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Looking backward and forward

The Conservatives have survived their first Parliamentary session scraped up a little, but more or less intact. Canadians now have an idea who they are and have had a glimpse of their agenda on issues both mundane and contentious. Politically, their strategy appears to be to rip the Liberals apart while they are leaderless and dare not fight back, and all the while approaching Quebeckers that are looking more like they want back into the political process and need only find someone other than the BQ to vote for. Of all the national leaders, Harper saw what was happening in Quebec first and deserves credit for getting at it quickly and consistently.

As a lefty, I view this as the opportunity for the nation to evaluate what centre, left, and right actually mean in this country, and where we as a nation fall in this spectrum. Most Canadians when asked this question would likely say "centre-left" and we have for the past few decades defaulted to a centrist Liberal government. Unfortunately for pinkos like me, the Liberals have traditionally talked a pretty good game, but have gone to bat for a pro-business agenda more often than not.

Ever since Brian Mulroney did for the Conservatives in the 80's what genital herpes did for casual sex in the 70's, the Left and Centre pretty much had the playing field for the greater part of the last 15 years. Unfortunately, this allowed the Liberals to remain in power regardless of what Canadians actually thought of them, for there is still a reluctance to embrace the NDP nationally as more than a peripheral party - pockets of strength here and there, but not enough broad-based support to really contend. Now that the Right is once again united and promoting a more coherent, if somewhat reactionary message, the Left and Centre find themselves in the position of having to reorganize. And the the NDP have an opportunity.

If the NDP ever had a chance at power nationally in my lifetime, this is it. This is the chance to win respect, and potential future votes, not from the hide of the slumbering Liberal Party, for it will awaken and those votes will fly away, but on its own merits. As the Rona Ambrose affair has amply indicated, the Liberals are a dormant political force. Dormant, but not dead - as bigcitylib mentioned in a comment on this blog earlier today, they will be a different party after December; of that I have no doubt. But right now, with the Liberals apparently set to nap for the next six months, this is the time for the New Democrats to become the real national opposition. Not an opposition in the sense of simply opposing anything that comes out of the government, rather one that reaches for better solutions when they see the need and supports the government when support is earned. If a responsible, mature NDP takes the stage now, it will have the spotlight and it will no longer be viewed as a fringe party.

I think Canadians really are a centre-left people, we really do believe that a market economy is important, but important for what it does, not for what it is. I have seen nothing in the Conservative agenda yet that leads me to believe that they understand that the economy has a purpose and its purpose is more than just to move money and goods around. Money and goods are just its engine, the social benefits and the jobs are its real purpose. The Liberals don't appear to understand that either - the growing concern over the fiscal imbalance is some indication of this.

If this session has shown me anything, it is that there is nothing intrinsically evil about the Tories or their agenda. I don't happen to agree with much of it, but there is little that they can do that can't be undone, though we do have to move quickly on environmental issues. Alas, on that count, the Liberals were every bit as dismal as the Tories - if I give the Harper crowd anything, it is that they are at least honest about it.

So here's to an interesting session of Parliament.

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