That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

Election time: a right and a wrong

Jeffrey Simpson can get it very right, and very wrong, depending on the day of the week and the subject he’s writing about. Today, he’s done both.

Very right:

Here’s one suggestion for a red-blooded leftist party. The NDP wants to cushion people from rising home heating bills? Pay for the cushion with an excess profits tax on the oil industry because when international oil prices rise above, say, $90 (U.S.) a barrel, their profits are going to soar. The NDP, after all, has only one seat in Alberta and isn’t going to win another one. Moreover, bashing rich oil companies while consumers feel the pinch isn’t bad populist politics.

It’s more than good advice for the NDP, it’s good advice for Liberals, too. Tangible, costed, bold policies. We have this problem whereby Jack Layton speaks rather vaguely of “expanding” the Canada Pension Plan, while Ignatieff talks equally vaguely about “health care when you need it.” Until these warm fuzzies lock into “actionable” policies, Harper isn’t going to come down to earth.

There are hints of boldness in the NDP’s wider position – the proposed referendum on Senate abolition, for example. It’s good to be provocative with a vision, as opposed to withering timidly before the prospect of constitutional reform, as Rob Silver prefers. But grand, visionary concepts too often founder on the details. Both the left and the centrist parties need to back up broad visions with step-by-step, costed, failsafe plans.

Very wrong:

It would appear the New Democrats will have the most to say about whether Canadians will experience another election.

“Experience another election!” He makes it sound as though it’s a flood, or a plague. Passing a bladder stone. I thought the masses were generally supposed to be excited by the chance to activate our common democratic power. But, no, there is no love for experiencing democracy at the moment, apparently.

Hence the mutual distancing from responsibility that we see across Parliament. It’s a common thing to cast the blame for causing the tumult of an election on the intransigence of our enemies. Liberals will blame the NDP, the Tories will blame the Liberals, and the NDP the Tories.

Hung parliaments don’t lend themselves to such easy characterisations, however. A majority decision on anything right now is, by its very nature, a cross-party decision. It has to be when no one’s got a majority.

If any single party could be pinned with “causing” an election, though, then it would have to be the odd one out. If 3/4 of the parties say salt, and 1/4 say pepper, and pepper is what we get, then it’s fair to say it’s the fault of the 1/4. As regards confidence measures, this puts all responsibility on the party of government. Not any one of the opposition parties. You can “blame” the NDP for bailing the Tories out, if they do indeed buckle on the budget vote. But no single party in Opposition can force an election. The only single party that can is, by coincidence, the most single-minded of them all – Team Harper. So if they do it, on balance, it’s because they want it.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , ,

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March 2011

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