Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has just shut down Parliament until the end of January. However, it appears that this blatantly undemocratic act is popular across the country. Why? Because the maneuvers of all the parties have completely disgusted Canadians. The sell-out deal between Dion and Layton was completely incapable of raising any enthusiasm amongst the working class. As soon as the “Coalition” was formed, it entered into crisis. Now, Harper has bought himself seven weeks to save his reactionary anti-worker regime and the blame lies with the class-collaborationist coalition. It could have been so different.
The feeling of the Canadian population is abject disgust: from the Conservatives, who attack workers and women while playing political games, to the Liberals under the pathetic leadership of Dion, to the NDP leadership who are willing to jettison all of their principles in order to gain a few cabinet seats. The events of the last week have opened up serious cracks in Canada’s bourgeois “democracy”.
In no rational democratic system would Harper be allowed to shut down the so-called house of the people in order to avoid a no-confidence vote. Capitalist democracy is neither rational nor democratic. The unelected representative of the Queen, a feudalist monarch, ends up being more powerful than the majority of the elected representatives. These events have shown that no-matter who you vote for, the rich and powerful always win. No wonder 41% of Canadians do not vote.
The coalition plotters thought they had it all sewn up. However, in a repetition of the Liberal leadership contest of 2006, they couldn’t decide who would lead and so the hapless Stéphane Dion stepped forward by default. Combined with the sell-out by the NDP on Afghanistan and corporate tax cuts, workers were left asking themselves, “Why on earth should I support this strange hybrid creature of a coalition?”
Polls revealed that approximately 1/3 of the population supports the Conservatives, 1/3 supports the Coalition, and 1/3 is sick of both sides. This is far too weak a base to form a new government. In many ways, the blame lies with the Layton leadership of the NDP that was the prime motivator of the maneuver. If they had stuck to principle and opposed the Conservatives’ attacks on workers and women, without entering into any deals with the capitalist parties, there would have been huge optimism in the country. The majority is indeed opposed to Harper, but the coalition has no redeeming features. The NDP could then have worked to impose conditions on a minority Liberal government to benefit the working class. If the Liberals were not willing to meet these demands then they would have worn the responsibility and the NDP would be in a prime place to replace them. Now the disaster of the coalition is firmly in the lap of Jack Layton who is left looking like a complete schmuck. This coalition, that was supposed to save Canada from the evil clutches of Stephen Harper, is preparing the way for a majority win of the Conservatives in the coming months. (Note: Just as this article is being published, CBC News has published a new poll that in the wake of this fiasco, the Tories are strongly in majority territory with 44% support. Both the Liberals and the NDP are down 4% since the election, with the NDP only polling 14%.)
After his pitiable response to Harper, the knives are again out for Dion. It is a surprise that the guy has any space left on his back. After the prorogation was announced, both Layton and Duceppe took a hard-line stance while Dion opened the door to letting the Conservatives stay in power if they made changes to their budget. Therein lies the death of the Coalition and the humiliation of all the parties. Over the next seven weeks, the Conservatives will use their financial advantage to win the media war and whip up more anti-Quebecois racism in the west. It is almost a foregone conclusion that some of the right-wing of the Liberal party will break ranks over this period.
The only force mobilizing for the coalition appears to the Canadian labour bureaucracy and a series of petty-bourgeois “lefts” who have given up all hope of actually achieving even the mild reforms contained in the NDP election platform. However, their attempt to save the coalition is hampered by the lack of anything to enthuse the workers. All they can say is that it is “not Harper”, but this completely counteracts everything they said during the last election about the difference between the NDP and Liberals. Millions do not vote because they feel that “all the politicians are the same”, and now they have been proved right. One can just imagine the next federal election campaign – Jack Layton (if he survives as leader) gets up to propose a reform. The media responds, “Will you dump this policy in a coalition? Why should anybody believe that you won’t dump this policy? Which specific policy will you not dump in a coalition? Why are you running candidates against the Liberals when you agreed to their policy in the coalition? Why not just fuse yourself into the Liberals? Etc., etc., etc…” At the next campaign stop, the circus will be repeated; nobody will ever believe anything Layton has to say from this point on.
The coalition is dead and it saved Harper. The careerism of the NDP parliamentary caucus has dealt a decisive blow to the NDP, just as the NDP was positioned to overtake the Liberals. It has also set back the cause of the fight against the war in Afghanistan and for redistribution of wealth from the bosses to the workers. We hope that every labour activist learns the lessons of this debacle and puts the responsibility precisely where it belongs. The only way to mobilize millions, to provide an alternative for the 41% of non voters, is to offer something different to the corrupt capitalist system. The NDP and the labour movement need to adopt socialist ideas if they are going to put this sorry episode behind them and defeat both the Conservatives and the Liberals.