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Coalition? Back off Jack!

NDP is crazy to team with Liberals and Bloc. Besides, Harper won.

By Bill Tieleman 2 Dec 2008 |

Bill Tieleman, a Tyee regular contributor, writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday for 24 hours. Tieleman can be heard every Monday at 10 a.m. on the Bill Good Show on CKNW AM 980. E-mail him at or visit his blog at:

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NDP Leader Jack Layton: risking disaster?

If there was any doubt before now that there's something in the water in Ottawa, this week should make the answer clear.

All political parties appear to have lost their collective minds.

First, Stephen Harper is proving in spades why Canadians have for two elections in a row made sure they only gave the Conservatives minority support.

The outrageously self-serving attempt to financially destroy all the other political parties by removing standing public funding -- funding that makes our electoral system more democratic and less influenced by big money donors -- was a classic Harper hardball move that backfired.

Whether you agree or not with public funding -- or even know about it -- there is no question the Conservatives intended to fatally wound their main opponents, the Liberal Party, by dramatically reducing their income by many million dollars.

The NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green Party would also be significantly harmed by a move that would save $30 million out of a government budget of $240 billion.

The Conservatives have now stated they will drop the removal of public funding from their economic bill but the fact that they put it in as part of the government response to the worldwide financial crisis is despicable and unconscionably partisan at the worst possible time.

That move provoked a furious response from the opposition parties -- which is justifiable -- and ongoing plans to attempt to form an alternative coalition government -- which is completely unjustifiable.

Your stimulus argument is flaccid

They are now attempting to argue that removing Harper is because of the failure of the Conservative government to offer an appropriate economic stimulus plan.

True or not, the instability that this would create in Canada at a dangerous time is far more damaging than passing a lacklustre Tory bill.

And when the Barack Obama government takes office in January 2009, we will see what economic leadership our largest trading partner shows and then act accordingly. There is plenty of time for a change, of course, and a more vigorous response.

No need to thank me, Mr. Harper

Anyone who reads The Tyee, my blog or my columns in 24 hours newspaper knows that I am no friend of Stephen Harper or the Conservatives.

But they just won the most seats in Parliament in a free and fair democratic vote.

Any attempt to replace Harper as prime minister with the fallen leader of the Liberal Party, Stephane Dion, or even worse, a prime minister chosen by the caucus of Liberal MPs is ridiculous.

The Liberal Party suffered its worst defeat ever in this past election. It has no electoral, political or moral mandate to lead Canada, period.

And to those diehard anti-Conservative activists of any political stripe who desperately want Harper out, consider this: the former Liberal government of Jean Chretien and his Finance Minister Paul Martin did far more damage -- lasting damage -- to social programs in Canada than either the Brian Mulroney or Stephen Harper Conservative governments.

Chretien and Martin slashed social program spending on health care and education to an unparalleled degree, balancing Canada's budget on the backs of this countries' neediest citizens.

NDP risks disaster consorting with the Bloc

Which brings me to the New Democratic Party and leader Jack Layton.

The NDP should not, repeat, not be enabling the Liberal Party in its shameless efforts to regain power when Canadians have democratically rejected them.

The Liberals are a discredited party led by a discredited leader. They need to renew, reorganize and reform themselves -- not form a government!

And if the NDP ally themselves with the Liberals after years of clearly showing the significant differences between a social democratic party and a centre-right party that is not progressive when in government, they risk disaster.

And the NDP should not, repeat, not be working with the Bloc Quebecois -- an unabashedly separatist party -- to replace the current government.

Those, like author Margaret Atwood, who have spoken favourably of the Bloc Quebecois's social democratic tendencies seem to forget that their prime goal, their sole reason for existence, is to break Quebec away from Canada and set up an independent country.

They have every democratic right to do so and so long as Quebec voters send them to Ottawa, they represent a significant part of the country.

But the NDP and Liberals work hand-in-glove with separatists at their enormous peril. I fear that Canadians will have no sympathy for the NDP or Liberals, no matter what arguments they make about the Conservatives, and will punish them severely whenever the next federal election takes place.

Canadians clearly want all parties to cooperate as much as possible in a time of economic crisis.

The Conservatives failed that test just weeks after being elected.

Now the opposition parties are attempting to fail in an even worse way.

Best of all worlds?

Lastly, think about how this will play out -- the best case scenario. It would go like this: Stephen Harper is defeated in Parliament and Stephane Dion becomes Prime Minister. Harper is removed from the Conservative Party leadership for his reactionary and highly-partisan politics.

Dion does a brilliant job as prime minister for five months, winning international acclaim and making Canadians forget his disastrous election campaign.

Michael Ignatieff wins the federal Liberal Party leadership in May's Vancouver convention and takes over as prime minister from Dion.

Ignatieff does an equally brilliant job as prime minister for the remaining 25 months of the coalition government agreement.

Meanwhile, NDP leader Jack Layton and five colleagues sparkle in their federal cabinet portfolios, putting an end to persistent criticism that the NDP couldn't run a popsicle stand. The NDP proves that federally it is ready to govern.

With sage advice from the coalition economic advisors -- ex-Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin, former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley, ex-Saskatchewan NDP Premier Roy Romanow and ex-New Brunswick Liberal Premier Frank McKenna -- now deputy chair of the TD Bank -- Canada weathers the economic downturn and financial crisis with flying colours.

The separatist Bloc Quebecois sees federalism at its best and decides that Quebec nationalism can indeed be enjoyed within Canada. BQ members disband their party and join either Liberal or NDP ranks.

At the end of the 30 months of coalition government, an election is held and the deal is over.

In the 2011 election, a grateful country votes to return significantly more Liberals and New Democrats, who decide that since a coalition worked so well, they will do it again, even though the Liberals have won a majority of seats.

The Conservative Party suffers its worst defeat in decades and admits the obvious -- the centre-left coalition government is the best Canada has ever seen.

And everyone lived happily ever after.

But that is obviously a fairy tale ending.

Back in the real world of financial disaster and a potential depression, it's time for all parties to stop playing games and start saving jobs and investment -- get on with it!

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