Monthly Archives: April 2007

Layton Asked Greens For A Deal In 2004

Darnitall. I keep wanting to stop fighting with the NDP on this. I really do. But I’m exceptionally bad at backing down from a debate. Call it a weakness.

It was upsetting enough to listen to Ed Broadbent, a person who I respected, yell angrily at Elizabeth May on the radio in what I felt was an irrational, inconsistent and purely partisan way. And it’s been upsetting enough to listen to what I would call Jack Layton’s hypocrisy in opposing cooperation with Elizabeth after he’s been cooperating with Stephen Harper all this time, and by refusing to talk to her while instead saying he’d like to talk to the Taliban.

Now, it turns out the hypocrisy runs even deeper. Today The Toronto Star reports that Jack Layton asked then-Green-Party-Leader Jim Harris not to run candidates against the NDP in 2004.

Former Green party leader Jim Harris says NDP Leader Jack Layton sought a deal with him before the 2004 federal election, so he’s baffled why New Democrats are suddenly saying that it’s wrong for the Greens and Liberals to co-operate in the next campaign.

“Methinks they doth protest too much,” Harris said in an interview yesterday, describing a meeting he held at a College St. café in Toronto with Layton before the 2004 campaign.

Layton has been one of the most vocal opponents of the pact reached last week between Green Leader Elizabeth May and Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, by which both parties agree to let the leaders run unchallenged in their Nova Scotia and Montreal ridings in the next campaign.

Layton has condemned this as “wheeling and dealing” that denies citizens the right to vote for parties of their choice.

But according to Harris, Layton asked for the Greens not to run candidates in 2004 and to endorse the NDP instead. A 2004 newspaper story makes mention of the meeting and includes confirmation from an NDP strategist that Layton was looking for the Greens to back his party.

To review, what Elizabeth and Stephane Dion did was decide not to run candidates against each other, and to endorse each other as valuable Parliamentarians. Elizabeth did not endorse the Liberal party itself, and, of course, Green candidates including myself will be giving Liberal candidates a run for their piles and piles of money all across the country. Layton, on the other hand, wanted Jim Harris and the Green Party to actually endorse the NDP and not run many or any candidates against them.

I’ve sent a few messages to NDP friends over the past few days trying to make peace, and I know that by pointing out this latest development I’m probably not helping my cause. But this is the first time I’ve actually gotten emotional about this whole thing. I don’t mind my party or my leader being attacked — in fact, I welcome it. Greens are now being taken seriously and criticism comes with the job. I just wish those attacks were based on fact and integrity. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Hopefully we can all get our eyes back on the rapidly overheating ball that we call home soon. Name calling is fun and all, but when we are (or should be) in crisis mode, it’s pretty irresponsible.

One Small Joke From Harper, One Giant Leap For Democracy

I want to expand a bit on the press release I posted yesterday. There are, specifically, two things I’d like to cover.

First, what’s going on in Ontario? Some of you likely know this, but over the past several months a group of randomly selected Ontarians (known as the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform) have been meeting to learn about and discuss different kinds of voting systems. They have now decided, by an overwhelming majority (more than 90%) and after much debate and deliberation, to recommend that Ontario change its voting system to one currently being used in Germany and New Zealand called Mixed Member Proportional (MMP). All of Ontario gets to vote “yes” or “no” to that proposal on October 10th, 2007, the same day as the next provincial election. I’ll expand on how MMP works, why it’s important, and what’s wrong with the arguments against it in separate posts to follow. Stay tuned.

Second, what’s all this talk of a $900,000 “private” public consultation underway by the Harper government? Well, the federal Conservative government decided they wanted to pretend to know how Canadians feel about the need for electoral reform. However, instead of asking a randomly selected group of Canadians in a transparent and non-biased process (as the government of Ontario did in creating the Citizens’ Assembly), they hired a think tank known for opposing electoral reform. From John Ibbitson:

To placate the NDP in this minority Parliament, the Conservatives promised in their Throne Speech to consider the question of electoral reform.

We now know how they plan to proceed. Those plans are hilarious.

Claiming they don’t want the process to be captured by special interests, the Conservatives have decided to employ what could be the very first closed-door public consultation.

They have hired pollster Conrad Winn to conduct a poll, and a think tank to convene a series of focus groups across the country. Citizens will be probed for their thoughts on the role of political parties in policy development, the decorum (read lack of it) in the House of Commons, Senate reform, civic engagement and, oh yes, electoral reform…

…The contract to conduct the focus groups went to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a conservative think tank based in Winnipeg.

Three times in recent years, the Frontier Centre has published articles from contributors that argued strongly against [proportional representation] and in favour of retaining the status quo…

…Jack Layton [opposes the process]. “It’s a sham, and a stacked deck,” the NDP Leader said yesterday. “It really indicates that Stephen Harper is not serious about electoral reform.”

In this instance, Mr. Layton hits the mark. Mr. Harper has not the slightest interest in considering the question of electoral reform…

…This charade is an act of political subterfuge calculated to disguise inaction. It may furnish the government with some fabricated evidence that Canadians don’t want electoral reform (but, no doubt, do want Senate reform and more decorum in the House). But the conclusions will be as worthless as the evidence on which they’re based.

The government established an upper spending limit of $900,000 for this exercise. That’s not much, in the great scheme of things, but every single penny of it is wasted.

So, that’s what the heck Elizabeth and I were talking about in the release, in case you wanted that background.

I love Ibbitson’s use of the word “hilarious.” Sometimes, he seems to be saying, you just have to laugh.