David Miller says that an early election will cost Toronto $50-million in lost gas tax revenues, as a result of the unpassed federal budget disappearing. The Conservatives have promised to honour the gas-tax sharing deal signed with BC. Admirably, they take the position that a deal's a deal. However, the federal government has to negotiate a deal with each province and hasn't completed any others yet. Rather than leaving us in limbo, why don't the Conservatives come out and say that they will honour the entire gas tax plan? After all, how could they send gas tax money to BC municipalities and not anywhere else?
Anyway, it is possible the federal budget may still pass with NDP help, which would take us another step towards locking the gas tax deal in place. One has to ask why Paul Martin couldn't have passed this sort of legislation a long time ago. He has been Prime Minister for 16 months, after all. But this is part of a bigger pattern. The nickname "Mr. Dithers" only gets at one side of it.
We all saw, or heard of, Jack Layton's proposal to keep the Paul Martin government afloat (at least briefly) in exchange for changes to the Liberal's budget. It has been reported that Martin has agreed to meet with Layton to discuss it. On his blog, Mike Brock explains why the plan may work, despite the seat-counting math initially presented in the media.
Some, including Brock himself, have accused the NDP of crossing a moral barrier in making such a proposal. I don't see it that way. Jack Layton and Stephen Harper have the same goal and the same obligation: their goal is to take power in the government and their obligation is to do so honestly and without cheating. If Layton is able to pass legislation in this parliament that has been amended to suit the NDP, then he is succeeding on both counts.
Layton has no obligation to move us swiftly to the polls, any more than Harper does. Neither of them will do so until it is in their interests.
Layton is demanding an elimination of the corporate tax cuts promised in the proposed budget. Regardless of whether or not this is good policy, Layton is bargaining like a chump if this is all he gets. These tax cuts are being phased in over 5 years. The cuts are heavily loaded towards the end of the 5 years, as the replacement spending would also be. So, if he gets the cuts dropped and the money redirected to social spending, it will probably produce nothing of value. This delicate balance won't prevail for several years. Layton should be exploiting today's particular situation for something much more immediate. And if he's smart, it should be something that also puts a case to Canadians about why they should vote NDP.
After the 2004 election, many commentators pointed out that NDP supporters who chickened out and voted Liberal in hopes of preventing a Conservative government actually ended up costing their own party seats in close ridings. Some of these ridings may have been lost to Conservatives in close three-way races. I'm sure it was painful enough for NDP supporters to realize that on election night. Well, they really must be kicking themselves now that they are in a position to exert some real influence on the government but might be just a seat or two shy.
I live in the Toronto-Danforth riding and recently received MP Jack Layton's spring community newsletter. As it was being delivered around Earth Day, its theme was environmental issues. On the back page, there was a "Kyoto Quiz", with answers on Layton's website. Question 3 asks "Who believes in voluntary vehicle emissions reductions for the auto industry?" and the answer is... the Conservatives, the Liberals, and the Greens.
Not really fair, I thought, since the Greens have an even better plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, namely The Green Tax Shift. Not everyone agrees that we should be addressing climate change, but if you do agree then I would suggest that a carbon tax approach is the most fair and efficient way.
Jack, however, wants to suggest that the Greens don't have a real plan. It must be frustrating to be leading a 3rd-place party, in a first-past-the-post system, and then a 4th party come along and takes some of your votes. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that Green voters aren't all former NDP voters anyway.
A lot of NDP talk in today's edition! Since I've written so much NDP stuff today, I might as well point out that the Blogging Dippers have now joined the Blogging Tories in the blogroll alliance business.
I'm a bit too shy of joining groups to link up with James Bow's new Blogging Alliance of Non-Partisan Canadians, however.