Sunday, July 02, 2006

On misplaced criticism

With the past week's news largely dominated by the Cons' convention funding scandal, I've put my planned response to the Libs' sniping at the NDP on the back burner. But let's take a look back at some of what's been said about the NDP recently...and just how far detached it is from reality.

Plenty of attention has been paid to this piece from PEJ as some evidence that the NDP might be losing popular support. Unfortunately, while phrased as an "open invitation", the piece isn't so much an invitation to anything as an admission that author C.L. Cook is paying no attention to what's actually happened during the course of this spring's session of Parliament.

Cook claims that the NDP bears responsibility for the Cons' right-wing agenda, and asks why the NDP hasn't fought the Cons on a number of issues. The problem is that on each issue specifically cited by Cook, the NDP has been the federalist party in favour of progressive principles already. But don't take my word for it, let's take a quick look through the record and see just how the NDP has been the sole party speaking up for exactly the issues Cook wants to see dealt with.

When it comes to Canada's role in Afghanistan, the NDP was the sole federalist party to present a united stance against Harper's demand for absolute power and to point out the importance of preserving Canada's role as a peacekeeper rather than a warmaker. A few choice quotes from the May 17 Afghanistan debate alone, first from Layton himself:
Our foreign policy must reflect the reality that we are a country renowned for our pursuit of peace. We are a nation of facilitators, not occupiers. We are a people committed to the ideals of building bridges, not burning them. We must not allow that legacy of good work to falter in the growing shadow of the Bush administration's Operation Enduring Freedom.
From Dawn Black:
After four months of total immersion in Canadian defence policy, I am more convinced than ever that military force must be used only as a last resort.

Military force is a blunt, dangerous and expensive instrument. It has profound, often negative consequences for the lives of individual human beings. Those individuals include the soldiers we send into harm's way, their husbands, their wives, their sons, their daughters, and yes, their mothers and fathers, as well as their grandmothers and grandfathers.

Never let us forget the grave responsibility we carry anytime we put the lives of young Canadians on the line.
From Bill Siksay:
Mr. Speaker, many Canadians are not supportive of Canada's military effort in Afghanistan. Many Canadians want to see a withdrawal of the Canadian Forces from Afghanistan. In fact, I am one of those Canadians. I oppose a new mission in Afghanistan, but I would also like to see a safe and immediate withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan, starting now...

How does the member for Vancouver Quadra respond to the many people in his constituency and in my constituency in British Columbia and across Canada who think that Canada should not be there now and that we should begin a safe and measured withdrawal from Afghanistan immediately?
And Peggy Nash:
Afghanistan, no doubt, is a country that needs assistance and I strongly support helping the people of Afghanistan. However, Canada is in Afghanistan, thanks to the previous government, in a combat role, a counter-insurgency role under U.S. command as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Many Afghans, including the Afghan Women's Organization, do not support Canada's combat role because it interferes with peace, security and rebuilding. I will vote against the motion tonight.

Why is the government ignoring the wishes of so many Afghan people and the majority of Canadians who want to return to security and peace building but not a counter-insurgency mission?
It's downright remarkable that Cook construes all of the above (to say nothing of the NDP's consistent message before and after that debate as well) as silence and/or "complicity". Meanwhile, note that the Libs contributed the extra votes to grant Harper a blank cheque. (Cook presumably wouldn't deny this fact, but it'll become relevant when we get to how Cook's article has since been portrayed by others.)

On the issue of Haiti, this spring was thankfully marked by progress in the country in the form of an election, such that there's been less need to hold the government's feet to the fire as the NDP did previously. But the NDP has consistently supported the democratic will of the Haitian people rather than claiming the country's future should lie in the hands of U.S. puppets. Compare again to the Libs, who were responsible for Canada's anti-democratic stance in Haiti prior to Preval's election.

I'd deal with more issues...but Cook doesn't bother specifically naming any more than that, preferring instead to claim that the NDP has refused to speak out against "death and destruction policies" and a "fascist" future. I won't bother going through the record to show how consistently Layton and company have in fact spoken out on issues which could be classified that way.

Instead, suffice it to say that Cook apparently isn't interested in bothering with such petty things as facts. Far easier instead to make a baseless claim that the NDP is "cowardly" and has done nothing, and then use Cook's own refusal to look into the issues as support for the claim.

Of course, Cook doesn't have anything friendly to say about the Libs or Cons either. But that hasn't stopped some Libs from trying to cite the article (see also a comment to this post) as an example of far-left discontent with Layton - which is then somehow supposed to translate into increased swing support for the same Lib party which Cook blames primarily for Harper's policies. Which means that the Libs, not satisfied with propagating an anti-Layton article which is based on pure conjecture, apparently need to spin that conjecture beyond recognition in order to try to find some upside for themselves.

In the end, it seems to me a reflection of the NDP's stance as the party best in touch with progressive Canadians that the Libs are grasping at such thin straws in trying to find some reason to think the NDP is in danger of losing some of the votes it won in the last federal election. And while any party is bound to potentially face fire from both sides of the political spectrum, the NDP doesn't have much to fear from commentary this far off the mark.

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