Monday, May 2, 2011

Canada Just Took A Big Step Left

The real news tonight is not that the Tories won a majority. They HAD a majority previously, it was just that some of their members were in another faction known as the Liberal Party, which voted with the Tories on 9 out of 10 confidence votes. For some time there has been no real Official Opposition in Parliament, not on substantive issues anyway. Ignatieff's politics are fundamentally no different to Harper's, except that Ignatieff lacks both a populist and a killer instinct to be successful as a politician.
No, the real news is that the left wing of Liberal support - and of Bloc support in Quebec - jumped ship, tired of the rightward drift of the Natural Governing Party and went over to the NDP. Some of the Liberal vote went to the Tories, too, of course. Scared out of their minds that the NDP might actually end up leading a coalition government, the right wing Liberal voters out there rushed headlong into the cold embrace of Stephen Harper. They haven't gone far really, but they have gone home. However, that only meant a less than 3% increase in the vote for the Tories - assuming they finish at the 40% number where they are now. The NDP's popular vote more than doubled. All those people - millions of them - have no moved left and that is a much bigger challenge to Harper than any pseudo minority where the Tories face the Liberals.
The other big news, of course, is the absolute domination of Quebec by the colour orange. This is a massively significant event of historic proportions and will mean big changes to the character of the NDP. Over half of the NDPs caucus will now come from Quebec, many, if not most of those new MPs will be (at least) soft sovereigntists. The NDP will either learn to deal with the national question or it will be a short-lived love affair. I'm hoping that they learn to deal with the national question and so transform the left and the trade union movement in Canada in the process, bringing the vitality and militancy of the Quebec union and social movements to English Canada, as well its traditions. For too long the pan-Canadian working class and left has had little or no dialogue - this is the biggest opportunity for English-French working class solidarity in generations, perhaps in the history of Canada.
Whenever Parliament is called back we will see a House in which on one side will be the uptight, small-minded bigots and carpet-baggers who make up the Tory government. Across from them will be an uprising of unruly youth, Quebecois, women, minorities and workers. If Layton welcomes that uprising with open arms and allows it to breathe, permits it to infuse the party down to its very roots, the Tories are going to be in a for a much rougher majority than the past five years of minority government.
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