC might be question another party's right to exist...


  • On the last part, CG, it smacks of Martinite Liberal arrogance. The Martinites are to blame, not the NDP. Good column.

    By Blogger John Murney , at 6:42 p.m.  

  • Excellent work, Bart. You've shown a fine example of why I come to your blog first each day (well second to Bourque, but he's a newsie, not a bloggie). Taking potshots at other parties is not whats going to revive the Liberal brand nor its fortunes. While I'm the first to think it's funny to stir up the masses, when arrogance and better-than-you politics is associated with the Liberals, some of it's more public figures (that can be argued w/Jason) should probably focus internally rather than shoot the NDP down.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:03 p.m.  

  • The next logical step, contrary to Jason's views, is a merger between the Liberals and NDP.

    I was wondering whether Liberals would wake up to the fact that the NDP under Layton has far, far more credibility among many voters than it had under more recent leaders. His personal credibility outstrips the willingness of voters as of now to vote for his party. This could change, if the Liberals do not change.

    Jack Layton ran a very astute campaign, given that his party stood no chance of becoming the government, and the attacks from Liberals for voters to vote strategically. Unfortunately for Liberals, voting strategically will not work every time – voters will balk at simply voting for Liberals in order to keep some other party out of power. There is no longer any need to call for strategic voting on the right wing, though – a very significant change.

    Voters need to vote for something, not just against something.

    Harper has done one remarkable thing: negotiated the amalgamation of two parties on the right wing spectrum of Canadian politics. In so doing, he effectively caused the demise of the old Progressive Conservative Party, and ended up in full possession of the centre-right political space.

    On the centre-left, we have the Liberals and NDPers. The logical thing to expect is a merger – not takeover! – of the Liberal and NDP parties, to form a new party – let’s call it the Liberal Democratic Party, or Democrats for short.

    To do so would mean the Democrats would have to fuse the social policies of the old Liberals with those of the NDP, to arrive at a centre-left mix.

    On the economic front, the fusion would result in a centre-left set of policies, which would incorporate many of the worker-protection policies found in European parties.

    I could see an agreement to incorporate individual economic rights in the next round of constitutional amendments; protection of union rights; policies designed to educate young people as a right; protection of the aged and others falling between the cracks, accompanied by a commitment to capitalism. Tony Blair moved his party to the centre; Jack Layton could easily do so.

    Such a merger, resulting in the Democrat Party, would give voters a solid choice: the centre-right of the new Tories under Harper (similar to the Republicans), and the centre-left Democrats (similar to some European parties).

    The voters in Quebec would be faced with three choices: two national ones and a local separatist movement. I would expect the Bloc’s support to drop to around 35% with the other 2 parties sharing the balance, but the Democrats taking the lion’s share.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:19 p.m.  

  • Curiosity Killed the Cat,

    I'd love to see the two left-wing parties in Canadian politics merge, but the Bloc would have to give up that nasty ol' separatism plank in their platform first. ;-)

    Seriously, though, I'll say the same thing to you that I said to Mr. Cherniak--I'm an American immigrant who came to Canada in large part because of the political diversity it has to offer. The day that colourful array of possibilities turns into the forced choice I grew up with is the day I find another country to settle in.

    By Blogger Idealistic Pragmatist, at 7:33 p.m.  

  • IP:

    Cherniak is actually a continentalist who wants us to join the United States, which may explain his blindspot on political diversity. (A great blogger though, despite that...)

    By Blogger Simon Pole, at 8:11 p.m.  

  • I am a Liberal, but lately I have been a very apprehensive one, because I hate the arrogance associated with the Party. Cherniak is a perfect example. People like him not only embarass me, but make me wish I wasn't a Liberal.

    It is so refreshing to see someone like you, Calgary Grit, who is respectful and polite in disagreement with other political positions. We need more people like you to get vocal and less people like Cherniak.

    Let's not forget that the Dippers were a huge part of making the last government work. Let's not be so quick to put them down.

    We need more cooperation in politics and I think the people want that too.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:16 p.m.  

  • CG:

    Couldnt have said it better myself.

    By Blogger Oxford County Liberals, at 8:24 p.m.  

  • Great Post!

    I'm a Liberal suporter, but Jason's recent NDP attacks strike me more as someone upset that his Liberal Martinite Gravy Train ride might have come to an end and not someone that acutaly has any understanding of Canadian Politcal history.

    The Liberal party is essitially a corporate party that has succusfully built Canada into what it is today, but without the pressure of the NDP for progressive votes on the left the Liberal Party would just listen to it's corporate masters and ignore the left come election time.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:35 p.m.  

  • "Jason Cherniak has caused a storm among NDP bloggers"

    - I can't read anymore, that's hilarious! After a tough week, CG, its nice to come read a grit-blog and see some really fun stuff.

    I'll take your word for it that this was some pretty heavy-thinking-style debates.

    By Blogger Tarkwell Robotico, at 8:41 p.m.  

  • I don't really give a rat's ass what any individual Young Liberal blogger thinks.

    I was one of those in the pre-blog era. And just like the Young Liberals of today, I knew everything when I was that age.

    I'm much smarter now.

    I don't spend a lot of time worrying about the NDP.

    Progressives have to make their own choices. For many, being in perpetual opposition bitching and whining is preferable to actually participating in government. To them, the NDP is a comfortable home. I think it is a ridiculous argument.

    The reality is that we can only build a better world from government. Gay marriage didn't happen because the NDP was in Parliament. The national child care strategy (the one that cost the Tories their anticipated 905 seats) didn't happen because the NDP was in opposition.

    They happened because the Liberal Party has enough progressives to have dragged the former leader, kicking and screaming, towards the New Jerusalem.

    Simply put, it's progressive politics all the time vs. progressive policy some of the time.

    I'll pick implementing policy. And, as a progressive, I can best do that within the Liberal Party

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:26 p.m.  

  • Why do the Liberals exist?

    For the sake of holding power. It is more successful than any other totalitarian regime in the world because its torture is simply to gain power for its own sake. That is where the Nazis, the Soviet Union, and Maoist China all failed in their quest to snuff out freedom.

    Peace is war
    Freedom is slavery
    Ignorance is strength

    God Bless the All-Powerful Liberal party!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:28 p.m.  

  • Good post CG. Its nice to see someone of the Liberal brand still has some common sense. As for Cherniak, he seems to be able to prove himself a twit on almost a daily basis. His blog attracts visitors to see just how outlandish his daily rants can be. Not unlike the attraction that the Trailer Park Boy's are to television viewers looking for a laugh. I have usually supported the Conservatives, but I do share some philosophical ideas with the NDP on some issues. Where I tend to differ from them is on matters of national defence, fiscal responsibiliy, and their unwillingness to explore all avenues of health reform. Here's hoping that the Liberals can distance themselves from the likes of the Cherniak's, Scott Reid's, and John Duffy's and get some common sense people such as yourself back at the helm.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:52 a.m.  

  • "and a lot of extremists in their ranks"

    Yeah, so stay in the party with those moderates Tom Wappel and Dan McTeague, to name but two. No, they aren't extreme in their views.

    Besides that, a good post.

    Cherniak is wanting to blame the NDP for the Liberals woes instead of looking at the Liberals themselves.

    By Blogger Mike, at 9:41 a.m.  

  • Great comments here it's good to know I'm not the only Liberal ashamed of the our current leadership's actions. Cherniak's comments are just so indicitave of how the top folks in the party thing. Blame others, but never ourselves. It's time for a change. Its time for new visions and ideas. Get these martinites out of Ottawa and back into the holes they belong in.

    By Blogger Forward Looking Canadian, at 10:37 a.m.  

  • "The reality is that we can only build a better world from government. Gay marriage didn't happen because the NDP was in Parliament."

    On the contrary. The only reason Gay Marriage passed was entirely due to support from the BQ and the NDP. If they had abstained the bill would have lost.

    By Blogger Greg, at 11:02 a.m.  

  • Cut Jason some slack. He's a young man who will get better with age. He does pose some very serious questions and I believe I have answers:

    Why does the NDP exist?

    Canadian wing of the International Communist Conspiracy.

    What is their purpose in Canadian politics?

    The promotion of flouride as an additive to foodstuffs and the water supply.

    What is the purpose of the NDP?

    To sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:20 a.m.  

  • I think Jason is valid is asking his questions about the NDP but I think using the appelation "sick" is a mistake.
    I much perfer a parliment that is not polarized by two extremes like in the US and till more recently the UK. Polarization results in drastic changes and radicallism and reactionary behaviour. I fear uniting the NDP and the Liberals would not lead to to a perpetual centre left government but rather a really polarized disfunctional system. Simple really Canadians are centre left, the right needs to unite to have a shot at forming government, and as a Liberal as much as I dread the thought of an extreme right wing govt (which I worry we have), the right needs a legitimate shot at forming govt and they need to do so some times to keep the Liberals honest, no govt should be in power longer then 15 years period, ever (if you want to argue 10 years or 8 years whatever, various shapes, the idea is the same, cleaning house needs to be done.) The NDP fills a crucial role on the left, bring up new left leaning ideas, like the reform did on the right bring up new ideas. This allows the Liberals to be brokers and borrow the best ideas from each side and give us non polorized govt.
    That said ripping into the NDP is silly, it is way more fun to provoke the tories as they go way crazier and the NDP are sometime allies, we should respect all parties and while I hope we never end up with a balkanized parliment a plethora of parties is a good thing good ideas ultimatly have no ideology, they work or they dont, they improve our life or they dont, they make a better country or they dont, more ideas just mean more potential solutions.
    I also like the idea of quarintining the left wing whackos so that we do not end up with Rob Anders and Sven Robinson in the Liberal party.
    How is this for beginning to define the Liberal party, A party that is an honest broker of ideas regardless of their ideolgical origin, a party of sense and reason and compromise

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:58 a.m.  

  • The gist of Cherniak's screed is stupid and arrogant, not to mention intellectually dishonest. You could apply the same questions to any political party, as we've all been to the same place at different times, trying to spin something out of a poor showing.

    At the same time, it's right along the same line of entitlement and overwrought righteousness that I've come to expect from the moustached marvel and his gang of pious windbags.

    The NDP has as much right to exist as the Green Party or the Marxist Leninists, or any other special interest fringe party.

    What I think the naive youngster is getting at, and where he does have a point, is why the NDP gets off lightly at election time. Or any other time. It's a question best posed to the press gallery.

    Here's some questions:

    Does anybody remember any articulate segment of the NDP's election platform? I mean, other than the usual airy bullshit about working families?

    Did the party even have a platform?

    If so, was it costed out? (They did put out a big round number, but nobody believed it, and they didn't offer an independent analysis.)

    Why didn't Layton get grilled for expelling Churchill MP Bev Dejarlais for voting her conscience by opposing the same-sex marriage bill?

    Why didn't the NDP face tough questions for being the first party out of the gate to air negative advertising?

    NDP caucus members include former disgraced provincial cabinet ministers Penny Priddy and Dave Kristoferson. Voters had the good sense to defeat another one, MArilyn Churley. Why isn't somebody questioning their record or fitness for office? Do you think that Glen Clark is a

    NDP MP Pat Martin has said repeatedly the federal government should impose another version of the National Energy Program because oil companies were making too much in profit. What's up with that, Jack Layton? Do you agree?

    Oh, one other thing, Jack. Why did you sign the nomination papers for Svend Robinson? Are you proud to have a convicted thief as a candidate?

    It wouldn't kill the NDP to get a bit of the Julie Van Dusen bitchslap treatment. It might even make them, ya know, responsible. You wanna play in the big leagues, that's the price you have to pay.

    And anybody who thinks the NDP could never win government wasn't living in Ontario in 1990. If one good thing came of the Bob Rae victory, it was that such a blip will never ever happen again.

    By Blogger Raymaker, at 12:59 p.m.  

  • Raymaker,

    Good Points.

    I really think that the NDP and Layton being put under the microscope would be better for not only them but the country. It would allow Layton to countinue his push of the party to the centre, marginlize the NDP lefty idealists with their pie in the sky policies and would make them a legitmate option for government.

    I would much rather have a federal NDP that was more of a pragmatic Garry Doer type party than a party of perpetual whining and opposition.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:32 p.m.  

  • Brad Lavigne irritates me, he has got to be the cockiest spokesperson for the 4th party in Parliament ever. I do not know why he is so smug, what have the NDP ever accomplished?? Nothing, absolutely nothing, much like war that is what the NDP is good for. I realize that CG is sitting at home hugging tree sining kumbaya, but in the real world the NDP aggravates people, like me. I guess it is easy to criticize and be smug when you have no hope of winning. Once the NDP is actually power, that is when we no longer have any results for people. It is always a massive letdown, and we force people to work against their will (Rae Days, hello). So hopefully Brad and his ilk stay on the sidelines of power forever, cause if they ever got into the Langevin block, this country midaswell burn in hell.

    That is my positive message about the NDP and Brad "I am stuck in the 50's" Lavigne.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:48 p.m.  

  • Why does the NDP exist?
    WELL, the NDP is a brilliant joint bipartisan Liberal/Conservative scheme to keep the crazies out of power, of course! If we didn't have an NDP, then all our rabid anti-capitalism anti-american anti-wealth misguided citizens (50% of whom will thankfully come to their senses by the time they turn 30 and experience the real world) would actually be in one of the major GOVERNING parties of this country, and what a disaster that would be.

    Merging would be bad. I think I like this arrangement we have here better. The NDP can scream about the evil corporations and whatever else is the flavour of the month and win some electoral scraps every decade or so, while the Grits and Tories can deal with REAL issues at the adult table.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:59 p.m.  

  • Yeet more evidence of Liberals in denial ...

    It took the right wingers in Canada several years and much kerfuffling before they finally circled the wagons around one Stephen Harper and his Republican-style right wing Conservative party.

    By doing so, he cleared the political space on the centre-right for his party to operate in, avoiding having votes split by others on the far right. The results of his brushcutting are seen in the election – while not making many inroads into former Liberal or NDP territory in the big cities, he has built beachheads out from vintage Toryland in the Prairies, into Ontario, BC and a little thrust into the Maritimes and Quebec. Not a bad start for a right wing party.

    And on the left? A chaotic, amorphous mass calling itself the Liberal Party, with a more tightly focused and principle-driven little NDP party yapping on its sinister heels. Two parties – with much overlap – occupying the same political space and fighting each other more than fighting the Tories.

    My solution, voiced here and elsewhere: consolidate the centre-left political space. Start serious discussion of a merger of the NDP and Liberal Party. Set out where there is overlap, where there are gaps, and seek to reconcile the gaps.

    The name of the game in politics is to gain power in order to implement policies. Scrapping with each other while Harper organizes and starts using the immense power of the public purse to gather support in Quebec and elsewhere, is a bit like Nero fiddling while Rome burnt.

    I know the Liberals are in denial, but we need more Heroes, not Neros!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:54 a.m.  

  • Merging the NDP and the Liberals is absolutely moronic - what a complete catastrophe that would turn out to be for ALL Canadians.

    It's not perfect, but we've got a fine system up and running now that the Conservatives are back in competing action. It can be a frustrating system, but I'm pretty well contented with and reconciled to it.

    Any merger talk about the NDP and Liberals is silly. It's not going to happen any time in the next 10 years, and probably not in the next 20.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:03 p.m.  

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