PM and Ignatieff 'saved the NDP from itself'

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Hunky_Monkey
PM and Ignatieff 'saved the NDP from itself'

Quote:
PM and Ignatieff 'saved the NDP from itself'

Gerald Caplan

Special to The Globe and Mail, Wednesday, Jun. 24, 2009 04:46PM EDT

How do you know politicians aren't telling the truth? Well, the old maxim has never worked better: Their lips are moving.

One caveat, of course. Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff meant it when they said they didn't want an election, and both used every opportunistic trick in the book to make sure one would not happen. Otherwise, both Pinocchio'd their way through the last several months, one of the more demoralizingly vacuous periods in recent history. The government did almost nothing constructive and the Official Opposition offered almost no alternatives, with many media reporting their most fatuous spins at face value. Poor Canada.

But they saved the NDP from itself. Jack Layton had boxed himself into the tightest of corners, going nowhere fast. He and a few self-loving communication types who now seem to run the NDP, with nary a piece of substance to be found, are sighing sighs of relief. The NDP is in no better shape to fight a campaign than the Liberals, and everyone knows it. But both parties routinely assert the opposite.

...

The NDP will hold a big national convention where the only faux-excitement will be an elite-led attempt to change the name to the Democratic Party. To this fine state has the party of Tommy Douglas and David Lewis descended, at a time of multiple crises with the democratic left virtually moribund. No new public policy ideas will be introduced.

Bereft of both cash and ideas, like social democrats everywhere, the NDP is in big trouble. Firing some senior staff would be a good start for a party whose relevance is increasingly marginal. Sad times.

 

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/they-saved-the-ndp-from-itself/article1194850/

 

What the hell is up with Caplan?!?!

Webgear

He must not like the current NDP Leadership and inner circle.

Coyote

bashing the NDP is easy ink to pour for the globe.

Webgear

At the end of the article the following is stated:

 

Gerald Caplan is a former NDP national campaign director.

Coyote

ya, big shock. it's a weird fetish; some people seem to join the NDP with the sole end-game of beating their chest as they leave at some point in the future.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Are they really going to change the name to the Democratic Party?

Coyote

this is honestly the first i've heard of it, aside from michael byers suggesting it at one point before the last election (i think?). i've long been on the record suggesting "social democratic party of canada". is it the biggest thing? to me, no. i get the arguments for keeping it (tradition, established brand), and i get those for change (at a certain point, you aren't new anymore).

Cueball Cueball's picture

Well, if you were really going to do that. You would just accent "democractic" in the name for a few years, the just drop the new entirely. But I am not a fan anyway, so, not really much point in me giving my opinion.

Coyote

i will agree it's a little disonnant considering part of the branding in the last campaign was jack's inflection on "canada's new democrats." that said, it's hard to come across a new democrat who doesn't have some kind of opinion on the issue and, funny as it sounds, it is something that casual political observers seem to be interested in. you have no idea the amount of people who have asked me (knowing my partisan leanings) "when are you gonna get rid of the new, anyways?"

Cueball Cueball's picture

well. thing is it will really make it look like the party is trying to emulate the American party. And sooooz. well not a good idea really.

Coyote

i am sure that factor will get a lot of play in the media, yes.  obama's popularity with canadians is obviously one part of that. on the other hand, is a fourty-eight year old party

(not counting the preceding ccf)  taking out the new really shocking or out of place? the "new" is after less essential to the brand that the "democratic". might finally making up for starting off calling ourselves the "new party". oh, that was just not good.

if this is an actual debate. like i said, first i've heard of this.

Stockholm

I don't get Caplan's piece at all. The Globe was supposed to be having a series where strategists would give "advice" as to what each of the parties needs to do over the summer. Excpet that all three of them (surprise, surprise) offered no advice at all to the NDP and just gloated that the party was supposedly going down the drain! Even Caplan just took cheap potshots - sounding like he applied for a job with the party and wasn't hired and has some personal axe to grind - but them offered absolutely no constructive advice at all.

Doug

I think it needs to get changed to something, since the party's not exactly new anymore, but I don't like just Democratic Party. First I've heard of a name change coming up at the convention.

NDPP

NoDifferencePartyPooper wrote:

 

 those inner-circle campaign fixers of Obama's crowed about in NDP press releases promising "learning from the best" may be behind this End -the -'N', DP redesign/makeover move...desperate times call for desperate measures I guess. "Democratic Party of Canada" eh? Yeah - rolls off the tongue real nice. Besides it was old and tired  and in decline not "New". Maybe Ujjal D could even be persuaded back into the fold to lead the final charge to victory at long last?  He did once say  "the NDP is a  natural habitat for somone like me" Maybe he could repeat his winning 1995 NDP Gustafsen Lake re-election strategy again? Caledonia will likely  be smouldering on for a few more years... who knows? Maybe he could try for the Indians AND the Militia this time? Maybe Canada could  make a 'Republican Party of Canada' as well. Either Harpo or the Count  would do for that one.  Branch plant politics now there's a nifty idea..."learning from the best" alright. Caplan pretty much nails it. After all he oughta know. How about the 'No Democratic Party 'for a new name?

NDPP

janfromthebruce

Gerald, I suppose didn't look too deep into the upcoming convention stuff for Halifax. Jurist suggested that 

the NDP's resolution deadline was just last week. And the convention website's page on resolutions still lists the process for submitting them, rather than a list of what's set to be debated.

Thus Gerry doesn't know what the hell is being discussed or not since it's not complete yet. He needs to better critical political analysis rather than lazy journalism. Maybe he will make some resolutions from his riding - sure hope so.

 

josh

Gee, from the headline I thought it was a Chantal Hebert column.

Michelle

Truth is often not pretty, and hard to hear. :)

Uncle John

Changing the name to the Democratic Party would be the best thing the NDP could do.

The Liberal Party would have much to fear from this.

KenS

There's some truths in there- including uncomfortable ones. But thats not hard, there always are.

Inciseful but unconfortable truths is increasingly not what Gerry is about. He's turning into a crank- not unlike Hebert's 'method' of spewing.

Of the 3 strategists the Globe uses I've always found Lyle [the Conservative] the most useful. And even the unlikeable Scott Reid most of the time does a pretty good job of putting himself into the shoes of the party in question as he talks about them.

Not Gerry.

josh

I'd prefer the Progressive or Social Democratic Party.  One Democratic Party is more than enough. Wink

 

As for this: 

 

"No new public policy ideas will be introduced." That pretty much has been the hallmark of the NDP lately. Particularly in its failure to take advantage of the current economic crisis.

 

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

josh wrote:

I'd prefer the Progressive or Social Democratic Party.  One Democratic Party is more than enough. Wink

I'm 100% with you on that.

KenS

Its worth noting that Gerry Caplan has no idea what goes on within the NDP.

When he says "no new ideas will be introduced" at Convention he may well be right. Anyone who spews is going to be right some of the time.

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

glitch

Scott Piatkowski Scott Piatkowski's picture

Caplan has been writing the same column about the NDP for the past decade (so has Jim Laxer, another spurned former insider).

 

Here's the short version: "Wah! The NDP no longer asks me for advice."

 

When Caplan WAS running the party, it wouldn't have been too much of a stretch to call him a "self-loving communication type" with "nary a piece of substance".

 

It's hard to take him seriously now.  I don't need advice from Gerry Caplan on how to make the party more democratic or relevant.

josh

It's always easier to attack the messenger than address the message.

 

Stockholm

"No new public policy ideas will be introduced." That pretty much has been the hallmark of the NDP lately. Particularly in its failure to take advantage of the current economic crisis."

So, I'm curious, if I could wave a magic wand and make anyone reading this the top strategist in the NDP what would be your strategy for how to "take advantage" of the current economic crisis?? I think the problem is that right now governments and parties of all political persuasions are in a quandry because no one has an answer (and maybe there isn't an answer) to the economic crisis. I suppose the NDP can say let's "tax and spend" even more than the current government is - but that doesn't seem like all that compelling a message. The trouble is that on many of the really big issues, the parties are all in agreement - for example the huge bailout of GM etc... was barely discussed in parliament because each of the parties has its own reasons for not being able to be seen to be opposing it etc...

It would be a different story if this was a seen as a "made in Canada" recession and if there were specific policies enacted by the federal government that were clearly linked to it. For example, if Harper had brought in some massive deregulation of the financial sector when he first came to power and all of sudden we had some of the chartered banks faling etc... harper would be in deep shit - but there is no smoking gun of that kind. It also would have been different if Harper and Fleherty had not brought in that ridiculous fall economic statement and had just let sleeping dogs lie and had then brought in a spring budget that was almost devoid of any stimuls spending at all - then the NDP (and the Liberals for that matter) could have screamed bloody murder at how Canada was doing NOTHING about the economic crisis. But instead, Harper has essentially co-opted the Liberals and its a challenge for the NDP to come up with a "big bang" economic policy that really stands out from what everyone else is saying.

If anyone has any ideas, let's hear them.

melovesproles

The last NDP convention was dificult to ignore, the party took a strong principled stand on Afghanistan and Canadians had to acknowledge that dippers were going to fight for what they believed in and were willing to take on the mainstream media narrative.  From what I've read about the Federal convention this summer, I think Caplan is right, it looks like a self-congragulatory snoozefest by the 'centrist' wing of the party.  I doubt anyone outside the most partisan even notices it ever occurred.

Brian Topp Brian Topp's picture

Back to Mr. Caplan's article:

You know, one of the toughest challenges people seem to face after working in roles like "national campaign director" is finding a way not to be a burden on your successors. It's striking how difficult this seems to be for some folks. It is possible, I think, to be critically constructive (tories and liberals seem capable of this) -- and still do your part to build the party. This seems like a more honourable way to serve out your retirement than dancing as a monkey to organgrinders for the other side.

 

 

Stockholm

Scott Piatkowski wrote:

Caplan has been writing the same column about the NDP for the past decade (so has Jim Laxer, another spurned former insider).Here's the short version: "Wah! The NDP no longer asks me for advice."When Caplan WAS running the party, it wouldn't have been too much of a stretch to call him a "self-loving communication type" with "nary a piece of substance".It's hard to take him seriously now.  I don't need advice from Gerry Caplan on how to make the party more democratic or relevant.

You took the words right out of my mouth Scott. What really frustrates me is that the Globe uses Caplan as the token New Democrat on this panel. Whatever you may think of Greg Lyle and Scott Reid, they are youngish guys who have been actively involved in recent election campaigns and understand modern political strategy. Gerry Caplan is a dinosaur who hasn't been an "insider" in about 20 years and his political notions are frozen in about 1978! If they are going to have someone in that panel who has some NDP pedigree surely they can find someone under 50 who has actually been involved in some campaigns in the 21st century!

Kloch

Aside from reminding us on how old Gerald Caplan is, does anyone want to actually refute his argument? 

I mean, are there any riding association insiders that have insight on any innovative, left-wing policies that will brought to convention floor, and actually be followed by our party in parliament (unlike say, the Afghanistan resolution)?

Tommy_Paine

The purpose of a social democratic party is to keep tweeking the system to forestall actual revolution. 

They usually end up doing more for the rich, who certainly don't appreciate them, than they do the exploited, who generally don't appreciate the small tweeks they get from social democratic parties.

 

josh

"I suppose the NDP can say let's "tax and spend" even more than the current government is - but that doesn't seem like all that compelling a message."

 

That statement pretty much sums up the state social democratic parties, for the most part, are in. It's wrong on so many levels. It accepts the right wing construct that any increase in taxes and any increase in social spending is "tax and spend." Even more amazingly, it assumes that the Harper government is a "tax and spend" government, accepting the perjorative nature of the term. But when you're wedded to a balanced budget theology, I guess that's what happens. Finally, it implies that the NDP should not be in favor of increasing taxes on the well-to-do, either through a hike in the income tax or institution of an inheritance tax, and using the proceeds for needed social spending. If a social democratic party is not for that, I don't see what it's purpose is.

 

KenS

josh wrote:
It's always easier to attack the messenger than address the message.

Whats the message?

That the NDP is short on good ideas?

Brilliant.

Like I said: just compare the quality of Gerry's comments with the other 2 contributors [and Lyle's this time is way less than he usually contributes].

I'll say it too:

The NDP is short on good ideas.

Can I have Gerry's place for that pitiful contribution?

Stockholm

Maybe Caplan should be a delegate to the convention and put forth some of his own policy ideas - that is if he actually has any.

Josh, I don't disagree with you about raising taxes on the wealthy and expanding government etc...but these are policies that I would support whether the economy was booming or in a depression - but I still don't see how you can sell inheritance taxes as a way to bring the economy out of recession.

Kloch

'It would be a different story if this was a seen as a "made in Canada" recession and if there were specific policies enacted by the federal government that were clearly linked to it.'

 

In what sense was the Great Depression a "made in Canada" crisis?

Scott Piatkowski Scott Piatkowski's picture

josh wrote:
It's always easier to attack the messenger than address the message.

Some of us are addressing the message by, you know, actually doing something to build the party. I find it far more satisfying than whining from the sidelines.

josh

Stockholm, those policies are worth advancing regardless of the economic conditions.  And at minimum, there should be a call for a larger stimulus, a government jobs program, and tighter regulation of, and control over, the financial system.  And there should not be one word about budget deficits.  No repeats of this wonderful statement:

 

NDP Leader Jack Layton accused the government of creating structural deficits; an opinion that was echoed by economists, who said pulling the country's finances back into the black will be difficult.

 

 

 

http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20090527/deficit_shocker_090527/20090527?hub=CTVNewsAt11

In a recession/depression, you need deficit spending. Even at the risk of "structural" deficits, whatever that means. I can't believe this even needs to be pointed out to the leader of a supposedly social democratic party.

waffler

How about the Neo-Liberal Party, lol.

Michelle

Yes, it's much more satisfying to be an "insider" and mock "former" insiders for having been "spurned" and for no longer being "asked for advice". 

It's just such a drag when people refuse to wait to speak until they're spoken to by the party insiders, isn't it? :D

Stockholm

First of all there is nothing wrong with being fiscally responsible and at least trying to balance the budget. It has been pointed out numerous times that Tommy Douglas ran 16 balanced budgets in a row in Saskatchewan.

Layton is right about there being a structural deficit - which is a problem. Of course a large part of the cause of that structural deficit is the fact that Harper (like his Liberal predecessors) cut deeply i nto government revenues with massive corporate tax cuts and then he made things even worse with that utterly useless two percent cut to the GST.

josh

Paging John Maynard Keynes.

Stockholm

I think its perfectly valid to mock "former insiders" who write a whole column full of trite potshots and don't offer a single solitary piece of CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. As Brian Topp pointed out, when you get Liberal and Tory "former insiders" asked to comment, they will typically have plenty of criticism of what their respective parties are now doing - but then they will spend a lot of time describing what they think their party ought to be doing instead. Caplan does none of that - his only suggestion (if you can call it that) is to hire some new strategists.

 

I'm not impressed

Stockholm

josh wrote:

Paging John Maynard Keynes.

Keynes believed that governments should incur stimulative deficits during economic downturns - and apparently even Stephen harper agrees. He also believed that this had to be counterbalanced by surpluses during times of economic growth. The problem is that as a result of the GST cut and the corporate tax cuts that Harper brought in - it is highly unlikely that we will ever return to surpluses even when (and if) the economy starts booming again.

josh

So?  Governments shouldn't be running surpluses.  And there's nothing wrong with the cut in the GST except that it was not coupled with an increase in taxes on the wealthy.

madmax

Regardless of the spin doctors, and the traditional bash the NDP, is the NDP dead, the NDP is irrellavent ..... the fact is , the NDP is BOXED IN.  The other campaigns are going to push the issue that the NDP is irrellavent, and have accomplished nothing by voting against the government.  Infact, I wouldn't be surprised to see the LPC and the CPC suggest that the NDP voted with the BQ 100% of the time and against the government 100% of the time.  Anti BQ sentiment is high in Ontario and an easy strawman to ramp up the base. 

I have heard a few things on the street....... The NDP is irrellavent... The NDP made a backroom deal with the BQ..... The NDP supported Dion.... The NDP is for big taxes, big spending, and the many things like the NDP is Broke, not ready for an election.. etc.

The NDP has countered none of the  negative spin since December. They are wearing the coalition debacle, and the next election campaign will not be the time to be on their heels, because you know its coming. Both the CPC and the LPC are interested in feastin on the NDP.

There is no doubt that the positive image of Jack Layton has taken a beating since January.  He may be doing all the same things, and defending all the right things, but the actions of the past were never explained to the public, and all goodworks of Mr. Layton and the NDP in this parliment are lost in the successfull political posturing of the CPC and the LPC.

The NDP is going into the summer a bit flat footed and a slight breeze will put them on their heels.

The NDP can't get lost in the convention in NOVA SCOTIA were the first NDP government and high spirits could mask the current situation across Canada.  The Convention will be a boost for morale, but the image of the leader and the party, need some shoring up and NDP supporters must get behind the leader with everything they have.

Of course.... then there are people like Caplan.  When did he run the show? How well did the NDP do when he ran it?

 

 

Stockholm

They should run surpluses so they can have a nest egg to use to run deficits during economic downturns. You said "paging John Maynard Keynes". Well you can't "page Keynes" when you want to support running deficits during a recession and then "unpage Keynes" when it comes to his belief in running surpluses during times of economic growth.

josh

Wait a minute.  You complained I wasn't addressing what to do during the recession.  When I did, you complain I'm not addressing what to do during non-recessionary times.  You keep moving the goal posts.

And why can't I pick and choose?  Just because he was right about one thing doesn't mean he was right about everything.  Governments should never run surpluses.  The money should either be spent or taxes on middle and lower income taxpayers cut.

 

Stockholm

"The other campaigns are going to push the issue that the NDP is irrellavent, and have accomplished nothing by voting against the government. "

They can try that, but I'd like to see the Liberals give us a list of what exactly they accomplished by voting FOR the government. So far all I see is a toothless "panel".

Harper and the Tories voted against the Martin government consistently from 2004 to 2006 - some people could say "they accomplished nothing", but they then won the subsequent election.

I actually think that Harper has layed a big trap for the Liberals. He has followed the old dictum of "keep your freinds close and our enemies closer" and has now gotten the Liberals into a situation where they are so closely tied to his policies that its almost impossible for them to actually criticize the government.

If you buy into the notion that the NDP is "irrelevant" because it keeps voting against Harper (horror of horrors! how DARE they do such a thing) - then I guess the obvious conclusion is that the way to become relevant again is to start supporting the Harper government - of course that would open up a Pandora's box for the NDP that would make the challenges of today look pretty insignificant.

Stockholm

If governments ALWAYS run deficits then where is the money supposed to  come from? You can't just keep running deficits forever and ever unless you want to end up like Zimbabwe with 1,000,000% inflation and people using wheelbarrows full of cash to buy a loaf of bread.

I agree with you that the government should run a deficit during this recession. The problem is that the government is ALREADY running a deficit - so I just don't think its a particularly compelling message for the NDP to take into the next election to say "Mr. Harper is only going to run a puny $50 billion deficit - elect us and and it will be $75 billion!! and that will stop the recession dead in Canada"

josh

Of course, if you frame it that way.  Rather than framing it as a means to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

Who said anything about running deficits forever?  And the U.S. has run deficits for 35 out of the last 40 years without hyperinflation.

ghoris

josh wrote:

And why can't I pick and choose?  Just because he was right about one thing doesn't mean he was right about everything.  Governments should never run surpluses.  The money should either be spent or taxes on middle and lower income taxpayers cut.

Who said anything about running deficits forever?  And the U.S. has run deficits for 35 out of the last 40 years without hyperinflation.

First, it's debatable whether Keynes was "right" about anything at all. Second, if A requires B in order to function properly, you can't very well "pick and choose" if you want A to work, now can you? Third, how do you propose to get rid of the debt that has been run up through years of deficit financing? (I always find it funny how many NDPers support enriching bankers and foreign currency speculators by paying them more and more interest). Fourth, the US did not have hyperinflation but they certainly suffered through stagflation in the 1970s and 1980s, so it's not like there was no price to pay for endless deficit spending in good economic times.

This kind of thinking shows why Canadians are loath to trust the federal NDP with the nation's finances.

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