Sunday, March 25, 2012

Well, Time For a Post

So, there's a few things to talk about. Firstly, we're going to discuss the recent NDP Leadership convention. Secondly, we'll look at the most recent developments regarding the Robocall Scandal, and the role that Speaker of the House Andrew Scheer might have played. Finally, we'll talk about Christian Paradis and the trouble that he finds himself in.

So, let's talk about the campaign to replace the late Jack Layton as Leader of the NDP and Opposition. Unless you've lived under a rock, you'll have heard that Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair has been elected as leader after a four ballots at the NDP Convention. The first ballot saw withdrawn candidate Romeo Saganash removed, Niki Ashton eliminated, and Paul Dewar withdrawing.

The second ballot saw Peggy Nash dropped; while the third ballot saw Nathan Cullen eliminated. As many figured from the get go, the final ballot came down to a final vote on whether NDP members wanted Mulcair or Brian Topp as their new leader. Mulcair was victorious on the forth ballot with about 54.7% of the total vote.

Needless to say, this has angered a few people. Despite us all being NDPers, there's something about leadership contests that eventually bring out the worst in people, regardless of their political party. I can cite the Liberal Convention that brought Stephane Dion to leadership; where the party basically devolved into an anyone but Ignatieff group.

I can cite the Liberal Convention that brought Jean Chretien to power, over Paul Martin. We all know how that turned out for the Liberals. That convention, and the anger and bitterness that grew from it, played a major part in dividing the Liberal Party and essentially putting it into the troubled mess that it is in now.

And the fact of the matter is that there are some NDPers who are falling into this trap, and it threatens to potentially plunge our party into the same pitfalls that the Liberals fell into. But the confusing part of this all, is that many of these disaffected NDPers are now expressing their support for the Liberal Party. As a friend of mine said, 'how do NDPers leaving their party because Mulcair might make them more like the Liberals, end up supporting the ACTUAL Liberal party?'

And that more or less sums it up. People who are leaving the party, only to go to a party that they don't want us to turn into, is pretty ridiculous. If these people were committed to the values that they worry about, they could find another left of centre party to support. Granted, a lot of those would be 'fringe' parties, but then at least their outrage wouldn't seem hypocritical.

But let's talk about this worry that Mulcair might push the NDP towards the centre...

The great thing about the NDP is the involvement of the party membership in making decisions. Conventions are not just a place to elect leaders, they're also a place to forge policy. Members can propose policy ideas, and the entire convention can vote as a whole to adopt or reject it. With the way the NDP is set up, any fundamental change to our values will have to come with membership approval.

This isn't the Conservative Party; our policy is not dictated from the top down. We can challenge our leadership, we can make changes to our party, and we can have a real say in deciding how those who lead our party forge it. Mulcair can promote a vision for our party, but without the support of the members of the party to make drastic changes, drastic change will not come.

And Mulcair has already expressed his desire not to shun the beliefs that make our party what it is. So, before we start to condemn him, let's see what Mulcair is going to do and how he intends to bring more people to our party before we start lobbing attacks at him...After all, the Conservatives already do that.

Secondly, Mulcair is going to be a force for good for our party in the House of Commons. Mulcair has a reputation as a 'pitbull' in the House of Commons; and when you're responsible for questioning Stephen Harper, we need someone who can give as good as he's going to get...And believe me, judging by their opening salvo, Mulcair is going to get a lot of flax from the Conservatives.

The Liberals were harmed by non-effective leaders who were able to be defined by the Conservatives before they could define themselves; Mulcair already has some reputation behind him and he's going to be able to stand toe to toe with Harper and actually make some dents in the Prime Minister's armour.

For that reason alone, we should be celebrating Mulcair's victory.

Hopefully, all of the defeated leadership candidates will have a role to play in the months ahead. Obviously the MPs will, but hopefully Martin Singh and Brian Topp will find ways to continue their contributions to our party in the months ahead. All of them have things to contribute to our party's future, and hopefully they all step up to the challenge.

That brings us to the Robocall Scandal. News broke last week that Speaker of the House Andrew Scheer made a cash transfer from his campaign to the campaign in Guelph, the so-called 'ground zero' of the Robocall Scandal. The timing of the payment is questionable, since it came days before the election. And since the bulk of the calls were made on election, if the Conservative Campaign in Guelph is connected to the calls, then it means that the money from Scheer was used to make these calls.

Essentially, there is question over whether Scheer has any moral authority to make any rulings in the House of Commons with regards to the Robocall Scandal, as he may have a conflict of interest due to his involvement in the Guelph campaign.

So far, there's been no calls for Scheer's resignation or for him to allow one of the Deputy Speakers to take over until he can be cleared, but if anymore information comes out there's a chance that Scheer is going to be facing calls against his position.

Finally, that brings us to Christian Paradis. The Raheem Jaffer case is the gift that just keeps on giving when it comes to dragging Conservatives through the mud. Paradis was found to have a conflict of interest when he arranged for former MP Jaffer to meet with various government officials. So, even though Jaffer could not be registered as a lobbyist (since he had only recently be defeated) Paradis arranged meetings for Jaffer to lobby government officials over a business idea.

The Ethics Commissioner ruled against Paradis and effectively rebuked him, but Harper (in classic Harper fashion) basically rejected the report and would not call on Paradis to stand down.

You have to wonder about a government's ethical centre when someone who has been confirmed to have broken an ethics law is not punished in the slightest. But then again, this is nothing new. The Harper Government's go to response when Cabinet Ministers are in trouble is to deny that they did anything wrong. (MacKay's flights, Raitt's 'sexy cancer' quotes, Bernier's file leaving, Kenney's immigration handbook editting, Oda's inserted NO...etc, etc, etc).

When that fails, they blame a staffer or a liberal media bias or whoever happens to be passing by them at the time.

Effectively, we've seen that it takes a hell of a lot of get thrown out of the Harper Cabinet. The only person who has ever received the full force of Harper's wrath, other than opposition members, was Helena Guergis, and even now we still don't really know what (if anything) she did.

So, who knows why Harper is so reluctant to demand a Cabinet Minister step aside...Perhaps its the stunning lack of replacement talent in the backbench MPs at his disposal, or perhaps Harper just plain feels uncomfortable with unfamiliar faces around his table.

Whatever the reason, his refusal to dismiss those who have been found to have violated the public trust in one way or another only shows that this is a government which believes that they are above the law and the rules do not apply to them.

If that's their mentality, is it really such a leap to think that they were involved in the Robocall Scandal?

Search your heart, I'm pretty sure you know the answer to that one.

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