2008-04-10

A Back Room Deal to Save Canada

I am sure the Liberal Party of Canada was trying to do the right thing when they chose Stéphane Dion as their leader. Indeed they may even have been doing a brave and courageous thing by deciding to choose what appeared to be a man of policy and substance rather than one of image and style. They may have chosen the man they thought would make the best Prime Minister, rather than the best leader of the opposition. We can only hope so, because he has proven to be a dismal failure as leader of the opposition. And with him at the helm the Liberals have been an absolute failure as Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.

The opposition has a number of roles in a Parliamentary system. One of course is to oppose those policies of the government that they disagree with. The other is to play a constructive role in improving government policies and legislation. But the primary role of the official opposition is to be a government in waiting, not to be an opposition in hiding.

One of the most basic facts of life in a democracy is that a party cannot become a government without getting elected, and a party cannot get elected if they are scared of an election. If I was a Liberal I would be scared of going into an election with Stéphane Dion as leader. Just as Stephen Harper will be judged on his role as Prime Minister in an election, so will Stéphane Dion be judged on his role as leader of the opposition.

But the fact is that we have a dysfunctional federal Parliament with a minority government that tries to govern as a majority and an official opposition that seems to believe its role is to enable them to do that. An election with Stephen Harper leading the Conservatives against a Liberal Party led by Stéphane Dion would leave voters shaking their heads and throwing their hands up in despair.

As a New Democrat, perhaps I should rejoice at the situation and NDP prospects in such an election. But I fear such a situation could cause the NDP to see it as an opportunity to replace the Liberals, by moving further to the centre in an attempt to seek election as the government. We do not need the NDP moving further to the right and becoming a pseudo Liberal government. Let the Liberals do that.

What we need is for a rebalancing of the political compass in Canada. We need to move the Conservatives from their extreme right wing position back to the right of centre position of the Progressive Conservative Party. To do this we need the Liberals to move back to the left of centre from the right of centre. And we need the New Democrats to move further to the left so that the pressure is on the Liberals to move left, rather than right to remain in the centre.

We need this to happen now, before, not after, the inevitable election that the Liberals can only avoid for so long without losing total and permanent credibility. The Liberal Party needs to go into an election with strong leadership from the left of the party not wishy washy leadership from nowhere.

We need a deal within the Liberal Party. We need Stéphane Dion to step down and Bob Rae to take over as “interim” Leader and defeat the Conservative government and lead the Liberals into an election that the New Democrats will fight from the left.

So how does the Liberal Party broker such a deal and get the support of all the leadership factions. If there is one overriding Liberal Party principle it is the quest for power. So the deal is that Bob Rae be given the chance to lead the Liberals into power. If he succeeds there will be no serious challenge to his leadership when the official leadership race is held. If he fails he does not seek the leadership in the official race.

Parliament has been most progressive with a left of centre Liberal government being pushed from the left by a strong New Democratic Party. Just think of what could be achieved by a minority Liberal government led by Bob Rae with a strong NDP holding the balance of power. Compare that to what we have now.

2 comments:

Scott Tribe said...

Dion will not step down before an election, and there is nothing in the Liberal Party constitution that can force him from the leadership before he faces an election - only after.

Ryan said...

Hmmm. On one hand I see your point.

On another hand, problem with the Liberals is that they have been progressive. But not progressive enough to truly tip the balance of power toward social democracy as in the European countries. We need a truly left-wing government to shift the politics in this country.