Jack Layton’s NDP strategy on the federal budget? Beats me!

NDP Leader Jack Layton rouses his troops in Edmonton during the 2008 election campaign while your blogger, two pairs of spectacles ago and makin’ like Waldo, looks on. Photo by Mark Wells. Below, Jim Flaherty.

It beats me why a centre-left party with the ability to squeeze even a few modest concessions out of a dangerous far-right minority government that sits on the cusp of a majority would contribute to an effort to bring that government down just now.

Yeah, Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s budget is far from perfect, but it’s not so imperfect that it makes sense to defeat it in the House of Commons and give Prime Minister Stephen Harper the perfect opportunity to hold an election in which he stands an excellent chance of finally forming the majority he craves.

Indeed, wouldn’t later always be better than right now in a situation like this? After all, later you can stand up and take credit for the few things the Conservatives did right, and let them wear their transgressions.

Later, this government’s obvious contempt of, and for, Parliament, not to mention the optics surrounding the iffy characters it rewards, would all have had a chance to ripen. So, when the writ finally dropped, things might not actually have been any better from the NDP’s perspective, but it’s unlikely they would have been worse.

In desperation, the party could always claim it had prevented an election that Canadians didn’t want – which, as a matter of literal fact, would have been the truth.

But, apparently not…

Now, the Globe and Mail claims NDP supporters would have bolted if they party had propped up the Conservatives one more time. Maybe. But this seems like a stretch – after all, you’ve got to be determined and optimistic to be a committed social democrat at all in this country.

The Toronto Star seemed to think it was because a junior Tory minister was rude. Well, maybe they came up with that one just because they had to come up with something by deadline.

Still, watching NDP Leader Jack Layton on the television yesterday, one couldn’t shake the feeling he was a man who understood all this but felt thoroughly boxed in by the trap laid by the Conservatives – who have big money, a cynical little war too new to be unpopular, and the advantage of a population that seems fed up enough with elections to accept the stability of a majority over policies that actually make sense from a middle-class perspective.

As for the hope Canadians will be disgusted by the Conservatives’ disgusting behaviour – contempt of Parliament, lyin’ ministers, elderly insiders with sex-worker brides to be, rules that only apply to the rest of us and more – well, hope springs eternal.

Softened up by neo-con media cynicism, hateful Republican-style 30-second attack ads and the on-line Tory Rage Machine, subjected to voter-suppression measures also borrowed from the Republicans, large numbers of Canadian electors have been conditioned to believe that one party is as bad as another. So why bother voting for anybody? Or, if you do, why not for the guys with the slickest advertising corporate money can buy?

Using a budget vote to defeat a government that’s well positioned to win a majority makes some limited sense from the perspective Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, because he must know this is pretty much his last chance to be prime minister. If he loses this one, he’s probably outta there anyway, so why not roll the dice?

Indeed, the Liberals may even hope to pick up a few seats from frightened NDP voters, especially in Ontario’s 905 Belt around Toronto, desperate to do what they can to stave off a Conservative majority.

As for the Bloc, well, they’re separatists, aren’t they? Not only is their position apparently secure with Quebec voters, from their perspective, so much the better if a majority Conservative government under a neo-con radical like Mr. Harper manages to wreck the rest of the country.

And if Mr. Flaherty doesn’t deliver money Quebeckers feel they’ve been promised, well, that works from the BQ point of view too.

But where’s the benefit for the NDP? So they can say they lost on a question of high principle? Please!

If you think the budget that seems about to get this government defeated is bad, wait till you see the one the Harper Conservatives have in store if they manage to grasp a majority! Get ready for the “Shock Doctrine,” because that’s what you’re going to get.

You’ll also get election-financing laws that will guarantee wealthy foreign corporations can buy any future election they please, and probably a mountain or something similarly large named after Mike Harris.

Oh well, pride goeth destruction, and all that. However, as a good friend of mine often says, “maybe it’s just me!”

Here’s hoping blogger Murray Dobbin got it right, and “if this budget is the basis for the Conservatives’ election platform then they look very vulnerable.”

Here’s hoping the Good Book and I both got it completely wrong and, this time, pride goeth before coalition!

This post also appears on rabble.ca. Tomorrow, barring something really outrageous in Alberta, a long game the NDP could play and win.

3 Comments on "Jack Layton’s NDP strategy on the federal budget? Beats me!"

  1. Sixth Estate says:

    That's a weird suggestion by the G&M. Where would they bolt TO?

    As a matter of principle, I have no problem with any of the opposition parties standing against the election. They've been claiming the government was irresponsible for years without doing anything substantial about it.

    But you're definitely right strategically, there is a good argument for a minor party now standing up and saying they're glad for every concession they can force out of Harper… and incidentally snubbing the Liberals in the process by pointing out their comparative failure to do the same.

  2. Carlos Beca says:

    I am not surprised at all. This is no longer supporting a federal budget. This is now supporting a party that clearly disrespects parliament, does not care about what anybody says or does and is ready to grab a majority and control of the public mind and transform this country into a neo conservative paradise of slaves for the Canadian elites. There is not much left anyway and we are now down to the bones but Harper's intentions are clear. The man hates any party other than his. What is that called again? The one man one government type mentality?
    I am with Jack on this one. I would not support Harper even if the budget was in my favour. To be honest I think Libya is going to be another fiasco and he is going to pay the price. Unless of course he gets his machine going and convinces Canadians it is a great war.

  3. Filostrato says:

    I was hoping that the Con scandals would be allowed to ripen a bit longer too, like a well-aged Stilton left out in the sun for a few weeks, so that even the most determined people couldn't deny the smell if they were in the vicinity.

    I have a feeling that there are things we don't know about – yet – that will make Escort-gate and Not-gate look like very small potatoes. I'd like to find out about them before they're buried forever at the bottom of the Con manure pile. (Did someone mention naming something after Mike Harris?)

    Maybe it's a last ditch effort for everyone. Jack Layton looks very thin and tired. I admire him greatly for showing up at all. I keep thinking of Chuck Cadman and his last vote in Parliament. Ignatieff is a smart guy but he should never have let himself be installed, both in his riding and as Lib leader. It looks too contrived.

    As for Harper, I can't get over my primal revulsion. Not very scientific or rational, I know, but I've learned to take these rare feelings of deep unease seriously.

    I hope that Harper's regime and its policies will be like kidney stones or occasional constipation – that this, too, will pass – well before they seriously endanger the health of their host.

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