So I ran into a surprising number of NDP types during my stroll up the Hill this afternoon, all eager to explain why this decision to support the government is not a 180-degree turnabout. Or in the words of one nameless but affable senior NDPer, “It’s not a 180.”
Having mocked Canada’s Natural Non-Governing Party in a couple of posts below for what, from where I’m standing, sure looks like a 180, it behooves me to print the NDP’s rationale in something approaching good faith. Off we go then:
• It’s not that the Liberals voted confidence in the government 79 times that upset the NDP so, it’s that they gave the government such unflagging support “and got nothing in return.”
• The NDP, on the other hand, “got $1 billion.” That’s the value (anticipated, at least) of the government’s latest proposed changes to EI payments. That $1 billion “isn’t enough, but it’s a pretty good start.”
• So, as Jack Layton put it in his scrum, the choice was between $1 billion for unemployed Canadians, or spending a third of a billion on an election. Layton asserts that he made the wise decision.
• Surely there’s a punchy talking point I haven’t quoted yet? Right you are. “A working group was the best the Liberals got out of the government for all those Yea votes,” one shadowy but determinedly chipper New Democrat told me. “So, Michael Ignatieff got lunch with Pierre Poilievre. We got a billion bucks.” Punchy!
There you go. Now. Having relayed this line of argument with an admirably straight face, perhaps I can be forgiven for adding this. The latest round of changes to EI, which have won the support of the NDP, aren’t the only incremental spending on employment insurance this year. Here’s a bunch of other changes, already passed, which add to $6.2 billion in value. One would be tempted to argue that is 6.2 times as good a start as a $1 billion change. But the NDP was against those earlier changes. That’s not a 180?