Monday, July 03, 2006

By reader request

I'd initially planned on merely adding a snarky postscript to this post about how hilarious it is to see the same Lib blogger now trumpeting a column by the ever-schizophrenic Larry Zolf as a meaningful critique of the NDP. But by popular request (and since Idealistic Pragmatist beat me to the punch on the postscript), let's take a look in detail at the obvious problems with Zolf's column.

On a broad level, Zolf bases his argument on much of the same language used by Cook: "invisible", "silent", "absent", and the like. In doing so, Zolf appears to take the view that since he hasn't seen much of the NDP in whatever media he chooses to watch, the party must be to blame. Which is of course a convenient way of letting the media off the hook for covering personalities, publicity and pork far more than meaningful policy offerings.

I'll note also as a preface that in his typical stream-of-unconsciousness style, Zolf doesn't seem to have a clue what he wants to see from the NDP, turning on a dime from criticizing Layton and company for not being cozy enough with labour (in the form of refusing to go along unquestioningly with Buzz Hargrove's every whim), to criticizing the NDP for being too cozy with labour (for not provoking a war with CUPE Ontario over its Israel boycott). So take Zolf's argument with a heavy coating of salt.

Those preliminary matters aside, let's take a quick look at how the NDP has, in the current session of Parliament, come out with guns blazing against the Cons on the issues where Zolf has managed to avoid hearing anything from the party.

Kyoto: Not only has the NDP rightly criticized the Cons' effective withdrawal from Kyoto at every opportunity and held Ambrose directly accountable for her failings, it's also presented a cost-neutral plan to meet Canada's commitment both to the public and in Parliament. Frankly, this one alone should be enough to put an end to any attempt to take Zolf seriously.

Same-sex marriage: At last notice this one was dealt with in the previous session of Parliament, with the NDP making the strongest push to keep the issue moving forward. But while making clear its commitment to keeping the ground already won, the NDP is also showing the way forward by pushing for equality for transgendered Canadians, while also dealing with human rights more generally.

Aboriginal rights: The NDP has hammered the Cons for backing out of the Kelowna accord, demanded action on the issues pointed out the Auditor General's report, blasted the Cons' continued neglect on several local First Nations issues, fought to ensure that the Cons acknowledge their responsibility for land-claims issues, and rightly slammed the Cons for opposing the U.N.'s Declaration on Indigenous Peoples Rights.

Labour rights: The NDP introduced bills to protect wages from employer bankrupcty, improve EI availability and bar scab workers in areas of federal jurisdiction, in addition to calling attention to the exploitation of temporary foreign workers.

Untrammelled free enterprise: Judging from his later comments Zolf may well be expecting the NDP to demand forcible seizure of the means of production, in which case he would indeed have reason for disappointment. But the NDP has pushed consistently to ensure that any nickel-mining merger takes into account the needs of labour as well as the affected communities, as well as to ensure that banking reforms are accompanied by consumer protection. Moreover, the NDP as usual has led the way in highlighting the need to act against poverty and income equality in Canada and abroad, as well as calling for action on Canada's housing shortage.

Decentralization: The Cons largely succeeded in kicking the can down the road on this one due to the Bloc's support for the budget, but it was only over the NDP's protestations. The NDP criticized the Cons and Bloc for refusing to support a revitalization of the Canada Social Transfer, and slammed the Cons for pretending that tax credits could be equated with federal vision.

Afghanistan: Needless to say, this one's been dealt with already. Note that Zolf goes a step beyond Cook in claiming that the NDP "has (not) called for an end to the combat role for Canadian troops in Afghanistan", in the face of the same evidence to the contrary.

With those out of the way, we're down to two issues left - and they're ones where Zolf simply makes false assumptions about what the NDP's role should be. Zolf complains that Layton "has said nothing about the billions of dollars Harper is spending on defence" - which reflects a wrong-headed view that the NDP can't value Canada's peace-keeping capability and sovereignty enough to support investments in Canada's military. And finally there's a general conclusion that the NDP should "speak out loud and clear for the socialist ideals the NDP presumably embraces". (But far be it from Zolf to actually define what ideals those should be, aside from the ones on which he's already ignored the NDP's contribution.)

In sum, Zolf's assumptions about the NDP are even more obviously flawed than Cook's. Which means that while Layton and company may have some work to do in making sure that such a poor excuse for commentary doesn't gain any undeserved credence, it's surely not to the Libs' credit that their few arguments against the NDP are based on nothing more than increasing amounts of misinformation.

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