Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An Open Letter to Jack Layton: Now is the Time

Dear Mr Layton;

Let me extend my sincerest congratulations to you and the New Democratic Party on an historic win. An NDP official opposition is needed now more than at any time in our country's history, as we are poised upon a precipice. The direction in which we lean may determine the very future of our unique and precious nation.

Now is the time to work toward a Canada that truly represents the will of the Canadian people, in all their wonderful common sense, diversity and seeming contradictions. Now is the time to translate the values we all recognize as being at the core of our confederation - cooperation, compassion, inclusion and a respect for the dignity of all peoples - into a new path forward.

Now is the time to confirm Canada's place in the world as a truly progressive nation.

As you read this letter, I will be disappointed if you begin to discern it as a series of demands, issuing forth only one day after the federal election. I wish I could allow you an interval to enjoy the satisfaction of victory, but there's no time to waste, and to the degree that Mr Harper is also a beneficiary of your good fortune, I wish you would turn your attention to him immediately. If it makes my message any more palatable, I can assure you that these are not the words of a disappointed Liberal. In fact, I am a lifelong NDP supporter, albeit one who has at times, with regret, not been able to cast my ballot in that direction. I am one of those creatures, more common on the Canadian political lansdscape than is generally realized, a strategic voter. In particular, I am one of those who, election, voted with a clear conscience for the NDP. And yet, I am not without mixed emotions about the outcome. I suspect the results of the 'vote split' will haunt me for the next four years.

I was born in Saskatchewan in the year of the doctor's strike, the successful resolution of which paved the way for the Saskatoon Agreement. As you remember, it was that compromise by Woodrow Lloyd and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation that secured the realization of Tommy Douglas' dream of universal health care in Saskatchewan, and ultimately made possible the national system of which we are all so proud today. You may also recall that it was not implemented without cost, as many agree that it led to the defeat of the CCF at the hands of the Thatcher Liberals.

I suspect that you will be called upon to make similar difficult choices in the months and years ahead, but I submit to you that now is the time to put aside purely partisan concerns and place the very existence of a progressive coalition at the top of your list of priorities. I hope that you will begin immediately to build the kind of united front that is clearly the only lever that will enable the defeat of the Conservative regime. Now is the time to begin planning a strategy that recognizes the fact that - majority or no - the Conservatives cannot lay claim to the loyalties of the majority of Canadian voters. Their relatively unchanged share of the popular vote in this election illustrates plainly that they do not represent mainstream Canadian values regardless of how desperately they wish to depict their majority status as a mandate from the people.

Clearly, it is not. Now is the time to highlight that fact.

You've made it clear that you stand for a politics of inclusion. Now is the time to put that principle into action and work toward the dream of a government that reflects Canada's values in 2015. I think this means putting party affiliation and tradition in second place for a while. I think it requires a level of unity among progressives that we've not seen in Canada for a long, long time. Still, I trust that you are a leader who can accept this difficult task, and make the necessary choices, difficult though some of them may prove to be. And, as you know, one of the first choices you must make as the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition regards the composition of your shadow cabinet. I humbly submit to you that this choice represents a unique opportunity. Now is the time to take the first steady steps towards the united movement we all seek, by reaching across the aisle to your Liberal colleagues. I urge you to take advantage of the experience, passion, principles and organization possessed by the rump of that party in the House of Commons. Despite the severity of their party's fall, there were many fine Liberals re-elected who could significantly boost the effectiveness of your Opposition if they were asked to serve in your shadow cabinet. Now is the time to make overtures to Members of Parliament such as Justin Trudeau, Stephane Dion and, perhaps most especially, Bob Rae.

I don't know if there exists, or will ever exist, sufficient appetite within the NDP and Liberal party apparatuses to enable a formal merger. But I do know that now is the time for an innovative approach to Opposition politics. We have four years to build a machine that can defeat the Conservatives, but there is much to do, and no time to waste.

Please, start today.

Now is the time.

Resepectfully yours,

Clifton Bertram
St Thomas, Ontario

1 comment:

Charles said...

Very insightful and passionate letter describes the need for Canadians to see a common vision and together in a new political era.