Sunday, May 1, 2011

Is a Trap Being Set for Jack Layton?

I was going to write about this the other day, and it comes not from a Liberal or a Conservative, but from a longtime NDP supporter.

I'm all over the place today, not knowing what to think. Pollsters say ignore the polls out of one side of their face, while telling us that Jack Layton will be the leader of the Opposition out of the other.

The leader of the Opposition in a Harper government, when we were so damned close to getting rid of him in an election. Not having to depend on a coalition that Harper will fight with every trick in the book.

But is that even a possibility? Certainly going riding by riding, there is a bigger possibility that vote-splitting will give Harper his majority. And how will Jack Layton respond? According to James Laxer, it could actually have been a plan.

Even after Jack tried to make Harper a prime minister in a 2004 coalition, Laxer discusses how he handed Harper his 2006 victory. And then in 2008, he campaigned against the Green Shift, giving the Conservatives a strengthened minority.

So what is the end game here?

We know from Lawrence Martin's book, Harperland, that Stephen Harper passionately hates the Liberals. Some think it's because of Trudeau or Chretien, but they have little to do with it. It's the neoconservative mindset. Republicans hate the liberal tradition. And as we know, Harper's brand of Conservatism is Republican.

And after 14 years under the tutelage of the United State's most famous liberal basher, Art Finkelstein, it's now a religion for Harper.

I mentioned two little books, that define Canadian conservatism. One written by Michael Ignatieff's uncle, Lament for a Nation, represented the Red Tory tradition, or progressive conservative. The other, Political Realignment, by Ernest Manning, was an outline for Canadian Republicanism.

Manning's vision for Canada was that we would be reduced to a two party system, both with clear ideologies. One to the right and the other to the left. He wanted to erase the middle. And in James Laxer's piece on Jack Layton, he appears to have the same goal.

The Progressive Conservatives have already been destroyed, so the only enemy left was the Liberal party. But if Layton and Harper could somehow work together, it might just be possible to destroy them too.

In his piece Fake Left, Go Right: An insider’s take on Jack Layton’s game of chance, James Laxer gives us a bit of history, to a time when a similar gamble paid off big for the Conservatives.

When Free trade and our sovereignty were the issues of the day:
It was a moment of truth for business, labour, social movements, and for the ndp. Rather than joining the Liberals and other nationalists in a full frontal assault against free trade, the ndp reprised its 1984 election strategy, turned its guns on Turner (who was not even in office), and declared that there was no real difference between Grits and Tories. Those running the ndp campaign decided that what mattered most was the party’s seat total and its vote share relative to the Liberals’, not the fight for economic sovereignty.

Amazingly, the strategy worked. On election day, Ed Broadbent was rewarded with forty-three seats, the most ever for the federal ndp. But virtually forgotten in the ndp enthusiasm was the fact that a renewed push by their big-business allies had won the Conservatives a majority government.
Now we are again in the fight of our lives, because our very democracy is on the line, yet Layton is playing the same dangerous game. Does he really think that Harper and his "big-business allies', will allow him to govern? And even small and medium size businesses are concerned.

In my own strategic voting campaigning, three local business people told me that if they thought the NDP could win, they would have to vote Conservative. Which again makes me so damn mad that Layton is going after a riding he has very little chance of winning.

But then again, I go to Laxer's piece, when he asked in 2006:
What was the ndp leadership playing at? Did it actually prefer a Conservative victory? Unlikely as it may seem, there are reasons for thinking so. Since the founding of the ccf, social democrats have dreamt that one day their party would replace the Liberals as one of the nation’s two major political vehicles ...

In the industrialized world, Canada is that rare case where a centrist party has been dominant for many decades, borrowing ideas from the left and the right. Rarely innovative, always adaptive, the federal Liberals have been the bane of their opponents, detested by ndp and Conservative insiders alike ... Under Layton, ndp strategists have resumed the search for the Holy Grail: the realignment of Canadian politics around the centre-left pillar of the ndp through the marginalization of the Liberals. If history and international experience are indicators, for this dream to become reality the ndp will have to move even further to the centre and to abandon its half-remembered social-democratic aspirations.
And since it is in the best interest of both Stephen Harper and Jack Layton to destroy the Liberals, they are working in tandum.

Some people might rejoice at this, but think about it for just a minute.

No party representing the interests of the centre, where most Canadians lie. And one of the parties remaining, represents the money and power of the nation. Corporate interests, who have used their years' worth of tax savings to buy up media and turn it to the right.

How long will the NDP last in that climate? I know how long. We saw it with Bob Rae in Ontario.Given the fact that he governed during a double dip recession, he didn't do bad. But that's not the way revisionist history tells it.
Though some ndp insiders are already speculating about the party becoming the major alternative to the Conservatives, the broader progressive community has a different outlook and quite different aspirations. For one thing, there is the blunt fact of political tactics in a system with a first-past-the-post voting system: an all-out fight between the ndp and the Liberals for control of the same voters is an incalculable gift to the Conservatives. To improve his chances in the next election, Harper must make it appear that those who voted ndp did not waste their ballots. We can expect, therefore, the Conservatives to seek an alliance with the ndp ... Knowing that a unified centre-left vote means the end of the Conservative government, Harper has the ndp right where he wants them.
Layton will not be strong enough on his own to ward off the onslaught of Fox News North or the myriad of Conservative publications and bloggers.

He won't know what hit him and Canada will be reduced to a one party state.

Some are speculating a merger between the NDP and Liberals, but I don't think so. They are not really that aligned. Layton may hate the Liberals more than Harper, and could be happy for awhile in his new position of power.

This scenario is not one where the NDP are in opposition, but with strong progressive MPs from other parties to back them up. This is one where he would be going it alone.

This election should have been about restoring our democracy and getting rid of Harper. But sadly it has turned into a circus. If the NDP wave is real and they win the election cleanly, I'll be celebrating if it means Harper is gone.

Any other situation is too frightening for words.

I hope the NDP gamble is worth it. Stategic voting would have helped all progressive parties. It's looking more and more out of reach.


  1. Bingo!

    That's exactly what I'm worried about.

    Fortunately, the HarPEUR party has broken pretty much every rule in the book in their attempt at a majority that they will eventually implode from within, crushed under the weight of all the investigations, charges, trials, and convictions to come.

    Fortunately also, we already have another 3rd party ready to come up the middle, The Greens, should the Liberals ever disappear.

  2. Im profoundly disappointed and so angry i went to bed early so id be unavailable to say something to people i may regret !!
    I agree with most your analyses of why harper won his discusting majority. However one factor you didn't point out was the last days of the Dear Leaders campaign where he encouraged small l Liberals to hop in bed with him fearing a Socialist take over and the oppressive rule of Comrade Jack I think this was a very significant factor in the collapse of the liberals in ontario Thus handing Harper a majority. To many small l liberals a NDP gov is a fate worse than death (or at least Harper)
    I remember the days when Red Torys looked like Tommy Douglas compared to the Liberals
    Hopefully you will continue your excellent blog after you lick your wounds for a bit ! FC