Minority Govt's pass NDP Policy

Somebody is out of the sunlight and they don't like it.

Jack Layton has said he would wait and see what Harper is going to do before deciding if the NDP would vote with the Liberals in bringing down the government. Minority governments must work with the other parties if they wish to stay in power.

In 2005 Paul Martin very much wanted to stay in power and agreed to many of the NDP demands for concessions in the budget. Paul Martin in 2006 decided he wouldn't make any concessions and as a result the NDP voted against the budget. This is one of the methods the NDP though never in power has brought about significant change to public policy over the years. One need only look to the Trudeau government in 1972. Trudeau required NDP support to stay in power. That resulted in several policy moves that likely would not have occurred had Trudeau to rely on his on party to support them. The threat of the government falling allowed for more progressive budgets and legislation to proceed.

In 1974 Mr. Trudeau met with his caucus in Sudbury Ontario days before the non-confidence motion was presented. He suggested at the time the NDP were too scared of an election and thus wouldn't vote down his government. The NDP on the other hand felt that Trudeau had become arrogant and his parliamentary actions proved it. Really what was at issue was Trudeau's wish for an election. He got it and subsequently won a majority government in 1974.

Paul Martin desperately wanted to stay in power. He had barely squeaked back into government with the support of the NDP and as it turned out some independent MP's and the floor crossing from the Tories to the Libs that helped. Martin managed to do some very good things in his time as PM. He passed same-sex marriage, looked seriously at decriminalizing Marijuana possession, agreements with the Provinces to reduce wait times. All of which squeaked by in votes.

Martin then proceeded to deliver on Child Care and repairing relations with First Nations. Martin held a historic meeting in Kelowna, for which many including the NDP applauded him for. Martin failed to deliver however. Seeing his government hanging on every vote, he must have decided he needed election fodder, something to distinguish the Liberals from the Conservatives.

While Martin could have brought in legislation or a mini budget to implement the Kelowna Accord and the Childcare program, he did not. Instead he put it out as a carrot for voters. This was a serious mistake. The Liberals were already down in many places due to the sponsorship scandal and they paid dearly for it in the polls.

Its my contention, that if Martin had brought in Childcare and the Kelowna Accord it would have passed in Parliament and the result would have seen him re-elected, most likely to another minority but re-elected. The NDP voted against the government after it became clear Martin was not going to take immediate action on the Kelowna Accord nor the Childcare program.

It was a very risky strategy for Martin, hold the carrot way out there, hope he could paint Harper as mean, and squeak in on the promise to implement the Childcare program and the Kelowna Accord.

The rest is history as they say.

The election of Harper saw the Liberals whacked severely by the voters. The sponsorship scandal and a line from Harper that stated there were enough checks on his power by the courts and bureaucracy that people should feel safe voting for them. Whats happened as a result was a Liberal party battered from inside and out, no money and no leadership.

I can say charitably that they were between a rock and a hard place. Harper attached confidence in his government to just about everything. If a bill or budget failed it would bring down the government and the Liberals would have to fight an election with little funds and likely return of the Conservatives, perhaps even a majority Harper government. The Liberals sat on their hands, not voting sometimes or voting if they could hold their noses.

The Liberals have only themselves to blame however. Martin need not have lost a confidence motion to start with. The time to pay the piper over the sponsorship scandal was heavy on people's minds.

Yes the NDP could have supported Martin, Martin would still have required some independent MP's and its not totally clear he could count on them. Martin may have lost the confidence motion no matter which way the NDP voted.

Now here we are two elections later and the Liberals could have defeated the Harper government on any one of 79 occassions. They have allowed Harper to govern as if he has a majority. Throughout this time the NDP as is well noted voted against the Harper government. The NDP put many motions and bills before parliament but were rejected by Harper.

Now the Liberals have a new leader (their second since Martin lost), the party coffers are full and they want to go to an election. The trouble is they have no reason for their new found opposition. It will be fourth election in approximately five years. The chances of a majority government are slim, Canadians have become less scared of Harper after three years in the job. Generally polls have indicated the electors do not see a need for an election now.

Back to the NDP and Jack Layton. They have continued to try to make Parliament work. Proposed many Bills and Motions in the house and all were rejected by Harper. Now Harper faces a significant threat of losing power. Does he want to remain as PM? If he does he had better look at the issues the NDP have been talking about for the last year. Major EI reform, Pension secuirty, Credit card interest rates. True these are not sexy issues but they matter very much in the lives of Canadians.

I don't like Harper's politics and what he has been able to do to date. We can't undo that. He has managed to govern like a majority because of the state of the Liberal party. Now that the Liberal party has stepped up, there is a chance (however slight) for some movement from Harper. It is not something that should be ignored.

I doubt very much the Liberals would vote against the issues being put forward by the NDP. I expect the BLOC would also support the NDP positions if Harper brought them forward.

As awful as Harper is, there is likely no better opportunity to extract some progressive policy from him for a few more months in power. That of course is reliant on Harper's desire to stay in power.

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