By-election notes

- big loss for Stephane Dion tonight. In by-elections, the number of votes for the government usually goes down. In seat +/-, we see Stephane Dion -1 and Stephen Harper +1.

– Liberals will say that three out of four by-elections is a victory. All four ridings were Liberal, so anything less than holding those four with margins as strong as before is a loss for the Liberals.

– Stephane Dion’s hand-picked candidate lost in Desnethé–Missinippi–Churchill River. This is, of course, the riding in which Dion put an end to David Orchard’s hopes of being a candidate there and cherry-picked an NDP MLA to run as a Liberal. Political observers will remember Dion’s hand picked candidate Jocelyn Coulon in Outremont losing to the NDP in a big by-election upset months ago.

– In contrast, the Conservatives’ weak finish in Toronto Centre is a result of a poor history of electoral success for this incarnation of the Conservative party there and the party’s decision to drop their candidate in the riding. Dion’s move in Saskatchewan was to enhance electoral success, Harper’s Toronto Centre decision was in made in order to prevent divergent messaging that could have an impact outside of this riding in which Conservatives weren’t even competitive.

– Vancouver Quadra is also turning out to be a bitter win for Dion. Liberal vote share in that riding is down and Conservative vote share is up. While Harper is finding it difficult to increase share in downtown Toronto, the Vancouver result is encouraging. It appears that Conservatives are and will be competitive in that riding for the next general election.
UPDATE: Final margin in Vancouver Quadra is 151 votes with the Liberals just barely holding this seat from going Conservative. This is a big upset for Dion. UBC is within the riding and the riding is urban and generally quite well-to-do. This seat should have been solidly Liberal. Quadra just became a target riding for the Conservatives in the next election.

– By-elections are always experimental in that we sometimes see a preview of party strategy for general elections. In the Liberals, we see more of an emphasis on the team rather than their leader. In Conservatives we see primary focus on Harper’s leadership. A general election is leadership focused, however, as debates and daily news coverage have a bias towards leadership. Many voters, in all 308 ridings, cast a ballot for Harper or Dion, rather than the their local candidate or party. Paul Martin de-emphasized the Liberal brand and put his leadership in the front window during both 2004 and 2006 general elections. Dion would be wise to downplay his leadership and emphasize the Liberal brand. Martin hid the brand because it was tainted by the Sponsorship Scandal, and the man dubbed Mr. Dithers believed he provided strong leadership. Is the Liberal brand still sufficiently tainted by scandal? Despite this consideration, Dion’s leadership could not be emphasized over the Liberal brand; whereas we saw “Team Martin” sign instead of “Liberal” signs, we won’t be seeing “Team Dion”.

– Jack Layton also had a bad night. His vote share is down. While he works with the Conservatives to carve up Liberal votes left and right, he may find that he needs more time to accomplish this goal. A general election would hasten the dispatching of Dion, and bring forward a more competitive Liberal leader in most scenarios. Therefore, Layton and Harper should figure out how to loudly oppose each other while sustaining the life of this government for the longer rather than shorter term.

– Dion is going to find his front bench increasingly crowded with alpha candidates for his job. Liberals will be start looking seriously past Dion and it will be difficult for him to catch up.

– Conservative and NDP strategy should be to establish themselves as principled ideologues on the left and the right. Conservatives should emphasize good management and strong leadership. Jack Layton should challenge Harper to a one-on-one debate. Both parties should try to keep the government alive to draw out Liberal divisions.

– Luckily for Harper and Layton, Dion’s strategy is also to survive and the only way this can happen is for the government to survive. Liberals will be chomping a the bit in order to “get back to power as soon as possible” and most realize that this is impossible under Dion and much easier when they hold a leadership race and select a more capable leader. The easiest way for the Liberals to remove Dion is via a loss in the general election. The Conservatives and the NDP would be smart not to provide them with this opportunity. If the hunger gets too strong, the Liberals may start eating their own and we may see Dion swallowed whole. This would immediately trigger a general election as the Conservatives and NDP would be willing partners in increasing their respective vote proportions as Liberal voters stay home on election day.

Transcript of Jack Layton on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight

The following is a transcript of NDP leader Jack Layton’s appearance on CNN’s Lou Dobbs tonight on March 6th, 2008:

DOBBS: Let’s take a different perspective on NAFTA if we may tonight, this one the Canadian perspective. At least one Canadian perspective and one major Canadian political party that adamantly is opposed to the trade agreement and to the threat of the North American Union.

Jack Layton is the leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party and he joins us tonight from Ottawa.

Jack, great to have you with us.

JACK LAYTON, CANADA’S NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADER: Good to be with you, Lou.

DOBBS: The Canadian perspective, on NAFTA a lot of grumbling here and a lot of talk if it should be omitted in our presidential contest as well. Your thoughts?

LAYTON: We think NAFTA is not working well for working families and the middle class. I will just give you a couple examples. Here in Canada we have lost a third of a million jobs in the last three years in the manufacturing sector. The kind of jobs that allow people to pay a mortgage, to raise their kids, to make contributions to the local hockey team — we love hockey here in Canada, and really to the backbone and to the community. And they’re now finding the jobs that are available when they get laid off — out of these plants because their jobs have now been sent off to a far-off land where wages are one one-hundredth of what they are here — the kind of jobs they can find in Canada are minimum wage.

They can’t pay their mortgages, they are really struggling and I know many American workers are finding exactly the same thing. I think it’s time we made a little common cause and make sure the trade deals are working for the people who make the economy work.

DOBBS: I think most Americans would not pay attention a great deal to the fact Canada is a parallel, if you will, universe in terms of these agreements. When you talk about a third of a million jobs, that goes beyond just NAFTA, that goes to Canada’s overall trade policies, does it not?

LAYTON: Yes it does. Just to give you some examples. We ship raw logs from our forest all the way over to China where they are turned into products and they come back and we buy them. We even find sometimes the products don’t meet our standards our here. I heard you talking about toxic toothpaste in the U.S.

We’ve been facing toxic toys here in Canada. There goes the jobs. The trees go and they take the jobs with them and I know the West Coast is experiencing many of the same things. We need some fair and sustainable trade. That’s what we’ve got to put together.

DOBBS: What a wonderful expression. Fair and sustainable trade. In other words, Jack, let me say, I think many people, are surprised as they listen to you talking about the problems with NAFTA from your perspective, those are precisely what we’re doing now.

We’re sending timber and bringing back lumber. We’re exporting soybeans and scrap and taking in computers from China. The principle source of our computers, our consumer electronics and we look like a third world country for crying out loud.

LAYTON: It’s these multinational organizations under this so- called phrase globalization feel they can consume and produce in their own interests. And they are certainly doing very well by it but it leaves a lot of people behind and that’s why we think a renegotiation of trade should take place and today in Washington, our trade critic, Peter Julian was there from our party working with Congress members and legislators from Mexico to set up a working group to set up a working group. That is a bit of good news today.

DOBBS: Real quickly, we are out of time. Jack Layton, Mr. Brodie, the prime minister’s chief of staff, some talk about him being the source of that leak of Obama-gate as it is called here? Your reaction?

LAYTON: I asked the prime minister today in the House of Commons to apologize to the American people for this kind of interference on the democratic process in the U.S. It’s not right, he hasn’t yet apologized and he hasn’t yet fired the source of the leak. So we’ll keep working on that on our end.

DOBBS: It’s nice and it’s absolutely reassuring, Jack Layton, to find that politics are not just a mess here but occasionally up north. We thank you for taking time with us and hope you’ll come back soon as we discuss these important issues for working men and women and their families and both candidates and the United States and Mexico for that matter.

LAYTON: For sure, Lou. Take care.

DOBBS: Thank you. You too.

Up next here, Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez at it again. Moving troops up to the border with Colombia, maybe he intends to use them. We’ll have that report.

And five years since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security a few questions remain like why aren’t our borders and ports secure? I’ll be talking with Congressman Lamar Smith about that.

We’re coming right back. Stay with us.

For whatever the depth of this “scandal” for all parties that message on it, it’s a good one for Jack Layton because it fits well into his message track as he advocates on his views regarding organized labour, manufacturing, and free trade. This sets Layton up firmly against our Conservative Prime Minister who stands opposed to Layton’s principled, however misguided, views on most, if not all of these issues. Jack Layton receives great profile here from CNN and if we contrast this to the faltering leadership of Leader of the Opposition Stephane Dion, we find Layton to be more of a credible voice for those that oppose the Conservative government’s agenda.

Also a scandal in Canada is that the news media is focusing more upon the leak on Obama’s position rather than the Chicago senator’s nebulous position itself. The preservation of NAFTA and full political disclosure of the candidates on the issue is in Canada’s best interest. While it is unfortunate that there is now a perception of interference in US electoral politics by Canadian government staff, Canada is better off for having the issue front and centre on the US political stage. Americans are now be able to evaluate the positions of their political candidates on such an issue of importance to Canada. It is to Canada’s advantage that U.S. candidates for president are now being vetted on their position regarding free trade with our country.

In the U.S., the scandal is based on full disclosure of policy in a political campaign (“keeping them honest”, as Lou Dobbs might say). In Canada, the scandal is the inappropriate nature by which Americans were given an opportunity to have an honest policy debate.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be affected by renegotiating or ripping up NAFTA. What’s got the Ottawa press buzzing is which one job close to the Prime Minister (in Ottawa or Washington) may be affected instead.

NDP to test Dion’s confidence, in himself

Five confidence motions are on the order paper today:

March 5, 2008 — Mr. Layton (Toronto–Danforth) — That, in the opinion of the House, this government’s budgetary policies have been marked by an unbalanced approach of corporate giveaways to the big banks and big polluters and have failed to address the priorities ordinary Canadians care about, such as health care, housing, infrastructure, manufacturing and forestry, climate change, child care, Aboriginals, women, seniors, poverty, and therefore, that this House has lost confidence in this government.

March 5, 2008 — Mr. Layton (Toronto–Danforth) — That the House note this government’s two years of inaction in the fight against poverty in Canada and failure to build on such initiatives as the Canada Child Tax Benefit, affordable housing, literacy, and the Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative and that for these and other reasons the House has lost confidence in this government.

March 5, 2008 — Mr. Layton (Toronto–Danforth) — That the House welcome the opening expressed by legislators and presidential candidates in the United States that the North American Free Trade Agreement should be re-examined with a view to ensuring respect of high environmental standards and basic workers’ rights as well as the sovereignty and democratic accountability of the three partners, ensuring that working and middle-income families, and not only corporations, are the beneficiaries of increased trade and investment.

March 5, 2008 — Mr. Layton (Toronto–Danforth) — That the House regret this government’s failure to live up to Canada’s international climate change agreements, and it’s [sic] refusal to bring forward for debate and vote, the Clean Air and Climate Change Act, the climate change plan called for by a majority vote of the House, and that therefore the House no longer has confidence in this government.

March 5, 2008 — Mr. Layton (Toronto–Danforth) — That, in the opinion of the House, this government has failed to introduce policies which will diminish the inequality between men and women, in particular by its refusal to provide adequate resources and policies governing child care; legal assistance; long-term care; home care; health care; support for women’s equality seeking groups; support for seniors; support for Aboriginal and minority women; pay equity; reform of employment insurance; support for preventing violence against women; public housing and transportation and other services so vital to the hard working women of this country, and therefore the House has lost confidence in this government.

It’s an NDP opposition day tomorrow and one of the confidence motions above will be picked to be debated. Late yesterday, a well-connected New Democrat told me that they’ll be advancing the fourth motion of those above (the confidence motion on climate change) for debate and make Dion vote against the motion, in order to allow the government to survive. This will embarrass Dion into accepting the Conservative government’s progress on climate change. A Liberal MP expressed in conversation yesterday that the reason why they didn’t defeat the Conservatives on the budget was because they “didn’t want cause a Harper majority”.

Layton gives Dion some oxygen

Jim Brown, THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA – NDP Leader Jack Layton is admitting there are divisions in party ranks about whether to support the next Conservative budget to ensure that $1 billion in promised economic aid flows to the provinces.

Layton has accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of trying to “blackmail” opposition MPs into supporting the budget, expected next February, by tying it to the aid package.

And with that, the NDP leader signals to Dion that it may just be alright to vote on the budget rather than abstain.

By the way, since when is governance, continuing debate and prompting a party to vote for your policy called political “blackmail”? Is it the default position of the NDP to oppose all moves by the government?

The NDP chief hinted strongly Monday that he’s not willing to play the game, noting that “we have opposed (Harper’s) budgets up until this point because we think he’s taking the country in the wrong direction.”

Too late. Why tip your hand to the Liberals so early?

The Prime Minister is tying promised federal assistance ($) to the budget ($). Opposition parties have called this “political”.

Woo.

Hey, aren’t the U.S. primaries on?

February/March election? Think again

As we break for the Christmas/New Years holidays, Ottawa has been talking about a real possibility of an election in February and March.

I believe that the current conventional wisdom on the timing of an election is wrong.

First, no party is really in a good position for an election.

Consider the Conservatives; statistically tied with the Liberals in the latest Harris/Decima poll, the Tories aren’t riding their traditional high numbers. Some have attributed this decline to Canada’s bad press at Bali, some blame the attention that Mulroney has received. But a budget will be a bonanza of tax cuts in February, you may think, and this surely will be enough to buoy Conservative numbers. It may, but the Conservatives need the decision of at least one party to survive and three to defeat it.

That brings us to the main opposition party: the Liberals. Stephane Dion has been routinely embarrassed in the House of Commons by being forced to abstain from votes of confidence such as the throne speech and subsequent crime legislation (named a matter confidence by the PM). A staffer in Dion’s office recently told me that this pattern cannot continue at length. He’s right. The Liberals will stand in February to defeat the budget. In fact, they’ve already indicated that they intend to try force an election. This is a necessary move by Dion, as he cannot remain neutered indefinitely lest his caucus revolts. The smart play here is that he’s been first out of the gate in declaring his intentions meaning that he will not have to race Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe to the waiting cameras outside of the House doors (besides Layton and Duceppe are closer to the doors anyway). So Dion is forcing the NDP and Bloc to react to Dion whereas earlier Dion reacted to the declared intentions of those two parties instead. Dion is well ahead on this vote. This will help relieve some of the negative attention received from his chronic abstentions in this latest session in 2007. The move, however, is somewhat disingenuous as Dion knows that at least one other party will save Harper’s government (and Dion) to fight another day.

While the NDP has had better fundraising fortunes than the Liberals, this opposition party still needs to continue its strides in becoming a viable opposition in the minds of Canadians. While they will no doubt vote against the budget (and the Conservative government won’t change its legislation to accommodate them), they are unlikely thrilled about a March election. Further, the NDP standing with the Conservatives on a conservative budget would destroy much of the NDP’s credibility.

That leaves us with the Bloc, who shares a particularly important electoral interest with Stephen Harper: Quebec. The Bloc will vote for the budget because there will undoubtedly be some good items for their province. In fact, we can be quite confident in this prediction as Harper/Flaherty would be unlikely to pen a budget without extended consideration for Quebec. If they did, they would guarantee that their government would fall and that their hard-fought gains in that province would be tenuous at best and their planned gains would evaporate overnight. Expect good things for Quebec in 2008 and expect the Bloc to pass the budget; the Bloc is the only party Harper needs onside to survive.

This scenario generally satisfies all parties to some extent. The Conservatives will continue to govern while entrenching their image as tax fighters in the minds of Canadians. They will also continue to build in Quebec. The Liberals (and especially Dion) will relieve a lot of pressure internally in caucus and externally in their image as the hapless leader breaks his abstention streak. The NDP will still get to stand up to the Conservatives (the NDP gains from this scenario are the least of the four parties). Finally, the Bloc will have voted for a better budget for the people of Quebec, even if it is delivered by Conservatives. The Bloc has been concerned by the Conservative encroachment upon their nationalist strategy as it has been reconfigured by Harper as decentralization and respect for provincial jurisdiction. Duceppe would only be handing Harper voters if he defeats this government as the Prime Minister will be seen to be a better defender of Quebec’s interests.

If the Prime Minister really wants an election in March, the budget will contain a poisoned pill that is inert to Quebeckers but unacceptable for the Bloc.

Tonight’s Throne Speech

Prime Minister Harper has penned the mandate he seeks from Parliament for its next session and Governor General Michaelle Jean will deliver the Speech from the Throne tonight in the Red Chamber in about 2.5 hours time.

Most observers expect that the Prime Minister will be asking a lot of Parliament as Stephane Dion, the Liberal and Opposition leader is weakened by fratricide within his own party. The recent recruitment of former Liberal leadership hopeful John Manley will also allow the Prime Minister to pen a few more ideological lines into the speech and dare Dion to vote against.

There are a few factors which will determine the outcome of any brinkmanship that’s anticipated by some, however. For example, does the Prime Minister want to seek a defensible mandate and extend his term without triggering an election. In some cases, this is an advantageous move for Harper; the more time that he governs, the more of a record he has to run when he finally faces the electorate.

However, Dion is in a wounded state and could eventually recover through his own strategy (more unlikely) or via unforeseen “events” (less unlikely). Depending on the crises and issues faced by the Prime Minister over the next year, public opinion may turn. For example, the economy is healthy right now. What will we see in one year’s time? Should Harper go for an election now?

We can be certain that the NDP and the Bloc will be sure to come out immediately and oppose the Throne Speech claiming that they are they only principled opposition in Parliament to Stephen Harper and that Dion and the Liberals are weak. This will allow Jack Layton to represent the Canadian left and Gilles Duceppe to claim to represent both that constituency and Quebec’s interests. This has the benefit for both leaders of being the anti-Harper choice and of taking away Liberal votes as the Grits try and sort out what they stand for. Almost immediately after the Throne Speech, I can picture Layton claiming that the throne speech favours the rich (if personal tax cuts are a theme), the boardrooms (if corporate tax cuts are mentioned) and that this comes at the expense of “working families”. Duceppe will state that Harper cannot appeal to Quebec’s interests. Layton and Duceppe would also be wise to point out that Dion will not stand up to Harper and that the Liberal leader is ineffective and inconsequential.

Dion is of course between a rock and a hard place. He has few options and none seem to portray him in a good light. Dion does not want to trigger an election for a few reasons. In the best of interpretations it’ll be seen as suicidal and in the worst interpretation it’ll seem absolutely foolish. Further, for this weakened leader, what he doesn’t need is to draw the scorn of a Canadian electorate for precipitating an election that his own deputy declared somewhat prophetically that Canadians “don’t want”.

If Dion votes for the Throne Speech (after demands that Harper won’t meet fully, if at all), he will be seen to be an ineffective opposition leader. In fact, this voting outcome is a very possible scenario; we haven’t heard much pushback from Dion on Harper’s stated goals.

In one scenario we could see Dion voting against the speech with the strategy of showing up with a only a handful of Liberal MPs in order to prevent the fall of government. The Conservatives have 126 MPs, and the Opposition (minus Liberals) has 79 (let’s leave out the 3 independents for the sake of an easier model). This leaves a 47 vote difference that Dion has to make up in order to tie the Conservatives (with the Speaker breaking the tie). Therefore, Dion must have at most 47 MPs show up to vote against the speech, unless he wants to trigger an election (which he most certainly does not want to do). Here’s where Harper could have some fun. The Prime Minister could order 46 of his MPs to be absent from the vote leaving 80 to vote “yay”. With the 79 non-Liberals opposition members with 79 voting “nay”, this leaves Dion to show up and vote alone. Those close to Harper say the man likes to play strategy with the issues rather than with the musical chairs in Parliament. Therefore this final scenario, while amusing, is unlikely.

I do, however, think of it more likely that Dion will eventually vote against the speech. The embattled Liberal leader has to save face and any further wishy-washy behaviour by him will only encourage his enemies within his party.

It is pretty much assured that the NDP and Bloc will seat every member for the Throne Speech vote.

However, if we see Dion vote against, I wonder if we will see if his “honourable friends” in caucus line up behind him, triggering the election that he doesn’t want.

UPDATE AFTER THE SPEECH: Jack Layton won’t support the speech.

Gilles Duceppe won’t support the speech.

Elizabeth May would support the speech, but she hasn’t any members.

Stephane Dion says… ‘uh… we’ll sleep on it’. However, it’s likely that he will support the throne speech after overtures such as “well we knew it wasn’t going to be a Liberal throne speech” and “we’ll let you know tomorrow at 3:15pm” and “no government’s ever been defeated on the Throne Speech”. Although there’s news that members of his caucus are encouraging him to go (election-wise and therefore also into retirement).

If Dion supports the throne speech, the NDP will jump all over them and emphasize that the Liberals are an ineffective opposition. The Conservatives will also continue along the “Stephane Dion is not a leader” line and this is evident in the titling and branding of the Throne Speech, “Strong Leadership. A Better Canada.”

Thoughts about the by-elections

Repeating my bit from Macleans.ca, just for the record:

“Earthquake in Quebec.

“Stephane Dion fails his first electoral test as Liberal leader as the Grits lose a safe Quebec seat.

“Stephen Harper becomes the buffer against separatism in Quebec, a role traditionally attributed to the Liberals. Where dominoes fall in Quebec, vote-rich Ontario takes notice.

“The NDP picks up only their second seat in Quebec history. Does this represent a realignment on federalism in Quebec along the lines of left and right as we saw in the Quebec provincial election?”

Further to that point, Jack Layton’s leadership is secure for at least another two years. The man from Montreal promised to deliver seats in Quebec. He delivered one, but he’s got momentum. This Mulcair fellow may however be the MP that replaces Layton as leader.

From most accounts, Stephane Dion is a nice guy. From the couple of times we’ve crossed paths and from what I’ve been able to observe, the man is a class act. However, if what is being reported in Outremont is true and there’s a movement afoot to undermine his leadership, it’s time to either bring down the hammer Chretien/Martin-style, fade away or, or… something. Unfortunately for him, with party unity still a real issue, and no easy option presents itself. Before the ballots were even counted, the truth came out last night: in the Quebec by-elections, this nice guy finished “last”.

This certainly plays well for Stephen Harper and he is ahead on two majority elements today: Dion’s failing leadership and the redefinition of federalism in Quebec. While Quebeckers are rejecting Mr. Dion’s strong centralizing vision of the federation (even though he denied this characterization of Liberal federalism last night), nationals from la belle province are embracing Mr. Harper’s respect for regional identity and power. Further indication of this can be seen in the falling Bloc numbers. As I stated above, we may see a reconfiguration of Quebec politics along left and right rather than federalist/separatist as in the past. Progressive-minded Quebeckers that voted for the left-wing Bloc are realizing a real option in Jack Layton’s NDP, while the rest are electing to choose Conservative government MPs and a new respect for Quebec’s place in a united Canada. The end-game of this in the rest of Canada is of course to cut the ballot left and right, between the policy-principled NDP and Conservative parties, wedging the Liberals out.

Did you know that…

Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe is entitled to a $110,000 annual pension once he retires?

Why is the Bloc still running candidates for federal office? How are their dreams for sovereignty served by sitting in Ottawa, collecting a salary (and eventual pension) paid for by the Canadian taxpayer?

As the the leader of the third largest party, Duceppe even occupies a better office on the Hill than the leader of the “fourth party”: Jack Layton.

Of course, Duceppe and his party were elected by Canadians in Quebec to represent their interests in Ottawa, however, with separatism at low levels of support, and with the PQ talking about shelving discussions on sovereignty for the time being in favour of focusing more on socially democratic issues, can we start electing federal members from Quebec that can represent the real and current issues on Quebeckers?

Lofty predictions, 5 cents apiece…

I’ve been passing this one around for awhile amongst friends so I really ought to write it down.

I think that Jack Layton will have to prove himself as a leader within the next year. The Green Party is eating Jack’s porridge, especially on the environment and big labour is knocking down his attempts at carving out any discernible green platform. Labour, itself, has always been a fickle ally of the New Democrats and Layton hasn’t been able to depend on them. Further, union members have been drawn in by Harper’s targeted family-friendly tax-cuts in the past and may continue to trend in that direction. Identifying the NDP’s base, is at present, as much of a challenge as it has ever been.

Couple these troubles with low polling numbers, a desire to keep the Conservatives in power due to these low polling numbers and a dwindling and growing angry base upset about this capitulation and we may see developing conditions for a crisis within the New Democratic Party.

Jack may as well be in trouble unless he figures out what it is that defines the NDP. It’s certainly not the environment. Unfortunately, it will probably be Afghanistan. But, this may not last for long as the Liberals are finding an opportunistic voice against the mission.

I believe that Dion will continue to abandon the centre to go to the left as he goes to meet the aggregate challenge to his leadership that is forming around Bob Rae. Given this, Layton and the NDP are about to be squeezed hard on the left and the casualty may be Jack’s leadership.

If that’s the case, I’ll make the lofty prediction that we may see David Miller take a shot at the job within the next year following a grassroots leadership challenge rooted within the rank-and-file of the party. Given the failing fortunes of Canada’s social democratic party, we may not see many other “top-tier” candidates go for the job. We may even see Layton run in the same leadership race in such a scenario.

Or, given the shallow pockets of the Liberals, and the thinning platform of the NDP, we may see a merger of necessity on the left. If Elizabeth May’s end-game is to sell-out the Green Party movement to the Liberals, we may see this unfold sooner.

Who will sing a folk song for the women of Afghanistan?

There are times when I cannot understand the logical path that the left takes in order to come to some of their conclusions.

For example, the other day, Stephane Dion floated a trial balloon on his idea that perhaps instead of handing Taliban detainees over to the Afghan people, we should import them and detain them here in Canada!

Nevermind that Dion and Jack Layton’s activist base have been advocating for the release of men linked to al Qeada in Canada and held on security certificates. They advocate that if we can’t deport them back to the backward countries that may torture them, we shouldn’t detain them here but rather release them into the public. Now, consider Dion’s plan: import Taliban fighters for detaining, and failing the stomach to detain them — the logical progression and historical record goes — release them into the general Canadian public when leftwing activists condemn the Canadian government for holding combatants without charge.

Most times, while logic is lacking, left-wing positions can often be explained by a sense of self-loathing as these revolutionaries are dyspeptic of their presence in our modern Western civilization.

Let’s look deeper into the intellectual pretzel of Dion and Layton’s crowd.

In a March 2007 article in the Globe and Mail, Amir Attaran wrote:

Transport our detainees from Afghanistan to prisoner-of-war camps in Canada. This sounds awful, but that is a shrill and unhistorical analysis. Starting in June of 1940, Canada transported about 40,000 German and Italian enemy combatants to this country and held them in camps in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Those enemies were treated humanely. They were fed even as Canadians suffered under food rationing. They were given democracy classes, so they could spread those ideas in their fascist homelands. When the war ended, they went home; some returned as immigrants.

All of this was expensive, but Mackenzie King decided Canada should uphold the Geneva Conventions — and we did.

Not only would this option show Canada at our humanitarian best, but it poses vital questions. If Mackenzie King could imprison 40,000 European enemies without devastating Canada’s war effort, then how can it be seriously contended that Stephen Harper cannot now imprison roughly 40 Afghan enemies (the number detained by the Canadian Forces from 2002 through mid-2006)? Mr. O’Connor says the Canadian Forces will always follow the Geneva Conventions. If that’s so, why does the military fail to provide Geneva protections to 0.1 per cent of detainees, compared to the Second World War historical norm?

The heart-rending answer to these questions appears to be race. Canada’s inability to treat European and Afghan enemies on equal terms indicates that our military and foreign-policy establishment may still be dominated by a Eurocentric ethos. The current detainee policy suggests a subterranean racism that lags decades behind Canada’s contemporary reality as a multicultural state.

A primary concern for the Allies and Canadian forces during the Second World War was that Germans and Italians would escape or be liberated by their comrades and rejoin the fight. The removal of 40,000 prisoners from the European theater made sense strategically. If Canadians have captured 40 Taliban fighters, this number is certainly more manageable (and less significant of a strategic concern) when it comes to detainment.

Layton and Dion and their supporters on the left are inconsistent when it comes to their claimed ideology of rights and their policy position that we ought to pull out of Afghanistan. Why do these leaders want to abandon the Afghan mission when the alternative is unthinkable from a human rights perspective? To the Liberals, was the Charter a practical document for Canadian rights or does it represent a global ideal? Women in parliament? Girls in schools? The crackdown by the Taliban would be horrendous if Canada left. In fact, why was World War II worth the fight and why would Layton and Dion suggest that we shirk our responsibility to stop fascism in Afghanistan? Is it the Eurocentric ethos of the NDP and Liberal Party? Or is it more consistent with the trend of reductio ad americanum practiced by the left?

Who is Amir Attaran? Unfortunately, he’s close to the only seemingly sane faction of the Liberal Party. The Globe and Mail provides some information:

Amir Attaran, now Canada research chair in law, population health, and global development policy at the University of Ottawa, was a research fellow at the Kennedy School during Mr. Ignatieff’s time at the Carr.

He ran afoul of an influential faculty member and the school’s administration over a line of academic inquiry he insisted on pursuing, and found himself about to be booted out.

He brought his troubles to Mr. Ignatieff, who gave him office space and mentoring support until he could find another academic home. “Michael stuck up for me against some extremely nasty attacks,” Prof. Attaran says.

Tous ensemble in a twisted stew of self-loathing. It is illogical to suggest that we must transport Taliban fighters to protect them from torture while advocating that we withdraw from Afghanistan leaving women and vulnerable minorities to certain dehumanization.

Canada is in Afghanistan to enable the vulnerable to stand up, but we must also work to protect the human rights of all Afghanis. While war never happens as planned and calls for constant refinements to operations on the ground, we must always work towards maintaining our fundamental principles of freedom, democracy and the rule of law so that others may enjoy them too.