Crossposted at The BlogsCanada E-Group:
On Monday, Paul Martin finally found time in his busy, post-election schedule for a long overdue meeting with the common folk: opposition leaders.
On the docket, his agenda for a new parliament and a new Throne Speech.
Frankly, it’s time to start playing hardball -- and with a crucial confidence motion drawing near, New Democrats have got a very heavy bat.
Jack Layton has long promised that, in exchange for his support of a Liberal government, the NDP would demand a referendum on proportional representation.
Absent a compelling -- and detailed -- Liberal agenda, New Democrats ought to be prepared to follow through.
Why? Because, despite abundant evidence of their incompetence, the Earnscliffe Party can probably still count votes better than Joe Clark did back in 1979.
An effort to bring about PR could still fail -- in fact, it probably would. What I’m advocating is not an act of blind sincerity or wishful thinking, but a show of political force.
Sure, no one wants another election, but Paul Martin simply cannot afford one. If the Liberals have even half the common sense to which they lay claim, the party would never allow such a failed leader to face down another writ.
This leads, inextricably, to one conclusion: Stick it to them on the Throne Speech.
This confidence vote presents a far greater opportunity for the NDP than what’s likely to be offered up in the coming minority parliament.
After all, despite lofty rhetoric, the Liberal Party remains in the thralls of its most conservative leader in recent memory -- a natural ally to Stephen Harper, perhaps, but not to Jack Layton.
Furthermore, the Conservatives’ most promising strategy is to maintain focus on public fatigue of an arrogant, Liberal government. This will allow them to remain on the attack, while eschewing controversial issues that might draw attention to their party’s many political extremists. To that end, they will seek to minimize the ideological distance between themselves and the Liberals; they have every reason to do so.
And thus -- combined with Paul Martin’s own conservative proclivities -- this parliament might actually produce a government even further to the right than a Liberal majority.
This would constitute an ipso facto coalition between Liberals and Conservatives; one that leaves the NDP isolated legislatively, but well positioned politically.
That’s because, for the Liberals, such a coalition is only viable if it remains informal, clandestine. Publicly, they must continue to maintain that they “share the NDP’s values”. Thus, New Democrats should embrace their isolation by drawing a line in the sand -- and drawing this alliance out into the open.
Should such a gambit succeed, we could find ourselves on the threshold of most important progressive victory of the last thirty years: proportional representation.
But even if the ploy fails, the NDP loses nothing. Paul Martin has already ruled out a formal coalition. The Liberals are quickly abandoning their progressive campaign promises. With the government already breaking its own promises, New Democrats can hardly expect to extract any meaningful commitments of their own.
Instead, they can make a powerful political statement. Force the Martin-Liberals to live up to their progressive rhetoric, or seek overt support from either the Bloc Québéçois or the Conservatives. Prove to Canadians that there is no longer any distinction between modern Liberals and the neo-conservatives thugs, that they claim to oppose.
Be bold. In defeat, can lie victory.