Thoughts on the NDP filibuster

The NDP filibuster over bill C-6 is over and it ended with more of a whimper than a bang.

With 102 MPs allowed to speak for 20 minutes (not including about 10 minutes of questions) on each stage of the legislation to put postal workers back on the job, the NDP perplexingly gave up much too early.

Solidarity forever, or at least until Saturday at 8pm. The NDP could have presented 102 speakers on the hoist motion and 102 speakers on *each* of the 22 subsequent amendments to the legislation. Further, they could have presented any number of amendments for the third reading of the bill. Indeed, they could have filibustered until CUPW reached a deal with Canada Post, or until the House was scheduled to resume on September 19.

It was a surreal scene: MPs reading emails from their constituents on the importance of postal delivery, the PM sleeping on his office couch, hospitality suites in Centre Block, and David Chistopherson rousing everyone at 3am in the House with his over-the-top mad-as-hell routine.

For many MPs, this was their first time participating in the House. Sure, most had risen before to thank their MPs by reading an SO31, but for a number of rookies, this was their first real exposure. From both sides, I’ve heard that the filibuster was good for team building: being stuck on Thursday for 56 hours can do that to you.

Regarding the issue itself, it was about a preemptive Canada Post lockout in the face of imminent rotating strikes by CUPW. If we look at the context of pre-positioning for an agreement, the government’s legislation also undercut Canada Post proposed offer giving the union additional incentive to settle with the Crown corporation.

On the legislation, it’s an ugly thing to see the government step in and meddle in a negotiation between two parties. Collective bargaining is a right, however there is no right to “strike” and to hold a company hostage. Then again, politics isn’t a game for philosophical purists. Back to work legislation is a perfect example of the imperfect and ugly sausage-making business of politics.

The Liberals were very much absent from the debate. The interim leader and about 2/3 of his caucus were absent from the votes. Mailing it in had a few Liberal partisan friends wondering again why they still back the Grits, now decimated.

The NDP must consider a few items going forward. First, they promised a different sort of politics and they’ve always promised to “make Parliament work”. The filibuster may be an effective tool in their arsenal for future political debates, but Canadians will become cynical of the tactic after it loses its renewed novelty. Second, the Conservatives will provide plenty of opportunity for the NDP to be polarized partners on issues. On the restoration of postal services this split was 70-30 but it was a stark division without much ground in between. The Conservatives and the NDP can provide each other many victories in this majority parliament. Keeping the Liberals marginalized and creating an established champion on the left in the NDP are in the interests of both the Tories and the Dippers. However, this dance will end with the Conservatives if the Dippers jam every piece of legislation in the 41st Parliament.



  • Canadiansense

    The NDP made a tactical mistake in delaying the return of postal service with the filibuster. Both sides were negotiating for eight months with little evidence they would settle.
    The Govt has promised to keep the economy moving and this disruption caused by rotating strikes and lockout required a firm hand. The public will remember the speed at which the govt stepped in to bring things back to normal.
    The NDP need to expand their appeal and message. They failed on every count by this delaying tactic not supported by the vast majority of Canadians. They need to move beyond seen in bed with Unions.
    The push back from voters against Union appeasement is everywhere. Political parties that ignore the new economic/political reality will find themselves out of office. 

  • Mthielen

    I wonder how many happy posties will show up for work Tuesday, and how many unhappy ones will show up.  I expect a lot of them to be subject to insults from some customers. 

  • Liz J

    The NDP really did a number on themselves by jumping into bed with the unions.

    They profess to be for the little guy and at the same time  with their boneheaded action on this issue it’s the little guys they hurt most. 

    They also proved they’re not fit to be even considered a government in waiting.  God forbid!

  • proud_canadian1

    usually when you do a filibuster you expect some sort of victory,I challenge anyone what victory has the NDP gotten? Has far as I can see they lost at every level! The NDP has proven to be the party who is beholden to their union bosses! Thank God,they aren’t the party in power!    

  • proud_canadian1

    usually when you do a filibuster you expect some sort of victory,I challenge anyone what victory has the NDP gotten? Has far as I can see they lost at every level! The NDP has proven to be the party who is beholden to their union bosses! Thank God,they aren’t the party in power!    

  • Allan

    The NDP may want to try this philibuster in the future, but it must be something that matters to Canadians. Then they will gain popularity. If not then they will just be tuned out and forgotten. Maybe the tories can use this to their advantage.

  • Anonymous

    Well.. if Canada Post were a private company and not a crown corporation, the government couldn’t legislate them back to work – so the NDP should be advocating for privatization if they truly oppose back-to-work legislation.

    Why do I feel like the filibuster and back-to-work legislation were theatre? So tomorrow the posties are back on the job, sans concessions, and all is forgiven? Colour me skeptical. 

  • Anonymous

    On a somewhat related note … notice how The Hill Times’ Tim Naumetz doesn’t use the word “muzzle” in this article about the NDP’s position on Libya? 
    It’s all about “caucus discipline” don’t cha know? Similar discipline displayed by the Conservative caucus is usually described as Harper’s dictatorial muzzling.