Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Can't anybody here play this game?

A question pogge is asking today as the NDP support for the Conservative EI proposals is reported.
Especially given the fact that the BQ eliminated the suspense concerning the ways and means motion on Friday, the NDP could have taken their time and possibly — possibly — gotten more out of this. Instead it appears they've just quietly announced that they're folding so they can get it over with.

While Layton can claim that he got more out of Harper than Ignatieff did*, this is nowhere near the kinds of changes to the EI system that the NDP was originally looking for. So once again: can't anybody here play this game?
The answer to this question has been clear for a long time. There is no game to be played in a viable, functioning minority parliament until this Prime Minister is gone. There are few if any compromises to be had. Depending on who the next Conservative leader is, it may continue.

Traditional political considerations that would normally govern a minority parliament situation have not been operative in the life of the Harper minority governments. Not really. The Prime Minister doesn't respect his minority mandate. The use of confidence votes has belied that. Sure he can do it. But whether he should do it, another question entirely. He hasn't garnered majority support in pursuing this posture. But in a fractured parliament, he doesn't think he has to.

And the money in our system is perhaps the biggest consideration that dictates all the leverage. One party has much more than the others. It's an imbalance that needs to be corrected. It's bad for our democracy and it plays out in the House of Commons in all these negotiations.

The NDP have apparently decided they cannot afford an election and they've decided they can't even stick their necks out in a negotiation. Can't take a chance, take it off the table. I would think money has something to do with this, in addition to polling numbers. (Although Lavigne protests otherwise.)

So, the NDP are getting a welcome to what the Liberals have experienced to date...negotiating with a foe who is always happy to threaten an election, who has the financial resources to back it up and where typical minority parliamentary assumptions aren't really operative. Where the choice is: take this or have an election. And it's conditioned the public now to bemoan elections. Harper wins!

Am I missing something?

Yes, the NDP are waiting to see the details of the legislation. But even that posture says, no negotiation. They're not actively obtaining anything here by virtue of their own political leverage. They're waiting to see what the Conservatives do, it's looking very much like a take it or leave it. Harper doesn't have any interest in negotiating. He seems to want an election. Which is why I'm still not prepared to think it's off for the fall.