[Democracy Watch Logo] [Op-ed]

None of the federal political parties have a strong hand, so they should all stop bluffing and reach a democratic compromise

Set out below is a letter to the editor by Democracy Watch Coordinator Duff Conacher which was published in edited form in the December 1, 2008 issues of the Moncton Times and Transcript, and in the December 2, 2008 issue of the National Post

All federal political parties should be working toward a democratic compromise over the Conservative minority government's economic and political finance proposals, instead of continuing their poorly timed bluffing.
First, while the Conservatives's self-interested surprise proposal to cut the public per-vote funding of parties funding entirely goes too far, the opposition parties overreacted.

Given that the funding was set by then-Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien at an arbitrarily high level in 2003 to help his party, the funding should be cut in half.  This will give all the parties, especially smaller ones, a solid base of funding, while encouraging them to win more funding by winning the support of more voters.
Second, Prime Minister Harper must realize he does not have majority support, and that though the Liberals may be weak it doesn't mean he can shove the Conservatives' agenda down everyone's throat. 

The Conservatives have already compromised by withdrawing their proposals to cut per-vote party funding, suspend public sector unions' right to strike, and freeze public servant pay equity initiatives, as they should have given that they didn't mention them during the recent election and so had no mandate to propose them.

However, the opposition parties want at least some steps taken now to boost the sagging economy, and so the Conservatives' should take some steps instead of holding all moves off until next February's budget.
Third, the opposition parties must realize that even though the Prime Minister broke his word and at least the spirit of his fixed-election date law in September by advising the Governor General to call an election, it is no better for them to go now to the Governor General and ask her to make the sort-of Liberal leader Stéphane Dion the Prime Minister based on a very likely short-term, shaky alliance with the NDP and Bloc Québecois (especially given that Mr. Dion stated clearly during the recent election that he would not enter into such an alliance).
In other words, none of the parties really have a strong hand to play, and so they shouldn't be betting that they will come out of this situation a winner.  Their collective undemocratic wrongs do not add up to a democratic right for any of them.
While they're making these democratic compromises in the public's (not their own) interest, hopefully they will also try to avoid future similar messes by all acting more honestly, ethically, openly, representatively and efficiently.
Doing this will very likely impress more voters than their current party games, and may even have the positive benefit for all of attracting the support (and donations) of some of the more than 40 percent of voters who didn't vote in the last election.

Duff Conacher, Coordinator
Democracy Watch

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