Judy: Judy, and when I hear the beep stopping, I’m going to start the meeting.
Judy: Hang on everybody, you don’t even need to give your name yet, I’m going to do a check in a second.
Judy: Hi there, it’s okay, it’s Judy, we’re all set.
Jack: Hi Judy, we’re all, we got a bunch of caucus members here, we’ll just wait for your instructions, we’ll leave it on mute in the meantime.
Judy: Okay. Alright, I think I’ll start, uhm, it’s Judy, we’ve got exactly one hour and no more. We’re going to run this meeting very tight. I want everyone to put your phones on mute, also please do not anytime during this call, put your line on hold, because that causes a noise for everybody. We’re going to give an update, an over view from Jack, a report on what’s happening procedurally from the House, generally from Libby, and then thirdly a overview on the issue of platform and policy, from Kathleen, and then a chance for each caucus member to give a very succinct and brief point to indicate their concerns or issues that they would like to see raised by our team as we prepare any further documents. So, as you all know, we have our next meeting as our regular meeting Monday at ten o’clock, in Ottawa, we will have a chance there to have a more extensive roundtable that in through the week, so please don’t feel you have all the time for questions and concerns, but we will deal with that on Monday, so without further ado, let me call on Jack who must be very tired and going non-stop for the last three days, we appreciate what you’re doing Jack, and I think we’re all excited to get an update. Thanks, Jack.
Jack: Thank you very much, uh, keep the myth alive that I’m exhausted and working incredibly hard (laughter) I appreciate you relaying that, I was asleep by ten o’clock last night, and had a very good night, a very good sleep, and that was my Friday night. So, an update on where we are, the, uh, we’re in the middle of a very historic time, and we’re playing a key role in it, in some ways a catalytic role actually, because as we think back, we’ll realize that nobody really imagined that it would be possible for the Bloc Quebecois, the Liberal party of Canada ever to enter into any kind of a discussion around the future of the country and it turned out that we were the glue, and spotted and prepared for the opportunity, and had taken the steps that were required so that when that opportunity arose, which was when Mr. Harper made his disastrous strategic error, by not providing stimulus to the economy, and instead playing political games, we were able to move, and things began to move very quickly, however, many obstacles remain in our way, and so we’re in a real battle now. The negotiating process, I am, by the way in very very regular touch with the leader of the Liberal party, and the leader of the Bloc, frequently every day. At the same time, negotiation processes are underway, and in fact as we speak, our negotiating team that I’ve named to meet with the Liberal negotiating team are discussing the mechanics of a coalition government, and the form that it would take, the structure of cabinet, the way in which the logistics of a coalition government with the Liberals and the New Democrats would work, the key roles, and dispute resolution mechanisms, timelines, et cetera.
All of the logistics issues that you would expect would be a part of such a discussion are being negotiated now we hope that that part of the negotiations would be completed today. Our negotiating team consists of Brian Topp, who negotiated as a senior member of the Romano team in Saskatchewan, negotiating a similar coalition with the Liberal party there, and of course you know Brian is our campaign co-chair director. Ann McGrath, in her chief of staff role, she’s also wearing the president of the party hat still, and so she’s got several hats on at the moment. Ed Broadbent, Alan Blakely, Dawn Black, as a member of caucus I’ve selected to participate in this process, someone that I happen to know is also respected and trusted by key Liberals, Tom Mulcair, as our Quebec lieutenant, and Carl Belanger. Tom and Carl are the negotiating team with the Bloc team, and Brian and Dawn Black are negotiating with the Liberal team. We’re starting with two party talks, this will resolve itself into a tripartite conversation before the weekend is up, and the goal is to produce by the end of the weekend, an agreement on the machinery of the coalition, which would be signed off, particularly by the NDP and Liberals, but endorsed by the Bloc, and an agreement on policy program for the coalition, that would have three party agreement. I can’t go into the details on all of this stuff, particularly the machinery, but it’s in the process of negotiation, and we could consume an awful lot of time speculating about it, so I don’t propose that we spend that time today on this particular matter of question. But instead, there’s a golden opportunity today, for you to provide input on the policy matters, you can be assured that we have looked at our program, we’ve looked at our platform, we’ve looked at what I’ve been saying about economic stimulus, we’ve been in close consultations with the leadership of the labour movement around some of their key ideas and they’ve been providing terrific support, including at a high-level early morning meeting this morning, so much of what you would have want to see, it’s probably already there, you’ll hear a bit more about it later, but there’s an opportunity to touch base with all of you, because in the end, you’re going to be intimately a part of the delivery of all of this, and so that’s why we’re having this meeting at this point in time.
Jack: I made a list Judy, so I’ll take a whack and you’ll say if I’ve missed any…
Judy: Ya. Meetings, confidentiality, what can be said. Go ahead.
Jack: First, do MP’s have to be in Ottawa until we have a better sense of the potential confidence motion stakes. You have to remain agile. And with Ottawa being the base. Uh, and so when you’re organising your community meetings make sure there’s a speaker phone facility, or a webcam. Secondly, I believe that we should get immediately into the driver’s seats on organizing these community meetings, you have people who worked on your campaign who are exactly the kind of people, whether in labour movements, labour councils, uh, childcare groups, environmental groups, these are people that need to be pulled together. You get them together, and then they’ll take it from there, it doesn’t have to be your meeting, it shouldn’t be your meeting, but of course you’ll be there as the MP, and you’re part of the coalition, and you’re consulting with the community to make sure they’re open, so if anyone wants to come and protest and say it’s a bad idea, be there to make a real news event out of it, the youth comes with the emotion in favour of the coalition and an action plan coming from Thursday night, particularly focused on the weekend, with petitioning, and phone in shows, and god knows what else, a letter writing, one of the goals here is to of course, recruit as many names, addresses, emails, phone numbers as possibly can, because this coalition will need the support of these people, and then we will need their support when we get an election. Now, will there be an independent NDP caucus, yes. BQ stability issues, worry about BQ potentially being off-side, we’re taking that very much into account. We have numerous strategies designed to deal with it, I actually believe they’re the least of our problems, but in case I’m wrong, let’s just say we have strategies, this whole thing would not have happened if the moves hadn’t have been made with the Bloc to lock them in early, because you couldn’t put three people together in one, in three hours. The first part was done a long time ago, I won’t go into details, and the managing expectations, lists from groups, actually, the wisest people in the groups are already coming to the conclusion, some of them are in direct contact, saying probably wouldn’t be too helpful if we had long lists of stuff, right? What we really want is just to get Harper out and get the new group in because it’s going to be a hell of a lot better for everything we believe in, correct? Correct. So let’s stay on that track, and not start debating whether or not it’s twenty five percent change or fifteen percent change over here, let’s get them out, on the basis of unity not the basis of division. Somebody asked about Bill Casey, absolutely, in the game, uh, on confidentiality, we now have to get out and defend the idea of the coalition. This is not a secret that it’s been discussed, the various elements that are in it, you can say it’s all about getting the economy going, and transforming the economy for the twenty first century, use everything that you’ve seen in my speeches up until now, that you’ve all been using so well particularly when I’ve seen you on panels, and by the way, our team on panels, everybody, staff and MPs, rocking, absolutely rocking doing us proud, so yes, there is a coalition, we’re fighting for it, we’re trying to make it happen, we think it’s a good idea for Canada, the majority of Canadians voted to go in a different direction than Harper’s taking us, you can’t trust him, no matter anything, throw him out. What about the legitimacy of the democratic process, yeah, what about it? He was given a minority, and he refused to work with the other parties, he had 38% of the vote and he’s trying to govern like he had 100% of the power, he’s the one who’s got democracy wrong, not us. So do not be defensive, to work among what we are doing is to give effect to the wishes of the majority of Canadians, have no doubt about that. The coalition for Canada, I love the idea, it could be a deal-breaker for the Bloc (laughter) so if we don’t go, we call it “The Coalition for Canada and Quebec,” (lots of laughter). Well, welcome to the real world of….that’s not funny
Jack: And let me come to, I know it’s complicated, so let’s just be wise about how we put this thing together. I think that there were many good comments that were developed from this, right from Aboriginal, which was on our mind, right through to many of these other suggestions and we will do our very best to put this together. And I’ll just say one other thing about the issue of the Bloc: nothing could be better for our country, than to have the fifty members who’ve been elected to separate Quebec to actually helping to make Canada a better place. I think we just approach it on that basis, and say we’re willing to make Canada happen, here’s other things that we’re going to be investing in and transforming together, they’re willing to work with us, we’ll accept that offer. What will be important to point out is that this will be an NDP-Liberal coalition, which is supported by the Bloc, with policy ideas that the coalition is bringing forward. Okay? And that’s going to be helpful to you in your dealing with those that have concerns, because they, you can see where Harper’s going here, he’s going to say it’s the socialists and the separatists and the opportunists getting together. You know? Those are their talking points, and so we just need to push back. I want to thank everybody for the input, I would get going this weekend on getting groups together, start talking about organizing those Thursday meetings, act as the catalyst to make it happen, and then just let it go, it’ll roar, and it’ll be very exciting. If you’re in a larger city, and there’s several of you, or if you’re in the largest city and you’re on your own, act as the catalyst anyway, chances are there’s a bunch of Liberals in the other ridings on whom we want pressure placed, as I mentioned at the outset of the conversation. I guess we’re at the end.
Judy: I just want to add one thing, and that is so the major thing is here that the message we’re focused on the message, so that’s not confidential, what’s confidential is strategy, the discussion, details, the speculation about the other parties and their motivation and what they will or they won’t do, we should not talk at all about war rooms, or campaigns in that sense. We’re building, trying to create a coalition government that will be a Liberal-NDP coalition that will be supported by the Bloc and that’s the message that we want to get out, nothing about the discussions in the background, and when in doubt, call, probably Brad, and Brad on that issue and on the whole issue of the campaign, and organizing meetings, people will want to reach you quickly, what’s the best way?
Jack Harris: Judy, Jack Harris here, I know it’s a structure question, but I’m at a loss at this point to know whether we’re talking about a short-term, quick economic stimulus coalition, or are we talking about something that could last two or three years, this is kind of important in our own minds, as well because aside from economic stimulus of course, this coalition will have to govern on every part of the government, of the legislative of the –
Judy: Okay, let me ask Jack to answer that and then Brad, you give the best contact information.
Jack Layton: Longer term. Not short term.
Judy: Now, Brad, you’re going to be in demand, what’s the best way to get to you quickly?
Brad: For folks that are going to be holding panels that we’re setting up, we’re going to be briefing you and your media office, for your press secretaries, the press secretaries have been divided into thirds, so every member of caucus has been assigned, so those folks are going to be available to you, and working very closely with me, and I discourage anyone from phoning me, the smartest move would be to give me as much heads-up as possible, I’m on a panel in two minutes, is highly unhelpful, and I will fail you miserably, and I know some times that situation has to happen and it’s understandable, but obviously calling me on my cell is the fastest way or by sending me an email, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Judy: Alright, and is it you, not just on panels, organizing meetings, events, here at the grassroots level, who’s the best person?
Brad: It will not be me, I will not be able to assist with your meetings on the Thursday night, we will assign a member of the team to that.
I’m at the Parliamentary Press Gallery dinner right now and a quiet rumour among a small number of the gathered people here is that Prime Minister Stephen Harper may prorogue Parliament until the new year.
This would provide some breathing room for the government and let Canadians consider a Bloc-supported NDP-Liberal coalition while they eat their Christmas dinners and/or get together for their holiday parties.
The opposition will cry foul, but it’s within the Prime Minister’s power. The effect on Ottawa would be to pour some cold water on the heated political atmosphere on the Hill.
However, I should say, the optics of it wouldn’t be ideal to say the least. What do you think the risk/reward potential of this move would be?
UPDATE: 45 minutes later, the rumour has made it to the podium and was just announced to a surprised room. Should be an interesting evening. I also hear that the PM may make a surprise appearance.
Fact: “The Liberal Opposition plans to introduce a non-confidence motion in the House of Commons on Monday” (source)
But: Notice of motions are introduced regularly by the opposition. Motions are always introduced in advance. Generally five motions are introduced. The Liberals having a confidence motion on the table are simply having the confidence motion on the table as an option. Potential motions must prested in advance and today (Friday) is the earliest opportunity for the opposition to have that option on the table for Monday. They may not actually move on voting on the motion.
Speculation: Anybody wonder why Stephane Dion didn’t immediately step down after the election? His people have been quiet on his prospects as leader of a coalition government. In the Liberal constitution, if I remember correctly, the only way Dion can be replaced in a pinch is if he either dies or resigns. If Dion doesn’t resign, the Liberals may govern under Dion if a coalition is formed.
Fiction: A new Bloc-Liberal-NDP coalition government would be viable beyond their agreement on the $1.95-per-vote subsidy.
Speculation: If the Liberals-NDP believe they can form a coalition with tangential Bloc support, the GG may have no other option to call an election as 77+37=114 LPC/NDP vs. CPC’s 143. The GG may see this as the only stable option.
Fact: The Conservatives (in the broader picture) want to move forward on the economy. The opposition wanted to hold the government back on the campaign welfare package.
Fact: The Throne Speech passed in the House yesterday after the economic statement was read. The opposition approved the government’s mandate knowing full well that they’d be bringing it to the brink this weekend.
Fact: On mandates, if the Liberals were to form government, they would do so after receiving the lowest proportion of votes in their party’s history. Further, if Dion does resign and if Ignatieff does become Prime Minister, he would do so without having been presented to Canadians during the democratic process that we call elections. Talk about an affront to democracy!
Fact: The opposition accused the government of not having a plan for the economy during an election and now they accuse the government of the same now. What has changed? The Conservatives now want to end campaign welfare.
Fact: Cooler heads recognize that the American elephant will move on the economy in new year and that any action with respect to our integrated economies would be better done in coordination rather than prematurely.
Speculation: Canadians will not accept a surprise Liberal-NDP coalition backed by a party that wants to destroy the country that would stand to be dismantled under the proposed funding changes of the Conservative government. By opposing campaign welfare reform, the Liberals are sustaining the existence of the Bloc for their own ambition. Canadians will not accept a surprise Prime Minister unvetted by the electorate.
Speculation: What are the terms of a NDP-backed Liberal coalition government? Cancellation of the $50 Billion corporate tax cut? What are the Bloc’s terms?
The latest news is that the potential of Bloc-Liberal-NDP coalition government in waiting is shrinking a bit now that the Conservatives have promised to remove required confidence from the party welfare issue.
This is bait of course.
If the BLN coalition backs down now, Canadians will understand that their opposition to the economic statement really wasn’t about the “lack of stimulus”, the rescue of Canadian jobs, or the “protection of rights of women and workers”. The opposition and brinkmanship that was threatening a fresh election or constitutional crisis would have been about parties that are so fresh out of ideas, so unable to inspire, that they were ready to go to political war over their $1.95-per-vote handout from the Canadian taxpayer.
So, have we seen crisis averted? Better yet, has the PM been successful in floating a very useful trial balloon over the heads of the opposition? If we don’t see the government fall, or a new one form, will this have instead put the issue of campaign welfare to the fore and have raised the cynical ire of Canadians to know that in an economic crisis, the ones ready to burn the house down were the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc?
Over their entitlements?
UPDATE: Have we seen a crisis averted? No, not yet. The PM has pushed confidence votes back to December 8th and parties will have a chance then to bring down the government.