Emails from Jack

…and how they are a continuous source of inspiration for blog posts.

A couple of days ago, I received the general mailing list email that gets sent out to subscribers of the e.ndp newsletter. This edition provided insight into the base level of rhetorical tone that the NDP is likely to set during the next session of Parliamentary debate.

The subject line optimistically declares:

Parliament opens Monday!

Multiple exclamation marks are perhaps even a little too profligate of Canada’s most socialist party, but that single one does indicate anticipation to sit in Parliament again. Anticipation is a symptom of purpose, and it would seem that the NDP will be looking forward to achieving something during this session.

The NDP email begins:

Parliament re-opens Monday, and the new NDP caucus are ready to go. We’ll be fighting to move forward on our working families agenda while ensuring Canada does not move backward on key issues.

While it is particularly encouraging that Jack and crew plan to fight for ‘working families’ (which by last count was almost everyone’s family), the promise not to compromise on “forwards-backwards” issues is there for his base. Of course, one’s reference point on “forwards” vs. “backwards” is completely dependent on the direction (“left” vs. “right”) that one is facing.

However, I get the sense that Layton and the NDP will want to get things to work during this session of Parliament.

In fact, the NDP immediately seeks to distance their party from what they predict will be an ineffective Liberal opposition which will merely seek to oppose:

The Liberals say they’ll oppose everything — they say they don’t have to work with anyone. People expect better from their minority Parliament, and New Democrats will deliver the principled opposition Canadians deserve.

I get the impression that the NDP has realized that it’s now safe to distrust the Liberals now that their agenda isn’t dependent upon them. And yes, they do go so far as to call the Liberal party unprincipled. Here the NDP also indicates that they are willing to be constructive with the Conservative government on a variety of issues:

In this session, NDP MPs will be fighting to put working families first by working to:

* Strengthen public health care.

This fits in with the Conservative plan to introduce a Patient’s Wait-Time Guarantee. While ‘strengthening public health care’ will never include taking Chaoulli out to the ice-flows, the NDP will be happy to participate with the government by partnering to create a wait-times guarantee.

* Ensure care for seniors and opportunities for young people.

While these two areas are not explicitly included in the government’s list of 5 priorities, creating a more prosperous country by reducing the tax burden on these low income earners by cutting the GST and cracking down on crime are two of Harper’s policy initiatives that resounded well with this segment of the electorate.

* Provide economic security for families and communities.

The child tax allowance of $1200 per child under the age of 6 will certain help create flexibility in the options available to parents seeking childcare for their children. I understand that this is counter to the NDP’s approach for raising children, but when “economic security for communities” is uncovered as a “dental plan and strike pay for local 382”, Canadians will always select the freedom to choose their daycare options.

* Protect the environment.

Who doesn’t want to protect the environment? Look for a made-in-Canada solution soon that addresses our air, water and land. Hopefully environmental protection will soon be removed from the concept of wealth-transfer to developing nations. (Let us debate that issue under the terms of “international development, but we should never dishonestly promote ID as “environmental policy”).

* Deliver real change for Aboriginal people.

Sounds good. Unfortunately, while we all want to help improve the situation, we disagree on the method.

* Introduce electoral reform.

Yeah, that one’s likely on the end of the Conservative list too. As conservatives, we believe in the power of bottom-up approach rather than the top-down. Since electoral reform hasn’t been a deal-breaker in the past, it’s unlikely to become a deal breaker now.

There are a few paragraphs on specific issues from the Chinese Head Tax apology (which the NDP notes that they are in agreement with the Conservatives on this issue), foreign ownership limitations on telecommunications, and a critique on Conservative lobbyists (here the NDP does not honestly differentiate between a CPC party worker and a partisan government employee — the latter would be banned from lobbying for 5 years under the Conservative government’s new plan).

The NDP closes their email, not by taking aim at the Conservative government, but by taking another parting shot at the disgraced Liberal party on their anticipated unprincipled opposition. The party quotes a Globe and Mail editorial:

“It is a bit rich for the Liberals to be nailing their colours to the mast of daycare, since they were notorious while in government for pledging action on child care in Throne Speech after Throne Speech and then delaying.”

On January 23rd, Canadians certainly did vote for change and they voted for a new ethic of governance. The NDP seems to realize that while Canadians handed Stephen Harper a minority Parliament, they also granted him a modest mandate at the same time. Harper ran on a platform with 5 clear priorities. Because he did so, he can now be reasonably expected to implement the policies that Canadians asked for.

The GST cut proposal was arguably one of the most popular proposals during the campaign. Opposition will be expected from the Liberals, but the NDP and Bloc should be expected to vote for a GST reduction as this will benefit the marginalized people they purport to represent.

Similarly, the childcare tax allowance marked one of moments when the campaign turned towards the Conservative Party. Real relief for hard-working parents was contrasted with nanny-statism-knows-best. Conservatives will continue to champion all parents who face a variety of situations regarding their childcare. These are the people that handed Harper a mandate.

The Federal Accountability Act is sure to be the easiest hurdle to pass with consent from all parties.

While there are obvious points of contention, I see many areas where the Conservative government can work with the NDP on issues in this upcoming session of Parliament. I’m encouraged that the party is predicting an obstructionist Liberal opposition as this indicates a potential constructive relationship that the Dippers may take with the government.