Thursday, December 03, 2009

Inside the Coalition

For the process fans who actually like to hear how the sausages are made, Brian Topp's Globe series on the coalition negotiations a year ago are indispensable and fascinating. I highly recommend this insightful series.
Part Six detailing how the whole idea fell apart (cough...Iggy) and the lessons learned will be tomorrow.

The money quote from today:
At about 3:00 p.m., we returned to the main boardroom to hear the Liberal counter-proposal. They had been drafting with a laptop and projector, and walked us through their counter-proposal line-by-line. Blakeney, Broadbent and Black asked detailed questions, paragraph by paragraph. Essentially all of our proposals were reflected in their version, in much less detail and with no spending commitments attached. There was one key omission – they did not want to include any reference to an enhanced child benefit or to childcare.
It was time for another Dawn Black moment.
Black picked up the cudgel, demanding to know what the Liberals had against families and children, especially given all the complaining they had done about the fate of their last-days-of-Martin press releases about childcare.
The Liberal front-line seemed extremely embarrassed to defend the position they were taking, and as the discussion proceeded more and more of the Liberal talking was being done by their leader’s office research staffer.
He argued, relentlessly and repetitively, that no spending commitments must be made that would be “structural spending.” Helping families and children, to his mind, was “structural spending,” and so nothing could be done about child poverty or the real-world consequences of unemployment to average Canadian families.
It was fascinating to look at the Liberal team during this exchange. They looked ashamed of themselves. They also looked defeated and powerless. How many times during their recent decade in office, I wondered, had elected Liberals had expressions like that on their faces, while staff and bureaucrats chanted neo-con blather? Permanent tax cuts for wealthy individuals and business were “investments.” Help for poor families was “structural spending.”
The Liberals will continue to wander the wilderness until they accept that trickle down is a completely discredited idea and start putting the needs of ordinary Canadians over the desires of Bay Street.

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