Thursday, October 20, 2005

On unappealing offers

As so often seems true, the best possible news for the NDP is that the Cons are calling attention to themselves. This time, the story is a familiar request that the NDP shut down Parliament in order to try to force an early election:
When asked how the Tories could force an election before the scheduled opposition days, Conservative House Leader Jay Hill said his party, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP could bring the House of Commons to a halt.

"I'm sure if all three parties wanted to resort to disruptive tactics and shut the House down, basically bring business to a standstill to show that we're not willing to accept the government's timetable in allowing us our opposition days, we could quickly bring Parliament to a standstill."...

Mr. Harper said his party still believes "this government should not be in office. I think that's the position of the Bloc. It's the NDP who have to ask themselves why they are supporting the government."

Layton's response was essentially to say that nothing's completely off the table depending on how the session turns out. And it makes sense not to rule anything out entirely.

But unless the Liberals try to govern as if they had a majority, there's no particular reason to accept Harper's offer/threat. There's no real upside (for any party) to forcing an election at this point, and I have serious doubts that a Con claim of "We asked them to join us in childishly refusing to accomplish anything, and they said no!" is a message that the NDP fears in an upcoming campaign.

On the other hand, the Cons' alignment with the Bloc, with an agenda of disrupting the functions of government, has driven their numbers down before and likely will again. Which explains why Harper is looking for the political cover that NDP agreement would offer.

For the Cons, that would be the ideal outcome. But for the NDP, that potential outcome only offers reason to continue its current position of cooperation toward better government. After all, the status quo not only offers the benefit of potentially improved policies, but also hands the Cons all the more ammunition with which to shoot themselves in the foot. And that may be just what the NDP needs to make more voters see the party as the eventual government-in-waiting.

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