Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gilles Duceppe for PM

If Gilles Duceppe had been running for the BC Southern Interior seat in 2006, I would have voted for him.

Fortunately, Alex Atamanenko, the NDP candidate who won that election as well as this last one, has done a good job opposing the war in Afghanistan, defending the Wheat Board and helping his constituents get through the passport crisis--among many other accomplishments.

However, back in May 2007, his party joined the Conservatives in defeating a Liberals motion that would have had Canadian troops withdrawn from Afghanistan not later than 2009. Apparently, the Liberals weren't radical enough. Not that the NDP had a plan. Now that 2009 is nearly here, we see that there was no plan, just posturing.

I don't think Layton is a strong leader, especially on foreign policy issues. He would make a great minister of green public housing in a coalition cabinet. It's even more difficult to consider Dion as a PM when he is due to be replaced in May.

But why would patriotic federalist Canadians tolerate a separatist PM?

Canada's pragmatic approach to separatism differs substantially from that of the US, the UK, China and Russia. Even Spain's relatively moderate approach puts more emphasis on violence and less on political accommodation than we do in Canada. Canada's separatists have run Quebec and maintain a significant oppositional presence in Parliament. Duceppe's hard line is that he "represents what is best for Quebec." Too bad more politicians don't do the same for their constituents. It should be said that political accommodation, Canadian-style has so far had the net effect of keeping the country together.

Furthermore, Duceppe, unlike his Liberal and NDP counterparts, knows how to run a coalition. A number of Anglo-Canadian pols have been on the air in the last few days talking about how close to impossible such an idea is within the current political culture. But occasionally coalitions find better chemistry and are more stable than governments run by single parties. Switzerland comes to mind; ditto the previous Australian government. Israel has been governed by a shifting coalition for decades. A successful progressive coalition would be a welcome innovation.

The Bloc, like the Greens who likely will in time come to be part of the Canadian government, includes people from what used to be called the left and what used to be called the right. (See Political Compass for more accurate political descriptions.)

Cathie from Canada offers this collection of blogger observations:

  • the PM made a grave tactical error.

  • 67% of the Country didn't vote Conservative, and now they are ALL uniting together to overthrow Harper who is only a small angry minority.

  • You have to work with the other parties in a minority. Harper chose not to.

  • Oil is going to drop below 50 dollars soon, when it does the oil sands in Alberta are going to become unprofitable and the good times in Harper's western base will end.

  • The Conservatives made the classic mistake of thinking that the other parties were just like them -- short-sighted, partisan, and incapable of taking any action that would serve the best interests of the country rather than the party.

...which is the mistake of their leader as Garth Turner says well in summarizing the need to replace Harper:
And so, here we are today. In his first act, with financial anxiety rampant in the land, Harper uses a key economic update not to help citizens but as an opportunity to screw his political opponents. It was political brinksmanship of the highest degree, and a measure of a man who ultimately cares only about himself and the divinity of his own ideas. He is a bully who now lives in a cloud of self-delusion, thinking he won an election when, in reality, the other guy lost.

And while he’ll try to pull a bunny from his hat over the next week, suddenly promising billions in new spending and a changed path, Harper’s done. In his government’s action this week it showed once again it cares most about power, and far less about using it to build and care for Canada. He’s poisoned the atmosphere in Ottawa just when we need Ottawa to work. He won the election by spreading lies – as did his opponent in my district – and an inattentive populace shrugged and said, yeah, whatever.

Since then the economy has deteriorated, markets plunged, house values eroded and jobs disappeared as whole industries stagger. And what does the prime minister make as his economic centrepiece? Skewering his ideological foes, bankrupting them, playing politics while the citizens of the land suffer and worry.

This does not surprise me. It’s why I said election night he was the loser. Soon he will lose government. Soon after that, he’ll be gone. Joe Clark, 1979. Steve Harper, 2008. Legacy: Loser. The only prime minister ever to have had his government defeated for incompetence and indifference and replaced by a coalition just weeks after an election. This is the man whose eyes I looked into after being elected to his caucus in early 2006, and saw hate.
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