Election likely, attempting to alienate the electorate... definitely

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

The drama is over and Jack Layton and the NDP clearly did the right thing, very quickly rejecting the Conservatives' budget and pledging to vote against it "in its current form." That held out the possibility of voting in favour of an amended budget, which Finance Minister Jim Flaherty quickly scotched with a Bush-like -- you either vote for it or against it. 

An election is a certainty -- though it could still come via a vote of non-confidence later this week based on a committee's findings that the Harper government was in contempt of Parliament for refusing to reveal the real costs of it its 18 crime bills.

The Conservatives clearly want an election but want someone else to be blamed for having to have one. They have not been hurt as badly as they should have been by the multiple sleazy scandals they created and they know the economy is going to get worse over the next six months as the stimulus money dries up. Now is their best chance to get a majority.

They put just enough in the budget, strategically targeting key voter constituencies, to be able to hit the NDP and Liberals over the head with during the election -- pointing to a few items and blaming the opposition parties for voting against them. Example: $300 million addition to the Guaranteed Income Supplement (amounting to $50 a month more for only the most destitute seniors). The CLC calculated that to actually come close to eliminating the worst poverty amongst seniors, an additional $1.1 billion was the minimum required.

The Canadian Association of Retired People rejected the increase as totally inadequate -- while, bizarrely, CLC President Ken Georgetti publicly endorsed it. What on earth he thought he was doing is anyone's guess -- but the Conservatives can be counted on to use his remarks to beat up on Layton during the election. (Ken -- you need to get out more.)

The Conservatives were so nervous about the possibility that the NDP might actually support the budget that they delivered a very thin gruel, making it very easy for the NDP to reject. Initially, Layton had said the NDP was going to sleep on the budget and have a caucus meeting Wednesday morning to discuss it -- perhaps anticipating disagreement within the caucus. But in the end, Layton was before the mics less than an hour after the budget saying no.

After not saying a single word on healthcare for five years -- remember, Harper was President of the National Citizens Coalition, founded to oppose Medicare -- the budget had some programs to enhance it. It features a tax break for family caregivers and a break on loan repayments for new doctors and nurses. Just enough to say they were doing something -- and also to blame the NDP for eliminating the new programs.

It is interesting that Flaherty, while sticking foolishly to the $6 billion corporate tax cut, closed a $2.9 billion corporate tax loophole used mostly by the oil patch (did Steve know?).

If this budget is the basis for the Conservatives' election platform then they look very vulnerable. There are a whole swath of targeted tax cuts -- music lessons is one - as if Harper was trying to chop up the population into tiny groups and then buy them off.

While Ignatieff has gone nowhere in the polls of late, his response to the budget actually looked pretty good -- hammering away at the Harperites for their billions of spending on jets and jails and corporate tax cuts when Canadians are wanting. He actually looked as though he cared.

In a fight to frame the election -- ethics and democracy versus the economy -- the budget is a very weak hand. Which suggests that at the very least negative advertising will continue to play a major role in the Conservative campaign. That is designed not only hurt Ignatieff -- it will convince thousands of Canadians to stay home on voting day.

Murray Dobbin is a guest senior contributing editor for rabble.ca, where he writes a column and blog. Murray has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for 40 years.

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.