Tag Archives: jack layton

Qualities of the Next NDP Leader

Here is the benchmark I’ll be using to evaluate who ought to be the next leader of the federal NDP:


Wanted, #NDP leader: integrity, inspiring, engaging personality, intelligent, ability to include French & First Nations, bilingual. #cdnpoli

via Twitter / @PoliticsReSpun: Wanted, #NDP leader

And let’s add environment and climate change leader, optimistic, and including new Canadians to that list, at the risk of making it close to too long.

So we have Topp, Saganash, Cullen. Dewar probably tomorrow. Mulcair is waiting for…not sure. Libby Davies and Megan Leslie are not in. Waiting on Robert Chisholm and Peggy Nash.

What do you think?

Am I missing some qualitites?

What do you think of the current and likely candidates?

Liveblog of Jack Layton’s Funeral

It’s been an astonishing week since Jack Layton’s death and not-so-surprising outpouring of public grief and recognition of what he brought to Canadian politics and public service: optimism and integrity, as I see it.

What about you?

His funeral is set for today at 2pm, Toronto time. Please feel free to participate in our liveblog conversation about the funeral, the NDP, the progressive movement in Canada, and of course, optimism and integrity in politics and public service.

A Compendium of My Prime Minister Layton Posts

I’ve enjoyed writing four pieces about the Prime Minster Layton concept in the last 2.5 years.

Originally, it was a wishful thinking hyper long-shot in a prorogation crisis at a time when the Liberals had no firm leader.

Then in June 2010 it was a curiosity when polling indicated a Jack Layton-led coalition with the Liberals would defeat the Conservatives 43-37.

Then it was an analysis last week after the first few days of the NDP surge, spurred by gains in Quebec, but still too early to truly see how Layton could overtake the Liberals to be the leading force in a coalition or voting arrangement with the Liberals and the Bloc.

Finally, it was a review of a week of NDP surge polling moving through the advanced voting days. It was still unclear that the NDP would get more seats than the Liberals.

Here are these previous pieces:

  1. November 28, 2008: Prime Minister Layton and Proportional Representation
  2. June 2, 2010: Prime Minister Layton, Redux
  3. April 21, 2011: Prime Minister Layton
  4. April 23, 2011: The Democratic Rebirth of Canada

And where are we today, four days before the general election? The NDP is closer to the leading Conservatives that they are to the third place Liberals. Jack Layton has pulled ahead of Stephen Harper in composite leadership polling, not just in the trust category. There are worries that vote splitting between the NDP and the Bloc in Quebec and the NDP and the Liberals in the ROC [Rest of Canada] will allow the Conservatives to steal a majority.

Personally, I think with the continued softness of some of the NDP support [vote parkers], and with the abundance of strategic voting discussion and websites designed to prevent a Harper majority, I suspect enough NDP supporters will slide back to the Liberals and the Bloc in critical seats to ensure vote splitting doesn’t lead to a Harper majority.

The only question is which party comes in second place: the NDP or Liberals. If the NDP does, it will be Jack Layton leading a delegation to Rideau Hall soon after May 2, or after the House of Commons fires Harper for a second time in two months, to form a coalition or government with explicit voting support. Then it will be Prime Minister Layton.

I’ve sat in that seat in the House. It has a great view–not as good as the speaker’s chair, but hey, it has its perks. And through all this, Ignatieff will lose his caucus support as leader of a humiliated “natural governing party.” Then we will see Goodale, Rae, Kennedy and some others go after the leadership position. And we’ll see a similar surgical removal of Steve Harper as Conservative leader and likely Gilles Duceppe as Bloc leader.

If the Liberals win more seats than the NDP, we’ll see Prime Minister Ignatieff, despite how many sharpened knives are hidden in the desks of Liberal MPs. In that case, we’d still see Harper and Duceppe leaving their positions, and possibly Layton depending on his attitude and health.

In the end, living in Twitter and musing over every national poll released every day is living in an echo chamber of pseudo-scientific attempts to predict the behaviour of the electorate. Last night, Chretien played a card. The attack ads from the Liberals and Conservatives against the NDP will have some traction to mobilize their base. The impending election day will also affect some voter intentions.

May 2 is unpredictable. And while no national poll will be correct in predicting popular vote support or seat distribution, they’re all competing to be the closest since profound notoriety comes with winning the closest to the bulls eye.

What we also know is that BC seat results will definitely determine which of three aging white men will become prime minister.

But as the final days of the campaign settle upon us, we see the final power plays. The Globe and Mail embraces deluded lunacy in its explanation of its endorsement of Stephen Harper with phrases like the Conservatives being the “only truly national party” despite it being the Alberta reform party, and how “he has not been the scary character portrayed by the opposition; with some exceptions, his government has been moderate and pragmatic.” That’s just bats.

This absurd endorsement should mobilize voters to be strategic in their voting. While the idealist in me thinks no one should ever vote strategically, the pragmatist in me recognizes that with a patently unjust electoral system like first-past-the-post, strategic voting is morally legitimate and can be deemed quite useful. Luckily, I live in Vancouver Kingsway where the strategic vote is also the principled vote: I already voted for the NDP’s Don Davies on Monday.

But we also see Crawford Killian’s interesting inclusion of some poll analysis of the Prime Minister Layton meme/concept/possibility in the context of what the governor-general ought to do if the Conservatives “win” another minority, according to the people of Canada:

  • 43% say the leader of the opposition should be invited to form a government [after all, the House already fired Harper last month]
  • 19%, a relatively dwarfish percentage, think Harper should have another chance [which would be pointless since he said he’ll submit the same budget as in March and he’ll be fired again by the House]
  • 38% undecided [after all, this is a complicated thing with very little constitutional convention to lean on and 2.5 years of Harper’s disinformation campaign about legal/valid/credible forms of non-majority governments in parliamentary systems]

Then Killiian quotes EKOS on the Prime Minister Layton concept:

If anyone had trotted this scenario out as a likely outcome at the outset of this campaign, they would have been dismissed as a lunatic. Yet this unimaginable outcome is arguably the most likely outcome of the current political landscape.

I think if not the most likely outcome Monday night, it is the second most likely outcome. Either  way, I would welcome being dismissed as a lunatic for having written about this 2.5 years ago.

In the end, democracy wins and Canadians will get even more used to more effective and participatory political debate and dialogue in the country. Unless Harper eeks out a majority. Unlikely.

So. Make sure you vote on Monday. Something is afoot. Your vote will be part of it.

Contempt, democracy, and change

So far, 2011 has been an interesting year, one full of history, democracy, and change – and hope.  We’ve seen uprisings throughout northern Africa and the Middle East, with people demanding democracy instead of oppressive governments and dictatorships.

Today, something historic happened in Canada as well – though nothing on the level of what’s happening throughout the rest of the world.  Indeed, today was quite likely a low point of Canadian ‘democratic’ history: the government of the day was found, by the House of Commons, to be in contempt of Parliament — that is, willfully ignoring and acting against the privileges, rights, and duties of the Parliament of Canada.

This is huge.  But it speaks to a huge problem afflicting that which is ‘democracy’ in Canada.  So today, while it was an historic moment in Canada, a day in which, for the first time in history a government was found in contempt of Parliament, it wasn’t an historic day in the same way that 2011 has been historic for large parts of the world.

Today was not a day of hope, democracy, and change – today was a day of contempt for democracy that speaks to a desperate need for change.  Here’s why.

Democracy is not a nuisance, it is not ‘unnecessary,’ and it is not ‘reckless.’

Today’s speeches and grandstanding have shown very well how the Conservative Party sees democracy in Canada.  Quite clearly, they see it as “unnecessary” and “reckless.”  They’ve gone so far in this respect that Stephen Harper has pointed to the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan as reasons why elections are reckless.  Conservative party loudmouths John Baird and others have yelled this at us continuously – according to them, we don’t need elections.

Aside from the apocryphal outcome of this statement – Emperor Harper – it’s absurd and insulting.  If we accept that wars have been fought for democracy, then why are elections unnecessary? If the concept of a Parliament is that the government must hold the confidence of the members of the House of Commons – the only representatives that we have in national politics – then why is an election unnecessary when a majority of those representatives have no confidence in the government?

Democracy is not unnecessary. It is not reckless. It is not a nuisance.

While I strongly feel that representative democracy in Canada – that sees us as voters choose the least offensive candidate in our ridings in the hopes of avoiding the most offensive of governments – is flawed and must be revised, the truth of the matter is that it is the system that we currently have to govern ourselves and our country.  We elect, occasionally, representatives who then govern the country, on our behalf.  The person elected who can command the support of a majority of those representatives – generally articulated through a political party and party support – becomes the prime minister.

If, through corruption, contempt of parliament, and ethical scandal upon ethical scandal, that prime minister loses the confidence and support of the House – as what happened today – then, by definition, an election is necessary.  To suggest otherwise is to insult Canadians. Democracy is something that people have fought wars over.  It is most decidedly not a nuisance.

Contempt of Parliament – and democracy

But insulting us is something that Harper’s Conservative Party is extremely good at doing.

In a Parliamentary system, it is constitutional law and constitutional fact that Parliament is supreme. This means that it passes laws and can edit them. And to do this, it must have the proper information and answers – and respect – that it needs in order to function.  Today’s vote of no confidence was built on the fact that the Harper regime has outright refused to provide information to the Parliament, when it has formally demanded it, on any number of things.  Costs of superprisons and putting pretty much everyone in jail.  Costs of jet fighters that are sole-sourced that we don’t really need.  They refused to disclose the documents on possible war crimes and Afghan detainees.  Ministers apparently misled the Parliament – and Canadians.

All of this adds up to a government that quite obviously holds Parliament – and Canadian democracy – in contempt.  I wrote on this earlier, but here’s the brief: Harper and his party find Canadian democracy a nuisance.  They’d much rather prefer it if Canadians just didn’t care about politics so they could go about their merry little neoliberal plans without protest.  So they act in a way so as to disgust Canadians with politics, alienate us from our processes of governance, and build up dislike of the entire concept of the political.

The vote today is only one example of this, as is Harper’s insulting characterization of democracy as reckless, unnecessary, and a nuisance.

We need change – and not just a change of colour

So, we’re having an election.  That might bring some change.  Plus, it’s democracy in action.  Isn’t that enough?


The next thirty-five or so days, up to the big day where we march into the gym of a local school, or a church, and mark an ‘X’ next to the name of the least offensive candidate in our ridings, is a length of time where we will be bombarded with ads from political parties.  The red signs will tell us to vote red to avoid the blue.  The blue signs will tell us that if we don’t vote for them, separatists and socialists will eat our kittens. And the orange signs will tell us to vote for them so that you don’t have to pay $1.25 at the ATM.  (Et, d’accord, si vous êtes au Québec, les placards violets vont dire “votez pour nous, et nous devenions maîtres chez nous.”)

If the system is flawed, then this part of the system is flawed too.  Political parties have developed as little organizations that exist solely to grab power and exercise it.  Some of them – like the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, once upon a time – may have been grassroots, dedicated to real social change, but they aren’t any longer.  People no longer feel represented by political parties, they feel alienated from them, and it’s these parties that are about to contest this election.

The way that parties operates gives rise to party operatives and apparatchiks who don’t really care about democracy. To them – and to many of the government MPs who were just found in contempt of democracy – parties are vehicles to get power.  Not to represent Canadians, work for common causes, but to seize and wield power.

A perfect example of this is my former MP, James Moore.  Until the Parliament is dissolved, he is the Minister of Canadian Heritage.  One might think that if serving Canadians, working for Canada’s best interests, and doing thing that Canadians care about was why he was in politics, then he might take that seriously.

Instead, he put the following up on Twitter just before the confidence vote, as a Liberal MP came to talk to him about funding for the arts and immigration cases:

In this Twitter post, Moore “laughs” at a Liberal MP who happened to ask about arts files – his Ministerial responsibility.  Yes, the Liberal MP was about to vote no confidence, which is what happens when a government is in contempt of parliament and democracy, but it’s still Moore’s job.  And is, in fact, until the next Minister is named.

This is how the Conservative party sees things.  The point of democracy, to them, is not collective governance, or making sure the government works properly.  It’s to make sure that the Conservative party is in power, at the expense of everyone else.  You can be sure that had a Conservative MP came to ask him for help on arts files, Moore wouldn’t have been laughing and then gloating about it.

I told Moore that I wasn’t impressed about this, and that I didn’t find the fact that he was laughing at another MP doing his job – actually representing constituents – was all that funny.  He sent me a private message, saying:

Not only is James Moore incapable of seeing his own contempt for the concept of representative democracy, he takes the opportunity to speak down to me – a Canadian.  Who has contempt in this situation?

Political parties, at least how they work now, are not ways to actually represent Canadians and ensure democratic functioning of government.  Their entire goal is to seize power and wield it. To do so, they’ll engage in anything – in the case of the Conservative party, offensive and disgusting attack ads, and election alleged election law violations – to win power.  Add to that, ‘attacking Canadians who might actually care.’

It’s for reasons like this, like James Moore’s contempt, and his government’s contempt, that I think we need more than just cosmetic change, swapping the blue government for the red, or the slightly orange-tinged one.  We need to change the system.

Democracy is about all of us, who live together, work together, and exist together, deciding how we will do all of that.  It’s about collective self-governance.  It’s about our common projects, our common rights, our common responsibilities.

It’s not about one group taking power over all of us, and gloating as they do so.

So yes, an election is coming up.  And in about thirty five or so days we’ll mark an ‘X’ next to the name of the least offensive candidate in the hopes of avoiding the most offensive government.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

So let’s start a discussion on what we can do different.  How we can empower Canadians – all of us – to take part in democracy and governance.  How we can rescue that which so many people around the world are still, today, fighting for – democracy.