Saturday, March 26, 2022

On barriers to cooperation

It's for the best that the NDP and Libs have been able to come to terms on a supply and confidence agreement which should at least provide for substantial material gains for people who need them, and may go further in setting up core elements of a universal health care system which have long been lacking. And it's particularly gratifying to see at least some recognition of the leadership that requires. 

But while it's well worth celebrating what looks like a turn for the better, it's also worth a reminder as to what - and who - has prevented that type of cooperation from happening in the past.

Remember that Jagmeet Singh's message after the 2019 election was one of willingness to work with the Liberals on shared priorities. And Justin Trudeau's response reject any systematic cooperation with a single party, as he preferred piecemeal politics and perpetual Parliamentary chicken to acceding to any NDP priorities in exchange for ongoing confidence.

After last year's election, Singh again floated the possibility of closer cooperation, while apparently seeing it as futile to even suggest a formal confidence agreement. But even with that lesser possibility on the table, the Libs expressed at most "not a closure" in response, with nothing coming of it until talks between the leaders this year. 

And lest there be any doubt, that disparity in interest in working together is all too familiar for anybody who has hoped that Libs would treat minority Parliaments as opportunities to achieve progressive outcomes. From Paul Martin sneering that Jack Layton was "two votes short" of being worth talking to, to Pierre Trudeau torpedoing a functional confidence arrangement to manufacture a majority for himself, the history of the two parties is rife with theoretical possibilities which fell victim to the Libs' hubris and/or self-interest. 

Needless to say, that leaves reason for concern that the same factors will affect both the length of time the current agreement figures to hold up, and the expectations as to what will be achieved while it does. And while the points of agreement may make some major achievements seem like real possibilities, there's a lot of work to be done to keep pushing toward actually bringing them to life before the Libs decide to go it alone.

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