Saturday, November 29, 2008

Canada NEEDS a NEW Prime Minister

Ok so I've said this before, but I say it again now for much different reasons. We have a clear way forward and much to justify it (for an exhaustive list see below).

Our economy faces its worst crisis in decades and this calls for putting personal partisan interest aside and working in a spirit of inter-party co-operation to give Canada the BEST policies to help our country through these trouble times. It’s clear now we won’t get that from this Prime Minister who’s fiscal update was all about pandering to HIS party’s base rather than helping Canadians who are most in need. Using an economic crisis to try to bankrupt your opposition parties was bad enough, but Harper at least had an opportunity to try and propose real solutions for the economy. He failed miserably.

- Weakening pay equity and public service worker’s rights isn’t a solution to the economic crisis.

- Claiming there will a razor thin surplus these next few years when EVERY economist says otherwise is not a solution to the economic crisis

- Promising massive cuts to social spending without specifying where those cuts are going to go isn’t a solution to the economic crisis.

- Having a firesale on government assets isn’t a solution to the economic crisis.

- Proposing NO stimulus for the economy, when EVERY OTHER world leader is, isn’t a solution to the economic crisis.

A much better solution to the economic crisis is a NEW government. This one recklessly managed mismanaged the economy for 2.5 years and when given another minority it has failed to change its ways. It has failed to act as all western governments have. It has failed to reach beyond its base as Canadians EXPECTED it to do.

It’s too late for death bed conversions, it will be obvious it’s just a façade. It’s time to bring this government down and give Canadians a better one.

I think the best, most practical and least divisive solution would be to have this government led by Stéphane Dion until the time a new leader is crowned and with the NDP receiving 7 or 8 cabinet posts in a trimmed down 26-28 member cabinet. To pressure Dion to resign would badly divide the Liberal Party when it needs to be united and, in particular, to install one of the other leadership candidates would be deeply resented by members of all other camps (and neutral Liberals like myself).

NO ONE can say Dion isn’t ready or fully qualified to lead as PM. He has over a decade in cabinet, he knows the issues this country is facing, and I think would work very well with members of other parties in this minority climate. If he is only to lead until May then no one can say he has ulterior motives other than what is in best interests of the country. We NEED that right now. McCallum and Goodale would be preferable to the current leadership candidates as PM, but as far as I understand they are each already committed to one of the candidates in this race (Goodale for Rae and McCallum for Ignatieff) so other Liberals would be more likely to question their motivations. Nor is it clear that either one of them isn’t one day interested in ultimately formally seeking the Liberal leadership.

For those that say Canada shouldn’t have a lameduck PM, the next 6 months may be the MOST crucial time in dealing with crisis and we need to have a PM who is willing to devote himself solely to bringing the BEST solutions foreward and that the public sees as having no ulterior motivations (e.g., positioning for the curren, or a future, leadership race or for the next general election). We won't get that from Harper, but we would from Dion. There are other countries that have tapped caretaker PM’s (usually with undeniably impecable qualifications) to deal with crises who later passed their job on to a successor and this would be no different and an orderly succession could be arranged in May to the next Liberal leader.

It is important to get all 3 leadership camps to agree to this though, but I would hope they would see it in their interest to be all now campaigning to be PM instead of opposition leader. If this deal falls apart due to the Liberal caucus unable to agree on who would be PM then whoever wins the leadership race would be certain to face a barrage of attack ads full of fear-mongering (e.g., “Bob Rae will ruin the economy”, “Michael Ignatieff is a Bush clone”, “LeBlanc isn’t up to the job”) that in reality could have been best countered by already being in government. If any of the leadership candidates could become PM upon winning the leadership then they would INSTANTLY be able to counter the smears (e.g., Bob Rae would bring in a competent budget, Ignatieff would show himself to be much more moderate, LeBlanc would show himself to be a sound economic manager as PM). This in turn would give that leadership candidate a much better chance of winning re-election as PM. So I hope cooler heads can prevail here and see how this works out best for ALL progressives, Liberals and NDP alike.

But what of all those who will howl that this is “undemocratic”? Well here are some facts:

- The Liberals and NDP together received 44.4% of the vote in the last election compared to 37.65% for the Conservatives. The coalition would be supported from outside by the BQ and Greens who received a further 16.76% of the vote.

- The Liberals and NDP may only have 114 seats between them, but opposition parties received more than 50% of the vote in more than half the ridings across Canada.

- The NDP and Liberals hold seats in EVERY region of the country.

- The first two Conservative budgets and the softwood lumber deal were ONLY supported by the Cons and the Bloc Quebecois so talk of this “aiding the separatists” is merely a sideshow. Conservatives had no problems being propped up solely by the BQ for the first two years of their government and NO ONE is talking about the BQ formally joining this coalition so this arrangement would be no different.

- In 2004, when Stephen Harper was opposition leader, he signed a letter with Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton saying it would appropriate for a new government to be formed without an election should the governing party be voted down within a few months of the last election.

- Coalition governments that are decided after the election are the norm in countries with economies much larger than ours such as Germany, France, Japan and India. Coalition governments are also the norm in over a dozen other Western countries whose economies are doing comparatively well (e.g., the Scandinavian countries). Often these coalitions last several years so the argument that coalitions would necessarily be unstable or bad for the economy doesn’t fly.

Will there be a backlash if we get a Dion led coalition? Of course, but so would there be if there was a coalition led by someone else (in fact the Tory talking points already have adapted to that possibility of slamming a PM “voters never had a chance to vote on”). We can’t let a possible short-term backlash deter us here. Stephen Harper faced a large backlash over the appointments of David Emerson and Michael Fortier to his cabinet. It lasted a few weeks and (unfortunately) it blew over. Harper is facing a backlash now, but we can’t back down this time.

Any public backlash over a coalition will surely dissipate if we PROVIDE GOOD GOVERNMENT. The best way to counter way to counter all the fear mongering is provide the public with a dose of reality and the beauty is that, in government, we can do that. We will have a strong rational PM with a cabinet that puts the interests of Canadians ahead of their parties for once. The public will see that within a few months time and come to support what we’ve done. Let’s be prepared for some short-term opposition, but we can prove the skeptics wrong in the end.

So it’s my hope (and it may never come to pass I realize) we will see no backing down by the opposition and that ALL Liberals and ALL NDP members can get thoroughly behind our parties’ leadership here for the good of the country.

We will face an onslaught of opposition this week in the form of TV and radio eds, op-eds and anything else the Conservatives will throw at us.

Let’s be ready, we know what we are doing is right.

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Eugene Forsey Liberal said...

Good post. Largely agreed. One caveat: personally, once Dion is PM and doing great job, bit strange to have race to replace him. I'd favour doing a '79 Trudeau & cancelling the leadership race. Dion's the man. I realise that there has to be at least a leadership review and given his position was untenable given internal dissension, Dion accepted it be changed to leadership convention, but I predict we're going to have a PM with high favourability ratings, higher than candidates to replace him, asked to step down to satisfy others' ambitions. Odd. Interesting to see how it'll play out.