Saturday, September 09, 2006

NDP Pariah

Well it now appears that it is official party policy of the NDP that Canada withdrawl its troops from Afghanistan.

I cannot support this policy. As I have stated before, I think we have very good reasons for being a part of the Afghanistan mission. I also think that our current strategy for carrying out the mission is flawed and needs to change - a different approach, but remain with the mission. I actually agree with Gerard Kennedy's position, rather than that of my own party. I am in the minority 10% that favour the mission and did not (nor would not if I were at the Convention) vote for the resloution. At least I am in the company of Peter Stoffer, NDP MP for Sackville Nova Scotia, whom I respect immensely:

"It's up to Canadians to judge us, and they will have a time very soon at the next election to determine if we are right or wrong on these issues," Peter Stoffer, a NDP MP from Nova Scotia, told CBC News.

Stoffer was among those who voted against the resolution, but he said he respects the party's decision and will not quit over it."

I try very hard not to be a single issue person and I agree with the NDP on a great many things. Their position on the military from the 2004 campaign was a refreshing change that surprised even some of my Conservative friends at the Blogging Party of Canada debates we had on the issue. But lately I have been having a crisis of confidence. Having watched one of our brightest from the last election jump ship has shaken me as well.

I am seriously questioning whether I belong in the NDP. That being said, I sure as hell don't belong in the CPC and the Liberals, well, I still can't trust them and would have a hard time being an any party that thinks Jason Cherniak's latest hijinks are ok, or still allows guys like Dan McTeague to be members.

Perhaps the other pieces of party policy that come from the convention will allow me the opportunity to stay in the NDP. After all, who else will defend Canada's healthcare system? Who else will really stand up for individual rights and equality? The CPC sure won't and the Liberals simply haven't. As I said, I am not a one-issue person, so perhaps other polices will convince me to stay.

Or perhaps Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy and the left side of the Liberals will win the day. That might be very tempting.

Or perhaps, and more likely as of right now, I will join my friends James Bow, Declan Dunne, KevinG and others in being non-partisan, non-party affiliated. I will still be an unabashed lefty of course, but I will be more comfortable in the company I keep.

For now, I will stay with the NDP a bit longer and see if I can find a reason to stay. But time is running out.


At 2:38 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

Wow - interesting twist that I sure as heck didn't see coming. I'm still a CPC member even though I disagree with a good chunk of their policies and ideals. Given the state of politics in Canada, I think they're the one that has the best chance to enact policies I agree with.

A minor pot shot:

"After all, who else will defend Canada's healthcare system? Who else will really stand up for individual rights and equality?"

The NDP will only selectively defend individual rights and equality in Canada.... and health care is a perfect example of where they are willing to crap all over individual rights and force statist solutions on us. ;)

At 2:44 PM, Blogger Mike said...


Well I still think, or perhaps hope, the NDP is still the party to enact policies I agree with, and I have not quit. But it s getting tougher to defend. That being said, I'll await the final policy statements before making a decision.

As for your potshot, well, I fully expected you to show up as soon as I mentioned individual rights and health care in the same sentence.


And I would say a rght that cannot be excercised because of econmics is hardly a right.


At 3:14 PM, Blogger Robert McClelland said...

The NDP, and its predecessor the CCF, have always been against war. Are you just finding this out now, Mike?

Anyway, I disagree with a great many NDP policies too. It's only natural and the only way you'll ever find a party that is in complete agreement with you is if you start your own.

At 3:30 PM, Blogger Mike said...


I'm fully aware. I respected Tommy Douglas' single no vote for WWII, though I didn't agree with it.

I just thought that we had come up with a decent twist on the military in our 2004 policy - peacekeeping and peacemaking and occasionally having to go to war in order to stabilze and stop the immediate danger, so humanitarian assitance can take place.

Now I'm not so sure. I agree that mission has gone wrong, I'm just not sure immediate withdrawl is the answer, not when a change in strategy and tactics has not been tried (as far as I can tell). Having read "Ghost Wars" by Steve Coll and "Shake Hands with the Devil" by Lt Gen Romeo Dalliare, I think there are times when military force is required. I would support a resolution for us to send troops to help stop the genocided in Darfur, for instance. And I think we should help in Afghanistan, just much differently than we are now.

Anyway, like I said, I'm still with the NDP and I suspect they will surpirse me pleasantly, but I am still feeling off right now.

At 4:00 PM, Blogger Robert McClelland said...

I'm just not sure immediate withdrawl is the answer, not when a change in strategy and tactics has not been tried (as far as I can tell).

The problem is that the Conservatives won't even consider changing the mission. We've had two debates on it this year that they treated with contempt. It's time for a drastic call of action to force the issue.

And the key thing that you're forgetting is that Layton is compromiser. If the Conservatives give serious attention to his concerns and are willing to work out a compromise that's to the benefit of all Canadians I'm quite sure Jack will listen and respond to it.

This is no different than what Layton has been doing for the past two years. He's working to make sure that the millions of Canadians who voted NDP get fair representation in our government instead of always being subjec to the will of the majority Conservaberals. His style has worked well so far so I don't see any reason to doubt it won't continue to do so.

At 5:03 PM, Blogger leftdog said...

Mike - you are an asset to the NDP. Period. We need your thoughts, your views and your passion.

These are difficult times and our party is dealing with difficult options. I would far rather have you hammering these tough soloutions out in the party.

This is not unprecedented. The invocation of the War Measures Act in 1970 caused the same type of internal debate in our party.

We need you in the tent. You are a warrior that we cannot be without.

Have faith that not only our party, but our nation will work our way thru this quagmire. I implore you, stay the course. LOUDLY argue your position. LOUDLY. CAREFULLY hear the arguments of your brothers and sisters.

Your opinions are MORE valued than you know. I tend to be bombastic and harsh, we don't agree all the time, but when I get into a good dustup with the reactionaries, you are a good man to have on my side.

At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I've found myself in the same position over this very same issue. The NDP's policy gets my goat not only because it's bad foreign policy, but because I perceive it as opportunistic: The NDP sees a lot of Canadians who are unhappy with the war, and have decided to take that stance to woo those voters away from the Liberals.

But I think that Jack's ready to compromise, and my own position on the war isn't the Liberal one, either. I'm with Jack that we need to tread cautiously and look at how we can ensure that aid and development remains a priority of this mission. And I'm reluctant about militarism, a characteristic that Robert rightly notes has been a core part of CCF-NDP policy (for better and for worse) throughout its history. In short, it's still a tent I belong in, even if I don't agree with the party's current policy.

I think it's healthy to have ideological diversity within a party. That's why the Tories are governing right now: The extreme ideologues within their ranks have been willing to compromise and focus on their shared beliefs and interests rather than their differences and debates.

At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AND... I think it's a sign of health in our blogging network that people are willing to criticize their own party and its positions, unlike some.. uh.. *other* networks who seem to simply parrot the party line at all times. (cough*bloggingtories*cough)

At 7:45 PM, Blogger Oxford County Liberals said...

You could always check out the Green Party, Mike... They're up to 10% in the latest polls.. and their new leader seems to be on the left side of the political spectrum (not that I'm advocating you to leave the NDP, before any of the NDP folks get on my case... I think its healthy to look at all the alternatives before deciding on a choice).

For the record.. I'm not too impressed with single-issue people... the angst among some in the Liberal Party over them not supporting the Israeli position in the recent Lebanon war as much as they'd like is one such example.

At 8:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is what happens when you get too many geriatric, shroomed out ex-flower children and their genetically damaged progeny in the same space for any length of time.

At 8:11 PM, Blogger Andrew said...


"And I would say a rght that cannot be excercised because of econmics is hardly a right."

To which I would respond that equality rights have absolutely nothing to do with ensuring the means of doing something, but rather they have to do with ensuring the freedom to do something if you have the means.

What you're talking about is parity, not equality. ;)

But that's another entire thread. I'll stop hijacking this one now.

At 8:27 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Thanks for all kind words of encouragement guys. I hope you are all correct about how Jack is playing this and like optimus, this is obviously giving me issues.

I suppose that if Peter Stoffer can remain comfortable, so can I. I will await more policy, though.

Its nice to know I am not alone and still have support even from people that don't share the same opinion on this matter that I do.

At 9:39 PM, Blogger C4SR said...


Anybody who is active in a political party should disagree with its leadership from time to time, even on major policy issues.

It's proof that the party member is still thinking.

A party that tolerates dissent (and tolerate is generally as good as it gets) is a more or less democratic party. A party without internal disagreement is a cult.

It's quite a simple calculation that you face.

You could stay in a party that seems, to you, to be the best vehicle for advocating or even implementing the kinds of changes that you want to see made in Canada.

Or, you could quit because the element of the party that could (be bothered to) go to Quebec City passed a resolution that you cannot abide by (with the support of the party's current leadership).

There are three serious considerations if you are thinking of the latter.

You must hope that another party might better reflect your views than the current NDP, even though none of them do now. There's always hoping...

Or you could hope than the NDP, minus people like you, would be more representative of your views. That's not likely to happen.

You might be wrong about the Afghan mission. (I don't think you are, but I might be wrong too. I've been wrong before.)

I think you've seen some of my views on the relevance of the NDP.

Even though I doubt its relevance now, the departure of members/supporters who are prepared to challenge the current leadership, on principle, makes the NDP weaker.

As a progressive, I am comfortable in the Liberal Party. I don't always agree with what the party does or what the Liberal government did, but it's, on balance, an acceptable compromise for me.

But I know it's a compromise. But joining the NDP be a compromise. That party is far from a perfect fit for me.

Don't quit and hope for change from the NDP or another party. Stay in, or get into another, and make your voice heard, your views known and work hard.

It can make a difference.

Or go find a community organization that could benefit form your strenghts and experiences.

Unlike political parties, most community groups actually appreciate their volunteers and supporters.

At 10:03 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Thanks cfsr, good advice. I am going to wait for all the policy debates and votes to pass before I make an descisions. I will also wiegh the relevance and priority I put on certain issues.

I simply want to state my disappointment and disagreement with this major policy descision and let my compatriots know about it. And I will be soul searching when this convention is over.

Perhaps I need some guys like leftdog to convince me to stay, despite my reservations.

At 10:36 PM, Blogger leftdog said...

We are in a war. And I am NOT talking about Afghanistan or Iraq or Lebanon. And yet in a way I AM talking about Afghanistan and Iraq and Lebanon.

We are in a war against a rapid and powerful move to the Right in North America. Bush is the driving force and now our own Mr. Harper is trying to bring our great nation into that movement rightward.

The enemy is a mindset wherein the market will be master. No public health care, no public education, no CPP, no social safety net.

Social Darwinism. Survival of the fittest. If you are poor, that is your own fault and your own problem. Unemployed, work for whatever you can get. Step on your neighbour and schiester him out of what is his - hey , too bad for him.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the Fraser Institute, The National Citizens Coalition, The Miracle Network, The Conservative Party of Canada - they all are working diligently to create their new vision in our nation. The 49th parallel means nothing to them.

We are watching a rightwing extremist takeover of our society. Period. It can be sensed but it is rarely articulated.

In this right wing world vision, there must be a scape goat. Someone has to be the reason for the ills of the world. To the above named groups, the enemy is the politial left and the so called 'islamofacists'. They lump it all together.

The anger that you see on smalldeadanimals is real and it is dangerous. It is symptomatic of a mindset that is driving us steadily towards the rightwing utopia.

I do not exagerate, you know of what I speak.

We cannot let the right divide us. Unity is the only hope we have in fighting them. No rational reasons will convince them. They have a self centred self righteousness that is strong and effective.

On my blogsite, I use the rally call, "If no one sounds the trumpet, who will gird for battle."

Gird for battle. No explanations or discussions or logic is going to sway them. We fight now for the minds of our fellow citizens. We are behind in the battle, and things are not going well.

At 11:22 PM, Blogger The JF said...

I entirely agree with you Mike, I am also having doubts about the NDP, particularly over its stance on Afghanistan and who is saddened by Summerville leaving the party, but I'm very happy to hear I'm not the only dipper that thinks so.

I like to think that I'm part of the "right-wing of the NDP", or as I like to call it, the "pragmatic wing." It's getting harder to remain an NDPer, but I choose to remain one for now, just so that there is a counterbalancing presence to the more hardline party members. Summerville leaving was unfortunate, because if he would have had the will to do it, he could have led the fight against groups like the "Socialist Caucus" and other radical types to prevent them from taking control of the party.

I think what we should really do is have a "Social Democratic Caucus", and advocate for more centre-left policies in the NDP, so that the next time we get an investment banking economist, he or she won't feel as lonely, and to show that no, not everybody in the NDP is advocating the immediate pullout of Canadian troops in Afghanistan and other such things.

At 11:45 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


I left the NDP aboutr ten years ago after the 1995 Ontario election, ans the party hung Rae out to dry. There was too much dogmatism among the members that stifiled creative policy thought.

You're a bigger man than I am for staying.


At 2:31 PM, Blogger catnip said...

I'm a independent liberal and a pacifist. I defintely support the NDP's position. NATO is at war in Afghanistan. It's not a peacekeeping mission and, if Canada pulled out its small number of troops, Afghanistan wouldn't fall apart. Don't forget that the US has been pulling its troops out. Let them make up the shortfall.

I understand your crisis of conscience. I went through it when I walked away from the Liberal party. No single party has all of the answers so we either have to vote strategically when it's crunch time - holding our noses - and/or we have to stick with our principles and vote for the party that's most closely allied with them.

Wandering in the political wilderness isn't always easy but that distance from party loyalty has allowed me to objectively criticize all parties and support policies that make the most sense in terms of social justice, human and civil rights and the betterment of society. (Thus, of course, I'll never vote for a Tory).

At 3:22 PM, Blogger Andrew said...


Apparently people like you and me are now "warmongers" according to Layton:


At 8:46 PM, Blogger leftdog said...

Andrew, that is simply sheer nonsense!

Bush has created an absolute mess in the middle east (Iraq, Afghanistan,Lebanon). The Americans are stinking the region out. Harper backs Bush completely - we'd be in Iraq had Harper had is way when he was Oppostion Leader.

So now Canada is going to fix things by having 2000 troops doing battle with the Taliban?!

The entire region is a disaster. For people like you and Mike feeling conflicted breaks my heart.

Truly the Right's strategy of dividing us is obviously making some dent in left thinking.

As much as I detest the Taliban (and I detest the Taliban) - our presence in the region or our absence from the region is not going to change a damn thing in the bigger Bush plan.

Get ready for his incursions (one way or another) into / against Iran.

Will you be conflicted then?

At 2:03 AM, Blogger catnip said...

Layton: "Canadians are not warmongers."

Well, that is true.

At 9:24 AM, Blogger Andrew said...


Can you try your argument again using logic in place of anti-Bush, anti-Harper rhetoric?

Question: One of Canada's foreign policy goals is to promote the "Responsibility to protect". Do you believe in this goal or not? If you do, then explain how allowing the Taliban to regain control in Afghanistan and return to utterly subjugating the people there (especially the women) is in line with that goal.

At 11:15 AM, Blogger Giant Political Mouse said...

I don't know if this helps or not, but I always think of this quote when I find myself in disagreement with the party.

"If you agree with me on nine out of 12 issues, vote for me. If you agree with me on 12 out of 12, see a psychiatrist."
--former New York Mayor Ed Koch

At 11:17 AM, Blogger Idealistic Pragmatist said...


As someone who was on the convention floor when this issue was debated (I'm going to make a long post about the convention later today, and this will be a big part of it), let me assure you that there is absolutely no reason for you to leave the NDP over this one issue. There was more debate about this single resolution than there was about any other--probably by a factor of ten. There is plenty of room for staying in the NDP and disagreeing with the Afghanistan position, trust me. There was even plenty of room for it among the hardcore party faithful attending the convention.

Continue speaking out for your convictions on this issue, Mike--within the NDP. There's no reason for you to toe any sort of party line.

At 11:34 AM, Blogger Mike said...

Thanks IP...I probably will stay. I just needed to vent.

Andrew, FWIW, I believe in the responsibility to protect. It is one of the reasons I am not yet prepared to give up on Afghanistan and why I would support sending troops to Darfur. That being said, if we are being drawn into a quagmire without a sound plan or strategy or into a situation where Pakistan, our so-called ally, is undermining the mission and making it more dangerous for our troops, then we won't be protecting anyone.

Might I also point out that the current government of Hamid Karzai is not exactly protecting the rights of women or girls (or Christians, if you remember) either.

These are the mistakes of Viet Nam and Iraq - supporting a corrupt, unpopular central government and engaging in combat operations without a plan.

I think we can help and protect, as long as we follow the right plan and our troops are in a situation where they can win. But if our troops are fighting the war the wrong way, under circumstances that make it nearly impossible to win (Pakistan giving safe haven to AQ and Taliban and then signing peace treaties with them, for instance), then I too will call for a pull out, because in that case we can't fufill the duty to protect.

It is telling that one of the youngest, and a female Afghan MP, who has survived numerous assasination attempts, stated that we are not helping.

Now I still think we can, and should, but not the way we are doing it.

BTW, the US has been pulling tropps out of Afghanistan for thre years, how come they aren't branded as cutting and running?

At 2:55 PM, Blogger EUGENE PLAWIUK said...

Mike take a log at my blog, I have documented how this mission changed for Canada and NATO. And how the Harpercrites covered up that change.
I will not go over the points here, however the US is cutting and running forcing NATO to take up the slack, which NATO wanted to do, wanting to be seen as the army of the EU. Canada in between took up the forward command of the war, which is not what we had been doing.

Women and girls are not being protectd in Karzais new Islamic Republic.

Secular democracy is not being practiced.

And there is no capitalist infrastructure such as independent banks. All is crony capitalism.

Finally yes we can leave, NATO reviews its mission ever second month and twice a year according the Afghanistan Accord signed in January of this year.

When Britain refuses to commit 800 troops it promised well now who is cutting and running.

Any ways these are my points and I think you will find in the next two week the NDP develops the following strategy;

Withdraw troops from Kandahar
A smaller contingent for peacekeeping police and security training in Kabul
PRT reconstruction team in Kabul
Reducing munitions and weapons spending in Afghanistan and increading aid funding.
Calling for UN Peace Meeting to stabilize the state.

Those were the highlights of whatI heard on CPAC from Alexa.

At 4:24 PM, Blogger AJSomerset said...

I'm in line with Mike (and many others) on this. Canada should not withdraw, although we do need to be concerned with how things are developing, and we do need to evaluate how we are to proceed.

It's unfortunate that reporting on this issue paints the NDP as a monolithic block that spouts simplistic rhetoric of the kind favoured by Plawiuk. Defence and foreign policy has always been the NDP's Achilles heel -- it's one of the things that makes the party, frankly, unelectable federally.

At 4:27 PM, Blogger Mike said...

I was wondering when I'd hear from you on this skippy. I resepct your opinion on this immensely, given your background. I've been popping by your place to see if you've posted.

I'll take this, though. Thanks for the support.

At 7:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with you Mike. I'm don't agree with the whole withdrawal demand and neither is my spouse.

On the other hand, I don't feel it's the most important issue. When I sat down to ruminate over how I felt about this, I decided that my support for the NDP's other positions trumped my distaste on the Afghanistan position. Part of me thinks that Layton is just working to pick up the anti-war votes (since the popularity of having troops in Afghanistan is dropping). While part of me thinks it's important to bring the subject up, and keep discussing what we're doing and how we're doing it, I'm totally against withdrawing.

That being said, I will be writing some letters about this, and I hope you will write some as well.

At 8:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul Summerville came to his senses and it appears you may be wakening as well, Mike. Good to see!

At 11:26 PM, Blogger ALW said...

Bravo, Mike. You don't have to quit the party just yet, but I'm glad you're speaking out on this.

At 5:47 PM, Blogger Cliff said...

I agreed with going in but it's immensely frustrating how mismanaged the mission has been, due mostly to the Americans being distracted by Iraq - to the point now where its debatable whether we are doing more harm than good there. I think the coverage of the NDPs position lacks the nuance of the position itself and I agree with Eugene that more details are probably forthcoming.

And at least the NDPs position has the advantages of clarity, unity and being in line with the majoriy of Canadians.

At 9:33 PM, Blogger treehugger said...

Great post Mike. I really need to stop by here more often.

Party affilitations are burdensome and tiresome. I gave up my two decades of dedication to Liberals (without endorsing any other party) happily. I like to look at issues independantly now. It is most liberating.

At 10:02 PM, Blogger J. Albert said...

Actually, the CCF/NDP and other fellow travellers haven't always been against war. Canada's left wing swung sharply in favour of WWII once Hitler abrogated his pact with Stalin and attacked the Soviet Union. Once that occured, apparently being pacifists wasn't that important anymore!

Is it really any different today. The left's view is that if Canada pulls out resources, the US will backfill. The theory is that this would put an extra burden on the US financially and strategically - and slow down/weaken its market economy.

At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And at least the NDPs position has the advantages of clarity, unity and being in line with the majoriy of Canadians."

Bullshit! The NDP loves to claim that everything they do or say is in line with the majority of Canadians. How arrogant when juxtaposed to the perpetual 3rd/4th place the NDP continues to find themselves in the polls and elections. Perhaps the NDP need to step out of their ivory towers and union halls and talk to real Canadians before assuming they have a grasp on the majority's wishes.

At 9:50 AM, Blogger Mike said...


The latest polls suggest about 56% of Canadians want us to pull out of Afghansitan and no longer support the mission, so technically it is in line with the (bare)majority of Canadians.

The thing that bothers me is that the NDP has finished 3rd and 4th (or first in a lot of places too, provincially) because they stand by their principles rather than do what is popular (that's what the Libs and Cons do), but this time they appear to be doing this because its what the majority of Canadians want.

Like I said, I guess we should have had a real debate on this in March, instead of the joke we had.

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Technically, I think they're doing this because it's what a majority of their caucus (as well as a majority of the membership at the convention) wants, not because it's what a majority of Canadians want. And the stated reason why that majority is in favour of an immediate pullout is because they think the mission isn't working as planned, and doesn't have clearly stated objectives and an exit strategy.

I don't agree with that position as articulated, either, but it's hardly crazy stuff.

At 3:56 PM, Blogger KevinG said...

Equal opportunity cranky, it's the only way to go :)


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