On a Saturday edition of FTB Fridays, Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the recent deal between Jagmeet Singh’s NDP and Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, François Legault and the upcoming Quebec election and the ongoing Ukraine invasion.
Jagmeet Singh and the Federal NDP struck a deal with Justin Trudeau’s Minority Liberal Government to support them electorally when it comes to confidence motions until 2025, giving the Libs a defacto Majority Government. In exchange, the NDP (and Canadians) get dental care gradually implemented until everyone earning less than $70 000 a year is covered by 2025, a Canada Pharmacare Act passed by the end of 2023 and other New Democrat priorities that, until now, the Libs have only given lip service to, actually worked on.
This is exactly how minority parliaments can produce good results. It’s also another smart political move on the part of Singh and a surprisingly cautious one on the part of Trudeau. Or, as some commenters have put it, a tyrannical power grab.
Allow me to address the last group first: I won’t bother explaining how parliamentary democracy works or even go beyond seat counts and mention that in 2021, the total combined vote percentage for the Liberals and NDP was 50.44%, compared to 48.65% if you add up the percentages the Conservatives, the Bloc Québécois, the People’s Party and (why not) the Green Party got. You won’t think anything but what you want happening is legit.
I will, though, ask you what’s worse: a defacto Trudeau Majority until 2025 with free dental or a proper Trudeau Majority until 2027 with nothing but what the Liberals want? Because the latter is exactly what we would get if there was an election next year with Pierre Poilievre leading the Conservative Party (CPC).
A right-wing CPC Leader might please the party base, neutralize the People’s Party and win a handful of seats in the Prairies, but even tacit association with or presumed endorsement of the unrest in Ottawa would destroy the party’s chances in the 905 and 519 area codes, the riding-rich areas surrounding Toronto, where federal elections are generally decided in Canada. Also, Poilievre’s flirtation with hard social conservatives would cause some progressive-minded voters to not risk voting NDP and select the Libs out of fear.
So, the question I have for fellow progressives and NDP supporters who may be less than thrilled at the prospect of the New Democrats propping up Trudeau is a slightly altered one (I already assume you understand how parliamentary democracy works): Would you prefer supporting three years of Liberal rule with key NDP policies being enacted or Liberal rule until at least 2027 with no concessions and a weakened New Democrat caucus?
Some opposition members have also dubbed this a “power grab” by Trudeau. They’re wrong, of course. If this is a power grab by anyone, it’s by Singh on behalf of those who support NDP policy.
The “on behalf of” part is crucial. This isn’t a formal Coalition Government. Don’t expect NDP MPs to occupy cabinet posts. It’s the policies that have power, policies that when implemented Trudeau may very well get credit for.
Yes, that’s a risk, but it’s a calculated one and a worthwhile one to take. Singh is getting things done and doing an excellent job as an opposition leader. While he won’t get the full credit if and when these plans are implemented, he is showing the power of voting NDP and giving New Democrats a larger voice.
Sure, these wins aren’t perfect (I, for one, would have preferred immediate coverage of all dental for everyone under the Canada Health Act) and they aren’t confirmed wins yet. Quebec Premier François Legault has already promised to challenge dental care and pharmacare on provincial jurisdictional grounds and says other premiers such as Doug Ford will do the same (Let’s make “Legault wants me to have a toothache” an election year slogan, shall we?).
Regardless of the outcome, though, it is a great step forward for Singh and the NDP. I am surprised why Trudeau jumped on, though. He could have waited a year and got the majority he was setting himself up for.
Maybe he thought that Poilievre wouldn’t win the CPC nom after all (Jean Charest is polling well) so he decided to play it safe. Maybe he thought that he could get some popular policies through and use the NDP deal as political cover for his corporate donors who may not like some of them.
Or maybe, for Trudeau and Singh, this is about exactly what they said it was: stability.
Regardless, I’m really starting to like the possibilities minority parliaments have to offer.
So Jean Charest is running to be leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Yes, THAT Jean Charest. The former Quebec Premier and Maple Spring antagonist who lost power after over a decade because people took to the streets en masse after he refused to budge an inch.
I have three thoughts on this completely expected announcement last week (the fact that he caught COVID and is campaigning from home was a bit of a surprise, but doesn’t change my thoughts on him) :
1. I despise Jean Charest
He is the living embodiment of bourgeois arrogance and austerity for everyone but the rich. Charest was kicked “dehors” but wasn’t someone supposed to find him “un job dans le Nord”? I guess that didn’t work out and instead we have the most undeserving and undesirable of political comebacks.
Maybe he feels that others in Quebec may remember his political exit in 2012 more than anything else, which could be why he chose to launch his campaign in Alberta. That or a desire to appeal to the party base. Either way, typica crafty, slimy Charest.
2. He’s the Conservatives’ Best Chance of Actually Winning
Sadly, it’s true. The first time he ran for Conservative leadership (it was the PC party then, not the CPC), Charest lost his bid but was one of only two MPs to keep their seat when Jean Chretien wiped the Kim Campbell-led party off the political map.
Unless Quebec decides to collectively do something unexpected (which they do every few decades or so), federal elections in Canada are decided by hockey moms and dads in the 905 and 519. Charest can play to that crowd, a right-winger cannot.
And Charest is the one with name recognition. Sure, in Quebec it’s complicated, but that’s not the case everywhere else, like in Calgary where he announced his candidacy.
3. He Won’t Win the Nomination
Pierre Poilievre will most likely get the nomination. He’s Justin Trudeau’s dream opponent. Getting the CPC base to replace Erin O’Toole with a far right winger was part of his reasoning when he called the last election.
Canada is a center-left country and Trudeau knows it. Neo-Cons like Charest or right-wingers in centrist clothing like Harper can win here. Right wingers like Poilievre only appeal to the base which can maybe swing a few ridings and are thinly spread out across the rest. Just ask Maxime Bernier (or maybe don’t, that guy doesn’t need any more attention).
So it may be a little premature to dust off those old anti-Charest posters, but then again, who knows.
Host Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Niall Clapham Ricardo discuss Canada’s Parliament voting for the Conservative Party motion to declare China’s treatment of the Uighur minority a genocide. Is this genuine concern for what is a real and tragic situation or is it political brinksmanship setting up the next Cold War? Are we ignoring other atrocities in China and around the world? Are we conveniently forgetting our own capitalist interests in the situation?
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh came to the House of Commons Wednesday intending to get unanimous consent on a motion calling out systemic racism in the RCMP. He was forced to leave early because apparently calling out racism in other house members violates parliamentary decorum.
The motion calls on the House to recognize that systemic racism exists within the RCMP. It also calls on the government to review the federal police force’s budget as well as accountability measures and training and raise non-police spending on mental health and addiction support.
The Liberals supported the motion, so did the Greens. Even the Conservatives didn’t stand against the obvious reality that everyone knew and were ready to give it unanimous approval.
Enter the Bloc Québécois with a very audible objection. What happened next wasn’t picked up by the mics, but it turns out that it doesn’t really matter.
Singh told Speaker Anthony Rota, after Bloc MP Claude DeBellefeuille raised an objection, that there was no need to listen to a recording of the exchange as yes, he did indeed call Bloc MP Alain Therrien racist. When asked to apologize, Singh refused and Rota, at the Bloc’s urging, told Singh he would have to leave the chamber for the rest of the day for using “unparliamentary language” and not apologizing.
Apologize? No, an apology is something that is warranted when someone uses vulgar language or makes an unfounded insinuation. Or if someone uses racist language themselves.
What the speaker was asking Singh to do was retract an accusation while using the language of parliamentary decorum as a smokescreen. After leaving the chamber, Singh held a press conference (which you should watch) where he reiterated that opposing the motion was, in and of itself, racist.
The Bloc later claimed that it blocked the motion because it supports a request that a Commons public safety committee study the existence of systemic racism in the RCMP and that it would be “inappropriate” to jump the gun by saying systemic racism exists. Translation: Instead of doing anything about the problem we all know is there, let’s go back to debating if the problem exists.
But why? As Singh mentioned in his press conference, the RCMP is clearly under Federal jurisdiction, so there is no trampling of Quebec’s autonomy involved.
If it was a call to look into systemic racism in the SQ (which there is, btw), I’d get the Bloc being up in arms. But it’s not and now the Bloc is defending the RCMP in a way that the RCMP doesn’t even want to defend itself.
It’s, as Singh admitted, a small step but a logical one. If the Conservatives aren’t afraid of bigots in their base turning on them over this, I can’t imagine the Bloc being scared about it.
So if opposition isn’t about Quebec’s jurisdiction or even a political ploy and it’s clearly not about the public interest, what does that leave? Racism.
In his press conference, Singh referenced Therrien’s dismissive gesture after he caught the NDP Leader’s eye. That reads to me like “look at my privilege, I’m doing this because I want to. And you can’t stop me. What are you going to do? Call me a racist?”
And Singh did. And the Bloc cowered and begged the Speaker to punish the him for stepping out of line and calling out racism. And the Speaker obliged.
Or, as Niall put it:
Systemic racism is having the first racialized leader in Canadian history calling out racism in the HoC and then being asked to apologize for doing so…
– Pretty much every Canadian political pundit on Election Night, professional or otherwise, and even me this time.
The 2019 Canadian Federal election turning out the way it did was, for the most part, about as predictable as Justin Trudeau taking selfies in the Montreal Metro the next day. The next few years in Canadian politics, though, are about as unpredictable as which metro lines will go down with service interruptions every other day.
When the Trudeau shine started to fade and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s popularity rose, the Liberals pulled the old strategic voting chestnut out of their playbook and ran with it. A Majority Government was now out of the question but the fear of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer coming to power made a Liberal Minority Government almost inevitable.
Fear-based strategic voting helped to lower the NDP seat count in most of the country, including on the Island of Montreal, but a resurging Bloc Québécois undid what was left of the Orange Wave in Quebec. That last part is both the most unfortunate turn of events and a little bit unexpected.
I honestly had thought the Bloc was done for and irrelevant. But they found their relevance through an appeal to bigotry and now both the second and third-place parties in this Liberal Minority are right-wing.
Yes, the Bloc are progressive on some issues, most notably the environment, but their support of the xenophobic Bill 21 means they are not a progressive party. Secularism of the state means no state-imposed religion, banning public-sector employees from wearing religious symbols on the job is nothing more than an attack on customs that aren’t white and European in origin designed to appeal to bigoted fear of the “other” and latent Eurocentric white supremacist instincts.
Speaking of bigots, the People’s Party of Canada didn’t get enough people to vote for them to win them one seat, even leader Maxime Bernier’s in Beauce. So that’s a good thing.
Trudeau Has Many Options
Minority Liberal governments with a strong NDP (and despite losses, this NDP is strong, more on that later) have given us some great things in the past. Universal healthcare and the Canada Pension Plan are just a couple of examples.
These happened, though, because the NDP (and a few Red Tories) were able to force the Libs to the left. I’m not sure if the makeup of the incoming Parliament will offer the same sort of incentives.
In fact, Justin Trudeau may very well still be in the drivers’ seat as long as he switches up who rides shotgun depending on the bill. If it’s a social issue, say protecting LGBTQ rights, call on Singh and the NDP for support. SNC Lavalin investigation rearing its head again? Yves-François Blanchet and the Bloc have your back. Want to build a pipeline? Pretty sure Scheer and the Official Opposition Conservatives won’t oppose this one, officially or otherwise.
No wonder it was Trudeau selfie time the next day. While this doesn’t give him the same power his last majority did, he has the right setup to stay in power for a while and get most of what he wants done.
And he knows it. He’s already ruled out forming a Coalition Government and announced he plans to move ahead with the Trans-Mountain pipeline.
The Power’s in the Details
That doesn’t mean that the opposition parties are powerless, far from it. Their power, though, won’t be felt in what gets put on the table, but rather in the tweaks they get to make to proposed legislation in exchange for their support.
It’s also crucial for them to be the party that Trudeau needs support from. If he goes to the Cons, they’ll make him move to the right. If he goes to the NDP, they’ll make him move to the left. If he goes to the Bloc, they’ll just try and get some sort of special deal for Quebec.
The first vote will be on the budget, which is automatically a confidence vote. If Trudeau puts Trans-Mountain into it, there’s no way the Bloc or NDP could support it, so he’ll have to rely on the Cons, which will push the rest of the budget to the right.
If he leaves the pipeline out for now and adds a bunch of progressive things, then the NDP can push him just a bit more to the left. Yes, they’ll be making him look good, but also potentially getting a better deal for everyone.
I suspect that out of the gate, Trudeau won’t go to his right, because he knows another election will happen sooner rather than later. But honestly I really don’t know.
Opposition Leaders Should Be Safe
I have been hearing some talk from certain members of the opposition parties (except the Bloc, for obvious reasons) demanding their respective leader’s political head on a platter. While some of the “Scheer/May must go!” calls have merit and none of the calls to replace Singh do (more on that later), I suspect none of the opposition leaders are going anywhere.
Simply put, no one replaces a leader in a Minority Parliament unless the party establishment wanted them gone before the election (see Stéphane Dion). It’s just too risky, even for the well-funded parties (see Michael Ignatieff).
For the parties whose pockets aren’t as deep, paying for a leadership race and then potentially paying to compete in another election campaign a year later could be financially disastrous. Also, what happens if the government falls and your party doesn’t have a new leader in place yet?
Singh Has Reason to Celebrate
If you watched Jagmeet Singh talk on election night, it really came across as a victory speech (or at least it did until Scheer cut him off only to be cut off himself by Trudeau). And with good reason.
This wasn’t the decimation of the NDP many had predicted just a few months ago. There was a Singh Surge, it just didn’t turn into the wave New Democrats had hoped for.
I’m sure there will be arguments that the NDP should ditch Singh now because they pushed Thomas Mulcair out after he won more seats. Yeah, Mulcair’s seat count after the 2015 election may have been bigger, but he actually lost more seats than Singh did.
Mulcair went from a pre-election total of 95 seats, already down from the 103 the party won under Jack Layton, to 44 , meaning the party lost 51 seats (including a good chunk of the Orange Wave) on his watch. Singh, by contrast, went from 39 to 24, only losing 15 seats.
Singh may not have stopped the bleeding entirely, but he bandaged it up pretty well. Also, holding 24 seats with a Liberal Minority Government in power is potentially a more powerful position to be in than holding 44 seats with a Liberal Majority in place.
It’s important not to forget that while Mulcair may have been a solid Member of Parliament and even Deputy Leader, his tenure as leader was due to a deal he didn’t live up to his part of. The party let him move the NDP to the right and in exchange he promised them they would form government but they didn’t.
If you make a deal with the Devil and the best the Devil can deliver is third place, you get out of that deal as fast as you can. Singh, on the other hand, campaigned as a bold and progressive New Democrat, one Trudeau couldn’t outflank on the left, and did okay.
Yes, some solid Quebec NDP seats were lost and Alexandre Boulerice, the party’s Deputy Leader, currently holds the only New Democrat seat in Quebec, but Singh didn’t abandon us, at least not in his speech. He wants to win back what Mulcair lost and what he was unable to hold on to.
Now, with a Minority Parliament, who really knows what will happen next. It’s going to be an interesting few years (or months).
It wasn’t even close. 51% of respondents in the Forget The Box 2019 Canadian Federal Election Poll cast their online vote for the NDP.
That means Leader Jagmeet Singh and his fellow New Democrats get an official endorsement on behalf of our readers. While I can’t be sure why our readers picked the NDP, as someone who also voted for them (both in this poll and IRL through advanced polling last week), I suspect it’s mainly due to their solidly progressive platform and the strength of their leader.
Bold and Unapologetically Progressive Agenda
Policy-wise, the NDP isn’t pulling any punches this election cycle. They’re offering concrete measures to fight income inequality.
They plan to cover prescription drugs for all Canadians and dental care for families making up to $70 000 a year. They also want more affordable housing and public education from “kindergarten to career” (aka tuition-free college). And they’re promising clean drinking water for all First Nations communities.
Their social agenda which includes stronger protections for LGBTQ rights and plans to combat hate both online and in the streets may seem like what the Liberals are offering, but come without sacrificing the planet. Trudeau’s Sunny Ways without having to buy a pipeline or screw over Indigenous children in court.
Their environmental policy is pretty much as green as that of the Greens, but doesn’t come with any of the unfortunate baggage a vote for Elizabeth May’s team does. It’s saving the planet without having to endorse the handful of problematic and bigoted candidates still running under the Green banner or May’s non-commitment to reproductive rights.
The Jagmeet Singh Factor
One thing the NDP really has going for them this time out is their leader. Jagmeet Singh is clearly charismatic and comes across as strong, compassionate and direct when needed but also calm and reflective when the situation calls for it.
He had the best jab during the English debate when he referred to Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer as Mister Delay and Mister Deny respectively. He also had the best jab at the media when he when he was asked about how much clean drinking water on reserves would cost and responded by asking the journalist if he would have the same question if the water was unsafe in Toronto or Montreal.
Singh is also the first candidate of colour to ever run for Prime Minister of Canada and the first to do so wearing a turban. When a man in Montreal suggested he cut his turban off to “look more Canadian”, Singh calmly, yet directly explained that he does look Canadian and Canadians look all sorts of ways.
Singh can deal with bigots as gracefully and directly as he can deal with establishment politicians. If the NDP wins or does well in this election, it will largely be because of their leader, not in spite of him.
The Rest of the Field
Our second place finisher, with 14% of the vote, is Deez Nuts. Seriously.
No, this wasn’t one of the choices we put on the poll. We only listed registered parties, but made it possible for people to add their own choice.
The troll-like voices of discontent didn’t split the vote, instead opting to all line up behind Deez. In fact, if you combine those votes with the ones for the official None of the Above option we left, we get 16% of people dissatisfied with all the legit choices.
That’s a perfectly expected number. So is the Conservative Party getting only 10% and the Bloc garnering only two of the 140 votes cast. We are, after all, a left-leaning site in our editorials and our readership is by and large on the progressive side of things.
What was not expected, though, is that the Liberals and Greens tied with the Cons, each getting only 10%. I guess when you eliminate any need for strategic voting, progressives stick, by and large, with the most progressive choice.
If you voted in this poll, the only thing left to do (if you haven’t already) is vote in the actual election. You can do so today and find out how via Elections Canada. We’ll have the results tonight and analysis tomorrow.
With the 2019 Canadian Federal Election looking like it might be a close one, we’re hearing calls for strategic voting once again. The narrative, coming mostly from Liberal supporters online is a familiar one: If you vote for anyone other than a Liberal, you’re helping to elect Andrew Scheer and his ultra-regressive Conservatives (or basically re-elect Stephen Harper).
The Liberals are acting like they’re still “Canada’s natural governing party” and the only alternative to the Conservatives. In reality, they’re the group who were in third place just five years ago until they vaulted to Majority Government last election, defying expectations.
This time, though, it looks like people are realizing that the Lib tricks are soo 2011. If the Liberals could jump like that, then if everyone who supports the NDP votes for the NDP instead of strategically, we might just have Jagmeet Singh as our next Prime Minister.
Minority or Coalition
Or, as the latest polling indicates, we may be headed for a Liberal Minority Government where the NDP could hold the balance of power, which would mean the NDP could force the Libs to the left on key issues. Even if Scheer gets the most seats, but not enough to form a majority, we could be looking at a Liberal-NDP Coalition Government, which could be interesting.
Such a scenario is a very real possibility, but don’t just take my word for it. Scheer clearly thinks a coalition could happen. So much so that he came out swinging against the very notion of it.
The Conservative leader is pushing the narrative that since the “modern convention” has the party that wins the most seats forming government, that needs to happen. He should ask former BC Premier Christy Clark if the “modern convention” helped her out at all.
We almost had a Liberal/NDP coalition government in 2008 but Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament. He knew that the break would give the Liberal Party establishment enough time to show Stéphane Dion the door.
Harper bet that the Lib brass would rather be in opposition with their handpicked leader Michael Ignatieff than let fluke candidate Dion elevate himself to PM and he was right. The coalition evaporated about as quickly as Liberal relevance under Ignatieff did the following election.
This time around, though, the Liberals are very much the party of Trudeau. Their goal is to keep him in power by any means necessary.
Obviously Trudeau doesn’t want to talk about a coalition before the votes are cast. Doing so would invalidate his party’s “only way to stop Scheer” narrative. But if it turns out a coalition with the NDP is the only way he can keep his job, he will take it.
Broken Promise as a Campaign Tool
Funny thing is, strategic voting wouldn’t even be a thing this time around of Trudeau had made good on his 2015 election promise to bring in electoral reform. He didn’t even try.
Why would he? Our current First-Past-The-Post system works very well for his party and the Conservatives. It was only when the Liberals found themselves in a crouch that he even brought it up.
Most electoral reform models involve switching from FPTP to some form of Proportional Representation. They have their strengths and weaknesses, which I go through in a post on my personal blog (so as not to get too sidetracked here) and also propose a model of my own.
The only party that will actually bring in electoral reform or at least put it to a vote in a referendum is a party that campaigned on it and then finds itself in power for the first time under the current system. Changing how it works is not just a promise to voters for them, but a way to ensure that their party and other smaller parties don’t continue to suffer the same disadvantage that kept them out of power for decades.
Therefore, Liberal and Conservative voters who support electoral reform voting for Jagmeet Singh and the NDP this election would, in fact, be a strategic vote. And it’s the only kind of strategic voting I can get behind.
For everyone else, let your vote, your real vote, count!
On February 25th, voters in the British Columbia riding of Burnaby South may very well give Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh a seat in the House of Commons. The prospect that they might not, though, has some openly speculating Singh won’t lead the party into the 2019 Federal Election if he loses.
Last Wednesday, former NDP Leader turned TV pundit Tom Mulcair told CTV’s Power Play that it would be very difficult for Singh to hold onto power if Burnaby South votes for someone else. He cited sources within the party to back up his statement.
Later in that same broadcast (the 40:40 mark to be precise), La Presse journalist Joël-Denis Bellavance told the panel that he knew of a pre-Christmas caucus meeting where they discussed a Plan B if Singh loses in Burnaby South. Basically, a new leadership election would be too expensive, so the party would force Singh to resign and the caucus would vote in a new interim leader that would take them into the 2019 campaign.
That’s right, some in the NDP think sending an unelected and officially temporary leader to debate Justin Trudeau on TV is a good idea. It’s actually the worst idea anyone has had in Canadian politics since the Liberals tried basically the same thing with Michael Ignatieff and failed miserably.
Sure, there were some differences. The Liberal Party establishment did let the leader their membership elected, Stéphane Dion, run in one election before replacing him with their hand-picked candidate and they did eventually go through the formality of letting membership officially elect Ignatieff once he was already in place with no challengers.
Still, the Liberal Party establishment’s choice failed worse than any other leader the party ever had in over a century. And that was with steps taken that the NDP establishment doesn’t even seem to want to attempt.
Bellavance mentioned Nathan Cullen and Guy Caron as possible interim choices. While Caron may be the current Parliamentary Leader, he didn’t just lose to Singh in the last leadership election, he finished fourth, so the party brass would probably go with Cullen, who didn’t run.
While Cullen may be a skilled debater and charismatic, he wouldn’t be able to overcome the fact that he wasn’t actually running for Prime Minister. Instead of “what I would do differently” he would have to talk about “what the person my party picks as leader and PM in a few months” would do differently.
Sure, if the NDP did win the election and form government with an interim leader, that person would probably become the actual party leader and PM very quickly, but there would still be no shaking the interim label during the campaign. It would be as if the NDP was saying “we won’t win, but vote for us anyways.”
Not only that, replacing a leader who had been on the job just over a year with someone else months before an election screams that the party is in disarray. Yes, the Ontario PCs did that and won, but they were already poised to win, not trailing in third place.
As a card-carrying NDP member, I didn’t vote for Jagmeet Singh in the last leadership election. In fact, I volunteered for one of his opponents, Niki Ashton.
That said, my fellow NDP members spoke and elected Singh as leader and I respect that. When we voted, it was to select the candidate to lead the party into the 2019 election, we all understood that.
When Tom Mulcair became leader, to say I was disappointed would have been an understatement. Still, I didn’t think that replacing him with someone else at the last minute before the election was an option, because it wasn’t.
Singh may still win the by-election. In fact, I suspect that talk of him losing is being amplified by the Liberals in hopes that the NDP will pull more money and resources out of places like Outremont and bring them to BC.
If he does lose, though, and resigns of his own accord, then another leadership race voted on by party membership is the only option if the party hopes to have any chance of maintaining what it has and gaining. If Singh loses in Burnaby South but wants to stay on as leader, then he should be allowed to do so and to run in 2019 as a party leader still looking for a seat.
NDP members knew he didn’t have a federal seat when they elected him. If he goes into the election running personally in some GTA riding where he is bound to win, then the party will do way better nationally than they would with a placeholder running as leader.
Pushing out a leader elected by the membership and replacing them with a handpicked party establishment favourite voted in by just the caucus is something that blew up in the Liberals’ face, and they’re the party of establishment insiders. Imagine what will happen if a party that is supposedly the progressive alternative pulls the same thing, and not very well.
* Featured image by ideas_dept via Flickr Creative Commons
That was quick. A lot quicker than most expected. On Sunday Jagmeet Singh won with over 53% on the first ballot to become the new leader of the Federal NDP.
He’ll be taking on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and that guy the Conservatives picked, Andy something I think (yes I know it’s Andrew Scheer, but did you without Googling it?), in 2019. It looks like we don’t have to wait two years for the media frenzy to start, though.
In the past few days, Singh has already generated quite a bit of coverage to say the least. There have been mainstream pieces focused primarily on his style and how this is really problematic for Trudeau, plus the obligatory right-wing attacks and commentary from those who supported other candidates for NDP Leader.
Full Disclosure: At the start of the leadership race, I had planned to cover and comment on it from the sidelines, that changed after I interviewed Niki Ashton. I was so impressed with her I decided to volunteer for her campaign and therefore stop writing about the contest on this site (my personal Facebook was another story). Now that the race is over, game on.
While Singh was not my first choice, he did win our reader poll quite handsomely. Speaking of handsome and charismatic, as I’m sure many will continue to do, I realize that having a style that can rival or even beat that of our selfie PM is an important step up for the NDP, but what about policy and the message Jagmeet is bringing to the table?
Image and Policy
Singh does have some propositions that strike me as quite progressive. Most unique to him, he wants to decriminalize possession of all drugs, period, and treat addiction as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice one. That’s a far cry from Tom Mulcair waffling on decriminalizing just pot and better than Justin Trudeau touting weed legalization while not overturning any convictions that happen before the legal status of the leaf changes, something Singh touched on in his first media scrum.
He also wants to decriminalize sex work and is a proponent of free post-secondary education. So far, so good.
Jagmeet is strong on social, racial and economic justice. For Singh, though, some of the NDP’s core issues are much more than talking points. He can (and did during his victory speech) offer personal stories of growing up with economic uncertainty and being pulled over countless times because of how he looked and the colour of his skin.
While he may not have been as strong against pipelines as some of his opponents, he did voice his opposition to Kinder-Morgan and Energy East in an interview with The Financial Post of all places.
He wasn’t the only leadership candidate espousing progressive values in this race and wasn’t the furthest to the left, either. But it seems that this fact wasn’t lost on Singh. Before bringing his fellow candidates up on stage, he praised Ashton for her progressive stance and stopped just short of admitting she moved the discourse to the left, a sentiment he reiterated in his campaign’s email blast to NDP members on Monday:
“Niki has pushed the boundaries as a woman running for Prime Minister. Her courage to be unapologetically progressive and to engage a new generation has placed free tuition, climate change, gender justice, and unstable work on the federal stage. Thank you, Niki!”
He also thanked Charlie Angus for putting Native issues front and centre and Guy Caron for his “deep policy knowledge on (economic) inequality” before naming Caron his House Leader (Singh, an Ontario MPP doesn’t currently have a seat in the House of Commons) a few days later. It looks like he’s ready to listen, take what people liked about his now former opponents and integrate them with his own ideas.
He’s in it to win and become Prime Minister of Canada and if his subsequent actions match his current rhetoric, he just might, or at least lead the NDP back to Official Opposition status. This is a step up from Tom “My Way or the Highway” Mulcair.
This means that it’s up to all of us who supported other candidates to hold Jagmeet to his word and even guide him a little more to the left on some issues. He seems open to it.
There is a lot to like about Jagmeet Singh, but of course there are concerns as well.
The ‘Burbs, the Party Base and the Hangers On
Everyone knows that Singh brought a whole bunch of new members to the party, which is great. Many of them live in suburban ridings and could possibly add to the party base which would also be good.
If his plan is to mobilize them in hopes of swinging a few traditionally Liberal or Conservative seats to the New Democrats by changing the voting base without changing his national presentation, then great, good idea. If, however, he also plans to suck up to current Liberal and Conservative voters in those ridings by altering his image and message like Mulcair did, it won’t work and will turn off supporters elsewhere.
The NDP isn’t the party of middle class suburban continuity, it’s the party of big city and rural working class change. That’s what fuels and inspires the party base, the people who, really, can make or break an election.
The independent left-wing group Courage listed some of what progressives can celebrate in a Singh victory but also stuff to be vigilant about. The part that piqued my interest was the revelation that some people involved with the NDP’s move to the right under Mulcair were in the orbit of Singh’s candidacy.
Turning over a new leaf doesn’t just mean changing the face, it means institutional change behind the scenes as well. If Jagmeet truly wants to bring the party together and push a left-wing alternative to Trudeau, he should not only reach out to his opponents but the people who supported them, worked for them and volunteered for them as well (no, not talking about myself here, happily going back to journalism).
It’s not just what I hope for, it’s also good politics.
Oh Yeah, Racism
Jagmeet Singh was born in Scarborough, Ontario, a location that screams Canadiana about as loudly as Tim Hortons. When he speaks, he sounds like, well, someone from Ontario. When he speaks French he sounds like someone from Ontario who has put in the time and effort to learn the language out of respect for those Francophones listening to him.
That, of course, won’t stop the racists from having a serious problem with him because his skin colour is different from theirs. It also won’t stop the closet racists from using the fact that he wears a turban and a Kirpan (ceremonial Sikh dagger) to bring up some coded bigoted language about secularism and religious symbols while clutching their crosses.
The racist pushback started even before Singh won leadership. First there was the truly ignorant heckler at a Brampton event who started screaming about Sharia Law of all things. Jagmeet’s extremely chill response to this garnered him media attention globally and even caught the attention of US progressive outlet The Young Turks.
Then Quebec MP Pierre Nantel said that Singh wearing a turban was “inconsistent” with what voters in Quebec looked for in a leader. Honestly, Nantel sounds so much like a Bloc candidate that he should just join them and stop pretending he’s progressive.
Now, since the vote, the CBC’s Terry Milewski interviewed Singh and tweeted that Jagmeet refused to condemn Sikhs who held up posters of Talwinder Parmar, whom some suspect was involved in the Air India bombing. Never mind for a second that Milewski is infamous for his Samosa Politics series targeting the Sikh community, is the first question someone asks Justin Trudeau typically whether or not he condemns the Quebec mosque shooter or the FLQ?
Of course not. We assume correctly that Trudeau does condemn acts of terrorism. Why don’t we extend the same assumption to Singh?
I truly hope that the racists in Canada are as small and electorally insignificant a group as I think they are and that the only reason they seem louder is corporate media bolstering. I hope Canada and especially Quebec doesn’t prove me wrong.
Gonna Stay On Board
I became a card-carrying NDP member shortly before the Orange Wave and volunteered during that campaign. After Tom Mulcair took over, I remained an NDP voter but let my membership lapse. I knew that my input was not sought, though I offered plenty of it in posts on this site.
I re-joined the party specifically to vote for Niki. She didn’t win, but I’m not going to jump ship again, at least not right now.
Jagmeet is not Tom. Mulcair’s victory felt as though the most I could do was offer advice from the sidelines and hope for the best. Singh, on the other hand, seems like someone who wants to do what it takes to win and if he is convinced that keeping the NDP on a leftward trajectory will do that, then those hoping for a true progressive political change should all help him do that.
At the very least he’s a better choice for PM than Justin Trudeau.
Now that we know who the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada is (Andrew Scheer), there is one more podium to fill next to Justin Trudeau on the debate stage when Canadians go to the polls in a few years: that of the Federal NDP Leader.
The leadership debates and campaigns are in full swing. While we won’t know who won until late October of this year, we’re giving our readers a chance to weigh in with a new site poll.
If new candidates enter the race or current ones drop out, we’ll update the choices. You can only vote for one option, but you can also change your vote right up until the poll expires on October 29th, so if you’re undecided, please feel free to say so knowing you can change your vote when you do make up your mind.
The winner of our poll gets the official endorsement of FTB readers and a post written on behalf of them. Since this is over four months of voting and we have other polls that will run in that time, it’s possible this poll may disappear from the site sidebar, but it will always be available in this post.
Here it is:
Who do you want to see as the next leader of the Federal NDP?
Jagmeet Singh 70%, 1639 votes
1639 votes - 70% of all votes
Niki Ashton 18%, 409 votes
409 votes - 18% of all votes
Charlie Angus 4%, 99 votes
99 votes - 4% of all votes
Guy Caron 2%, 52 votes
52 votes - 2% of all votes
Peter Julian 1%, 33 votes
33 votes - 1% of all votes
I support another party 1%, 30 votes
30 votes - 1% of all votes
I'm not Canadian but thanks for asking 1%, 29 votes
29 votes - 1% of all votes
Not Sure Yet (you can change your vote before the poll expires) 1%, 20 votes
20 votes - 1% of all votes
Bring back Tom 1%, 13 votes
13 votes - 1% of all votes
I support the NDP but don't like any of the current choices. Someone else, please. 1%, 12 votes
On March 23, 2017, M- 103 on “Systemic Racism and religious discrimination” passed in the House of Commons. The motion was introduced by Iqra Khalid, a Liberal MP from Mississauga Ontario and is considered to be Canada’s anti Islamophobia motion, though it has little worth beyond its symbolism.
The motion met opposition on both sides.
On the one hand you had white supremacists using the good-old “slippery slope” argument in which they claimed that passing the motion was one more step towards forcing Canada under Sharia Law. On the other side you had liberal Canadians – secular and religious, white and people of colour – decrying the gesture as being frivolous.
The motion is not a law.
The motion uses convoluted wording demanding that the government “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism, and religious discrimination” when the motion has no power to do so. Believed to be a politically motivated act to get some pats on the back in wake the Quebec City Mosque massacre, the motion is also completely redundant.
Canada has a lot of protections against discrimination, and they’ve been in our legal system at least thirty years.
First, there’s the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the brain child of the late Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau when he repatriated our constitution from Great Britain in 1982. The Canadian Charter is entrenched in our constitution, which means that it has primacy over all other laws in Canada and any law deemed to be incompatible with it can be struck down.
The Canadian Charter lists our fundamental freedoms which include those of conscience and religion, of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly and association. It also contains our legal rights to life, liberty, and security of the person, and to equal protection before law without discrimination based on race, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or physical disability.
The Charter only applies to government entities which include everything from Citizenship and Immigration Canada to public schools to hospitals. If a law is discriminatory, the Canadian Charter allows us to go to court to seek redress for the discrimination. Once one side proves the violation it’s up to the government to prove that the law is within reasonable limits as per the Charter’s main failsafe that allows legislation to survive in spite of itself because the ends justify the means.
Then there’s the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
Enacted in the 1970s, the Quebec Charter applies to both private and public entities. The Quebec Charter prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, colour, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age, religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, disability and the use of any means to ease it.
The Quebec Charter not only prohibits harassment based on those grounds, but also has provisions against discrimination in everything from access to public spaces, employment, and housing. It also prohibits the distribution or publication of notices, symbols, or signs authorizing discrimination. People whose rights have been violated as per the Quebec Charter can also seek redress via the courts and the Quebec Human Rights Commission.
Last but not least, we have the Canadian Criminal Code.
The Criminal Code has laws about hate propaganda and public incitement of hatred. Publicly advocating for genocide could result in a prison term of up to five years. Publicly inciting hatred and willfully promoting it in a circumstance other than in a private conversation could result in up to two years in jail.
Perhaps the most significant way our Criminal Code punishes hate crimes is via its sentencing guidelines. When the court must determine the sentence of an offender, it must consider a bunch of aggravating circumstances in order to decide whether to give the maximum or not. The first of these aggravating circumstances is:
“evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor,”
Since our laws already punish hate crimes, what is it that the federal government could do to further fight racism and discrimination?
Here are a few ideas that would have greater impact than any frivolous motion at a time in which Canada’s visible and religious minorities are asking for more than symbolic acts to prove the government will protect them.
First, the federal government should make transfer payments to the provinces for education conditional in part on the inclusion of a history or social studies course at the primary or secondary level about Canada’s different cultural and religious communities and their contributions.
It is widely acknowledged that racism is a learned behavior. Education is the key to enlightenment and such a course could prevent kids from becoming hate mongering adults while giving provinces the funds to create the curriculum and fix existing courses that leave people other than the French and English out of Canadian history.
The federal government should also demand that the Implicit Association Test be mandatory for law enforcement as part of their entrance exams.
The Implicit Association Test was created by Harvard University and is useful for determining people’s hidden biases against, for example, a particular ethnicity or gender. Any candidates shown by the test to have strong prejudices against a particular group should be made to undergo training about the groups they’re biased about as a condition for their admission to law enforcement. This would help to tackle racial profiling and police brutality and weed out some of the racists from law enforcement.
Candidates for judicial appointments should be subjected to the same test as a condition of their appointment. Strong negative biases would result in mandatory training as a condition of their appointment. This would not only help with discrimination towards religious or visible minorities, but would also prevent judges like former Judge Robin Camp from ever hearing a rape trial.
Last but not least, the federal government could increase its support for organizations that actively fight discrimination. The Center for Research-Action on Race Relations would be a good one to start with.
Talk, like that in Motion 103, is cheap. The need for symbolism is over. It’s time the government took real action against hate.
I’ve always loathed how a politician’s style and personal likability and trustworthiness seems more important to pundits and the public than the policies they put forward. After watching the first NDP Leadership Debate in Ottawa today, though, I’m inclined to push substance aside for the moment and focus on style.
I suggest New Democrats concerned with the future of their party do the same. This is the only time in recent memory that it’s actually been safe to do so in the search for a major federal party leader.
Last NDP Leadership contest, it would have been way too risky. There was a charismatic candidate who had floated the idea of cooperating with the Liberals electorally and a frontrunner who was great in the House of Commons but who was only progressive in a few areas and to the right of the Liberals in others.
The four candidates I saw today, though, seemed to be cut from the same orange cloth as Jack Layton. While there were minor differences in approach to some issues, by and large they agreed on pretty much everything. These were four voices from the left who knew that the best way forward for the party was to reconnect with its progressive base. A connection that was lost in a Mulcair-driven failed attempt to form government at all costs.
So when there was a “lightning round” of absolute fluff, stuff like favourite Quebecois movie, food and sport (that they all didn’t just answer hockey was astounding) with a couple of interesting questions mixed in (favourite feminist and last book you read), I thought good call, NDP moderators! I’m sold that they would all make great progressive Prime Ministers, let’s see who has the best chance to get there with some typical non-policy questions politicians get.
Actually, let’s now take a look at who has the best chance of bringing the NDP message forward, now that I’m confident that message will be a progressive one.
The four contenders are Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, Guy Caron and Peter Julian. Going in, I was leaning Ashton, as I was familiar with her and voted her my #2 pick in the last leadership election. I also was familiar with Angus, but mostly as a musician who made it to Parliament. I was aware that there was an MP named Peter Julian and this is my first time hearing of Guy Caron.
Let’s see how they did:
When it comes to style, it’s important to remember that this is the person who will have to hold their own in debates with the selfie PM/international faux-progressive posterboy and all around great talker Justin Trudeau and whatever iteration of the right (TV businessman or true believer xenophobe) the Conservatives elect. The NDP needs a standout in that mix.
On stage today I saw three different models of NDP leader from the four candidates.
Ashton came across as fiery, like someone on a mission. She was the most passionately progressive person on that stage.
Angus, meanwhile, evoked the working class hero. Relaxed, someone you could have a beer with, but also someone who’s not afraid to call out BS and injustice when he sees it.
Caron and Julien, meanwhile, both seemed to play the part of the likable, principled middle manager/uncle who you respect but that’s about it. Think Tim Kaine but actually on the left.
To be elected Prime Minister (if you’re running with the NDP), you absolutely need to be bilingual. Sure, Quebec MPs don’t make up as much of the caucus as they did before the 2015 Orange Crash, but this province is still a huge factor in any roadmap to victory for the New Democrats. So is winning a decent number of seats throughout English Canada.
Caron fared the best in both official languages. His English was as solid as his French, just with an accent. His confidence and style didn’t change much when he switched languages.
Ashton and Julien were equally bilingual. Neither sacrificed the pacing of their speech in French to search for the right words. Yes, there were a few flubs, but they were barely noticeable given the confidence with which they spoke.
Angus, unfortunately, did mess up the second language test on both counts. He made quite a few errors and substituted English words on more than one occasion. That wouldn’t be so bad if his delivery remained constant. Unfortunately, it didn’t. In English he was relaxed and charming, in French, he sounded like someone reading a text for the first time.
Bringing the Progressive Message Home
All the candidates on the stage in Ottawa espoused progressive values and a return to the true left for the NDP, however, there were a few standout moments where they really drove that message home.
Ashton did this not once but twice. First, she spoke of the base that had “distanced” themselves from the party and then mentioned that the NDP lost the 2015 election because they had strayed too far to the perceived political centre that Trudeau’s Liberals were able to outflank them on the left.
Julien impressed when he acknowledged that in some cases it was impossible to reconcile the employment needs of Canadians with avoiding the potential environmental catastrophes that the Kinder-Morgan and Energy East pipelines might bring. He was the only one to answer that question in such a bold way.
Both Angus and Ashton opened the debate by acknowledging that it was taking place on unceded Algonquin territory (Ottawa). Julien also thanked Ashton for her acknowledgement, echoing the statement on stage and on Twitter.
So if, for the moment, we are safe with policy, let’s look at who’s best to deliver it.
M-103, the Private Members’ Motion introduced in the House of Commons by Iqra Khalid, Liberal MP for Mississauga—Erin Mills, to fight Islamophobia in Canada has sadly and predictably sparked anger and debate. While most of the venom being spewed in comments sections and at rallies comes from Islamophobes afraid they may have to stop hating Muslims in public, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) is fighting it in a different way, at least officially.
The CPC’s Religious Freedom Critic David Anderson introduced a counter-motion which doesn’t use the word Islamophobia and instead calls on the government to “condemn all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other religious communities.”
Looks like this was the kind of “doesn’t sound that bigoted” cover some were waiting for. I’m now seeing arguments on social media that start by asking why Muslims should be singled out for protection. Of course these are made by some of the same types of people who have no problem singling them out for criticism.
Generally, a few comments later, or sometimes even in the same paragraph, their cover drops and they show exactly why we need to take Islamophobia seriously. As if the recent Mosque attack in Quebec City, Friday’s “anti-Islam” blockade in Toronto and the threats received by Khalid and Heritage Minister Melanie Joly over this motion weren’t each enough to do just that.
The CPC approach sounds very familiar to that employed by opponents of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US and here in Canada as well. Instead of speaking out against police indiscriminately murdering people in communities of colour, some opted to promote the All Lives Matter narrative instead.
Basic deflection. Saying Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that other lives don’t whereas insisting that people say All Lives Matter instead means that you want everyone to ignore the disproportionate amount of young people of colour being murdered by police. No one counters a Stop Cancer fundraiser by saying All Diseases Matter.
And that’s exactly what’s happening here. Yes, there are hate crimes against other religions, too. Here in Montreal, synagogues get vandalized on a regular basis. Antisemitism is a problem that needs to be dealt with and people are trying to fight it. That doesn’t mean Islamophobia shouldn’t be attacked as well.
When there is a real and present danger to a specific group of people within a society, that danger needs to be admitted, addressed and fought. I’m not sure if a motion in the House of Commons is anywhere near enough to fight Islamophobia, but admitting that it is a problem that needs to be dealt with is essential.
The CPC would stop us from performing even that most basic of civic duties. Meanwhile, some of their leadership candidates are openly campaigning for the Islamophobic vote. It’s two sides of the same coin, like the All Lives Matter crowd and the open racists.
Defending the right of the special snowflakes in their base (two can play at that particular name game) to be bigots is no justification to block fighting Islamophobia. Muslims are a target and no amount of defensive re-wording of language will change that, only action.
* Featured image of David Anderson in the House of Commons
We might get to hear Kevin O’Leary speak French, after all. The Conservative Party leadership favourite will attend a bilingual debate in the Montreal area on February 13th. O’Leary has so far not spoken a word of French in public, conspicuously announcing his candidacy the morning after the only mandatory French debate.
He and ten others confirmed they will take part in a debate in Pointe-Claire, organized by the local association of Lac–Saint–Louis and Pierrefonds–Dollard. Since it’s not officially set up by the Conservative party of Canada, it is on a voluntary basis. It will start at 7pm at the Holiday Inn. According to CBC, the central themes of the debate will be the economy and national security.
The other implicit theme will be how well can each candidate connect with French-speaking Quebeckers. The French debate on January 17th showcased the cringe-worthy language skills of most conservative candidates. Although the Montreal debate is advertised as bilingual, it is not clear how much of it will be in French or whether all questions will be translated.
Despite being a Montreal native, O’Leary has never been fluent in French. When Tout le monde en parle host asked him “Parlez-vous français?” in 2014, he replied: “No I don’t. I left here when I was six years old and I am very ashamed of that. If I had been able to stay longer, I probably could have done it.”
He sang a wildly different tune in more recent interviews. One year ago, he told David Akin, host of Everything is Political on SiriusXM Canada Radio that learning French was not necessary to be Prime Minister. He said he was amused by politicians who thought they could score some points in Quebec by learning French in accelerated classes. “I know what Quebec wants in Canada because that’s where I came from,” he claimed.
He refused to be shamed for blatantly avoiding the French debate, retorting instead that he spoke the language of jobs and economy. On January 18th, he told Global News: “There’s three official languages in Canada: There’s English, there’s French, and there’s the language of jobs.” He added that Trudeau will never be fluent in jobs. He has nonetheless promised to get better at French too.
Ten days later, his campaign associates are very confident about his French skills. “Let’s just say that I’m pretty sure that he’s going to surprise a lot of people,” said O’Leary’s Quebec organizer, Norm Vocino, in an interview with CBC.
His press secretary Ari S. Laskin told FTB that O’Leary has been working on his French on a daily basis for several weeks and that “he will be able to hold his own in a debate against Justin Trudeau.” Laskin assures that “it is a priority for him to be able to engage with the entire country in both national languages.”
He denies that O’Leary has ever been flippant about the importance of French: “I don’t think French wasn’t a priority. He was born in Montreal and has incredibly deep respect for the bilingual culture.”
O’Leary still on top
As to how O’Leary will appeal to the notoriously anti-Tory Montrealers, the language of jobs and economy still seems to be his favourite answer. According to his press secretary, Quebeckers are as tired as the rest of the country of Trudeau’s “platitudes” in that area. “What Mr O’Leary wants is to make sure that we have a strong economy and jobs created on a daily basis,” he said.
O’Leary has been called Canada’s Trump. Like him, he is a Reality TV star with a flourishing financial empire and he is leading the race despite the fact that he has no political experience.
He is currently the top candidate for the leadership of the party with 26% of the votes. His closest competitor, Maxime Bernier, polls at barely 11%. The leader of the Conservative Party will be elected on May 27th.