Thursday, May 10, 2012

Can the NDP and the Liberals collaborate to defeat the Harper government?

By James Laxer, from James Laxer blog, May 10, 2012
Globally, the wealth gap between workers in poor countries—many of them women and children, who produce the imports for the first world—and the tiny elite that sits atop the global system, is as wide as was the gap in the pre-capitalist feudal order in Europe. Forget the soft sounding term “neo-colonialism,” often used to depict relations between the developed world and the poor world. The level of exploitation that exists today matches that of colonial times. Closer to home, a 2007 report for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives concluded that the income disparity between the rich and the rest of the population was rapidly widening. By 2004, the richest 10 percent of families were earning 82 times as much as the poorest 10 percent. By comparison, in 1976, the difference was 31 times. In the United States in 2007, the relative income gap between rich and poor was wider than at any time since 1929, the eve of the Great Depression. Seventy years ago, the remuneration of a top American corporate manager was 68 times that of a typical employee. Now the top manager makes 170 times as much. The American figures may be somewhat more unequal than ours, but we’re moving in exactly the same direction.
This blog entry focuses on the history of the NDP from 2006 through 2012, and paints the Liberal and the Conservative parties as the "Bobsie Twins of Bay Street."
Whether or not we accept that portrait of the two traditional parties, we cannot deny the income disparity, and the accompanying inequality that has emerged in the last decade plus.
The real question is how and where to find the political response to counter the growing gap.
Clearly, the Conservatives are not an option, given their enmeshment in all of the forces and individuals and principles that precipitated the financial alienation of the bottom 99%.
Are the Liberals an, or the answer?
The Liberal Party has a history of providing reasonably predictable and responsible government, including moderate taxes, and sustainable social programs. It is on the political front that this party is, and continues to be, suspect. Can they win Quebec, or at least regain some of their lost stature in that province? There are many doubts that this can and will happen.
Can the Liberals regain their lost support in the doughnut around Metro Toronto, commonly known as the 905 constituency lost to the Conservatives in the election of 2011?
While the current interim leader, Bob Rae, is conducting himself with energy, passion and articulate opposition questions of the government and the Prime Minister, the caucus is relatively thin in experience and in numbers, and cannot possible flesh out the Liberal "portrait" for the electorate as such a portrait is needed.
Busy with the day-to-day melee of the House of Commons and the plethora of incompetencies and bungling of the government, there is either little time or even less research money to develop policy positions, announce them to the party and people of Canada and begin to produce the storyline of what the Liberal government would be and do, if elected to power.
And the N.D.P. gain enough support to topple the conservatives in the next election?
With their new leader, Thomas Mulcair, and a sizeable bench strength, including some very articulate and bright potential cabinet material, coupled with a few dozen young people who likely never believed they would sit in parliament when they offered their names as candidates in Quebec, under the then leadership of Jack Layton, they present, for the moment, a credible possibility of taking power. And according to recent polls, they are slowing gaining respect and support across the country. At least the public perception is that the fortunes of the NDP are on the rise, while those of the Liberals are clearly in decline, leaving their climb back more treacherous and frought with peril than reaching the top of the mountain for the NDP, already half way there.
As a former Liberal cabinet minister in Quebec, Mulcair has taken his party toward the centre of the political spectrum, rather than further toward the left wing. And that will continue to garner support from the middle of the Canadian electorate. However, he will have to "go public" with an answer to the question of "any kind of partnership with the Liberals" soon if there is to be adequate time to blend the two parties prior to 2015. With the active and seemingly vigorous push from the former Liberal Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, (and the notable silence from both John Turner and Paul Martin,  both unlikely supporters of a merger, as well as the silence of Stephane Dion another former leader) there is no clear picture of how the Liberal membership would vote if the question were put to them for ratification of a union, merger, accommodation....between the NDP and the Liberal Party of Canada.
However, should the merger/union actually occur, (and we will support any and all leadership candidates who propose it for of the Liberal Party) there is a significant possibility that the Harper government can and will be defeated in the next election.
There is no doubt that the leadership candidates are already beginning their plans, their fundraising and their strategies for the leadership convention. Whose names will be on the list of nominees is still unknown. However, Maclean's recently ran a front-page cover story asking the question about whether Justin Trudeau should be the next leader of the party. Our unequivocal response to that question is, "No not at this time."
The Liberal Party needs a seasoned negotiator, a visionary and a compelling team-generator, not another "star" candidate. And that person, in our view, should be someone who is prepared to play deputy leader to the new party, should the merger actually occur, not someone whose personal ambition is his or her most powerful motivator. The next leader of the Liberal Party, in our view, needs to be someone who can and does see the danger of another four years of Harper's ideology (and it is an ideology that he is imposing) and be willing to lead, in a collaborative manner, not exactly one of the Liberal Party's historic traditions, but putting the nation's needs ahead of both the party's needs and the individual who successfully wins the vote of the Liberal Party membership, in order to turn this gang out of power.
And doing so under a merged banner, the new Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Canada, seems, to this observer, the most effective and potentially successful means to accomplish that necessary goal.
And the NDP itself, would benefit immeasureably by such a merger, given the experience and political wisdom that can only come from governing, that would be added to their public persona.
Sometimes, two half-loaves are better than one full loaf, and in this case, that metaphor might apply.

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