Saturday, September 6, 2008

Gut Check Time for Progressives: We Need a PM that Cares about Progressive Issues NOW!

Liberal and NDP supporters have a lot in common in terms of what kind of policies we’d like to see at the national level, but for that reason I just can’t understand why so many NDP supporters seem perfectly content to have Stephen Harper remain Prime Minister. If Jack Layton can’t be PM, and he can’t, then one would think NDP supporters would want a Liberal minority with the NDP holding the balance of power and be working to make that happen. For all those NDP supporters who will claim that it doesn’t matter if Stephen Harper gets to stay PM – I wonder how they’d answer the following questions.

1. Who would work better with Jack Layton in a minority government context Stéphane Dion or Stephen Harper?

2. When has more progressive policy passed, with a Liberal minority or a Conservative minority government? Forced to choose between the two isn’t it obvious which one has been better for progressives?

3. What does Jack have to show for his “opposition” to Stephen Harper this term? Did he elicit a single concession? Did a single piece of progressive policy pass since Harper has become PM? Why would another Harper minority be any different?

4. Having to choose between a Conservative minority government with an NDP gain of 5 seats over a Liberal minority government with an NDP loss of 5 seats which would you choose?

5. Which of those two options would lead to more progressive legislation being passed?

6. Does anyone believe any of the following would EVER be undertaken with Stephen Harper as PM?
- a real plan to combat poverty
- a real national child care plan
- a real plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- re-introduction of the Kelowna Accords
- meaningful increases in foreign aid
- fighting against the death penalty everywhere
- advocation against Guantanomo Bay
- re-instatement of the Court Challenges Program
- re-instatement of funding and mandate to Status of Women
- a Commissioner for Gender Equality

Yet we all know all those things in 6. would happen with Stephane Dion as PM - even Jack Layton acknowledged Dion to be a “man of principle and conviction” who you can trust. But every year more Stephen Harper is PM, more people suffer. Even so, Jack is unfortunately pursuing a strategy (by saying Stéphane Dion can’t be PM) that helps Stephen Harper who will never be a friend of progressives.

No matter what Jack says the evidence is clear - the race to be PM is between Stephen Harper and Stéphane Dion and pretending otherwise in no way helps progressives. It’s right in Tom Flanagan’s book – the Conservatives love the NDP because they’ve been instrumental to helping the Conservatives win ridings that were essentially two-way fights between Liberals and Conservatives.

Why is it so hard for NDPers to admit that Stéphane Dion would be a much more progressive PM than Harper? Did the Liberals and NDP not vote together on numerous private member's bills that Harper ended up ignoring? Why must NDP supporters resort to the same arguments that Ralph Nader supporters make in the U.S.? (While ironically backing Obama at the same time who makes the same arguments the Liberals do about how the stakes are too high to flock to a third party)

NDP supporters always seem to dodge the questions above, so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised if none of them honestly answer them, or instead just take one snippet and ignore the rest as they usually do.

The results of the last election led to a trashed child care plan, Kelowna abandoned, Court Challenges program eliminated, and massive backtracking on human rights, the environment and foreign aid. If you are progressive and you want actual progressive policies passed by a principled PM there’s only one party poised to do that in government and that’s the Liberals. There is too much at stake to have this election be 1988 all over again, I would hope the NDP realizes that.

UPDATE - 4:15 PM: Credit where credit is due, this is a well-done ad by the NDP. Though it does make the case well why we need Stéphane Dion as Prime Minister. Still waiting on the FIRST commenter to answer the questions asked above. I guess we all agree on the answers then :).

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The Jurist said...

Let's start with the most blatantly false of your premises. Please name one NDP supporter who has publicly professed to be "perfectly content to have Stephen Harper remain Prime Minister". (And no, "but they'd be Liberals if they weren't!" doesn't count.)

Danielle Takacs said...

I said many NDP "seem perfectly conntent", obviously nobody has said that publicly, but it's clear that Jack Layton going around implying Stephane Dion can't win (which is blatantly false) helps Harper. Elizabeth May has made clear that we can't afford Stephen Harper to get another mandate as PM, Jack has NEVER said that. Therefore, I thinkn he seems content with Harper winning as long as he thinks he'll pick up seats in the process.

The fact is Jack Layton has never given a straight answer to answer any of the sorts of questions I've outlined in this post and be straight Canadians about who would be the better PM for Canadians - Dion or Harper.

Will you honestly answer the questions in this post? Will any NDP suporter?

Greg said...

It must be election time again. Time to guilt trip anyone who doesn't support the fake progressive Liberal party. I will tell you what, though. If Dion makes a pledge, in writing, that he will bring in proportional representation using the Canada Law Commission model (no more consultations, no referendum) should he become PM, I might, just might vote Liberal.

Alison said...

Votes in the House

Number of votes in the HoC - 76
Number of votes cast by Layton - 73
Number of votes cast by Dion - 33

Percentage of NDP votes in support of Cons - 26%
Percentage of Lib votes in support of Cons - 60%

Danielle Takacs said...

Alison: It's all well and good to talk about votes in the House, but what does Layton have to show for those votes? Did a SINGLE piece of progressive policy pass? It MATTERS who is the government.

Greg: Fake progressive party? National child care, Kelowna, the Court Challenges program, Commissioner on Gender Equality, running 1/3 female candidates, fighting the death penalty, an agreesive environmental plan endorsed by virtually EVERY environmental group, a poverty plan endorsed by advocacy groups on behalf of the poor not progressive? Greg if you honestly answer Question #2 in this post you'd know what you said was false.

What matters to be and others at the ballot box are two things:
1) What policies will the next government pass
2) Who would make the best governnment (there are ONLY two options)

A Conservative government means drastically worse policies and worse government and I think that should be obvious, but the NDP seems unwilling to admit it.

Still waiting on ANY NDP supporter to answer those simple questions I asked in this post. It shouldn't be hard to honestly answer them I would think. Or will the pattern of dodging them continue....

Greg said...

Thanks Danielle. Daycare and Kelowna? Deathbed Hail Marys, both of them, after 13 years of inaction. 1/3 female candidates and here I thought women were at least 50% of the population. Enivironmental proposals. Yes, they are lovely, but so was the 1993 Red Book and we all know how that turned out. I see you didn't even touch electoral reform. No sale, I guess.

Danielle Takacs said...

National child care was in the original 2005 budget, so it a LIE to say it was a hail-mary pass, the Liberals were sitting around 40% in the polls around that time and Harper was the one abstaining. Paul Martin's actions on Aboriginals speak for themsleves so it's also a lie to call Kelowna a hail-mary.

Female candidates, it's a greater commitment than ever shown in the past, and the goal is get that number to 50% within 3 elections. The NDP aren't there either and I didn't see them propose a Commissioner on Gender Equality which is overdue.

You talk about broken promises on the rest but you basically admit they are progressive policies. And it's Jack's own words that say Dion is a principled man who you can trust - in fact he said he stood out most from the rest of the leadership candidates for that. So I have no doubt Dion would fulfill each of his commitments.

I see you still didn't answer the questions in the post. They're not that difficult.

Greg said...

Danielle, have you ever seen the Jerry Seinfeld episode where he is trying to get a rental car, but the company has no care, even though he has a reservation? I suggest you refer to it, because the way Jerry feels about the company is the way I feel about the Liberal Party. Anyone can promise to do great things. It's what they do when they are in power that makes them progressive. The Liberals are about 95% talk at 5% action. Good enough for you obviously, but not for me. I will leave you now to curse NDP voters, like a good little Liberal. Good luck attracting their vote using that tactic.

Skinny Dipper said...

Hi Danielle,

The problem with NDPers supporting Dion is that they stop supporting the NDP. Two things happen: the NDP loses seats. Even if the Liberals win extra seats, there will be an ideological shift to the right without the presence of the NDP. Also as a voter, there is no guarantee that the Liberals are my second choice. I may not like Harper's dictatorial style; however, I may not like Dion's carbon tax even more.

If everyone stops supporting the NDP, Bloc, and Greens; under a two party system, one party is guaranteed to get a majority. It wouldn't be the NDP. That's for sure.

Finally, which ever party I support, that party will receive about $1.90 because of my vote. Why would I give my $1.90 to the Liberal Party? I can't afford to give it to the Conservatives because Stephen Harper has given $275 of my hard earn money away for election goodies.

Skinny Dipper said...

In the past year, the Conservatives had a defacto majority government because the Liberals abstained on most bills when the NDP opposed. If you want NDPers to support Liberals, it would be nice once in a while for the Liberals to support the NDP over the Conservatives.

Anonymous said...

are you still on this path? Give it up, we thankfully don't live in a two party state. I choose not to give the Liberals my votes and I choose not to give the Conservatives my vote and I choose not to give the GPC my vote. Live with it.

Skinny Dipper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Skinny Dipper said...

Last year when I supported MMP in the referendum in Ontario, I noticed that those who actively campaigned against MMP were not dumb. In fact they were very bright and manipulative. I am guessing that when the BC referendum on STV takes place in May 2009, the same bright and manipulative people who opposed MMP will likely be opposing STV. When I read this blog, I see the writer as being very bright.

Danielle Takacs said...

I asked some simple questions and no one answered them. People will vote what they think is best in the end, but I will still argue that if you want progressive policies to pass in the next few years you NEED to elect a Liberal government. You won't get progressive policies ever with Harper and I think we can agree on that and many other things.

As well the Liberals did support many NDP private members bills and vice-versa, along with two different Climate Change bills that the Conservatives have ignored. If the Liberals were the governnment instead those bills would actually be implemented.

For the record I voted for MMP, so I think we have more common than you give me credit. We just happen to have different priorities of what we want out of this election, I want a better Prime Minister who will pass progressive policies and I strongly believe Stephane Dion would get that done. I hope you will listen to what he has to say in this election, because ever the NDP leader considers him a man you can trust.

I'd still like someone to answer the questions of this post though :).

lance said...

Danielle T said, "Did a SINGLE piece of progressive policy pass? It MATTERS who is the government."

Stephen H said, "I'd like to thank Jack Layton for making this day happen."

That would have been the residential schools apology. Jack pushed for it and made sure the gov't knew that it was important. He lobbied hard enough to move the gov't.

What has dipshift lobbied for other than bumping up the Mulroney committee?

I'm right leaning, but I respect the NDP. Their beliefs are not up for sale and they don't change their party without a convention. I would take an NDP opposition before a Liberal opposition any day of the week.


Jennifer Smith said...

Funny - I started writing a post just like this a while back, but I abandoned it in draft. Why? Because there's no talking to some people.

No matter what you say or however much evidence you present to the contrary, there are just some (not all) NDP supporters who are convinced that there is no difference between Liberals and Conservatives, and who hate the Liberals so much that they really do seem to prefer to have Harper in charge.

And let us not forget who put him there in the first place by taking such a principled stand on... what was it again? (thanks, Jack)

The thing is, the Liberals are pretty malleable as far as parties go. That's one of their strengths, and why they are so electable. Within my life time they've swung from centre to borderline socialist to corporate shills with a social conscience. They can swing back to the left - and I think Dion is leaning that way - but only if the left wing of the party steps up and takes advantage of the new donation rules that favour the grassroots over corporate donors.

That's why I signed up. Vive la Revolucion!

BTW, if Dion and the Liberals had actually voted against Harper on any of those confidence motions six months or a year ago, I can guarantee we'd be sitting under a Conservative majority right now. But at least we'd have stuck to our ideals, right?

Danielle Takacs said...

Lance that's pretty shocking that you believe that about the apology. ALL MPs in the House suported the residential schools apology and wanted the government to follow through. Gary Maresty moved a motion calling on the government to apologize for residential schools and it was unanimously adopted by the House. Paul Martin reached the original agreement surrounding the apology before the government fell and Harper worked with various individuals over two years on the appropriate timing of the apology, but I think it isn't something any party should be taking credit for, it was long overdue and I know it would have happened in this Parliament no matter who won the last election. I expressed the same views at the time the apology was delivered.

I'm quite surprised anyone would use that as an example of an NDP policy, I'm sure all party leaders agree that it's something everyone in the House was supportive of.

janfromthebruce said...

I am going to respond to Jennifer's comment, "and let us not forget who put him there in the first place by taking such a principled stand on... what was it again? (thanks, Jack)."

As it needs to be pointed out for about the millionth time is the following:

1. As a result of defections from the Liberal caucus, the Liberals and NDP combined didn't even have the votes to defeat a Tory/BQ non-confidence vote in November 2005 - the only choice the NDP faced was "do we want to fight an election campaign having just voted confidence in the Liberals in the midst of a new dump of publicity about how corrupt they were or don't we?"

2. While the Liberal government could have conceivably lasted another two and a half calendar months until mid-February - most of that time would have been the Christmas recess, so we are effectively talking about maybe two weeks at most of Parliament actually sitting. The notion that if only the Liberals had two more weeks in power they could have passed this avalanche of progressive legislation that they never found the time to pass in their previous 13 years in power is totally absurd.

3. The NDP made a package of demands in Nov. '05 about stopping the privatization of health care. Martin told the NDP to take off and refused to make any concessions whatsoever. He WANTED to trigger an early election because the conventional wisdom at the time was that a long campaign over Christmas would give Harper more time to self-destruct.

4. The opposition parties made an offer to Martin to fast track various pieces of legislation like Kelowna and child care etc... on condition that Martin agree to dissolve Parliament in January. HE REFUSED. The Liberals didn't want any of this stuff to pass because they wanted to be able to campaign on all the "goodies" that Canadians would lose if they didn't vote Liberal.

5. Its funny that no one ever talks about the BQs role in all of this. A lot of progressives in English Canada have this romantic image of Duceppe and the BQ as being sooo progressive and groovy and how if only they weren't sovereignist - they would vote for them. Well the BQ refused to negotiate on anything and only wanted to bring down the Liberals at all cost. They never bothered to try to use their leverage to get anything progressive out of the Martin government at all - they were just 100% rejectionist. Why no articles about how its the BQ's fault that Harper is in power and this all these "goodies" the Liberals had on the order paper got deep-sixed?

I will continue in the next post in why, in picking a leader, I will vote for Jack Layton and the New Democrats.

janfromthebruce said...

I think the facts, in this case, are important. The mythology that the NDP has a willing partner in the Liberals is simply that - myth. But it's a dangerous one that Liberals use to create their own myth about a selfish NDP that puts party interests ahead of the public good.

It's also dangerous because it leads New Democrats to believe that they can only influence a minority government that is lead by Liberals.

The real lesson to be learned from the 04-06 Parliament is that the NDP's influence in a minority Parliament is maximized when the government needs support it can't find anywhere else. The false lesson is that the NDP can influence Liberals in a minority - that's not supported by the facts.

I think if Harper ever got to a situation where he desperately needed to avoid an election that the Liberals and BQ wanted, the NDP could extract a lot from the Conservatives. Unfortunately, Harper has never been in that position, as I will point out in the next post, exactly where Harper and his conservatives got their support.

Even if he was, I worry that the NDP Caucus would be trapped by the knee-jerk assumption that everything the Conservatives do is inherently evil while the Liberals are flawed but inherently good.

Layton would be an excellent Prime Minister.

janfromthebruce said...

As mentioned, Harper had a willing partner in passing all sorts of very unprogressive legislation. Here is the sample of liberals supporting his agenda.

In January 2006, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were elected to lead a minority government. But the way Stephane Dion and the Liberals acted - you wouldn’t have known it.

Despite claims that they were “standing up to the Conservative agenda”, the fact was that Dion’s Liberals were actually helping to implement it.

By ordering his MPs to vote for, abstain or walk out on key votes, Stephane Dion gave the Harper Conservatives the majority government that Canadians refused to give him.

Here are just some examples of how Stephane Dion’s refusal to stand up to the Conservatives helped to implement the Harper agenda:

Harper’s agenda: Kill NDP motion to ban cosmetic pesticides
Liberals helped by: Voting with Harper (16 May 2006)
Harper’s agenda: Extend the combat mission in Afghanistan from 2007 until 2009
Liberals helped by: Voting with Harper (17 May 2006)
Harper’s agenda: Permit replacement workers in federal workplaces
Liberals helped by: Voting with Harper (21 March 2007)
Harper’s agenda: Kill NDP motion for withdrawal from combat mission in Afghanistan
Liberals helped by: Voting with Harper. (30 April 2007)
Harper’s agenda: Kill NDP motion to restart study of electoral reform
Liberals helped by: Voting with Harper (2 May 2007)
Harper’s agenda: End Canada’s involvement in Kyoto
Liberals helped by: Abstaining (24 October 2007)
Harper’s agenda: Cut $5.3 billion a year from public services
Liberals helped by: Abstaining (31 October 2007)
Harper’s agenda: Stop a package to help the ailing manufacturing and forestry sector
Liberals helped by: Abstaining (14 November 2007)
Harper’s agenda: Put $50.5 billion in giveaways to profitable corporations ahead of child care, poverty alleviation and First Nations
Liberals helped by: Abstaining four times (4, 10 and 13 December 2007)
Harper’s agenda: Reinstate "security certificates" opposed by human rights advocates
Liberals helped by: Voting with Harper (6 February 2008)
Harper’s agenda: Link passage of crime bills to confidence in the government
Liberals helped by: Abstained (12 February 2008)
Harper’s agenda: Get his third budget passed. A budget that doesn't offer a cent for child care or skyrocketing drug costs, but steals $55 billion in surplus employee contributions to the Employment Insurance fund.
Liberals helped by: Ordering all but 10 MPs to abstain from the vote (4 March 2008)
Harper’s agenda: Stay in power by defeating a NDP non-confidence motion criticizing the Conservatives for rejecting an all-party bill that environmental groups called the "breakthrough bill" to tackle climate change.
Liberals helped by: Abstaining (10 March 2008)
Harper’s agenda: Extend Canada’s military role in Afghanistan until 2011
Liberals helped by: Negotiating an extention to the mission and then voting with Harper on it (13 March 2008)
Harper’s agenda: Kill a Liberal bill to give a $5,000 tax deduction to parents who save for their children's education.
Liberals helped by: Abstaining from the vote (13 March 2008)
Harper’s agenda: Stay in power by defeating a NDP non-confidence motion against the decision to give a massive $50.5 billion tax break to profitable corporations while ordinary people pay a greater share of taxes.
Liberals helped by: Voting with Harper (2 April 2008)
Harper’s agenda: Defeat an NDP motion to stop changes to the Immigration Act giving the minister authority to treat immigration applicants unfairly.
Liberals helped by: Voting with Harper (9 April 2008)
Harper’s agenda: Pass S-203, a weak animal cruelty law that critics say will let animal abusers walk free.
Liberals helped by: Voting with Harper (9 April 2008)

So what would have been next if Harper hadn't immorally called this election and broken his own election law?

What would have Mr. Dion helped Mr. Harper do next?
Privatize the CBC? End our public pension plan?

I think that neither of the duoing Steves are PM material.

For me, these facts in this and the previous post make it quite apparent who would make the best Prime Minister - Jack Layton.

Just campaign on the issues.

Danielle Takacs said...

I understand that many NDP supporters think Jack Layton would make the best PM and I will continue to strongly disagree. Only Stephane Dion has a realistic progressive plan for what he would do in governnment.

But more to the point until someone comes back with a list of at least 90 UNHELD ridings the NDP thinks they can win to form the governmennt (which likely still wouldn't be enough seats) then claims that Jack Layton can be PM are just 100% implausible. Only Stephen Harper or Stephane Dion can be Prime Minister after this election and that is just a fact.

So if you believe like I do that we need a NEW PM then it's clear we need a Liberal government.

Danielle Takacs said...

Since no NDP supporter was willing to answer the questions in my post, let me be the first to step forward....

1. Who would work better with Jack Layton in a minority government context Stéphane Dion or Stephen Harper?

Stephane Dion

2. When has more progressive policy passed, with a Liberal minority or a Conservative minority government? Forced to choose between the two isn’t it obvious which one has been better for progressives?

More progressive legislation has ALWAYS passed with a Liberal governnment

3. What does Jack have to show for his “opposition” to Stephen Harper this term? Did he elicit a single concession? Did a single piece of progressive policy pass since Harper has become PM? Why would another Harper minority be any different?

Jack has NOTHING concrete to show, no progressive legislation. Another Harper minority would obviously be no different.

4. Having to choose between a Conservative minority government with an NDP gain of 5 seats over a Liberal minority government with an NDP loss of 5 seats which would you choose?

Liberal government of course :).

5. Which of those two options would lead to more progressive legislation being passed?

Obviously the latter option - a Liberal governnment.

6. Does anyone believe any of the following would EVER be undertaken with Stephen Harper as PM?

Obviously not, we cannot afford ANOTHER month with this man as PM, too many people suffer.

Nonetheless I hope NDP and Liberal supporters will work together in this election to expose Harper as the fraud his is. So far I give the NDP credit for starting out reasonably well on this front. Now that the writ has dropped my focus in this election is on seeing Harper is replaced as PM and exposing his failure of a government. I hope yours is too :).

liberallatte said...

I am rather a Green than an NDPer, but I think the idea that all progressives vote for Liberals, not NDP, is good in short-term, but very damaging to progressive politics in the long-term.

Of course it is true that Dion would work better with Layton, Dion is much more progressive than Harper, and stopping Harper needs to be the priority. However, if most NDPers followed your advice and voted Liberal just to stop Harper, and did so in every election from now to stop Tories (since the need to stop Tories is always there), NDP would disappear, and the end result would be an American-style two party system where the mid-point of the political spectrum is centre-right.

One of the main reasons that Canada is much more progressive than the US is the existence of NDP as a national party. When political debates are shaped by liberals, conservatives, socialists and greens, citizens are constantly exposed to progressive ideas, and the political centre would be somewhere around the liberals (since liberalism is roughly in-between socialism/green-ism and conservatism). When political discourse dominated only by liberals and conservatives, the political landscape will be shifted to the right, and the political centre would be somewhere between liberalism and conservatism, centre-right. (Just look at the US. How great would it be if the US had a voice like NDP?)

An undemocratic First-Past-the-Post electoral system is the root cause of all these dilemma, the concern than NDP (and the Greens) are spoiling Liberal votes. Under MMP, there would be no such dilemma. Since FPTP benefits Conservatives and Liberals (and Bloc), while damaging NDP and Greens, FPTP has the practical effect of undermining progressive politics. However, in my understanding, the Liberal support for MMP is tepid at best, and Mr McGuinty did not do enough to educate Ontarians about MMP, which led to its disastrous defeat last year. Why don't Liberals support MMP more enthusiastically?

Your point is certainly a valid one to consider, but we need to balance it with the long-term concern to preserve socialist/green voice. I think it's great that Layton is mainly targeting Harper (not attacking Dion too much) and Elizabeth May is acknowledging that Dion is much better than Harper.
And Dion was very wise about the deal with May. I think what's best for progressive politics is Liberals, NDP and Greens flourishing together and cooperating with each other!