Thursday, October 02, 2008


While New Democrats have to be happy with Jack Layton's performance in last night's debate, it does seem fairly clear that Stephane Dion's cry for attention did manage to elevate his profile. But with nobody having apparently answered the Libs' surprise economic announcement in substance, there should be plenty of room for Layton to take the initiative tonight in deconstructing it.

Now, it helps that the plan can be nicely slotted into the New Democrats' main campaign frame. When the economy is raised as an issue, Layton can point out that while Harper's answer is to do nothing at all, the Libs' only concrete proposal is a make-work project for Canada's boardrooms.

From there, Dion's proposal can be analogized to the process south of the border. There, the initial proposal from similarly-positioned regulators would have led to an accountability-free, $700-billion bailout for the financial firms who caused the problems, and not a cent to help families stay in their homes through anything but the remotest of trickle-down effects.

To the extent that the initial U.S. plan has been improved, it can be argued to have happened only because some leaders in Congress were willing to speak up to defend Americans at large against the attempt to push through a corporate-friendly plan. Which can then be argued to signal the need for more political efforts to defend the interests of working Canadians - not more assumptions that the same organizations who would be on the hook for any failures should have the first and last word in resolving them.

There may also some limited room to attack the Libs' focus on diverting infrastructure and manufacturing money to crisis resolution by questioning whether a focus on using those funds now would lead to decisions which are ultimately less effective for those sectors in the longer term. But that kind of attack would likely backfire unless there's some alternative means proposed to pay for the costs of reinforcing Canada's economy.

Of course, some elements of the Libs plan such as an expedited fiscal updated have already (and rightly) been agreed to by the New Democrats and Greens. But with Layton already focusing on the problems with corporatism, it should be an easy step to point out that the answer to a crisis isn't to let Bay Street dictate what solution would be best for itself.

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