Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Newest Member of the Temporary Ad-Hoc Rainbow Coalition

For the third time since 2011, a member of the NDP's caucus has left their party over reasons of apparent disagreement with their "principles." And once again, its hard to imagine how these people decided to join up with the NDP in the first place if they disagree so much.

In the case of Lise St-Denis and Bruce Hyer, I can almost understand it. St-Denis left her party fairly early on and said she didn't feel the party was the right fit. In Hyer's case, he left because he didn't like Mulcair's leadership and didn't get a critic's spot - er, sorry, he says he left because of being whipped too much.

In Jonquière-Alma MP Claude Patry's case, its a bit more confusing. Patry, at one point his party's critic for Employment Insurance, a role which he lost after 2012 it seems, has left to join the tiny Bloc Québécois because of the NDP's position on the Clarity Act bill being presented by one of the Bloc MPs (I think André Bellavance), that is to say, they're voting against it.

But, wait a second. The NDP aren't voting against it because they disagree, they're voting against it because it came from the Bloc. The NDP's position is that they want to open the books up and change it back to a simple majority of Quebeckers is required to separate. Craig Scott is even introducing his own bill in order to do almost exactly what the Bloc bill does, except its from an NDP MP.

So, what gives? Why would Patry join the Bloc over an issue that, when you get right down to it, the NDP agree on? It doesn't really make sense, if that is the only reason. Patry's put himself into a pretty crappy position by joining the not-even-recognized Bloc, unless like St-Denis he doesn't expect to be running in 2015.

Yet, why wouldn't he? Patry's relatively young and the Saguenay region where his riding sits is actually pretty friendly towards the Bloc. That he is one of five MPs and his riding will not be obliterated by the redistribution means the Bloc will put resources into keeping him there. Even so, he would have a much better chance holding on to Jonquière with the NDP.

I don't know, this is all very weird, and to me, it doesn't make much sense given the reasons he's said. He has clearly wanted to probably jump to the Bloc for awhile now, and this vote is his chance to do see - even if it is for the flimsiest of excuses.

That corner where the Liberals, Greens, Bloc, and Independents sit keeps getting bigger each year. What does this say about the NDP? It isn't as if St-Denis, Hyer, and Patry were vital components of the Official Opposition, but the fact that the party can't keep its backbenchers from defecting isn't a good sign. Coupled with a set of piss-poor by-election results for the party in 2012, and a leader whose media time is almost pale in comparison to the frontrunner for the leadership of the third party (hell, I've seen Garneau more often in the news), I'm having a hard time seeing a happy ending for the "Official Opposition."


  1. I don't know about his re-election chances here with this move... Jean-Pierre Blackburn held his old riding between '06 and 11 - winning in '08 with over 50%. In Quebec.

    I unless the Tories completely crash and burn, they might be able to yank this riding back into the Federalist camp. Maybe one of the few cases where cheering for the Blue team wouldn't hurt...

    1. Ha, I suppose that's a good point. I never understood why the Saguenay, which is very sovereigntist, votes Conservative federally? Even now Denis Lebel is still in there.

  2. He may want to go Provincial. As well, Saguenay is not as seppie as it once was; if you check the link in my last post you'll see the shifting trends.

    1. Interesting calls from NDP on by-elections, if you look back at history it was tradition that if an mp was elivated to cabinet or PM they would resign and run in a by-election, see Macdonalds "double shuffle", so there is precedence for by-election which seems more democratic in my opinion if they want to switch parties, vs. Bruce Hyer who now sits as an independant.

    2. But not in most Westminster democracies, not anymore. How could it be, when we are in the age of "we can't have a (price tag) election right now!"

  3. My sense is that the old order is gradually reasserting itself in fits and starts.

    With Justin's coronation coming up and the NDP having to make these no-win votes, the coalition of lefty nationalist Québecers, "j'aime le bon Jack" tradesmen and unenthused-about-Ignatieff Liberals is splintering.

    And of course former PLQ minister Mulcair would alienate some sovereigntists.

    I think people realize that Québec had more power with the Bloc in minority governments than it has now as most of the official opposition to a majority.

    1. Very true. The Bloc has had moments when it was dying before - specifically, by the time the third Liberal majority comes around. The Bloc was almost knocked out as the "voice of Quebec" federally in 2000, only saved in seat count thanks to the quirks of our system. Had the Sponsorship Scandal not blown up so spectacularly, the Bloc would've been on life support by 2004.

      However, even in 2006 the main beneficiary of the Liberal collapse in Quebec's non-Montreal federalist was the Conservatives, not the Bloc. By 2008 the Bloc was back below 50 seats and 40% support. These were both minority parliaments and while, yes, the Bloc maintained its status as "Quebec's party," its clear the Bloc continued to slowly die. I don't think was ever Bloc a sustainable entity.

      However, you're right in saying that the old order is "reasserting itself" - but I'm thinking about a much older order. I think Quebeckers see that their power is best served working within the system that the rest of Canada uses, rather than working outside of it. They'll start working within the Liberals, Conservatives, and NDP to make their power felt, like they used to pre-1990's. Question is, whether they'll continue to think the NDP are the best bet.