If the Liberals Blink

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M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Malcolm wrote:

The Queen and the Senate currently limit their inherent offensiveness through the convention by which they do not exercise the full scope of their powers and thus defer to the Commons.  What M. Spector proposes is that at least one of these fundamentally anti-democratic institutions actually exercise the full scope of those powers.  No true democrat would ever argue such a position.

I propose nothing of the sort. Now you are resorting to lies and distortions in pursuit of your stupid campaign to prove that I hate democracy.

 

 

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hunter s

aka Mycroft wrote:

You're forgetting one thing, bills do not become law unless they are passed by both the house of commons and the senate.

Yes i know this. But I am sure the rules could be changed as such so that all three readings went through Parliament with the GG rubber stamping the final product for royal assent. In fact, the third reading could be altered to give backbench MPs sitting on parliamentary committees a greater role. This appears to be both what the public and these MPs want.

Fidel

carry on

Malcolm Malcolm's picture

Mycroft, while Senate defeat can delay legislation, the convention is clearly established that the unelected Senate (quite rightly) will ultimately defer to the Commons.  Defeat of the measure in the Senate can serve to delay egislation, but a the end of the day, that is all.

 

BTW, the Senate may well have threatened to defeat free trade,  but they didn't.  And Mulroney invoked the provision for 10 additional Senators based on Liberal threats - the Senate had not voted on the GST.  (Ironically, the additional Senators were pivotal in the defeat of the abortion bill.)

 

Now, I'm sorry, but I fail to see how anyone can claim to believe in democracy when they are advocating that a gang of unelected hacks and flacks can and should exercise the full scope of their notional powers.  Advocating that the Senate defeat legislation from the Commons is inherently anti-democratic. 

 

The Senate of Canada is a festering pustule on the arse end of Canadian democracy. 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Malcolm wrote:

Mycroft, while Senate defeat can delay legislation, the convention is clearly established that the unelected Senate (quite rightly) will ultimately defer to the Commons.  Defeat of the measure in the Senate can serve to delay egislation, but a the end of the day, that is all.

BTW, the Senate may well have threatened to defeat free trade,  but they didn't.  And Mulroney invoked the provision for 10 additional Senators based on Liberal threats - the Senate had not voted on the GST.  (Ironically, the additional Senators were pivotal in the defeat of the abortion bill.)

Senate delays and threats, however ineffectual in the long run, can serve to attact media attention and galvanize public opinion around issues where the Commons "opposition" fails to do so. The GST and Free Trade, for example, became much bigger causes celebres because of the Senate's sober second thoughts.  

Malcolm wrote:
Now, I'm sorry, but I fail to see how anyone can claim to believe in democracy when they are advocating that a gang of unelected hacks and flacks can and should exercise the full scope of their notional powers.  Advocating that the Senate defeat legislation from the Commons is inherently anti-democratic.

Now, I'm sorry, but I fail to see how anyone can claim to believe in democracy when they are advocating that a governing party in the Commons supported by a minority of voters should be permitted unimpeded licence to exercise the full scope of their legislative powers.

And again, you are lying and misrepresenting my position in order to score cheap points. I have made my position clear in this thread; there is no urgency whatsoever to stop the Senate from doing what they have been doing all along, until we have a progressive government in the House of Commons, which is not going to happen any time soon. Abolition of the Senate, in today's circumstances, does not further either progressive or democratic goals.

Malcolm wrote:
The Senate of Canada is a festering pustule on the arse end of Canadian democracy.

The House of Commons is a festering pustule on the front end of Canadian (non-existent) democracy.

 

 

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hunter s

M. Spector wrote:

Senate delays and threats, however ineffectual in the long run, can serve to attact media attention and galvanize public opinion around issues where the Commons "opposition" fails to do so. The GST and Free Trade, for example, became much bigger causes celebres because of the Senate's sober second thoughts.

Are you not answering your own question? The Senate is ineffectual in the long run.

The Senate has not served to galvanize anything. In 1988, the Mulroney government was due for an election either way and would have had to face voters very soon on the free trade issue.

In general, I fail to see your point. So what if a bunch of Liberal hack Senators were going to hold up the free trade legislation? In the end, the actual Liberal MPs were lying through their teeth anyway and only served to expand free trade once in government.

You seem to be implying because of the House of Commons is undemorcratic, we need an unelected group of partisans to set the ship straight. I don't think so. All the Senate does is make our system more undemocratic not less.

Let's keep in mind here that in actuality the parliamentary system was functioning quite well when the coalition was formed and the opposition parties moved to defeat the government. It was only an unelected GG that moved to save a PM that should not have been saved in the end by agreeing to the prorogation. And you think this is a positive thing?

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

hunter s wrote:

Are you not answering your own question? The Senate is ineffectual in the long run.

Of course it is. So my point is why should its abolition be a higher priority than dealing with all the other real crises that we face? (my post #4 above).

Quote:
The Senate has not served to galvanize anything.

You are wrong, my friend. Nobody in the Queen's Loyal Opposition noticed Harper's motion picture censorship provisions last year until the Senate got hold of the Bill and actually read it. Then all hell broke loose when the Senate drew the public's attention to it, and Harper ended up withdrawing the proposal. 

Quote:
In general, I fail to see your point.

I agree.

Quote:
You seem to be implying because of the House of Commons is undemorcratic, we need an unelected group of partisans to set the ship straight. I don't think so. All the Senate does is make our system more undemocratic not less.

I didn't say or imply that we need the Senate. What we need is a truly democratic system of government. We don't have one at present, and the Senate is far from able to "set the ship straight." But the Senate is not the source of our problems with democracy, and abolishing it will only leave a clear path for Stephen Harper to have his way with us. That, to me, would make our system more undemocratic, not less.

Nor is the Senate the source of the reactionary legislation we have been getting and will be getting from Parliament for the foreseeable future.

One would expect that left-wing Senate abolitionists would be able to rhyme off a list of crimes and misdemeanours committed by the Senate in support of their campaign to make its abolition one of the top priorities for a Koalition deal with Harper, as Malcolm wants to do (opening post). They can't rhyme off such a list, because it doesn't exist. The only time the Senate makes any difference at all is when they stand up to the ruling party in the Commons. Why would I want to protect the ruling party from that?

Quote:
Let's keep in mind here that in actuality the parliamentary system was functioning quite well when the coalition was formed and the opposition parties moved to defeat the government.

I couldn't disagree more.

The parliamentary system has been dysfunctional and undemocratic for decades; if we had a properly functioning democracy Stephen Harper would never have become PM in the first place. 

 

 

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Fidel
melovesproles

I think Spector´s point is valid. 

 Malcolm´s suggestion that the NDP support the Conservatives for a likely useless referendum on Senate abolishment while trading away real reform of the House of Commons is both strategically and morally flawed.  Its a surefire path to the NDP becoming irrelevant.  

 And to pretend the HOC was functioning "quite well" takes a lot of Kool Aid, we just had an election that was caused over the PM(with one of the weakest minority government´s in our history) claiming the House was dysfunctional purely because he wanted to get a jump on the financial crisis.   Even though the Conservative´s ideology has openly and dramatically proved a global failure, the election was about leadership characteristics instead of policies.  Yet despite getting a clear minority of votes and seats, the Cons still have an incredible amount of power and would have had a completely unobstructed path if they hadn´t openly spit in the oppositions face.  Even then, its likely that nothing will change.  Our democracy hasn´t functioned well in a long time and that is reflected in the increasing amount of people who can´t be bothered to validate it through participation.  

 

 

 

Fidel

Why not include a question on electoral reform in a referendum on abolishing the non-elected and non-accountable senate? Or would that be too much like democracy for our two oldest political parties?

Unionist

Fidel wrote:

Why not include a question on electoral reform in a referendum on abolishing the non-elected and non-accountable senate? Or would that be too much like democracy for our two oldest political parties?

How about including some other questions:

1. Every government (or individual MP) that breaks an election promise (as determined by a special sitting of the Supreme Court) must immediately resign.

2. All MPs have the right to vote their conscience any time they want. Any party leader unduly pressuring or threatening an MP as to how to vote will be subject to sanctions.

3.  In a majority parliament, the Prime Minister can enact any legislation s/he wants at any time at all - votes in the House, if any, will be a mere formality. [Whoops, that one's redundant.]

4.  Abolish all party designations in the House of Commons. Individual elected MPs will have to discuss together all pieces of legislation and achieve a consensus.

I'm not sure what problem you see with the Senate, Fidel. The only loud and principled voice against Harper's neo-con Crime Bill came from the Senate - in addition to all the other evidence that M. Spector has marshalled. There was one dissident voice in the House, but he was silenced and disciplined by his party leader.

Fidel

I'm sure we've been over all of your concerns in another thread some time ago, unionist. Electoral reform, if done right, would tend to discourage the undemocratic practice of floor-crossing. As well, eliminating the democratic deficit should work to encourage millions of discouraged voters from their discouraging dispositions.

And more importantly, this obsolete electoral system invented before electricity is inefficient and produces distorted results. FPP should be taken out behind the shed and put out of its misery. I know its not a nice thing to do, but its necessary for the sake of advancing the cause of democracy in this Northern Puerto Rico with a dwindling Polar bear count. You can trust me when I say that this is issue is just as important as doing away with Catholic school funding. Maybe even moreso.

Malcolm Malcolm's picture

melovesproles, could you please show me where I suggested we "trade away" any prospect of electoral reform or Commons reform?

 

Since you won't be able to find it (since I never said it), perhaps you'd care to withdraw that particular slander.

 

Now, MSpector, you are advancing the position that it is good for the appointed Senate to defeat legislation.  I don't think that is at all an unfair representation of your position.  I just fail to see how anyone can advocate that position and pretend to be a democrat.

 

Also, I have never claimed that these two items are the most important things.   They are, however, two areas where there is potential common ground between progressives and the Harper govt - thus they are achievable while many other priorities are not.  This is especially so if (as predicated) the Liberals have walked away from any possible coalition.

 

It is amusing, though, to watch MSpector and Unionist defend the principle that unelected hacks should continue to have a place in the legislative process, all the while pretending their position is democratic.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

You keep repeating the same arguments and distortions over and over.

My position has already been made clear. I will not bother repeating it again for the benefit of the wilfully blind.

 

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Malcolm Malcolm's picture

Call it distortion if you will.  What I have read here is a repeated defense of the value of having an unelected body with the capacity to defeat legislation.

 

However imperfect the democracy of the Commons, it is infinitely more democratic that the completely undemocratic Senate.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Malcolm wrote:

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.

What is the point of getting embroiled in this bullshit, when it would be far more profitable for the NDP to stay the coalition course, and win brownie points as the stand-alone opposition to the right? Distinct both from the Liberals who have copped out and the economic failure that the Tories will no doubt be stuck with, and the Liberals have bought in to.

"Modest proposal" was an honest description. Begging for change here basically.

hunter s

M. Spector wrote:

Nobody in the Queen's Loyal Opposition noticed Harper's motion picture censorship provisions last year until the Senate got hold of the Bill and actually read it. Then all hell broke loose when the Senate drew the public's attention to it, and Harper ended up withdrawing the proposal.

It was Canadian artists who drew attention to this bill not the Senate.

M.Spector wrote:

Nor is the Senate the source of the reactionary legislation we have been getting and will be getting from Parliament for the foreseeable future.

The Senate isn't the source of anything because it doesn't do anything.

M.Spector wrote:

The only time the Senate makes any difference at all is when they stand up to the ruling party in the Commons. Why would I want to protect the ruling party from that?

The Senate never actually makes any difference and it does not stand up to the ruling party in the Commons but only serves to stall legislation which will pass in the end if the government so desires. It serves no purpose.

Fidel

I think that Iggy, like Dion finally did, realizes there is little "political capital" gain in propping up the Harpers. And that's all I'm sayin' for now. And the Ford stays in the yard. Say no more.

melovesproles

Malcolm, I was responding to this

Quote:
We should shoot for proportional representation - if only so that removing it from the table can get us something.

But now that I reread it, I guess you were talking about the Senate and PR in the House isn´t even on the table.  I think "begging for change" is an accurate description.

hunter s

Fidel wrote:

I think that Iggy, like Dion finally did, realizes there is little "political capital" gain in propping up the Harpers. And that's all I'm sayin' for now. And the Ford stays in the yard. Say no more.

Malcolm, I have to say I agree with this statement. I think the opposition parties should move to reform the coalition when Parliament resumes and try to defeat the government on the budget.

Regardless of what Harper may promise in the budget in terms of economic stimulus, the Cons have proven they can't be trusted and there is a very good chance what they promise will never come to fruition. Harper and Flaherty crossed too many lines in the economic update and it is in the best interest of all parties and the country that the Cons are defeated ASAP.

In a subsequent election, I think the best they could hope for is a reduced minority as Harper is finished in Quebec and would likely lose seats in Ontario. The Libs could possibly get a minority which the NDP could hopefully work with.

Malcolm, I am also not sure why you oppose public financing for political parties?

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

hunter s wrote:

The Senate isn't the source of anything because it doesn't do anything....

The Senate never actually makes any difference and it does not stand up to the ruling party in the Commons but only serves to stall legislation which will pass in the end if the government so desires. It serves no purpose.

If that is so, then why the flaming urgency to abolish it?

In fact, it does make a difference, however small.

If we had taken Malcolm's advice and abolished the Senate say, two years ago, we'd now have our film industry subject to Harper government political and moral censorship, but Malcolm and you could rest easier in your beds, knowing that Canada had edged closer to your platonic ideal of democracy.

After all, the purity of the process far outweighs the noxious end product!

 

 

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hunter s

M. Spector wrote:

If that is so, then why the flaming urgency to abolish it?

Because I and many others are not comfortable paying the likes of Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau six figure salaries so they can smile at Stephen Harper and tell us what a great job he is doing. If political parties want to reward partisans, they can do it out of their own finances, not on the public purse.

M.Spector wrote:

If we had taken Malcolm's advice and abolished the Senate say, two years ago, we'd now have our film industry subject to Harper government political and moral censorship, but Malcolm and you could rest easier in your beds, knowing that Canada had edged closer to your platonic ideal of democracy.

I would love to hear you use this line of reasoning on anyone who works for ACTRA as they would laugh you out of the room. The reason the Cons backed down on this had nothing to do with the Senate.

What's next? The Senate bringing attention to the Conservative cuts in arts funding led to Harper flaming out in Quebec and the Bloc was just a passive bystander? I don't think so.

Stuart_Parker

What a strange set of policies to want to go to the mat on!

Why don't we spend our time thinking about policies that will protect jobs, pensions and savings right now? Whether it benefits us at the polls or not, that's what Canadians deserve.

Yeah David Lewis lost a bunch of seats for giving Canadians better programs and policies. Canadians benefited; the NDP did not. Fortunately, what matters to New Democrats, I hope, is the common good, not partisan advantage.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

hunter s wrote:

Because I and many others are not comfortable paying the likes of Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau six figure salaries so they can smile at Stephen Harper and tell us what a great job he is doing. If political parties want to reward partisans, they can do it out of their own finances, not on the public purse.

Oh, so it's not a matter of democracy, and it's not a matter of progressive politics, it's a matter of saving money! Thanks for that admission. Funny, though, the original proponent in this thread of making senate abolition a top priority didn't pose it that way.

The amount the government wastes on paying Senators' salaries is chump change in the context of the whole federal budget. There are plenty of other places where much more money could be saved, if that's your real agenda (which I doubt). 

hunter s wrote:
M.Spector wrote:
If we had taken Malcolm's advice and abolished the Senate say, two years ago, we'd now have our film industry subject to Harper government political and moral censorship, but Malcolm and you could rest easier in your beds, knowing that Canada had edged closer to your platonic ideal of democracy.

I would love to hear you use this line of reasoning on anyone who works for ACTRA as they would laugh you out of the room. The reason the Cons backed down on this had nothing to do with the Senate.

You are wrong. ACTRA may have been the first to draw the public's attention to it, but once it had passed the Commons unopposed, it was too late to do anything about it – except for the Senate, which stalled it until Harper yielded to the public pressure.

 

 

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Fidel

Ya come on!!. The Senators are a hard-working bunch of guys. Alfie mighta looked like his skates were tied together last night, but he gives 'er shit every game he plays. They'll start scoring soon. Someone needs to light a fire under Spezza and Heatley. They're just warming up. It's only mid season. You'll see.

hunter s

M.Spector wrote:

Senate delays and threats, however ineffectual in the long run, can serve to attact media attention and galvanize public opinion around
issues where the Commons "opposition" fails to do so.

M. Spector wrote:

Nobody in the Queen's Loyal Opposition noticed Harper's motion picture censorship provisions last year until the Senate got hold of the Bill and actually read it. Then all hell broke loose when the Senate drew the public's attention to it, and Harper ended up withdrawing the proposal.

M.Spector wrote:

ACTRA may have been the first to draw the public's attention to it...

Sounds to me as if you have gotten yourself caught up in a massive Senate contradiction.

First you say the Senate serves a beneficial role in that it draws attention to and galvanizes public opinion in terms of harmful pieces of legislation such as motion picture censorship. This has now changed to the Senate holds up these pieces of legislation after certain segments of the population have come to see their harmful effects.

So which one is it?

Sounds like your logic regarding the benefits of having a Senate is as faulty as the legitimacy of the institution itself.

hunter s

Fidel wrote:

Ya come on!!. The Senators are a hard-working bunch of guys. Alfie mighta looked like his skates were tied together last night, but he gives 'er shit every game he plays. They'll start scoring soon. Someone needs to light a fire under Spezza and Heatley. They're just warming up. It's only mid season. You'll see.

At least these Senators earn their money. At least if not in this year, in most ones previously.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

hunter s wrote:

So which one is it?

It doesn't matter. I will accept for the sake of argument your assertion that it was ACTRA that blew the whistle on that particular odious piece of legislation.

But once they did so, it was too late for the Commons to do anything about it.

I will say again: if the Senate had been abolished two years ago, we would now be enjoying state censorship of our film industry.

How's that for "democracy"? 

 

 

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Malcolm Malcolm's picture

Stuart, I am fully convinced that the partisan advantage of the NDP is in the best interests of Canadians.  If one believes that a social democratic approach is best for Canada, then one has an absolute moral obligation to build a viable social democratic alternative government. 

 

One of the few things Bob Rae ever said that wasn't complete shite was his criticism of the opposition mentality in the NDP (though his criticism does not apply out west here, where New Democrats are not hoodwinked by the bizarre idea that "influence" is enough).   If one actually believes in social democracy, the idea that the NDP should rest content as a third party is fundamentally unethical.

 

Hunter, I'm actually agnostic on the issue of public funding per se.   don't see it as inherently regressive by any means, but I am similarly unconvinced that it is inherently progressive.  What I do see is that it currently props up three political parties with varying degrees of political and intellectual bankrupcy and serves to prevent the creation of a viable left wing alternative.

 

Given that I see the policy itself as a matter indifferent, I am quite content to defer to the popular will, which objects to financing political parties in this way.

 

MS, the Senate did not prevent passage of the proposed Tory arts funding legislation.  Nor would it have done so.

 

For me, using a completely undemocratic institution to defeat the legislation of a democratic (if imperfectly so) institution is utterly immoral to me.  Even if it did have a use defeating reactionary legislation (a dubious prospect at best), it would be accomplishingh a moral end by immoral means.

 

I am glad to see you acknowledge that your position has to do with "progressive politics" and not with "democracy."  But if progressive politics requires the overthrow of democratic norms, it is not, to me, progressive politics.  Stalin was no progressive.

jrootham

I think democracy itself is a good thing and having parties spend any time and effort fundraising damages democracy, even if ever so slightly, but then again, actually being in favour of democracy rather than afraid of the alternatives makes me slightly weird.

 The Senate is quintessentially Canadian.  Terrible in theory, pretty good in practise.  Part of what makes it as good as it is is the threat of abolition.  So, I am in favour of the NDP having a policy of abolishing the Senate, but I would also hope and expect it is priority number 437.

 

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Malcolm wrote:

MS, the Senate did not prevent passage of the proposed Tory arts funding legislation.  Nor would it have done so.

Well, please tell me who did, because it sure as hell wasn't the somnolent opposition in the Commons.

Quote:
For me, using a completely undemocratic institution to defeat the legislation of a democratic (if imperfectly so) institution is utterly immoral to me.  Even if it did have a use defeating reactionary legislation (a dubious prospect at best), it would be accomplishingh a moral end by immoral means.

Fatuous nonsense! Making this into some kind of moral crusade is ridiculous. I refuse to accept that it is "immoral" to prevent, by any legal means, the illegitimate government of Stephen Harper from passing reactionary legislation.

Reactionary legislation is immoral. If your morality can't see that, then it is worthless.

Quote:
I am glad to see you acknowledge that your position has to do with "progressive politics" and not with "democracy."

I have no idea how you came up with that one. Progressive politics is all about democracy - politics that benefits the majority of the population.

And just because Senators are not democratically elected it does not prec lude them from occasionally acting in the interests of the majority and against the wishes of the illegitimate minority governing party. You, however, see that as "immoral." Shame on you.

 

 

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Stuart_Parker

Malcolm wrote:

Stuart, I am fully convinced that the partisan advantage of the NDP is in the best interests of Canadians.  If one believes that a social democratic approach is best for Canada, then one has an absolute moral obligation to build a viable social democratic alternative government.

That's a very simply universe in which you reside.

Even if I accepted that the long-term goal of building a viable SDP always trumped any short-term need to prevent people from losing their jobs, their homes or their kids. Even if I accepted that when faced with a choice between making a deal that saved lives, sacrificing human life in the short term would always turn out to be a net benefit, there is just no way that I can, based on my experience of living under an NDP government, assume that being governed by the NDP brings social democracy to the people.

If the NDP were an institution that we could trust to actually advance the cause of democratic socialism reliably, I might be able to swallow the blind institutional loyalty you are offering up. But the fact is that the NDP, when it takes power in this country, is as reliable an advocate for working people and their causes as the British Labour Party.

Social democracy is contained in a set of ideals and instincts, not a corporate entity. Parties come and go; principles are the things to which we need to stay loyal.

Malcolm Malcolm's picture

I was responding to a particular point, Stuart.  I'm frankly tired of people telling me that influence is enough.

 

If I believe that social democracy is in the best interests of Canadians, then I have an absolute moral obligation to ensure that Canadians have an electorally viable social democratic alternative when they go to vote.

 

In my experience, whinging on about how influence is enough and about corporate entities don't matter is just a useful cover for those who want to vote for right wing parties.

 

MSpector, it is an interesting sort of morality where process is irrelevant.  It is the sort of jesuitical approach that justifies religious persecution, justifies police states, justifies any number of anti-progressive acts in the name of some notional greater good.  It is the moral universe occupied by George Bush and Dick Cheney.

 

JRootham - this wouldn't have been my first priority.  However, if the Liberals blink (which is the premise of the thread, after all), then very few of our priorities will be achievable in the short term.  This one might be achievable - and might provide a certain level of electoral advantage as a bonus.

Olly

Putting senate reform (an issue about .5% of Canadians care about) on the table while we are undergoing a massive economic crisis that has seen people's retirement savings decline by 40% overnight, and the value of people's houses drop is about as politically smart as Harper's eliminating public subsidies for political parties. The NDP would be killed for fiddling around instead of addressing the crisis. It would be a disaster. 

Stuart_Parker

Malcolm, I don't know where you get the idea that I find the little influence the NDP has right now to be sufficient. Nor do I understand how this insufficiency somehow demands that we repeat, yet again, the same "shoot the moon" electoral strategy that has failed sixteen times in a row to bring social democracy to Canadians or, for that matter, to produce any statistically-perceptible upward trend in popular support over the past sixteen elections. If this strategy were producing incremental improvements, I might see you point but it hasn't.

Malcolm Malcolm's picture

Olly, that is a coherent tactical argument against my proposal.  Quite refreshing from much of the knee-jerk crap.  That said, Stephen Harper doesn't really seem to be suffering much punishment (outwith the chattering classes) for proposing a end to party funding, nor for his calls for Senate reform.

 

Stuart, I got that idea from reading your posts.

 

As for the "shoot for the moon" strategy, there are various reasons why strategies succeed or fail over the long term.

 

Some of those factors are "the luck of the draw.  (For example, had Harper not played to his weakness in Quebec re: arts funding and crime policies, would the Liberals and Bloquistes have managed to stage the electoral recovery that we saw?  Polling to that point showed the potential for significant NDP gains in Quebec.)

 

And some of those factors lay "not in our stars but in ourselves."  Frequently, in the past, the federal NDP has failed t d the necessary groundwork in advance for a "shoot for the moon" strategy to bear any fruit.  The NSNDP made the shift from being a marginal third party to being the alternate party of government in significant part by a long-term organizational strategy.  This was not sufficient, on its own, to change the NS political dynamic, but it ensured that the NSNDP was ready to sieze the opportunity when the window opened.

 

In the meantime, I fail to see how one builds a viable social democratic alternative by engaging in short term tactics that only benefit a right wing party - and a particularly corrupt right wing party at that.

Olly

"Olly, that is a coherent tactical argument against my proposal.  Quite refreshing from much of the knee-jerk crap.  That said, Stephen Harper doesn't really seem to be suffering much punishment (outwith the chattering classes) for proposing a end to party funding, nor for his calls for Senate reform."

I think he has been substantially hurt by it. Most people don't care that much about political funding either, but a lot of people were mad that Harper put that at the centre of an economic statement at a time when we are in financial crisis. People wanted action on that, not stupid politically motivated tinkering with party funding. It showed he didn't take the crisis seriously.

Although we know the coalition came together because of the party funding thing, ostensibly its raison d'etre is that there was no economic stimulus package. If the NDP were to start on about senate reform instead of all out plan to help the economy, it would be suicidal in my opinion.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Malcolm wrote:

mSpector, it is an interesting sort of morality where process is irrelevant. It is the sort of jesuitical approach that justifies religious persecution, justifies police states, justifies any number of anti-progressive acts in the name of some notional greater good. It is the moral universe occupied by George Bush and Dick Cheney.

Which one of us is the Jesuit who speaks of "absolute moral obligations" and says it's "utterly immoral" to try to thwart the plans of the Harper government? Oh, wait - that would be you! As long as we're indulging in hyperbolic personal smears, I will suggest that labelling the enemies of a reactionary government as "immoral" is taken right out of the play book of Bush and Cherney.

Your problem (well, one among many) is that you are a ballot-box fetishist. For you, democracy begins and ends with the voting booth. Once the polls are closed, whatever the resulting government does is by definition democratic, even if it favours a tiny plutocracy at the expense of the working masses, and anybody who tries to thwart the will of the government is utterly immoral and totalitarian. Never mind that the system is rotten and crooked; that the "elected" government never had the support of the majority of the people; that the democratic will of the people is expressed in many ways other than the ballot box; none of that matters. It's still democracy (by definition!), don't you see.

Process is irrelevant? Not at all. If the process produces evil ends, then it must be changed. You favour process above all else - even above your professed "absolute moral obligation" to promote social democracy.

As I noted above at post #71, your position is that the purity of the process far outweighs the noxious end product!

 

 

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Stuart_Parker

Malcolm wrote:
As for the "shoot for the moon" strategy, there are various reasons why strategies succeed or fail over the long term.

Some of those factors are "the luck of the draw.  (For example, had Harper not played to his weakness in Quebec re: arts funding and crime policies, would the Liberals and Bloquistes have managed to stage the electoral recovery that we saw?  Polling to that point showed the potential for significant NDP gains in Quebec.) 

And some of those factors lay "not in our stars but in ourselves."  Frequently, in the past, the federal NDP has failed t d the necessary groundwork in advance for a "shoot for the moon" strategy to bear any fruit.  The NSNDP made the shift from being a marginal third party to being the alternate party of government in significant part by a long-term organizational strategy.  This was not sufficient, on its own, to change the NS political dynamic, but it ensured that the NSNDP was ready to sieze the opportunity when the window opened.

In the meantime, I fail to see how one builds a viable social democratic alternative by engaging in short term tactics that only benefit a right wing party - and a particularly corrupt right wing party at that.

Okay: let's take these points one by one:

1. Everyone here acknowledges that politics is about exploiting opportunities in a chaotic environment. So, when what appear to be opportunities come along, like, for instance only 8% of Canadians having confidence in the ability of the Liberal Party's leader to run the country and the NDP having the most popular leader on the federal scene, we should take something away from the fact that we failed even to match our 1988 showing in either popular support or seats in the Commons. 

What you appear to be doing is hiding behind the fundamental contingency of politics to avoid facing the fact that no matter what opportunities are presented to us, we never get more than 20% of the vote or 15% of the seats in the Commons. 

2. Secondly, the capacity to do groundwork is contingent on the ability of the party to deploy volunteers in regions where we have not had support in the past. Where are these volunteers to come from? The Outrement byelection is a great example of the party being able to deploy its volunteers from every riding from Ottawa to Quebec City and the entirety of urban Montreal, combined with Muclair's personal organization. But this can hardly be replicated in a general election environment.

If you have a riding with very few members and even fewer volunteers, dispatching these individuals again and again into grassroots sign-up drives is as likely to enervate the organization as it is to build it. In my organizing experience, working a constituency association in a fundamentally unfriendly political environment too hard is as bad a move as not working it at all.

3. Your reading of the Nova Scotia NDP's success story is a very skewed one. The reality is that Alexa McDonough, as the first federal leader from the Maritimes since Stanfield was able to capitalize on a very friendly Atlantic media and massive regional hatred of UI cutbacks and plundering to produce a mass of NDP votes in the region in advance of organization. Certainly, the provincial NDP could have, as happened in New Brunswick, failed to capitalize on the wind-assisted federal numbers in 1997 but to suggest that the growth in membership and organization preceded as opposed to following an uptick in the polls, seems rather inaccurate.

4. As Jack Layton so eloquently stated in 2004, neo-liberal policies kill people. They make them die. The idea that we should never make deals with the forces of capitalism to prevent real people from dying in the present so we can keep pursuing a strategy with a proven track record of failure is irresponsible. 

Politics is about nothing more or less than who lives and who dies. And I care a hell of a lot more about that than the institutional future of a corporation.

Malcolm Malcolm's picture

Well, Stuart.

 

1.  What I see in Jack Layton and the current federal leadership (who I am quite happy to criticize on several other points) is that the federal NDP has roughly doubled it's voter support and more than doubled the size of the caucus since assuming the leadership.

 

2.  Building a "308 constituency" party is not done overnight.  It is worth noting, however, that the NDP won seats in both Quebec and Newfoundland in this general election - something that has NEVER happened in a general election before.  The party ran viable campaigns (incorporating close losses) in more seats than ever before - even more than 1988.

 

3.  My quick sketch closely natches the accounts of people who were actually involved in the organizational and electoral growth of the NSNDP.  I'm sorry their actual knowledge of the facts on the ground doesn't match your long distance analysis from BC.

 

4.  Layton was right about liberal policies.  That's why we shouldn't surrender the field to the Liberals.

 

MSpector, ends do not justify means.  If they did, the we could simply shoot all the Liberatives and Conserverals.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Malcolm wrote:

MSpector, ends do not justify means.  If they did, the we could simply shoot all the Liberatives and Conserverals.

But in the present circumstances the ends would be tragic and counterproductive to the cause of leftist politics. And thus they would not justify the means. Your example is therefore faulty. (There may come a time, however, when shooting some reactionaries will be necessary for the common good, and therefore justified.)

Please explain for us all: if the ends (i.e. results) of our actions do not justify them, what does?

Here's a thought experiment:

Suppose the Senate is closely divided on the question of, say, passing the anti-abortion Bill C-43 in May, 1990. The Bill has already been passed in the Brian Mulroney House of Commons, by "democratically" elected MP's.

Suppose you are a Senator. Without your vote, the Bill will pass the Senate by a single vote; if you vote against it, there will be a tie, and the Bill will not pass.

What do you do?

If you apply your a priori abstract moral principles derived from god knows where, you will either abstain or vote in favour of the Bill, because it would be "utterly immoral" for you to block the will of the House of Commons, regardless of the consequences.

If, on the other hand, you recognize that the morality of your vote is determined, not by the means by which your power to vote was obtained, but by the ends that will result from the exercise of that vote, you might vote against the bill, resulting in its failure to pass. You might even consider it "utterly immoral" to do anything less than your utmost to prevent the passage of the Bill - not because you have no regard for democracy, but because you have regard for the safety and well-being of Canadian women.

What would you do, Senator Malcolm? Yay or Nay?

 

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Fidel

I might consider giving them a day's head start to clear out of Ottawa. But just one though. After that it's off to the workhouse with them where they can peel rope for their daily bread.

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Malcolm Malcolm's picture

However imperfect the democracy, the House of Commons is elected.  The Senate is not.

 

If I support giving the appointed Senate a veto (a veto they notionally have but conventionally do not exercise) in a case where I disagree with the legislation, I have no moral room to raise an objection should the same appointed Senate defeat a bill I support.

 

Sorry, MS, but pinciples are principles, and one doesn't get to pick and choose when to apply them and when to set them aside.

 

This really isn't complicated.  No democrat can support the Senate, as presently constituted, having a veto over the Commons.

 

Picking and choosing whe ethics apply, ends justify the means selective moraltiy is the very essence of jesuitical casuistry.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

So to nobody's surprise, you stand on "principle" and would vote in favour of the Mulroney anti-abortion bill because the ratbag MP's who passed it were "elected".

And you presume to lecture others about morality?

It is to laugh.

 

 

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Malcolm Malcolm's picture

Leaving aside the absurdity of me ever finding myself in that position (your the one who supports an unelected Senate, old bean, not me), saying that the Senate must defer offers more than one option.

 

But however you cut it, you clearly believe in unelected bodies interfering in the democratic process.  Thus, I expect you to defend the Senate every time they might defeat progressive legislation passed in the Commons.

 

Your contempt for democracy singles you out as the hypocrite, MSpector.

David Young

gram swaraj wrote:
Fidel wrote:

King Arthur: I am your king.
Woman: Well I didn't vote for you.
King Arthur: You don't vote for kings.
Woman: Well how'd you become king then?
[Angelic music plays... ]

Don't know where you're coming from, but if you think I'm referring to a return to feudalism, you are misrepresenting what I am and am not saying.

____________________________________________________________ http://www.gandhiserve.org/information/questions_and_answers/faq7/faq7.html

 You mean to say that you don't recognize this scene from Monty Python And The Holy Grail??

I remember people used to refer to Trudeau as 'King Pierre'.

What've we got now?  More like a new Fueher!

To Stephen Harper, I say...

 Your mother wears Combat boots, and your father smells of elderberries!Smile

Brian White

Malcolm wrote:

MSpector, ends do not justify means.  If they did, the we could simply shoot all the Liberatives and Conserverals.

What a horrible thing to say!

I guess you will hide behind the misspellings and claim not to have uttered this.

Malcolm, what age are you? 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Malcolm wrote:

Thus, I expect you to defend the Senate every time they might defeat progressive legislation passed in the Commons.

Why, just because you defend the Senate every time they defer to the neoliberal government in the Commons? 

Why on earth would I do that? Now that would be "immoral".

I've already indicated earlier in this thread (which you might want to read sometime, actually) that I will gladly support abolition of the Senate if we ever get a progressive government in Ottawa. 

Quote:
Your contempt for democracy singles you out as the hypocrite, MSpector.

Because I refuse to roll over and play dead while Harper has his way with the country, I have contempt for democracy? No, I reserve my contempt for petty-bourgeois intellectuals who worship "flawed" democracy at the expense of the well-being of the working class of Canada.

M. Spector wrote:
Please explain for us all: if the ends (i.e. results) of our actions do not justify them, what does?

I'm still waiting for your answer to this. For one with such a clear grasp of moral philosophy that he presumes to lecture others on the subject, I would have thought this would be a no-brainer.

 

 

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Malcolm Malcolm's picture

Brian, the misspelling was quite deliberate - for the benefit of those who fail to understand that the two parties are either wing of the same right wing movement.

 

On the larger issue, the only people seriously arguing that the Senate be retained in its present state as a bulwark against the Harpoer government are a handful of deluded wingnuts on babble.

 

Let me try and explain this simply.  There is no place in a democracy, however imperfect the democracy, for an unelected body to have and exercise a veto over legislation.  No place.  None.

 

It really isn't a complicated thesis. 

 

Any honest democrat should be able to follow it.

 

What MSpector proposes is that the rules are meaningless, and should be twisted at any opportunity to accomplish the desired ends.  That is the same curious logic used by Bush - Cheney to justify the constitutional abuses of the Patriot Act.  It is the same reasoning used by any number of tin-pot dictators of both right and nominal left to.

 

If we can cast aside democratic principles (like the idea that legislators should actually be elected by someone) whenever they are inconvenient, as MSpector proposes, then why stop with the particular abomination of the Senate?  Why not go the whole hog?  The difference between the abusive intrusion of the unelected Senate to the manipulation of election laws to the use of intimidation to depress voter turnout are issues of degree, not type.

 

MSpector's position as articulated here is fundamentally anti-democratic.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Still no answer....

I guess it wasn't such a no-brainer after all!

 

 

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