Is Canada really “sanest nation there is” .. take Liberals and NDP (in BC, Ontario, Nova Scotia, AND OTTAWA)?

Sep 26th, 2013 | By | Category: In Brief

John Cleese and his Fawlty Towers family. By Glen K. Amo.

Those of us who vainly dream that the progressive mainstream in Canada is gearing up to reassert itself in the real world of politics have had a few bits of bad news lately.

The brilliant Monty Python and Fawlty Towers graduate, John Cleese, keen to sell tickets to his “Last Chance to See Me Before I Die” Canadian tour, has just claimed that Canada is “the sanest nation there is.” But that only shows how little he really knows about Canada, of course.

Andrea Horwath nd Kathleen Wynne at the 125th anniversary dinner of the Toronto Board of Trade. (Tom Sandler For The Globe and Mail).

Sanity at the moment, at any rate, is the last term you might sanely use to characterize relations between Liberals and New Democrats  – in the two new Cooperative Capital Markets Regulator provinces of British Columbia and Ontario, and in the great crusade against the Stephen Harper Conservatives, coast to coast to coast. (Though maybe Nova Scotia is different ????)

Start with Ontario. Here some of we mere progressive-mainstream observers have been hoping that the current strange minority legislature will force the Wynne Liberals and the Horwath New Democrats to co-operate in spite of themselves (as in the provincial budget this past spring, etc). And then we have been further hoping (as Ontarians sometimes do) that some of this grudging “united progressive front” habit in Canada’s most populous province will spill over into Ottawa, in some kind of time for the next federal election in 2015.

Tim Hudak and Rob Ford at St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto, celebrating Archbishop Thomas Collins’ promotion to Cardinal, February 29, 2012. JAYME POISSON/TORONTO STAR.

These hopes have now been at least clouded by the latest news that “Liberals, Conservatives close to deal on Ontario political gridlock.” This deal allegedly involves “freezing out the NDP.” And such luminaries of the local coffee-party left as Doug Little have greeted the news with the tweet “EllisDon will be pleased to know that the 2 right wing parties will kick out their union.”

This is disturbingly reminiscent of a recent TV clip on cp24, in which Toronto Mayor Ford opined that the big problem with his city council right now is that the sensible forces of the Conservatives and Liberals are opposed by the irrational New Democrats. (The Fordist solution, shared by some Liberals on council, is to get rid of as many New Democrats as possible in the next election, in the fall of 2014!)

* * * *

Christy Clark (Liberal) and Adrian Dix (New Democrat) on the campaign trail this past spring – in a BC election that was the New Democrats to lose and, to the surprise of pollsters and almost everyone else, they did. Canadian Press.

Meanwhile, back on Canada’s beautiful Pacific coast (and Rocky and other mountains too), the recent historical cookie has more unhappily crumbled in such a way as to make the provincial Liberals at least the ostensible standard bearers of the right. (Cf. Saskatchewan back in the days of Ross Thatcher, eg, or even Tony Abbott’s Australia today.)

Some of us back east (though Ontario is really central Canada of course) would like to urge that while Christy Clark may be a match for Sarah Palin in feminine pulchritude, her provincial Liberal government has not actually been an unmitigated clone of either Ross Thatcher or Tony Abbott etc. It has even had at least a few progressive moments. (Take, eg, “BC says ‘No’ to Northern Gateway on concerns over oil spills.”)

Three, three the rivals in 2015 federal election – l to r: Justin Trudeau (Liberal), Stephen Harper (Conservative), and Thomas Mulcair (New Democrat). Will Harper finally prove just another rose between two thorns, aimed at each other?

The BC NDP, however, is quite understandably still smarting from its recent surprising defeat at Ms Clark’s hot hands.  And over the past few days we have been treated to such headlines as : “Prepare to see a more cutthroat NDP: Hébert .. A memo from NDP strategist Brian Topp advocating a more aggressive campaign style is compelling and dispiriting” ; “NDP pacifism was a poor response to Liberal attacks” (by Vaughn Palmer at the Vancouver Sun) ; “Brian Topp Spins BC NDP’s Election Loss”; “The Topp memos” ; “NDP report calls for more ‘bloody-minded campaign’ next time around” ; and “Full Pundit: These Dippers bite back.”

The biggest burden here, as highlighted by Ms Hébert, is that Liberal-NDP misadventures in both BC and Ontario will inevitably spill  over into federal politics. M. Mulcair will be taking more cutthroat approaches to M.Trudeau. (And vice versa.) And in the very end Stephen Harper just might wind up with at least yet another Conservative minority government in Ottawa.

The leaders of Nova Scotia’s three main political parties get ready for first 2013 televised debate – 1 to r: New Democrat Darrell Dexter, Conservative Jamie Baillie, and Liberal Stephen McNeil. (TIM KROCHAK / Halifax Chronicle Herald – and that’s a CBC technician between Baillie and McNeil.)

Yet “hope springs eternal in the human breast.”Â  I take heart from three other recent items in the news : “MP Nathan Cullen weighs BC NDP leadership run … Finished third in federal NDP campaign in 2012 …  Nathan Cullen says he’s cool to the idea of running for the leadership of the British Columbia NDP … But the federal MP isn’t entirely ruling it out …  Cullen, who serves as NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s House leader in Parliament, says there’s a 15-to-20 per cent chance he’ll move to the provincial arena” ; “Tories’ $3.3 Million Debt: Blame Ontario’s Conflict-Ridden Campaign Finance System … It’s Time To Overhaul Our Antiquated System” ; and, finally, “Nova Scotia NDP campaign staffer released after calling Liberal candidate a ‘homophobe.’”

Who knows? The Nova Scotia provincial election, this coming Tuesday, October 8, just may prove particularly interesting. Suppose the Liberals there (or the currently governing NDP, for that matter) wind up with the largest number of seats, but still short of a majority? Maybe this will finally bring Liberals and New Democrats together in constructive ways. Out on the east coast at least ?? (Though even here there are those who say an alliance between Darrell Dexter’s New Democrats and Jamie Baillie’s Conservatives would make more ideological sense!)

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