Throwing Them from the Sleigh

There is an old Russian story about a number of people on a sleigh trying to out run the wolves that are in hot pursuit. To save the majority, some of the members must be thrown from the sleigh, to face near-certain death from the wolf pack.

So what does this have to do with Canada in the 21st century?

Stephen Harper and Stéphane Dion have engaged in a summer-long game of chicken. Both now threaten a fall election. Since — based on polling information and casual coffee conversations — we are highly likely to return yet another minority government, the real question facing Canadians ought to be: do we throw them from the sleigh? (In this event, the part of the wolves will be played by ravenous members of the media, and members of their parties seeking the leadership.)

I’m not a partisan in the traditional sense. Each election, I ask myself which party is offering the most believable and appropriate platform given our nation’s needs, and whether its leader is worthy of high office. (This is important: the Prime Ministerial power is essentially unchecked what with the emasculation of Parliament by constant Whipping, and the sense of members of all parties that playing for the cameras is far more important than maintaining responsible government as a tradition.) I do the same questions for our local candidate: what is each candidate offering as a local platform (if any), and who would make the best MP? As you might imagine, these questions often lead to conflicting results.

I tend to put a high premium on a solid MP who will do the right thing, not the easy thing, once sent off to Ottawa. The net effect is that I have, at one time or another, voted across the voting spectrum on offer.

By my standards, neither Harper nor Dion are worthy of high office. This incessant game must come to an end. Both of them show deteriorating job performance — in Harper’s case, from a reasonable standard back in 2006, and in Dion’s case, a continuation of a low standard of performance coupled with having called “election” several too many times. I allow an honest man to change his mind. I intensely dislike one who can’t hold his course repeatedly.

We are unlikely to have the luxury of replacing either prior to the next Federal election, even if by some miracle that does not occur until the fixed election date set for October 2009. Right after, however, whatever the outcome, it is time for a house-cleaning.

For Harper, expediency around issues of power — a charge easily and honestly laid at the feet of that self-serving opportunist Chrétien and his side-kick, Martin — is now the order of the day. Good-bye, Mr. Harper: if I’d wanted more years of your predecessors I could have voted to re-elect them — and neither ever got my support. (To be fair, in 2004 and 2006, neither did you. Had we gone to the polls in early 2007 you would have; now, you’ve lost it.)

Governments govern; they do not campaign incessantly. It is time for a new Conservative leader.

As for Dion, full of sound and fury repeatedly signifying nothing, the last two years in the public eye are more than enough evidence for me that the best case should he ever hold the Prime Ministership would be a return to dithering. More likely, it would be a sheer inability to keep control of his own supporters and party members. Not, of course, that any of the Brutuses of the Liberal Party would make a better choice — not even the Mark Anthony of Papineau, he of the “Magic Name” (isn’t it embarrassing how talismanic the word ‘Trudeau’ is to some people?). But Dion has had his chance and shown that the charge that he was not up to the job was grounded in truth.

None of this is to say that the other alternatives on offer deserve the job, either. (At the moment I’m strongly leaning toward “none of the above”, unless a serious and decent candidate runs in my riding. Goodness knows the current MP has done nothing to earn re-election.) But at least Layton has been consistent. It’s a small start, but a start for all of that.

Frankly, it looks more and more from my corner of the universe as though throwing the lot of them from the sleigh and carrying on without them is precisely what’s best for Canada.

14 responses to “Throwing Them from the Sleigh

  1. If Harper and Dion are both unworthy and Layton isn’t in your ideological ballpark, it sounds like you should probably vote based on your local candidate instead of the party leader. Don’t you think?

  2. Hi, Idealistic Pragmatist:

    Actually, I’ve voted NDP more than once. I like Jack Layton, for the most part. I disagree with him on a few issues — and recognise that he needs to have a very good showing or he, too, will likely need to stand down. Depending on what he and his party bring to the table this time around they might just get my vote.

    It’ll be interesting to see who runs locally. If it’s the same set of candidates as in the by-election last March there’s one worth voting for there, too.

    But this is far better than the choices available to most people.

  3. And this is why, despite all the flak I’ll receive from conservatives for saying this, I am more than prepared to give Layton a chance. We have never seen the NDP in federal power, and Layton as PM would be an interesting experiment, to say the least. In other words, he could not be any worse than the “usual suspects”.

    Besides, most polls taken over the last year and a half or so have shown that more Canadians have faith in Layton’s leadership qualities than do in Dion’s.

    Here’s my ideal outcome of the next federal election (whenever):

    Scenario A: Harper wins either a majority or minority, but the official opposition is now the NDP led by Layton.

    Scenario B: NDP wins a minority government (I know, very unlikely, but still good food for thought).

    As for fiscal prudence, seeing how Harper and Flaherty have totally mismanaged just about everything on the budget, tax and government spending files, it is hard to believe that the NDP could do even worse — in fact, I am convinced they’d be more prudent that Harper and Flaherty!

  4. I should also mention that I had a good face-to-face chat with Layton in Montréal last fall about various issues, and I can tell you from that personal time with Jack alone, I wouldn’t be afraid if he moved into 24 Sussex. I’d be scared more if it were Dion.

    Some people may not like all of Layton’s ideas, but at least he is of sound mind, quite unlike Dion, who would turn out to be quite dangerous for Canada’s well-being.

  5. Pingback: Werner Patels — The Alberta Pundit » Choices

  6. Layton was my alderman back in Toronto; I also think highly of him, consider him sound, rational and (most important) capable of still learning and changing, and he’s had my vote Federally before this.

    Nothing would please me more than seeing the NDP move up. I also agree with you; the NDP would likely “out prudent” everyone else at the table.

    Thanks for the link on your site.

  7. Don’t mention it; goes without saying.

    Yes, Jack is a fairly decent and solid individual, and if he can do, perhaps, what Blair managed to do to Labour, i.e., make the party electable, who knows what might happen.

    I also hear that the NDP is thinking of a name-change — e.g., dropping the word “new” and just calling itself the Democratic Party of Canada. I think they’re banking on riding the coattails of a possible Obama win in the U.S.

  8. Werner, I would hope they wouldn’t choose “Democratic Party” if they are planning a name change. A little originality and something that fits their vision of Canada would be far, far better. But it is time to drop the “New”! (Frankly, I’d have just stayed the CCF, but they didn’t choose that.)

    The key (if emulating Blair and his transformation of Labour) is to make it viable once Layton passes from the scene. Not only did Brown provide as much of a bust post-Blair as Martin did post-Chrétien, but Labour now is lost in the wilderness. “New Labour” has no meaning as it was really just Blair’s vehicle; “Old Labour” is out of favour except with the die-hards.

  9. So why shouldn’t Harper be given a chance to govern with a majority government? Doesn’t he deserve at least that?

    He barely scraped together a minority government and had to govern a semi-socialistic tit-sucking country conditioned to think of itself as ‘liberal’ … so what else could he do but give it a dose of good old Liberal “trick the people with their own money” strategy. Why can’t he do what Liberals have been doing to Canadians for decades and Canadians have been wont to change?

    A majority 4-year Conservative government would apply the necessary enema to the Ottawa plutocracy to flush out the liberal detritus that provides no value for money spent. Just Clean Out Canada … every so often and see how much better you will feel when you elect another Liberal government.

  10. My friend, unfortunately I can not consider the NDP for their ideological purposes are based on a fundamentally flawed basis in restorative justice and progressivism. While I enjoy social libertarianism and am pro-choice, same-sex marriage, and other socially liberal ideas, I cannot in good conscience vote for a party that considers whether or not promoting racial heritage or sexual orientation might be a good thing.

    Worse than this the NDP are prone to getting distracted by small interest groups and the plight of the international worker, instead of the middle class majority and the domestic taxpayer. Until the NDP returns to a kind of grassroots working class movement, I will never give my vote to them.

  11. Hi, Observant:

    I could live with a Harper majority. It would be far less wrong for the country than a Dion Government. (Even a Layton Government would be preferred to Dion.)

    Unfortunately the detritus in Ottawa won’t be cleared out. These are not fiscal conservatives at heart. He’d have been in majority country in the polls for over a year now if they had actually started cleaning house (and going to the polls on that issue if the government had fallen would have been a good one). There was no need for the “throw the money around” approach; he chose to do it, alas. It’s the single biggest reason I have for saying “unworthy”.

  12. Hi, Raphael:

    Well, I did say there were issues I disagreed with the NDP over, and you’ve hit the nail on the head as to what they are.

    Still, the NDP as “Canada’s second party” would temper a lot of the small interest group thinking — or they couldn’t hold the gains — and the possibility of power would temper some of the ideological baggage. To get there from here, we must think of the NDP and Layton as worthy of a vote.

    Hence my comment about him. I don’t want him in the PM’s chair — but I’d be very, very happy with him as Leader of the Opposition facing a Conservative government.

  13. Majority governments have to be earned.

    Stephen Harper will deserve a majority government when he shows he can effectively manage a minority government, and I’m afraid he simply hasn’t.

    It’s actually rather simple: in a minority government you have to work with the opposition to ensure your survival. In a majority government, you at the very least have to respect the opposition so you aren’t simply trampling all the citizens who didn’t vote for you.

    Harper has limited interest in working with the opposition when he needs to (although, to be fair, let’s note that the disinterest is fairly mutual). I’m not so eager to see what he does when he doesn’t need them any longer.

  14. Hi, Patrick:

    “Majority governments have to be earned.” I couldn’t agree more.

    There is a genuine lack of respect between Harper/CPC and Dion/LPC. This is why both should be thrown overboard.

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