If the Liberals Blink

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Malcolm Malcolm's picture
If the Liberals Blink

If the Liberals blink is a bit of a nod to the inevitable. The moment the czarist nobleman started channeling Billy King, it was obvious the Liberals intend to pass the Flaherty budget in January.


So, now what?


I offer this modest proposal:


The NDP in Parliament should shake hands with the devil in order to accomplish certain beneficial political and economic reforms.


In other words, we meet with the Harper ministry and offer to supportthem on two legislative / constitutional initiatives:


1. Political financing reform - The phasing out of the public subsidyto political parties over the next five years, including a reductionin the maximum individual donation to $5oo.
2. Parliamentary Reform - Abolition of the Senate.
We should shoot for proportional representation - if only so thatremoving it from the table can get us something.

oldgoat

Ok, I just really screwed up.  I tried to move an active version of this thread from international news to Canadian Politics, where Malcom had started an inactive one, and close the inactive one.

In the process, I lost all but the opening post.  To LTJ, and the other poster, my humblest apologies.

To everyone else (you didn't really miss much, but still, it's the principle of the thing).

 

Anyway, no more trying to do fancy things until I'm sure how. Embarassed

 

This is a tagline. It has nothing to do with the comments posted above. Just a tagline...really. Please disregard.

cubicalgangster

Whoa! Senate abolition! No way! I am a huge fan of the bicameral system, now maybe ours isn't the most effective, but I think it's imperitive to a sober democratic society. I would argue Senate reform. (Though just so you know I'm pro-PR!)

The fact that he in the prime ministerial position has the ability to appoint Senators isn't exactly fair, as well as the ability to increase Senate seats. Ultimately the Senators don't have enough responsibility to the people, by appearance their responsibility resides to those who got them into that cushy chair to begin with.

 But ditch the Senate? If we ever have a majority government again I want there to be a legislative body to knock down any stupid bills that our governing party attempts to pass.

Malcolm Malcolm's picture

The Senate, as it stands, doesn't "knock down" shite.  Nor, frankly, should it, since it has no democratic legitimacy.  Except in extremis (and no, the GST wasn't sufficiently extremis) the Senate cannot, will not and should not interfere with the will of the Commons.

 

Changing the Senate would certainly create a body that could "knock down any stupid bills."  You would also have created a body that could "knock down" any progressive legislation a future progressive government might pass.  Inevitably there would come a reprise of the Australian political crisis of the 1970s, where the Labour majority Commons and the Liberal - Country majority Senate were deadlocked, leading to the dismissal of Whilam as Prime Minister.

 

The NDP's policy on the Senate is abolition.  I believe that is the right policy.  It is certainly the policy as adopted by party members.  There may well be an opportunity here to see one of our policies bear fruit.

 

(Oldgoat, on the other matter, I had clearly posted it to the wrong forum last night.  When I couldn't find it, I assumed it had never posted at all.  Sorry for creating the situation where your developing skills were challenged beyond their current capacity.)

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Let me get this straight.

We are in the earliest stages of the biggest depression that has ever hit this country. We are embroiled in an unpopular imperialist war that our powerful neighbour wants us to get even more embroiled in. The Arctic - our Arctic - is starting to grow palm trees (almost). The tar sands are a monumental environmental catastrophe. A national child care plan is an urgent necessity. Our manufacturing sector is disappearing rapidly. Food banks are overwhelmed. Our FN people are dying unnecessarily. Our police and our "security" establishment are out of control.

And the two biggest issues we want to push in Parliament are abolition of the Senate and political party finance reform?

Are there any more deck chairs we should be rearranging, cap'n?

 

 

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wabisha

M. Spector wrote:

 Our FN people are dying unnecessarily. 

I'm not yours, whiteboy!

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

The Arctic isn't mine, either. Nor the tar sands, nor the manufacturing sector, nor the police, nor the military.

What's your point?

 

 

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Dogbert

But the Conservatives don't want to abolish the senate, they want to elect it. I can't see them changing their position to ours, and I don't think we should change ours either.

Furthermore, I don't see why we want to eliminate public financing, or why the Conservatives would want to limit large donations. Frankly, the Conservative "democratic reform" agenda boils down to copying the American system. I don't really see a lot of compatibility there with what the NDP would like to achieve.

Beyond that, I second M. Spector's comments about deck chairs.

garden

I think Harper would go for aboliting senate -- he has started saying "reform or abolish".  Abolishing senate would give him more power, so why would he oppose that?

Malcolm Malcolm's picture

So, because there are other problems in the world, we should ignore a possibility to reform both the Senate and political financing?  Curious approach, I'd say.

 

No one ever said we should make these two issues our top priority in Parliament.  I merely suggested that an opportunity may have presented itself to address these issues.

 

While the Harperites prefer an elected Senate, many of them are becoming persuaded by reality that an effective elected Senate is not attainable.  Abolition is their stated second choice.

 

I'm quite pragmatic about public financing. It's unpopular with voters, and eliminating it screws the three parties that stand in the way of building a viable progressive alternative - far more than it affects us.

 

The Tories have no particular interest in limiting the size of donations, but it is a relatively small cost point for them to give in in order to accomplish the larger agenda.  Most of their donors (like ours) are well under the current limit. 

 

This piece of it is pure partisan pragmatism for me.  Eliminating public financing trips up the Liberals, the Greens and the Bloc.  It hurts us slightly more than it hurts the Conservatives.  Limiting the donation size hurts the Conservatives slightly more than us, and tosses another kick into the supine Liberals.

 

The Tories get to pass something they want to pass anyway, we get t alter it to our advantage.  The NDP demonstrates Jack Layton's historic virtue of being able to work with anyone on an issue by issue basis.  It's all good.

Summer

Malcolm wrote:

The Senate, as it stands, doesn't "knock down" shite.  Nor, frankly, should it, since it has no democratic legitimacy.  Except in extremis (and no, the GST wasn't sufficiently extremis) the Senate cannot, will not and should not interfere with the will of the Commons.

It stopped the post-Morgentaler abortion bill from becoming law in 1989.  That's one great reason to support the Senate!  

 From Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_Canada#Politics

 

 

Quote:

This new bill, which threatened doctors with a two-year jail term if they approved an abortion when the woman's health was not in danger, was widely and loudly condemned by the country's doctors. While the bill was approved by the Canadian House of Commons in a largely free vote (only members of the Cabinet were required to vote in favour), it was defeated in the Senate by a tie vote. The defeat was controversial and somewhat unexpected since was the first time since 1941 that the unelected Senate had outright vetoed legislation passed by the House

wabisha

M. Spector wrote:

The Arctic isn't mine, either. Nor the tar sands, nor the manufacturing sector, nor the police, nor the military.

What's your point?

 

You know damn well what the point is. Referring to FNs as "our", as if FNs are the posession of the white settler establishment. I wont call you racist, just ignorant. Say it again or dont apologize, then your a racist.

Highlander

Malcolm, Spector's point that should the Liberals break their commitment (who wouldn't be shocked to see that - GST, Free Trade, Wage and Price Controls, Conscription, Free Trade,...) we should probably be inclined to shoot a little higher on the policy front than Senate Reform and political finance is a reasonable one.  Truthfully, though, I'm not sure that electoral reform (which both of Malcolm's ideas encompass) isn't as pressing a concern as anything else given that we are in a democratic legitimacy crisis right now just as great (though less well reported) than the economic crisis.

 

wabisha, I wouldn't presume to speak for Spector but I read the "our" not as a possessive of the people but as a possessive of the obligation owed to aboriginal peoples flowing back to the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and subsequent treaty rights.  Obligations that have been systematically ignored and undermined for some time now.  (Yes, its a stretch to read it that way but that seems more in keeping with a concern of the lack of priority given to the shamefull statistics about aboriginal mortality rates in Canada than any sense of ownership of first nations people.  While Spector and I disagree from time to time here - a quick keystroke explanation seems to fit better here than a declaration of ignorance).

D V

wabisha,

Spector was being embracist, not racist.  I wouldn't use the possessive pronoun you decry, but I think the apology might go the other way.

PR Senate should be the order of the day, incrementally or however accomplished.   Our (!) regional fracture might be bridged thereby.   And I'm not averse to special status seat allocation, I won't say for which groups, or I'll maybe be decried as (emb)racist myself.

 

 

 

Malcolm Malcolm's picture

The case of the abortion bill is interesting at a number of levels - particularly since most recent coverage seems to forget the context.  The brief piece you quoted from Wikipedia seemed to ignore that the proposed legislation was a replacement for far more restrictive legislation that had previously been in place.

 

The Supreme Court had struck down the previous law, but had NOT said that laws restricting abortion were inherently unconstitutional.  Thus, there were concerns in some quarters that no legislation defining restrictions would give rise to a patchwork of different policies and restrictions, potentially at the whim of local authorities.  There were even choice activists (albeit a minority) who were very concerned that defeating the bill might be more damaging to choice than letting it pass.  (The fact that they turned out to be wrong does not mean their concerns were not reasonable.)

 

That aside, the actions of the Senate were certainly unusual in the case.  And they provided the Justice Minister with the pretext to do what it seems she actually preferred - to have no restrictions on access to abortion.  But convention is crystal clear that, had the Commons chosen to pursue the issue and had passed the legislation again, the Senate would not have repeated their action.  The issue of democratic legitimacy trumps, and it has been the practice throughout the bicameral Westminster style Parliaments that an appointed Chamber will ultimately always deferr to an elected Chamber.  No reasonable person believes the Canadian Senate of the day would have done otherwise.

 

Now, you may think that having a body wiith no democratic legitimacy blocking legislation is a grand idea - so long as you happen to agree.  Apparently you don't understand the significance of precedent.

 

If we progressives cheer because this collection of superannuated hacks knocks down legislation we don't like, then we have to take our lumps when the same motley crew start blocking legislation we support.

 

Agreeing that the Senate is within it's rights to block this piece of legislation (and the GST Bill, around the same time) means that you support the right of the Senate to block legislation establishing a national child care program, protecting the universality of health care, withdrawing Canadian troops from Afghanistan or regulating market speculation.

 

Funny thing about precedents - you can't pick and choose when precedents apply.

 

The present Senate is not acceptable to any serious progressive.  A reformed Senate is a pipe dream.

 

Abolition is the party's policy - a policy that has never been seriously challenged.  There is an opportunity to pursue that policy.  It would be irresponsible not to consider the possibilities.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Malcolm wrote:

Agreeing that the Senate is within it's rights to block this piece of legislation (and the GST Bill, around the same time) means that you support the right of the Senate to block legislation establishing a national child care program, protecting the universality of health care, withdrawing Canadian troops from Afghanistan or regulating market speculation.

Only the thing is that none of the things on your list is likely to come up for a vote in the Senate for another decade, at least. What will be coming up is a whole bunch of regressive legislation. Of all the NDP party policies that could be bargained into implementation in the short term future, this has got to be the lowest of the low priority items.

Why give Canada's New LiberaTory Coalition Government 2.0™ a free hand to get its agenda passed without a "sober second thought"? 

Why in the name of the FSM would the NDP want to fight to abolish the Senate a single day sooner than the day the NDP forms a government?

Talk about a lousy sense of priorities!

 

 

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M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!

Double post!

Fidel

M. Spector wrote:
 Of all the NDP party policies that could be bargained into implementation in the short term future, this has got to be the lowest of the low priority items.

Why give Canada's New LiberaTory Coalition Government 2.0™ a free hand to get its agenda passed without a "sober second thought"? 

Why in the name of the FSM would the NDP want to fight to abolish the Senate a single day sooner than the day the NDP forms a government?

Talk about a lousy sense of priorities!

I don't think our unregistered corporate lobbyists doubling as part-time senators with full-time pay and gold plated benefits are very sober after lunch, or whenever it is they roll into work in the pm.

The NDP doesnt quit on Canadians. That's Harper's job

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

If I really thought the House of Commons was at present a democratic institution, I would be happy to see the Senate abolished, as being a potential drag on the implementation of the democratic will of the voters.

But that's fairy tale talk.

Anything that can possibly act as a brake on the power of the Harpers and the Ignatieffs to ram through their repressive legislation is welcome to stay, as far as I'm concerned.

It seems a trifle hypocritical for people to say we need major electoral reform to make the House more representative of the will of the voters, but until we get that reform we will abolish the only possible body that can delay or thwart the undemocratic passage of bills by the House! Will any of us sleep better at night with a Harper government, knowing the Senate has been abolished?

  

 

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Wilf Day

One thing I could see Harper agreeing with is a referendum on abolishing the Senate. Since provincial consent is required, the provinces might respect the results of such a referendum.

But that's only half the job. At the same time, the referendum should do the rest of the job: let voters direct the government to establish an independent Citizens’ Assembly to design a fair and equitable made-in-Canada voting system for use in future elections of the House of Commons. 

 

LeighT

wait a minute here please, for those of us who are trying to catch up.

clarify assumptions, briefly if possible.  who cares about the czarist nobleman, what about the liberal minions? the ones who actually got out on the streets over the coalition, a sight i've never seen before.  are they just going to lie down and let themselves get walked on? 

and fill me in on the billy king line 

 

LeighT

well, unless i hear further i'll assume that desmarais and irving et al have the libs on a short leash.   which is kinda funny when they're bankrupt except for the public resource assets they're allowed to use at present.

 

 

 

Malcolm Malcolm's picture

M. Spector wrote:

Anything that can possibly act as a brake on the power of the Harpers and the Ignatieffs to ram through their repressive legislation is welcome to stay, as far as I'm concerned.

 

 

Thank you, MS.  I've always wanted the opportunity to use the phrase "jesuitical casuistry."  You've now provided the opportunity.

 

Your position is jesuistical casuistry pure and simple - ends justifies the means, situation ethics of the worst order.

 

If you support the unelected Senate defeating bills passed in the Commons (a body elected in a viable, if imperfect, democratic porocess), it is pure hypocrisy for you to pretend to pick and choose when.

Malcolm Malcolm's picture

The thread title is "if the Liberals blink."  Perhaps, Leigh, you might take note of the first word.

 

Personally, I think they've already blinked, they just haven't told anybody yet.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Malcolm wrote:

Your position is jesuistical casuistry pure and simple - ends justifies the means, situation ethics of the worst order.

That's rich! What is the "Koalition with Dion/Iggy" project, other than situation ethics of the worst order?

And if you're looking for hypocrisy, you need look no further than those who want electoral reform because the Commons gives too much power to a party that has less than majority popular support, but then want the Senate to disappear so that the phony majority in the Commons will have the final say on all matters.

"The food here is lousy - and the portions are too small."  

(too bad you blew your big chance by misspelling "jesuitical")

 

 

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melovesproles

6 Cabinet posts seemed a little cheap but supporting Harper for a referendum on Senate abolishment seems like a surefire way to make the NDP more irrelevant.  I can´t imagine that rates on more than .0001 percent of Canadian´s priority list.  I support Senate abolishment but I hope the NDP gets a bit more vision and purpose than selling out to Harper for something that minor and inconsequential.

Sunday Hat

It stopped the post-Morgentaler abortion bill from becoming law in 1989.  That's one great reason to support the Senate!  

 From Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_Canada#Politics

 

Quote:

This new bill, which threatened doctors with a two-year jail term if they approved an abortion when the woman's health was not in danger, was widely and loudly condemned by the country's doctors. While the bill was approved by the Canadian House of Commons in a largely free vote (only members of the Cabinet were required to vote in favour), it was defeated in the Senate by a tie vote. The defeat was controversial and somewhat unexpected since was the first time since 1941 that the unelected Senate had outright vetoed legislation passed by the House

Well, why don't we just pick a left-wing dictator and do away with stupid elected officials altogether?

You know, just because elected officials are sometimes stupid is not a good reason to allow a permanent ruling class to reign over us.

Sunday Hat

M. Spector wrote:
Anything that can possibly act as a brake on the power of the Harpers and the Ignatieffs to ram through their repressive legislation is welcome to stay, as far as I'm concerned.
So, the best way to stop a corrupt and unaccountable ruling class is to rely on a group of people appointed to lifetime patronage jobs by the same corrupt and unaccountable ruling class?

You gotta admit, it's counterintuituve.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

You imagine that abolishing the Senate is going to free us from permanent rule by the corrupt and unaccountable ruling class?

Dream on.

 

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Fidel

M. Spector wrote:

You imagine that abolishing the Senate is going to free us from permanent rule by the corrupt and unaccountable ruling class?

Dream on.

 

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They're all Whigs and Tories anyway. When have they ever stopped a right-wing big business agenda in Ottawa? 

 Senators are unregistered corporate lobbyists, old line party fundraisers on the side, and old line party hacks slotted into these positions and costing the taxpayers $50 million a year. The Canadian senate is an abomination of democracy. It wants getting rid of.

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M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Fidel wrote:

When have they ever stopped a right-wing big business agenda in Ottawa?

Um, the post-Morgentaler abortion bill (see above). They held up Mulroney's GST bill. They killed the Harpocons' plan to use the withdrawal of tax credits from Canadian films as a tool for censorship, after the asleep-at-the-switch opposition passed it in the Commons.

Get back to me when they start blocking the passage of progressive legislation, and I'll join the call for their abolition. Oh, wait - there won't be any progressive-and-controversial legislation coming from the Harper and Iggy government(s) for the foreseeable future. Silly me.

The House of Commons is a bigger "abomination of democracy" because it pretends to be democratic and actually has millions of Canadians fooled.

 

 

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