In recent days, various articles in the mainstream media have been suggesting that the upcoming Conservative spring budget may create common ground between the Harper government and the NDP. Mr. Harper needs the support of Jack Layton's party if he hopes to get his sixth minority budget through the house and it appears that, according to NDP finance critic Tom Mulcair, common ground between the two parties may exist on assistance to low-income seniors and the unemployed. Here is a quote from the December 28th, 2010 issue of the Globe and Mail:
"As Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government prepares its sixth minority budget, it is increasingly directing kind words to a party it has previously attacked as irresponsible “socialists.”
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s recent decision to heighten election talk and all but rule out his party’s support for the next budget leaves the government looking for alternatives. Mr. Harper vilified the Bloc Québécois as “separatists” in his successful campaign to torpedo the 2008 move by the Liberals and NDP to form a coalition government with Bloc support, leaving the NDP has his only remaining dance partner.
NDP finance critic Tom Mulcair said he agrees with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s recent assessment that the two of them found some common ground during a private meeting on the budget. He said those areas included a need to help low-income seniors – perhaps by enhancing the Guaranteed Income Supplement – and possibly renewing incentives for energy-friendly home renovations. Mr. Mulcair said polling shows no party stands to gain now from an election.
“There’s not a heck of a lot that would change,” he said in an interview, predicting a price will be paid by any party that is seen as responsible for triggering an unnecessary election. Yet the NDP’s hints of support come with a major caveat that would be a hard swallow for a government that prides itself on lowering corporate taxes: Mr. Mulcair said the NDP wants future corporate cuts to be more targeted to ensure companies are investing in jobs and productivity.
“If the budget includes the same type of blind, across-the-board corporate tax cut that the Conservatives have been doing in the past, it is highly unlikely that the NDP caucus would ever be able to support such a budget,” said Mr. Mulcair.
In a recent year-end interview with the Reuters news agency, Mr. Flaherty said his meeting with Mr. Mulcair left him with the sense that there was some “common ground” between the two parties. The minister listed skills training, retraining of workers, the forestry sector and older workers as examples of areas where the two parties have worked together in the past.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman, Dimitri Soudas, also singled out NDP Leader Jack Layton’s efforts for praise in an e-mail this week to reporters announcing the government would invite Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to Canada."
It certainly is interesting to see Canada's right-leaning Prime Minister cozying up to and actually complimenting the leader of those who exist well to the left of the political spectrum, isn't it? As background information, during Mr. Harper's tenure as Prime Minister, he has relied on the Bloc to pass his 2006 and 2007 budgets, Liberal abstentions to pass his 2008 and first 2009 budgets, the Bloc and NDP to pass his second 2009 budget and Liberal abstentions to pass his 2010 budget. One might ask what happened to democracy in Canada but that's for another time.
There is one thing that the mainstream media and the NDP seem to be forgetting. Way, way back in June of 1997, a younger version of Stephen Harper gave this speech to a Montreal meeting of the Council for National Policy, a right-wing, Christian-based United States think tank. In that speech, he discusses a wide-ranging number of issues, some of which are quite insulting to Canadians. He also gave his audience a primer about how the legislative system works (or doesn't work, in his opinion) in Canada and makes certain that he shares his opinion about Canada's five major political parties; the NDP, the Liberals, the Progressive Conservatives (remember them?), the Reform and the Bloc Quebecois. One thing he made certain to point out to his American audience was the following about one particular party:
"Let's take the New Democratic Party, the NDP, which won 21 seats. The NDP could be described as basically a party of liberal Democrats, but it's actually worse than that, I have to say. And forgive me jesting again, but the NDP is kind of proof that the Devil lives and interferes in the affairs of men.
This party believes not just in large government and in massive redistributive programs, it's explicitly socialist. On social value issues, it believes the opposite on just about everything that anybody in this room believes. I think that's a pretty safe bet on all social-value kinds of questions.
Some people point out that there is a small element of clergy in the NDP. Yes, this is true. But these are clergy who, while very committed to the church, believe that it made a historic error in adopting Christian theology.
The NDP is also explicitly a branch of the Canadian Labour Congress, which is by far our largest labour group, and explicitly radical.
There are some moderate and conservative labour organizations. They don't belong to that particular organization." (my bold)
My, my, my but Mr. Harper certainly has some strong opinions about those who lean to the left, doesn't he? Even by Canadian standards, those are some pretty extreme views toward your political opponents. I particularly enjoyed his reference to "the Devil" and how any clergy who would happen to lean toward the NDP could not possibly be "true Christians" unlike, of course, those who were sitting in his audience.
While I do realize that the speech is 13 years old, Mr. Harper was a 37 year old, seasoned politician by that time; he had run in two federal elections, he had won a seat as an MP in Calgary West and had spent several years writing political policy for the fledgling Reform Party. As I've said before, this is like looking at an actress without makeup, this is the candid Stephen Harper who is not trying to get the votes of Canadians. This is the completely candid Stephen Harper, something Canadians rarely get an opportunity to see or hear.
In light of the recent news about a potential agreement between the NDP and Stephen Harper's Conservatives and the above noted speech, there are three options regarding the contents of the speech in the context of an alliance between the two Parties:
1.) Stephen Harper was wrong all along; the NDP are not the spawn of the devil so it's okay to make a deal with them.
2.) Stephen Harper really does believe that the NDP are the spawn of the devil but is opportunistic enough that he will make a deal with just about anybody if it keeps him in power and furthers his agenda.
3.) Stephen Harper was just kidding around with his right-wing American audience by vilifying Canada's political left. Really, he didn't mean any of it. Really.
Apparently, Canadian politics does make for some very, very strange bedfellows...and none more so than Stephen Harper and Jack Layton. I'd suggest that Jack Layton take a look at this speech before deciding whether or not to vote for Canada's spring budget.
I wonder who will be sleeping on the right side of the bed?
Globe and Mail, December 28th, 2010
Toronto Sun, January 13th, 2011