As soon as he got back to the Commons, Mulcair made a beeline toward economic uncertainty. “Mr. Speaker, since the Conservatives took ofﬁce, Canada has lost hundreds of thousands of good jobs in the manufacturing sector,” he said. And then: “The Conservatives are saddling future generations with the biggest environmental, economic and social debt in our history. They are gutting the manufacturing sector and destabilizing the balanced economy that we have built up since the Second World War.” …
After that ﬁrst QP, Mulcair told reporters he plans to keep focusing on “the failure of the Conservatives to apply basic rules of sustainable development.” Mulcair’s line of attack is all about the Conservatives’ zeal for developing and exporting natural resources, which, handily, your humble columnist has been writing about for three months. “That’s driven up the value of the Canadian dollar, made it more difﬁcult to export our own goods,” Mulcair said.
There is a very large voter market in this country for Canadians who don’t like the Harper record on oil, the environment, and the fate of Canadian heavy manufacturing. One label for that market could be “people who haven’t been voting Conservative.” Those voters have been switching allegiances as they look for a way to stop Harper. In 2011, more than 1.5 million of them left the Liberals, Bloc Québécois and Green party to vote NDP. …
But there is another big vote market in the country, which we can call “people who have been voting Conservative.” They will see little in Mulcair to make them change their minds.
The debate Mulcair wants is about economic interest, and millions of Canadians have a stake in the growing resource economy. The ﬁghts he wants, over free trade, serious carbon-pricing schemes, and the wisdom of support for fading companies over rising ones have been fought too many times. We know how the ﬁght usually ends. …
During the NDP leadership campaign, SunTV asked candidates which record they like best. Mulcair named a recording of the Beethoven opera Fidelio. Stephen Harper likes to have the guys from Nickelback over to 24 Sussex. Given the choice, I’d take Beethoven too, but Nickelback sells more records. For four elections in a row the Conservatives have run a populist rush against elites in urban enclaves. Mulcair wants to lead the party of the Canadian worker from Outremont. He’s good, but he can’t work miracles.
But this is a healthier axis of division for Canadian politics — substantive.
Canadian politics watchers — breathe!
Paul Wells says that he is.
The 2009 budget projected that direct program expenses — the money the feds spend on programs and not on transfers to people or to provinces and territories — would total $121.8 billion in 2013-2014. Today’s budget projects only $113.7 in direct program expenses for 2013-14. Total program expenses — direct plus transfers — for 2013-2014 were projected at $254 billion in 2009. Today’s budget puts the number at $249 billion.
The government is holding the line, and in fact trimming it ever so slightly. Its long-term plan has always been to constrain the ability of any future government to create big new programs in areas of provincial jurisdiction like health, education or social services. I use a few names for this strategy, including “flat-tire federalism.” The 2008-09 economic uproar blew Harper off track. But he’s back.
So… what say you? Is he?
The libertarians say that program spending has gone from $276B to $276.1B — an increase of $100M.
Is that good?
Well, the NDP has scaled new heights under its new leader:
A survey done this week had the NDP tied with the Conservatives in public support at 35 per cent each. Just one in five Canadians — 19 per cent — backed the Liberals, their level of support in the last election.
The NDP are now seen as the most effective opposition, with 40 per cent of those polled endorsing the party’s performance. That’s up from 32 per cent earlier in the month.
At the same time, fewer than 25 per cent see the Liberals as the most effective opposition, down from 30 per cent at the start of the month.
The NDP have the strong support among younger voters, women and those living in the Prairies, British Columbia and Quebec, according to the poll conducted by Forum Research. …
The poll is based on an interactive voice response telephone survey of 1,638 randomly selected adults on March 26 and March 27. Margin of error is plus or minus 2.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
And so we see that on January 14, 2007, the Dion Liberals led the Harper Conservatives 35%-31%. (On December 9, 2006, Dion’s party led Harper’s 40%-33%.) And on June 1st, 2009, the Ignatieff-led Liberals led the Harper-led Conservatives 37.2%-31.8%.
So what’s the significance of Harper being tied with the new Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition? Well, that shows that Harper maintains his several points’ edge in the new political reality to his position in previous parliaments.
After all, Harper has strengths his opponents don’t see — he isn’t evil.
Why do opposition MPs and media pundits who have been describing Stephen Harper as the anti-Christ for a decade, howl like stuck pigs whenever the Conservatives put out a political ad or bulletin attacking an opponent?
These attacks — ones against interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae and new NDP Leader Tom Mulcair being the latest examples — are somewhat unfair and selective in their presentation of the facts, but what political ads aren’t?
They’re mild compared to attack ads the Liberals have launched against Harper in the past and what Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. do to each other every day.
Harper has been portrayed over the years by many in the opposition and media as everything from a religious fundamentalist; to a bloodthirsty promoter of the death penalty; to a homophobe who wants to prevent gays from marrying; to a misogynist who would keep women barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, while denying them abortions.
Oh, plus a destroyer of public health care.
The fact none of these things have happened under Harper never changes this narrative. Harper has shown himself throughout his career to be a pragmatic, centrist leader, whose goal is to gradually shift the default position among Canadian voters from the centre-left to the centre-right.
Aside from a more pro-Israel position in foreign affairs, a tougher approach to crime and a more sensible view on climate change, there’s nothing to indicate the past six years under Harper would have been dramatically different had the Liberals continued in power.
Plus ça change…
Anyway, what I gather from the new poll is that the NDP made a good pick who has shored up their party’s new-ish position in Canadian politics.
Is he a real threat? Well, we’ll see. Some say nay at this point — to which I say, well, the Liberals didn’t view Stephen Harper as a threat ten years ago, when he first became Leader of the Opposition.
That reading has probably changed.
Update: An analysis that is music to Stephen Harper’s ears –
Enter stage middle-left, Bob Rae, who will increasingly have his natural statesmanship persona exaggerated by the company he keeps in the House of Commons. Rae’s energy, intelligence, humour, experience and a likeability quotient in Quebec, the West and down east will serve him well if he stands back and lets the other boys try to outrant each other. He needs to let Mulcair and Harper penetrate each other’s skin, content on playing the role of the above-the-fray statesman and mediator offering up ideas that matter, while meticulously exposing the current government’s move away from traditional Canadian values.
Harper’s recent attack ad on Rae should be considered a badge of honour depicting the Conservatives’ worry that Rae might become the permanent Liberal leader. The Liberals should move quickly to fulfill the Prime Minister’s worst fear and recruit Rae to stay on while Mulcair should not be so categorical in cutting off the possibility that some form of partnership with Rae down the road might be the only way to get Canada back on track.
Yes, choose Rae. And be nice!
That’s what Jeff Toobin now says.
See Hot Air:
What seems interesting from these exchanges was that the justices seem to have gotten past the notion of explicit severability and had taken a utilitarian look at whether the consequences of ending the individual mandate necessitated a broader rejection of the PPACA.
One thing is that I don’t trust liberals as far as prognostication. They haughtily dismissed these arguments previously, deciding to not even bother reading or considering the arguments. It would be 8-1 or 7-2 to uphold. These stupid conservatives. Don’t they know they’re so extreme that the more educated versions of them, on the Supreme Court, laugh at their silly ideas?
But now that that cockiness has been rubbished, they’re overreacting the other way, assuming the whole law is gone. Their worlds are spinning, so their bearings are a little off.
The main thing is this: if inaction can count as commerce, there’s nothing the federal congress can’t regulate. Which is why the mandate has to go. But if the mandate goes, the whole bill except for the incidentals probably has to go as well. One thing follows from the other.
But that’s kind of big.
The court’s conservatives sounded as though they had determined for themselves that the 2,700-page measure must be declared unconstitutional.
“One way or another, Congress will have to revisit it in toto,” said Justice Antonin Scalia.
Agreeing, Justice Anthony Kennedy said it would be an “extreme proposition” to allow the various insurance regulations to stand after the mandate was struck down.
Meanwhile, the court’s liberal justices argued for restraint. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the court should do a “salvage job,” not undertake a “wrecking operation.” But she looked to be out-voted.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they shared the view of Scalia and Kennedy that the law should stand or fall in total. Along with Justice Clarence Thomas, they would have a majority to strike down the entire statute as unconstitutional.
It’s not impossible that one of the conservatives will blanch at this and uphold the whole thing, and that the Chief Justice would then switch to the majority in order to narrow the verdict — the law, mandate and all, could survive in a 6-3 vote.
But we could see a 5-4 verdict that wipes out the entire bill.
Wouldn’t that be something?
Update: See also today’s Best of the Web.
What may decide this is, what’s less messy? Leaving this mess of a bill in place, cutting out the mandate but leaving most of the rest intact, or telling Congress that the whole thing is gone and they should try again from the start.
Personally, I think demolishing the whole thing is the way to go. This isn’t like the New Deal, which passed with 70% bipartisan support — ObamaCare passed with a popular majority opposing it, it’s probably unconstitutional, and a popular majority supports repeal. It would only survive by virtue of filibuster and presidential fiat.
So it seems far less messy just to tell the President and Congress to try again, and respect the Constitution this time.
But we’ll see.
One big issue during the leadership campaign was, to what extent was Thomas Mulcair involved in and responsible for the Orange Vague in Quebec?
Well, here’s some contemporaneous evidence:
Each day during the election campaign, Thomas Mulcair would have a conference call with all the other Quebec NDP candidates. There were ridings they knew they could win, ridings in which they thought they had a chance, and ridings where the odds were against them. When candidates would report suspicious things like a large number of their signs being removed, Mulcair said that was their way of knowing the competition must be worried and they took it as a signal they should up their game in those areas.
Mulcair’s riding signs included old ones from when he won his first-term by-election in 2007. They were much brighter than his new ones, which are a more subdued orange. “We needed to shout, ‘We are here,’ ” noted one NDP staffer. Mulcair’s by-election success was key for the NDP surge. “You’re on the panel,” quipped Mulcair, referring to the fact that once the NDP got one seat in Quebec they were booked on all the political TV shows.
So I think the answer is, Mulcair’s claims were accurate.
And there’s an even more interesting bit of information in that piece — a historical what-if:
It was a seat that could easily have been lost. Mulcair won against a lacklustre candidate picked by then-Liberal leader Stéphane Dion. At the time, Liberal Justin Trudeau had wanted to run in that by-election, a decision which could have altered this election dramatically. Outremont is where Trudeau lived at the time, so it would have made sense. But high-up Liberals wouldn’t let him run there. When asked if he regrets not running then, in that riding, Trudeau said nothing, but his face said everything. Mulcair claims he would have beat Trudeau; for his part Trudeau did say he doubts Mulcair would have run if he had known the Liberal star was in the race.
I think Trudeau is right — I think he would have entered Parliament like a conquering hero.
Among Albertans 18 years or older polled immediately after the election was called Monday for April 23, it was found that four-in-10 would back the Wildrose Party if the election was held today (41%).
That’s compared to just three-in-10 who would support the Progressive Conservatives (31%), an 11 point jump for Wildrose since Forum’s last poll in February, for a convincing double-digit lead.
In a toe-to-toe comparison, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith has captured the lead, Bozinoff said, adding that Premier Alison Redford’s approval ratings — never strong — have dipped to pre-December levels.
“Danielle Smith has been ahead of her party in terms of approval ratings — she’s at 46% now. Once you get into the 40% zone, you just get a flood of seats that you’re likely to win,” he said.
Well, Tom Flanagan did say that the battleground for conservatism is provincial…
Second — Hudak’s out, and Horwath is the only hope.
Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak told reporters that the 2012 budget shows the Liberals are committed to the wrong path forward. Specifically, he cited the decision to freeze corporate income tax rates, instead of reducing them as planned, and the lack of any movement on the province’s energy policy, which is leading to sharply higher electricity rates, as reasons why his caucus would not support the budget.
Pressed as to whether all of his members would vote the budget down, or if a few would just avoid the legislature on voting day to avoid toppling the McGuinty Liberals, Mr. Hudak didn’t equivocate. “Every member of caucus will show up to vote against it,” he said. His finance critic, Peter Shurman, was more blunt, calling the Drummond report on the reform of the province’s public service “a scam.” He said the exercise was engineered to buy time and allow the Liberals to pretend they were serious about delivering savings.
But when NDP leader Andrea Horwath took to the podium, things became a lot more uncertain. She said her party agreed with the corporate tax freeze, but that the budget plans to legislate favourable contract settlements in the event of stalled negotiations with public-sector unions were a major problem. She said her party was faced with a “tough decision.” …
Asked by several reporters, and in many different ways, as to why it would be up to Ontario residents to indicate to the NDP whether the government should stay or fall, Ms. Horwath responded that the people elected a minority government, and that her mandate was to try to make it work. She said further, repeatedly, that she would consult with the public on the matter. Asked how, precisely, the NDP would manage to speak with “Ontarians” and come to understand their views, Ms. Horwath said the party already had some processes in place. There was talk of phone banks and 1-800 numbers.
Well, Dipper friends, it’s up to you and your leader now.
Let’s go to the polls.
Update: But let’s be clear — McGuinty wants this election. Blame the opposition, get a majority.
We’ll see who gets what.
Hey skeptics out there — we’re still not sure how this one will go in the end, but do you think that this represents a laughable constitutional argument that SCOTUS is dismissing out of hand?
I told you — I TOLD YOU — that this was going to be about the distinction between actions and non-actions vis-a-vis the constitutionality of the individual mandate. Because if inaction is “commerce”, there is no limit to what the federal congress can legislate.
It may yet be upheld, but it’s a live major issue.
First the concern-trolling:
For all the Liberals’ storied history in Quebec, Canadian politics may harden into a stable dynamic that sees the Conservatives cruising to several more victories against two separate, bickering opposition parties — an NDP entrenched in Quebec, and a Liberal party entrenched everywhere else. As NDP MP Pat Martin told The Hill Times earlier this month: “If we don’t unite the progressive vote, Stephen Harper will be Prime Minister until he gets bored.”
This sort of political stasis should concern all Canadians, even small-c conservatives: Like capitalism, democracy requires competition between at least two viable market leaders to operate effectively. The alternative, which we all saw under the Shawinigate-era Liberals, is a tendency toward smugness, institutional corruption, and a blurring of categories between a party’s self-interest, and the country’s.
Far from contemplating a merger, Mr. Mulcair says he will defeat the Liberals in open electoral battle. On Saturday night, he told the media that any sort of NDP-Liberal co-operation scheme is “absolutely not in the cards.”
Mr. Harper — who, last time I checked, hasn’t yet grown bored with running this country — must be very pleased.
Well, we’ll see. I was told once upon a time that the Liberals would govern forever. Didn’t last so long.
So we know the Tories can’t/won’t support McGuinty’s budget, even if he names it after Mike Harris. It’s up to the NDP.
I’d be surprised if they did.
So I think we might blunder into an election.
Looking confident and relaxed, Mulcair emerged from his weekend victory promising to go into bloody battle with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, barely mentioning the third-party Grits.
In return, the Conservatives welcomed Mulcair’s victory with an online attack, calling him “an opportunist whose high-tax agenda, blind ambition and divisive personality would put Canadian families and their jobs at risk.”
But beyond all the partisan rhetoric, Harper and Mulcair are more allies than enemies in their pursuit of one key political goal — the decimation of the federal Liberal party. …
In sum, the New Democrats have chosen a leader who at least appears to have the essentials to turn his party’s so-called “orange crush” in the last election into a new norm in Canadian politics. …
In a revealing interview with CBC’s chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge after the leadership convention, Mulcair totally ruled out any kind of co-operative arrangement with the Liberals going into the next election. Instead, Mulcair later told reporters the NDP will present itself as “the only party that can stand up to Stephen Harper in the next election.”
The road to Mulcair’s convincing Canadian voters of that is obviously long and anything but certain. But if he does succeed, we may have just witnessed the beginning of the end of the Liberal Party, and the Canadian political landscape will be reshaped as a choice between right and left.
Nothing would make Stephen Harper happier.
It’s true. We think we can beat the NDP 2/3 of the time in a straight-up fight.
But — and here’s why the NDP wants it — the ratchet effect of growing statism (or social democracy, per its supporters) is one that’s very difficult to escape.