All of Canadian politics has spent the past 48 hours spinning, twirling and losing its collective mind over the potential of a snap general election during the start of the second wave of this global pandemic. It’s been something to see how this all blew up out of nowhere, against all commonsense thanks to both the Liberals and Conservatives completely overplaying their hands. That insanity put the pressure squarely on the New Democrats and Leader Jagmeet Singh to determine what would happen. Well just after 1 pm eastern today, we got our answer, and it was a rare show of maturity in these past couple days of petulant immaturity:
As I pointed out yesterday, the fact that we were even in this position was just insane. The Conservative took a legitimate idea that the NDP had floated around having a special committee to investigate federal spending during COVID-19 and torqued it in the worst, partisan ways. It’s totally reasonable to look over all spending by the Feds during this period, when things were moved fast, and mistakes did happen. We have seen the WE scandal, but we’ve seen a story a questionable contract for ventilators to one company that ended up apparently benefitting another company owned by a former Liberal MP, we’ve seen a commercial rent assistance program that flopped and other examples that also deserve to be thoroughly looked at. That is parliamentary oversight and that’s the job of opposition parliamentarians. Instead of sticking to that, the Conservatives did what they always seem to do, got far ahead of themselves and allowed their partisan overreach blind them to what their duties are.
As for the Liberals, their responses to this have been stunningly arrogant and bad. They tried to defend wanting to force an election over this by basically saying that they can’t do their job while being held to account, which is totally insane as a proposition. But they went beyond that, calling any attempt to be held to account a personal, vindictive attack on them. All of that came after they prorogued Parliament to stop committees from holding them to account, and then spent the past two weeks filibustering them to the same effect. It was petulance at it’s worst, yet something Mr. Singh mentioned in his press conference was very enlightening. When asked if the NDP was negotiated with the Liberals to create a special committee, Singh told the assembled reporters that the Liberals refused to discuss it and had no interest in actually allowing a committee to take on this work. That perked up my ears because that’s a change in stance from the red team, again raising the serious question about what in the sweet Hell they are trying to hide. But it also did because it became clear that Mr. Trudeau wants an election, no matter the cost, no matter the risk to public health and no matter what it means for accountability. Like a spoiled child being faced with a time out because his parents tried to keep him in line, this Prime Minister responded by effectively trying to get rid of his parents instead of facing the “indignity” of spending 10 minutes silent in a chair. The old words of “then gentleman doth protest too much” ring very true right now, and because there will be no election, Parliamentarians will be able to get to the bottom of those topics which Mr. Trudeau appears to protest far too much.
That has left Jagmeet Singh as the adult in the room in this conversation, and in doing so, he’s showing that he can do what the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Official Opposition basically admitted they either can’t or won’t do; walk and chew gum at the same time. With the Conservatives more concerned with scoring cheap political points than getting to the bottom for the WE Scandal, the Liberals more concerned about their own self-preservation than being transparent and accountable to Canadians and the Bloc Quebecois doing what they always do, which is do nothing to be productive towards making Parliament work, it’s fallen to the NDP to do the heavy lifting. That is always the harder job to do and it’s one that all Canadians expect their elected leaders to do, but in this case thanks to three other parties thinking of their own best interests first, that hard work has fallen on the shoulders of 24 New Democrats from all across the country.
And let’s be clear, this is not the easiest route for the New Democrats to take. It won’t be easy to keep fighting in committees to get to the bottom of WE and other pandemic spending issues, but nothing worth doing is ever easy. The fact is that no one is going to get to the bottom of those issues on the campaign trail. Parliament is the place for that to happen, and you have to be there to make that happen. And the same is true when it comes to supporting Canadians during this pandemic. You can’t pass changed help for commercial rents, or disabled peoples, or any other COVID measures from a campaign bus bouncing from stop to stop. The only place for that work to happen is in Parliament, and in taking this position, the NDP has ensured that will happen.
A lot of what I’ve witnessed in the past 48 hours reminds me of things we saw in the last minority Parliament when we faced similar situations. Jagmeet Singh showed himself to be acting like Jack Layton in the best of ways, taking the hard work of making Parliament work to heart and doing what he can to balance those interests. Erin O’Toole has been acting a lot like Michael Ignatieff, the Official Opposition leader in those days, bringing forward bluster and rhetoric with no effect on making peoples lives better. The blue team might want to remember where that led Ignatieff in 2011. Yves-François Blanchet played the Gilles Duceppe role of aloof leader very much, more concerned with keeping his own salary & seat, which ended equally badly in 2011. And then there’s Justin Trudeau taking on the role of Stephen Harper, launching threats of elections from on high, minus the blue sweaters. While that might have gotten Harper a majority in 2011, I would only point out that Trudeau got elected by saying he was the antithesis of him, how he operated and how he governed. These last few days might be the final acts in Justin Trudeau’s transformation into the red version of Harper, in effect becoming everything in government that he scorned and repudiated in opposition. We’ll see how that goes, but it’s something interesting that I couldn’t help but notice.
In the meantime, Parliament will continue on. The pressure to hold the Trudeau Liberal government will continue, while Parliament continues to pass supports for Canadians during COVID, while we react to whatever happens after the US Presidential Election in a couple weeks and while we deal with whatever else that we haven’t seen come onto our radar yet comes out. That will be the case because the adults in the room stepped up and did the heavily lifting here. For all the recriminations that the Liberals, Conservatives and Bloc will try to throw at the NDP here, they have made the right choice. It’s much easier to pout, fight and tear something down than to talk, compromise and build something up. The hard work is what we rightly expect from our politicians and honestly, its what real leaders do. In this moment, we can only point to one true leader in the House of Commons and that’s Jagmeet Singh, and that has just as much to do with him being the adult in the room as it does with the others acting like spoiled children instead. It’s all about contrast, and today, the contrast is especially clear.