Opposition parties break through with their message

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $5 per month!

We all know the polling numbers suck. But one week into the campaign, I say hats off to all three federal opposition parties.

Instead of the usual transparent partisan calculations, they've given us an election about issues that actually mean something. Even more shocking, they have to some extent broken through the media barrage with their message.

So far, the writ-dropping contempt charges have just revved up the Tories' fiction fever. Our PM started the campaign by alleging that the contempt charges he faces are mere partisan quibbles. But how does that jibe with the fact that this is the first time in history a government has fallen in this way? Then he suggested that going to the polls is in some way economically destabilizing, raising the spectre of our "fragile global recovery."

Here we are: a blatant lie. Actually, spending money on an election is stimulating for the economy. (In fact, all government spending is economically stimulating, which is why it was universally applied as a remedy to the global financial meltdown.) Conducting a vote (an estimated $270 million) costs a pittance compared to a G20 meet or fighter aircraft. But it sets off lots of other private spending and creates new temporary jobs that increase spending volume and add tax revenue for the gov.

The expense downside is deficit spending. So here's the democracy issue poking through again. Harper thinks an election is a waste of money, but $50 million on a propagandistic ad campaign to hype their stimulus spending is sound. Sad, isn't it?

As expected, Harper has done all he can to dis-inform us about our constitutional rights with his continual "coalition" ravings. Pretty much every constitutional expert in the country has weighed in very clearly on this issue, affirming the legitimacy of coalitions in our parliamentary system. Top dog parliamentary scholar Peter Russell has even convened a high-powered think tank to work up a how-to handbook just in case. One reason he cites is the need for the media to be better informed so they won't just pass along a misleading partisan perspective without challenge.

Delightfully, here's where the opposition parties have finally got some sunshine for the media hay they've made over Harper's hypocrisy. My favourite press moment so far was watching the Bloc's Duceppe read the 2004 Harper letter, co-signed by Gilles and Jack, asking the GG to "consider all options."

Layton has played the issue to great effect as well. Unlike in earlier campaigns, Jack seems to understand that his base wants him to focus on unseating the Tories and exposing their hypocrisy rather than beating up a weak Liberal leader, or at least that's what this week's campaign in the prairies and out west seems to foretell.

It is too bad the NDP pulled back from its anti-corporate-tax-cut stand, leaving this high ground to the Liberals alone, because this has left the party without a big-picture focus. The remedy for the NDP's drift toward retail politics with a sort of opportunistic feel will not be seen in this campaign. But Jack has thankfully avoided using his charismatic charm to posture as PM. That's sweet relief.

It's been hard to see Layton taking personal hits to his health, leaning on his brave spirit to push his struggling body onto the hustings for us. But in the vulnerability of his current situation, the NDP leader reminds us of the old days, when his self-presentation felt utterly authentic during elections.

But please, Jack, take it a bit easier and let some of your very able and impressive caucus members do some of the heavy lifting this time. It would be good for the party as well as your health. Just look at the Liberals. Well-seeded succession planning offers obvious long-term advantages. This is not a dis, just an obvious springtime reflection.

While they have all done well, it's actually Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff who's shown the most surprising muscle. Only time will tell if this can turn some numbers his way, but Ignatieff showed courage in drawing a line in the sand over the corporate tax cut issue.

It's a brave wedge that highlights a smart and confident approach to the economic issues we face. And he was rewarded for it with some miracles of timing that brought so many dramatic Harper issues into the public eye all in the same week.

It's beginning to seem that the Liberal leader has lost his phobia about all things progressive. In fact, he's actually started to use the word to describe himself.

Old-school liberalism did stand for important things like human rights, social inclusion and respect for the democratic tradition. But the decimated Liberal party, added to the isolation of Quebec progressives from federalist parties and a unified hard right, have created a breech in the country's value system. Now there's a glimmer of hope that Ignatieff is finding his way to voicing these critical precepts and getting them back into the political mainstream. He is actually looking like he believes in something.

No question, election therapy is a tough pill to swallow. Maybe the polls won't reward the Liberals and NDP on voting day, but outcomes are fluid and it's way to soon to judge. Huge numbers of citizens do not vote. The real test will take place in only 10 per cent of Canada's ridings. Those are the wild cards, and it's far too early to know who or what will energize the electorate -- or not.

As in the last election, a citizen movement is stirring. A new organization called Catch-22 (catch22campaign.ca) is launching this week. LeadNow, based on the MoveOn.org model in the U.S., is promising to make a difference in this campaign. The voteforenvironment.ca group from last election, of which I was a part, is revving up a new campaign called ProjectDemocracy.ca later in the week. Videos and Facebook pages are taking shape.

The upside of these dangerous times is that citizenship matters. On the ground, we need to find our way to innovation for this nation.

This article was first published in NOW Magazine.

Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.