Singh proffers NDP votes for a song
Facing a grand total of four parliamentary committee investigations into government misconduct in the WE charity saga, Justin Trudeau followed a time-honored strategy, beloved by all Canadian Prime Ministers embroiled in scandal, and prorogued parliament on August 18 until September 23. Smelling blood (or at the very least, votes) the Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet had already threatened to force a confidence vote against the minority Liberal government this fall unless Bloc demands for the resignation of Trudeau, Bill Morneau and Katie Telford were met. The resignation of Morneau on August 17 means the Bloc can cross one name off their hit-list. But without the departure of Trudeau it’s unlikely this will make a difference, meaning, come September, the Liberals will most likely have to rely on NDP votes to avoid triggering a new election.
Jagmeet Singh has already laid out some demands he expects the Liberals to address if they want NDP support in the upcoming confidence vote: The first is a demand for $10 billion over 4 years for childcare provision and the second is a demand to extend CERB payouts and permanently increase the scope of the EI system. While there’s nothing wrong with these goals in themselves, their lack of ambition does suggest that the NDP doesn’t fully understand the leverage it currently possesses with the Liberals. The Bloc Quebecois have already said that nothing short of the departure of Trudeau would compel them to support a throne speech and the Conservatives, with their newly minted leader Erin O’Toole spoiling for a fight, are even more unlikely to come to the Liberals’ aid. The NDP wishlist seems particularly pathetic because the Liberals already promised a childcare fix in their last party platform in 2019, and employment minister Carla Qualtrough has recently signaled there will be some movement on EI benefits for the self-employed and women in the upcoming throne speech.
Do the NDP regard themselves as a mere ombudsman of the Liberal party—making sure Trudeau delivers on promises he’s already made? Or does the NDP have a unique vision of how Canada could look after its people, a vision better than what the Liberals offer? If the latter, why doesn’t Singh use this moment to highlight the differences between NDP and Liberal visions of the future? The NDP has exciting ideas to reduce inequality with a wealth tax, replace Canada’s patchwork healthcare system with truly universal coverage, strengthen democracy through electoral reform and more. Through their own parliamentary meddling the Liberals have gifted the NDP an opportunity to push to get some of these ideas enacted, or at the very least, to highlight to Canadians that it is the Liberal party that stands in the way of getting these progressive policies adopted. When Singh declines to make these policies a part of his opening bid in the negotiation with the Liberals to prop up Trudeau’s administration he fails both the NDP and Canada’s left more broadly.
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