Friday, July 1, 2011


Enough time has elapsed since last week's Parliamentary filibuster to draw some objective conclusions about the effectiveness of the NDP's new found muscle in the House of Commons.

Conventional wisdom would seem to suggest the war-of-words waged in the House of Commons over about 80 hours should have been a boost to the New Democrats. Canadians care about the issues which affect their daily lives. Though they are no longer quite as critical; sending / receiving mail and the larger question of the long-term viability of Canada Post are of concern. A week after the NDP's filibuster we know nothing has really been changed. In essence issues of importance to Canadians can only be addressed by policy initiatives. A filibuster is playing the game politics.

In fact there's anecdotal evidence which suggests the NDP filibuster ended abruptly, and with neither fanfare nor whimper at mid-evening on Saturday (June 25) because the very union and union members the party claimed to be defending told the party leaders to quit the gig. Once the dust settled a Liberal party insider is said to have described the newbies over on the NDP bench in these words..."so these guys are kind of amateurs, posers've got all these young, spunky new NDP members and they were able to last two days?" - Essentially, Members of Parliament barely out of high school playing high stakes politics in the House of Commons.

In fact team building with the party's young and inexperienced MP's who now sit across from the Harper Government as the Official Opposition may be the only positive from Mr. Layton's (at best) ill defined strategy over the CUPW strike and lock-out. But, at what cost?

Over a couple or three days in the latter part of last week, Mr. Layton both delayed the summer recess of the House of Commons, and in a tight-rope like walk poised the future of his party's fortunes perilously close to a dangerous fall on the wrong side of the political spectrum. Political analyst Angelo Persichilli says Mr. Layton and the NDP..."are living a magic moment in the history of the party, and they deserve it all. But they have to be very careful about how they live it, because their dream could easily turn into a nightmare."

To be kind, and assuming there was a strategy behind the New Democrats' decision to filibuster on the merits of Bill C-6, it was that it gave Mr. Layton a chance to play to the NDP's core values and support base; rally the party's freshly elected 101 Members of Parliament; and clearly define the party's ideological differences from the Harper Tories. Although therein lies a danger which even the union Mr. Layton's troops was defending (CUPW) may have realised before party strategists. The New Democrats folded on their filibuster because CUPW came to the merciful conclusion that it could not win, and that the longer its 48,000 members were locked-out, the more money they would lose. The abrupt end to the Parliamentary platitudes may have substantially mitigated the perception among "unconverted" electors that the NDP is a better opposition than it could ever be a government in waiting. Which (of course) is precisely what Mr. Harper's Conservatives want every Canadian to believe. Perhaps fortunately for Mr. Layton, he has four more years to alter this classic perception.

BY THE NUMBERS: With assistance from Hansard's someone actually took the time to count "words" in the filibuster.
Some examples: Total Number of words spoken by all MPs - 432,143
The phrase(s) "Mr. Speaker" - 1,087 times
"Canada Post" - 287 times
The word(s) "rights" - 548 times
"outrageous" - 21 times.

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