Polygonic

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

Getting it right in the end

By this title, do I mean “getting it correct at the end of the day,” or do I mean “getting a sharp stab directly in the butt-cheek?” With the NDP, I mean both.

Éric at ThreeHundredEight has hashed out some best-case and worst-case scenarios were a federal election held today. I was happily surprised that the NDP’s best-case scenario looks quite rosy, with 42 seats and over 20% of the vote. This looks bizarrely rosy at the moment, but it is the best possible estimate using their current toplines.

The worst-case is worse, as expected, with a projected seat count of 14. This is the imaginary figure (but maybe not so imaginary) that has NDP supporters trembling a bit. Most pundits are blaming the NDP’s ultra-democratic long-gun registry approach, which is understandable. It’s tempting to say that Layton should have whipped the vote and should have declared that the party line was the line caucus must tow. Perhaps it would have stemmed some of the current bleeding. But, I think it was kind of an audaciously democratic move, and one which differentiated the NDP from the Liberals, so I see it in a positive light.

Jack Layton has a proclivity towards taking calculated risks that beget slow-burn benefits. In 2006, he was derided with the epithet Taliban Jack for suggesting that Afghan insurgents would need to come to the negotiating table with NATO, as this all-out war on shadows wasn’t going very well and would simply never end any other way, barring unilateral withdrawal. The position hurt the NDP, as the press and other parties gleefully joined forces in distancing themselves from Layton’s anti-troops lunacy. Why are you against the troops, Jack?

Today, Jack’s position is supported by the U.S. President, the British military leadership, and the Afghan President himself.

It’s one example of the NDP leader knowingly taking the road that is politically landmined, but he trusts that he and his party can survive the journey long enough to be vindicated in the end. As it may be with the LGR, if they can make hay out of the new bill they’re proposing.

Moral vindication does not necessarily lead to electoral success, unfortunately. But if the NDP can begin to draw together a broad picture of themselves as not only the “audaciously progressive party,” but also as the most democratic of the parties, the most constituency-focussed of the parties, and the most daring and insightful party with regards to the long-term policies in Canadians’ interest, then perhaps they’ll reap those elusive dividends in time for the next election. Either that, or I’m more naive than Layton himself.

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On sore losers

Here’s the missive (according to Jane Taber, as I sadly don’t receive Conservative memos) from Stephen Harper after his defeat today. How many lies can you count?

Today in the House of Commons the Coalition voted to keep the long-gun registry. Twenty Coalition MPs originally supported the simple and straightforward bill to scrap the long-gun registry, but under pressure from their Ottawa bosses they turned their backs on their constituents and voted to keep the registry.

I count three, which is not bad for a single paragraph.

1) there is no “Coalition.” There is only the majority of the House, and they are not coaligned in any formal way. They may end up that way, and I personally wish it. But to call the opposition parties a coalition whenever they unite around a single issue such as this is, of course, nothing but trying to invoke yesterday’s demons to stain today’s majority.

2) “Ottawa bosses.” The Conservatives love to pretend they are, somehow, the Opposition (we’ll send you there, if you want) and that “Ottawa” is a devilish spectre that we should despite and resist. Earth to Harper: You Are Ottawa.

3) the Opposition “turned their backs on their constituents.” How’s that? The NDP empowered constituents to vote their conscience and to weigh all factors before coming to the House today. The Liberals whipped the vote no differently than the Conservatives did. Unless Harper is right in the myth that every suburban and urban constituency the CPC holds is, in the main, behind him in his anti-gun-control zeal, then it’s just another blast of hot hypocrite air from the nether-regions of our already foul-smelling PMO.

Congratulations to registry supporters for their bravery and for their long-term vision – the vote was tight, so without you, we’d have an unnecessary and harmful victory for an absolute monster of a Prime Minister. It’s good to back the police, good to back community groups against domestic violence, and good to back the majority.

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Say no to the Dark Side, guys!

There’s Niki Ashton, NDP from Churchill. There’s Scott Simms, Liberal from Bonavista. There remain a handful of MPs, young and under tremendous pressure from the Conservative fear machine and conflicting local opinion, who seem still uncertain regarding how they’ll vote later today on the Long Gun Registry.

The natural place for them to be this afternoon is hunting down bloggers for advice. So, please guys:

– Harper is pouring millions into pressure groups, radio ads, and doing everything he can to make you believe your re-election depends on an outright scrapping of the registry. Don’t buy it – rural or urban, Canadians can agree that a compromise on the registry is possible and desirable, and you can vote for that compromise.

– The NDP and Liberal Party are staking themselves on this legislation, in different ways. Ignatieff has whipped it, so it’s a fundamental test of his leadership. Layton has taken the persuasive, pleading route, so it’s a fundamental test for his character. If they fail in their efforts, their leaderships will be thrown into such doubt that all the gains against Harper over the summer will, I imagine, fade away.

– Common sense says: it’s a gun. We register dogs, cats, cars, computer software, every day of our lives. It’s a fringe view that any of this is controversial or conspiratorial. If the long gun registry is imperfect, then it needs to be fixed. But why throw the baby out with the bathwater? Canadians, rural and urban, aren’t libertarians like a lot of the militia folk in the U.S. The great majority of us – a safe majority of us – don’t criticise the long gun registry on principle – they criticise its cost and effectiveness. Please address those concerns.

– Looking beyond the registry issue itself, the great majority of Canadians are longing for an opposition with the verve, confidence, and the capacity to shut Harper down when he tries to impose legislation we don’t want. A victory today could be the springboard to exactly that energy we need to dump Harper good and proper-like on election day.

Ready, aim, fire, as they say!

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , , ,

Another bullet in the foot

It’s been a while since I’ve put together a political cartoon. But, as a picture’s worth a thousand words, and I think I’ve already done a thousand words on the Conservatives’ current woes and trip ups, I thought I’d draw you all a picture as a bit of a diversion.

This is sort of an end-of-summer tableau, I guess. Couldn’t fit Stockwell Day in here, but maybe next time!

Everything's under control

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A good week for the NDP

I like what’s going on with the NDP right now, and not only gun registry wise. During tricky and trying circumstances, they’re nonetheless showing a verve and confidence that I was not expecting.

First, Saskatchewan. Jack Layton’s convened his caucus in Regina, which some might consider very hostile territory. But they’ve done well to remind everyone that the party has Farmer-Labour roots, was born in the Prairies, and that Saint Tommy Douglas belonged to both Saskatchewan and the NDP. New Democrats aren’t exclusively urbane smart-asses, they’re a worker’s party that belongs in the Prairies. And why not? They are polling ahead of the Liberals in Saskitoba, after all.

This Saskatchewan-themed week seems to suggest 1) the New Democrats may be looking to a genuine 308 strategy, and won’t write off any corner of the country as infertile ground, and 2) they know the long gun registry has been a tightrope through a windstorm for them, and they are going to have to reach out to rural voters in more ways now. Even unwhipped support for the gun registry could hurt the NDP in rural Canada, so they need to look for other ways to engage them. The caucus meeting, and the Tommy Douglas statue business are at least an early declaration of intent.

Second, the long gun registry itself. Jack seems to have done the impossible: convinced enough of his members to vote to save the registry which is a huge turnaround from NDP free votes on first reading. If this sticks, it is a massive success for Jack Layton. He knew he couldn’t whip his caucus like the Liberals and CPC could, as a lot of NDP support in northern B.C. and rural Manitoba is soft and volatile.

Giving caucus a free vote inflamed some NDP supporters (for a time, me too) as a limp sort of non-strategy. An abdication of real leadership, and timidity in the face of hard decision. But that isn’t the way the approach has panned out – Layton’s been able to articulate a principle higher than simply “should long guns be registered” – he’s articulated a grassroots democratic principle of empowering constituent MPs to consider policy implications as well as local opinion. It was a risky decision, as it could have drawn the NDP as disunited and impotent in advancing its interests. But Jack’s power to persuade, rather than whip, is an asset to his leadership, and the party looks more considered and more democratic as a result. It contrasts nicely against the authoritarianism of the big parties.

Some argue that, by saving the long gun registry, the NDP (and Liberals) would suffer a pyrrhic victory, handing the Cons a hot-button issue, and allowing Harper to enjoy whipping up anti-registry “gun freedom” rhetoric long into a future election campaign. That doesn’t worry me – such rhetoric is not going to convert centrists and lefty folks, it’s not going to get women or any of the cities on his side, and it won’t assist in any quest for a Reform Party majority government. Canada is not Tea Party Land.

Finally, they’re polling at 16% in Québec. That’s just one point behind another well-known federalist party, the Conservatives. I’m going on about the 308 strategy thing, but if we saw the NDP really hammering on this and working seriously for Québec gains, that would be thrilling. Naive? Maybe. But I see room for them to draw the Bloc as arrogant luddites who wrongly assume Quebecers aspirations are no more complex than the sovereignty question. The NDP are real social democrats who believe you get a fair and prosperous society by having a big society….. anyway, I’d like to see them nurture these growing numbers in QC.

I’ll be accused of weirdness to be so impressed by recent New Democrat movements when, overall, they’re not enjoying any polling surge, and have indeed bled support to the establishment as the gun registry debate’s taken its toll. But I think they’ve weathered the storm well, and should reap dividends before too long.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , ,

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