The election is over and all the media can do is laugh at Jack Layton and the NDP because they think they can change things in Ottawa. Today, NDP MP Charlie Angus spoke to reporters. When asked how effective the NDP opposition would be in changing or amending the budget, they ridicule Angus for saying the NDP will hold Harper to account. Witness this twitter moment from a prominent political pontificater...
The Media are at once demanding the NDP pull a rabbit out of a hat and saying it doesn't matter what the NDP does because Harper can do whatever he wants.
That was hardly helpful journalism. Everyone in this country is aware that Harper and his majority of seats can do what ever the hell he wants to do if he doesn't care about the consequences of his actions. He has the votes and the right to pass laws and budgets as he sees fit to do.
It might be more helpful if the media understood it as something other than a game. If they have too treat as a game then consider this. The board game has 308 pieces, Harper has 166 pieces. The NDP have 103 pieces. Harper got his majority at a voter discount of about 18%. The NDP paid face value for their seats. The Liberals paid 25% premium for their seats. The BLOC and Green's paid an even stiffer premium.
The oppositions job is to offer alternatives and work to amend and or improve legislation and the budget. The opposition is to ensure the government hears from Canadians that did not vote for the Conservatives. 61% of Canadians did vote for parties other than Conservatives. That is at least a moral position to come from for the opposition if not an ethical one.
The Official Opposition for the last few years has been invisible or at most ineffective in its job in the House of Commons. How do the media know that the NDP can not achieve some of the things they say they will if the NDP has never before held the job.
I want to point to something that other parties may have less experience in achieving. As a long time New Democrat, I can point to our experience in BC. Within the party membership we had two very diverse groups. The Environmental wing and the IWA wing. These groups were consistently at loggerheads over, where to log, how to log, when to log and then what we did with the stuff we did log.
Both wings were well supported in the party. When elected the NDP government created commissions that looked at three contentious regions, in an effort to get everyone around the table. It was no easy task and as someone working for a Cabinet minister at the time, I can tell you it was a very difficult time. We did manage to get all the players, first nations, logging companies, unions, environmentalists, tourism operators and local communities to work it out. In the end they did.
It was the single biggest advance in Land Use planning in North America in decades. Likely since the creation of the Agriculture Land Reserve which was implemented in 1973 in BC. The point of this story is that the NDP have experience in negotiating agreements. They have experience in bringing discordant groups together. That experience will be useful in Parliament during debate, during committee meetings. You will see NDP MPs asking meaningful questions, putting forward good ideas with the research to support them. You are about to see a new kind of opposition.
Canadians expect Parliament to work.