Wednesday, December 13, 2006

To Stop Tories, Vote Grit or NDP? Once more with feeling: Glavin versus Tieleman.

To Stop Tories, Vote Grit or NDP?

Once more with feeling: Glavin versus Tieleman.

View full article and comments here

By Terry Glavin and Bill Tieleman

Published: December 13, 2006

[Editor's note: Last Tuesday, The Tyee published Terry Glavin's explanation of why, with Dion as Liberal leader, "Voting NDP Just Got Harder." Bill Tieleman responded with his "Ten Reasons to Vote NDP" in the next federal election. When the smoke had cleared, Glavin and Tieleman both wanted to add some more points, presented here.]


In Monday's Tyee, Bill Tieleman was allowed an opinion essay to defend the New Democratic Party in response to the question I put in my Dissent column last week: "Why are we supposed to vote NDP again?"

After reading that I'd already offered my "strong endorsement" to both Liberal contenders Michael Ignatieff and Stephane Dion, it took me a while to stop laughing. Besides, what I wrote in my column was, "I'm not saying that progressives in Canada shouldn't vote NDP. I'm not saying I'm not going to vote NDP."

But then it occurred to me that if this is the best that a high-profile, full-time NDP pundit can offer by way of answering my question, then the NDP must be in worse shape than I'd thought.

Glossing over my question's context ("the implications of vote-splitting to the point that Stephen Harper could return at a troop strength sufficient to form a clear majority") Bill's essay offers what he calls 10 reasons to vote NDP. The problem is, Bill's ten "reasons" don't add up to a single really good one.

Guilt by association?

Bill begins with some grasping attempts to hang Stephane Dion by association (The Trilateral Commission! David Orchard! That guy who likes Dion who might be connected to David Basi and Bob Virk!) but it's a bit late for that.

This isn't about Dion. Dion was indeed elected Liberal leader, but even NDP leader Jack Layton called Dion "a man of principle and conviction...and therefore almost certain not to be elected leader of the Liberal party."

This doesn't deter our Bill, who makes a lame attempt to smear Dion with the Chr├ętien-era Adscam imbroglio, and then gets himself in a complete muddle about the Kyoto Accord. Canada signed it eight years ago, not 13 years ago, and Canada didn't ratify the deal until 2002. And Dion wasn't environment minister until 2004, anyway.

One of Bill's "reasons" to vote NDP could just as easily be offered as a reason to vote for the Conservatives, since they voted with the NDP for the "anti-scab" Bill 263. And as for the bit about former prime minister Paul Martin not doing anything progressive except when the NDP made him...that's over the top. Even if it were true, it would be equally useful as an argument in favour of the NDP backing another Liberal minority government.

Bill then trots out the old "Ignatieff-backs-torture" canard, then reminds us that Ontario's labour unions hated Bob Rae, and you know Bill's at the bottom of the barrel when we get this: election-finance reform means every NDP vote will earn the party $1.75! And a tautology: don't vote for the Liberals, because...they're Liberals.

Then we're treated to references to Pierre Trudeau's arrogance, NAFTA (the NDP wants out now?) APEC (?) and the most hilarious: "Canadian troops in Afghanistan." Which the NDP supported. Then opposed. Then supported, so long as our soldiers didn't do any fighting. Or something. All because of the ridiculous assumption that there is something "progressive" about thumbing our noses at the United Nations and surrendering our Afghan comrades to the savagery of the Taliban.

Best way to vote

But there is an observation that Tieleman makes, or at least it's a point he alludes to, that I am perhaps as guilty as Bill of not treating with sufficient seriousness. That's the question of "strategic" voting.

Bill raises the spectre of "stampeding nervous NDP voters into the Liberal camp," as though NDP voters were as dumb as cows. But when I raised it, it was mainly in the context of the NDP's brutish excommunication of Canadian Auto Workers president Buzz Hargrove for suggesting that maybe it wouldn't be so evil to vote Liberal in those ridings where a Liberal vote could keep a Conservative out of office.

Since neither Bill nor I addressed this matter adequately, here's my modest proposal, to meet Bill half way, in counsel to both Liberals and New Democrats: Don't get stampeded by anyone.

Vote with your heart and your head.

Just be sure to vote for whichever candidate is likely to keep the Conservative at bay.


"A hit, a very palpable hit." - Hamlet, William Shakespeare

Judging from the wild roundhouse swings, it looks like I've landed a political blow to Terry Glavin.

Glavin's attempts to dismiss the arguments I raised are flimsy at best.

For example, Terry says I'm in a "complete muddle" over Kyoto and wrongly blamed Stephane Dion for the Liberal record of failure.

Read what I said again.

Fact: Canada during the Liberals' 13 years in power increased greenhouse gases by 30 per cent.

Fact: Under Kyoto, Canada promised to reduce them by 20 per cent.

Fact: Canada under the Liberals did a worse job than George W. Bush.

If Terry wants to give Dion a passing grade when he was a Liberal MP the whole time and a cabinet minister most of it just because he was only environment minister for a year, well think again.

Thumb twiddlers

Dion's party, with Dion an MP and cabinet minister, twiddled their collective thumbs while the Arctic melted.

Same thing with the anti-scab law. Only a handful of Conservative MPs voted in 2005 to ban replacement workers -- but Terry makes it seem the whole caucus voted with the NDP -- if they had, it would be law today! Dion joined the likes of Stockwell Day to shoot it down.

And Michael Ignatieff's documented statement on the use of torture is a "canard"? More like Glavin is ducking.

I share Terry's concern that the federal NDP needs to better communicate its ideas. But that's not my job -- I just gave my top of mind personal reasons.

And I agree people should vote with their hearts and heads -- but neither my heart nor head would ever let me vote for a Liberal like Hedy Fry or Joe Volpe.

Lastly, I am neither a "full time" nor an "NDP pundit." I have a day job, and while I generally but critically support the NDP, they don't financially support me, as that statement seems to imply.

Related Tyee stories:

Voting NDP Just Got Harder
Ten Reasons to Vote NDP
Has Harper Really 'Evolved'?

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