In this week’s print edition, I write about the budget bill and its various ramifications.
“The best thing for government is a budget that goes through unnoticed and unreported. And the worst thing is when a budget lingers,” says Brad Lavigne, a former adviser to Jack Layton, the late NDP leader. “Every day the NDP can keep the budget and what they’re trying to ram through, the policy changes in the budget bill, every day that they can keep that in the news, in front of Canadians, is a good day for the Opposition and a bad day for the government.” The public’s interest in parliamentary principles is demonstrably limited—after the Conservatives were found in contempt of Parliament last year, the electorate punished them with a majority—but issues like environmental regulation and employment insurance might play to the NDP’s goals of courting the 60 per cent of Canadians who aren’t inclined to vote for the Conservatives. “If Thomas Mulcair and the team are fighting for those issues, then those people will look to the NDP to be the non-Conservative alternative,” Lavigne says.
The budget bill is officially called the “Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act” and on those terms the Conservatives are likely willing to continue debating. The most controversial aspects of the bill, those related to environmental assessment and resource development, might provide an opening for the NDP, but it might also set up an economic debate of the sort the Conservatives are willing to have. “I think the key debate is actually one that’s going to continue from now until the election, which is, what are we going to do about our energy resources here in Canada?” says Jason Lietaer, a Conservative strategist. “Are we going to use them and try to use them to be prosperous? Or are we going to take a different approach?”