Category Archives: New Democratic Party

Free Riders and Dire Needers

Breaking news: bad jobs exist.

In a classic case of Conservatives boiling down an issue to a wide-sweeping preposterous claim, Jim Flaherty claimed that “there is no bad job”. Yikes

Flaherty is proposing reforms to the Employment Insurance program, making it harder for Canadians to remain on the program for long periods. The Canadian Government has committed to redefining what should be considered “appropriate work” when unemployed citizens claiming EI are mulling a new career, which, in all likelihood, means finding skilled workers lower paying work.

I believe the reform motivation stems from an attempt to curb the amount of Canadians who would rather collect government payouts than work an honest forty hour work week. The NDP finance critic Peggy Nash, has countered that workers will be squandering their skills in entry-level work, envisioning journalists and teachers working at Tim Hortons if they found themselves in need of employment insurance.

As sympathetic as Nash’s arguments make me feel, Michael Den Tandt does a great job of dispelling them and as a bonus, explains why EI reform is so direly needed, specifically for seasonal workers who make a tidy salary for half the year, then collect employment insurance when such jobs reach their annual conclusion, providing a supplementary income for effectively waiting for their work to begin again. I feel that this is taking advantage of a well-meaning system. It is, I argue, an abuse of the system

I believe that employment insurance ought to be treated like healthcare: there for Canadians, but only when they actually need it. It is unfair to ask hardworking honest Canadians to pay into a system that is being abused by those who could be working, but would rather wait for their seasonal work to return, or for a job they consider to be “suitable”.

Life, as it happens, is not perfect. People get laid off, recessions occur, debt can force someone who cannot find work to ask Canadians for temporary help.. Not everyone has been gifted with parental or personal connections, or happenstance that gets them a good job. This is where EI comes in. I have met hard workers, and even they acknowledge that everyone needs a hand when unavoidable realities of life occur. The difference, is when you get knocked down, will you ask someone to help pick you up, or will you stay down and demand a piggy back ride for the next few months. It’s the difference between the unfortunate and the free riders, and while they are not mutually exclusive, at some point, after riding EI coattails for months or years, an unfortunate person is simply abusing a system created for those that need it.

I also think its important to note that one will ever be forced to work. The idea that engineers will somehow be forced to work at a fast-food drive-thru is an exaggeration. Legally, no one can be forced to work anywhere. The idea is that if someone is going to claim employment insurance, they ought to be actively trying to contribute to society. Those that feel as though they are “above” a certain job, perhaps should think about being “above” a government stipend as well.

There is a deeper philosophical question underlying EI reform that ought to be considered: what do we as a collective body politic owe members of our society who have not had the personal connections or luck to find work that meets their specifications? Some kind of help, certainly, it helps the economy to have skilled workers work in skilled occupations,so long as their absence from work is not prolonged; however governments should not baby their citizens, providing an allowance for an indefinite period until they find a job they like. It is a difficult question to give a succinct answer to, but it is a question well worth pondering as the debates over employment insurance begin to pick up steam.

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Bob Rae’s Steep Climb

A Leger Marketing poll was conducted between April 2nd and 4th,  and showed the NDP on top of the pack, with 33%, leading the Conservatives by 1%. The Liberals were far behind at 19%, the same level of support given in May 2011. Leger’s information confirms another poll done earlier in the week by Harris-Decema with nearly identical numbers.

Polling Info Puts Conservatives and NDP in Statistical Tie | This Graph Copied From http://www.harrisdecima.com

With the next general election coming three years away, these results certainly should not fill Conservatives or Liberals with immanent fear. That said I think this poll provides two implicit pieces of information:

  1. Ordinary Canadians can see the NDP as a possible Federal Government option for the first time, well, ever
  2. Bob Rae is running out of time to instill confidence in Liberal members and supporters that he is capable of transcending these poor poll numbers

I believe Mr. Rae has the Liberal leadership locked up. Even though Dominic Leblanc is assumed by many to be the strongest (not to mention the most likely) challenger to a Bob Rae acclimation, the decision to move to a one-member-one-vote, has crowned the lone gentleman with an overwhelming amount of daily media attention (and thus unparalleled name recognition) the inevitable winner.

Only two people could pose a reasonable threat to Mr. Rae’s permanent leadership aspirations. First, Premier of Ontario Dalton McGuinty, who would risk Ontario’s provincial political stability if he were to run, and second, MP Justin Trudeau who has not only publicly rejected notions of running for leadership, but is likely going to wait to run for leadership until his chances of becoming Prime Minister are assured.

If the odds play out and Bob Rae becomes the next Liberal Leader he will be competing against two men void of charisma and character in Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair. Bob Rae a personality in his own right is not from Quebec, like the NDP leader, nor is he Prime Minister, like the Liberal Leader: two distinct disadvantages. Additionally, I’m not sure he shares the political shrewdness the other leaders share, nor the willingness to push the envelope when it comes to campaigning.

He faces a steep uphill climb from the 19% he currently stands at, and fights on both flanks. The Liberal Party cannot afford to wait until the “honeymoon period” for Mr. Mulcair is over, since some leaders – Justin Trudeau’s father for example – never see their honeymoon period expire. In my opinion, if you will not cooperate with progressive forces, you must force the NDP to the left, by outflanking them on progressive issues like recreational drugs, while forcing the Conservatives right by appealing to Canadians’ anger on the mismanagement of taxpayer funds.

Bob Rae needs to be more fiscally responsible than the Conservatives, while demonstrating that the Liberals have better progressive policies than the New Democrats. With both parties sprinting to the center, Bob Rae must stretch around them, making Canadians consider embracing a government that includes the best parts of both the political left and right. It will take smart policies and strong leadership, but Mr. Rae, might just be able to pull it off.

Rae and Mulcair Won't Work Together, So They'll Eat Eachother | Image Stolen From news.nationalpost.com


Mulcair’s Center Squeeze

Most New Democrats – probably all New Democrats – genuinely dislike Steven Harper. With good reason, he’s muzzled scientists, bullied unions, abandoned the impoverished, given tax breaks to the largest corporations, all things that stir up democratic socialists. Yet, their newly minted leader was not only represented the Quebec Liberal Party in the Quebec National Assembly, but he widely reported to have been courted by those same federal Conservatives that many NDP members despise.

Mulcair Rolls Up His Sleeves| Image Stolen From http://www.theglobeandmail.com

I say this because I want to prove that Thomas Mulcair represents an entirely novel brand of politics to the New Democratic Party. To me, Mr. Mulcair’s leadership has already proved to be three things: prudent, calculated and aggressive.

During the NDP Leadership campaign, Mr. Mulcair was quick to reference the lack of successful campaigns between Winnipeg to Vancouver. If the Party continued to do the same things, Mr. Mulcair reasoned, there would be no change. When he said that New Democrats have to bring the center to themselves, what he meant was “we have to shuffle to the right”, otherwise they will retain their altruistic values Ed Brodbent held, and find themselves where Ed always was: on the periphery of Canadian politics.

In the two weeks since his election, Thomas Mulcair has tried to swing the Liberals to the periphery, denied any cooperative merger, left non-NDP opposition members 20 minutes (out of a possible fifteen hours) to abhor the budget on the Commons floor, and called Liberal Leader Bob Rae anxious over recent polling showing an NDP surge in Canada.

Mr. Mulcair has demonstrated his calculative, prudent approach to politics, something Steven Harper has exemplified during his tenure. The current Leader of the Official Opposition understands the only chance of an NDP government is with a marginalized Liberal Party, one polling in the mid-teens, as their own party used to. The prescription is to make Liberals irrelevant, and eliminate any other diversions that stand between himself and the Prime Minister.

Additionally, Mr. Mulcair has selected a flat personality as his Deputy Leader. Not only does this decision hide the spotlight from a potential future challenger, it also makes Mr. Mulcair look like an even stronger leader in contrast, while smoothing over possible tensions from the election by picking an “establishment” MP. It’s smart and calculated.

I believe Mr. Mulcair has the leadership capable of winning a government because it matches Mr. Harper’s brand of leadership, and I sincerely mean that as a compliment. Both men seem to know what it takes to win: hard work, willingness to get dirty, and a “eat-or-be-eaten” disposition. If Thomas Mulcair can successfully chart a course to the political center while keeping the grassroots happy, he will have literally mirrored Mr. Harper’s accomplishment, and this is worthy of respect. What he needs to do is go from an alternative to the alternative, and that, in my opinion can only happen by suffocating the other leftist party between themselves and the government so that there is no unique message they can make.

With the right kind of messaging and debate performances, Tomas Mulcair might be able to prove to Canadians that he can be Prime Minister. I have two questions: First, will the eventual Liberal leader be able to stand up from a political threat greater than Stephen Harper? Second, can the Prime Minister label the NDP Leader the same way he labeled Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff?

Dion, Ignatieff, Rae | Image Stolen From http://www.hilltimes.com


Peter Julian’s Closure

I have never met Peter Julian, but I hold a lot of respect for what I know about him. He was the former executive director of the Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and is a four time Member of Parliament from Burnaby–New Westminster, British Columbia. He currently holds the title of Finance Shadow Cabinet Minister.

This image was stolen from http://www.daylife.com

Having listed his impressive accomplishments, the recent conduct of Mr. Julian in Parliament is something that I find quite unacceptable. The Finance critic has been using up all allotted debating time centered on the budget so that he (and only he) could focus on how the Conservative budget is going to harm Canadians. As the finance critic, Peter Julian is entitled to take as much time as he wants to rail against the budget; however, by taking up two straight days of debate without yielding, I believe Mr. Julian has essentially closed the debate off for any alternative (or supplementary) views to his own.

Last Friday, Robert Chisholm argued that as the Official Opposition, it is the duty of the NDP to air every argument that ought to be made. Further, Peter Van Loan, the Government House Leader claimed that by following house rules, the New Democrats were doing nothing wrong. Presumably, like most New Democrats I believe that just because something is written down as a rule or law, does not necessarily make it right.

In 2007, when John McCallum was the Liberal Finance Critic, he stepped aside for Libby Davies to have a chance at exposing the weaknesses in the Conservative budget, before rising again to continue his line of attack. I believe allowing other members and other parties to speak are not simply gentlemanly actions, but actively serve to promote the health of democracies in general.

Hogging the spotlight is the smart political move. Having suffered through poor leadership during the contest to replace Jack Layton, this is the NDP’s chance to prove they are mature enough to be the next Canadian Government.  However, if New Democrats are serious about changing the atmosphere in Ottawa then they ought to look at what they are doing to contribute to our Nation’s own Capital Circus. Pat Martin’s rant on the Conservatives’ decision to spontaneously end debate on the budget ought to prove that just because you can do something, does make it right. I call on Mr. Julian and the Leader of the Opposition to open the floor for other members to speak, from their own party and others, if not for the good of the house, then for the spirit of democracy. That shows real maturity. That’s how you fix Ottawa.

This image was stolen from http://4.bp.blogspot.com