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SpongeBuzz PinkPants! Part 2 – The CAW and the Liberals

August 30th, 2006

On a Windsor stage in the middle of the last federal election, Paul Martin and Buzz Hargrove stood on a stage and hugged, while Buzz presented then PM Martin with a jacket, bought for by CAW members (I as a member don’t get a free leather jacket). That hug may have looked like the political equivalent of a cuddle and a peck on the cheek, but Buzz Hargrove and the CAW minions may have decided it was so much more.

Reading through the CAW report, Eye Of The Storm: The CAW and the Remaking of Canadian politics (pdf document), some of the more instructive details occur in the sidebars. One in particular, called “What Were They Thinking?” is an excerpt from James Laxer’s Fake Left, Go Right: An insider’s Take on Jack Layton’s Game of Chance (subscription needed to read past the first paragraph). It analysis the NDP’s part in the Conservative victory, making it clear the CAW thinks ethics is a right-wing value. However, instruction comes about half-way through the excerpt:

Since the founding of the CCF, social democrats have dreamt that one day their party would replace the Liberals as one of the nation’s two major political vehicles.

Under Layton, NDP strategists have resumed the search for the Holy Grail: the realignment of Canadian politics around the centre-left pillar of the NDP through the marginalization of the Liberals.

According to an insider, the NDP saw the Liberals as the enemy, and figured they could replace the Liberals. But what of the CAW?

In a section called “What Comes Next?” this paper offers a hint.

The Liberal leadership contest will be an important political event in coming months, and there are stark differences between the candidates on several important issues. It is important for all progressive movements that the next Liberal leader support more progressive positions on crucial issues… While the decision to elect the next leader is made by Liberal party members, and we do not engage in that process directly, the campaign still presents an opportunity for concerned Canadians to promote progressive issues, and encourage the various candidates to endorse those positions.

…the CAW’s interventions will continue to reflect our fundamental political principles

The CAW sees the Liberal leadership contest as an opportunity, and will push for their kind of candidate (who’s donating so much to Bob Rae anyway? Surely not Liberals, you would think). That aside, the CAW are planning to intervene in the Liberals leadership race, attempting to impose their will on the Liberal party.

That is a prospect that should worry Liberals. If the CAW becomes too big an influence inside the Liberal tent, they are inviting some of the most left-wing idealogues in Canada in. There was a time when the CAW had policy conventions and invited the NDP, fully expecting the NDP to be sympathetic to their party.

In his book, from protest to power, Bob Rae tells the following story:

I got a call from Bob White in January of 1993, saying that the CLC (Canadian Labour Congress) executive wanted to have a closed-door session with the three NDP premiers. Mike Harcourt of B.C., Roy Romanow of Saskatchewan, and I chatted on the phone. Romanow had some misgivings, but in the end we all agreed that a meeting might clear the air…

When it came to the deficit, White asked, “Why can’t Ontario just do like the Reichmanns and declare bankruptcy, maybe pay 50 or 60 cents on the dollar?”

And considering this same document calls for the abolition of capitalism, who knows what demand the next CAW leader might make of the next Liberal leader and, possibly, next Prime Minister. Being politically indebted to the CAW is a zero sum game, something the NDP seems to have figured out. Do the Liberals understand this?

If you are a Liberal visiting here, you need to think about this. What direction do you want your party to go? Because the CAW has a good idea what direction they think it should go, and the NDP also has a few ideas for you. The future of the Liberal party may well really be hanging in the balance, and it’s survival may prove very costly indeed. In the long run, it may be shown that the person who did the most harm to the Liberal party was not Jean Cretien with adscam, but Paul Martin when he accepted that CAW jacket.


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