Friday, December 2, 2016

‘It is the Common Opinion of the Dissenting Liberal Committee Minority that Goody Cullen is a Witch’

Nathan Cullen may have an unfortunate tendency to glean his foreign policy from Netflix documentaries, but it is undeniable that he has done a number on the Liberals in the special committee on electoral reform. On the heels of cash-for-access, and then the hamfisted approval of Kinder Morgan, today the Liberals lurch into the awkward position of hopping up on a soapbox to rail against their signature electoral promise: electoral reform. Who put the Liberals in this uncomfortable position? NDP MP Nathan Cullen did. In terms of sheer political maneuvering and fortitude he is easily among the NDP's best, and has certainly displayed that acumen in his work on the special committee on electoral reform. The Liberal apoplexy today, their blatant hypocrisy, their stammering anti-intellectualism, all Cullen's meticulous construction. This began back in June when, after an unrelenting dressing down by Cullen, the Liberals acquiesced to a committee composition in which they did not comprise the majority. The optics of an undemocratically constituted committee on electoral reform, after all, were very bad, and the Liberals caved. Today, however, was the coup de grâce. In returning an ostensible green-light for a referendum on First Past the Post versus any system which meets the standard on the Gallagher Index on proportionality, the agreed members of the multi-party committee on electoral reform, and Cullen in particular, have forced the Liberals hand; and the Liberals, in turn, have taken the opportunity to become loathesome and ridiculous.

The Liberals are doing what they always do, dissimulation and distraction, the latest being Maryam Monsef attempting to fall on the grenade and make the story about herself, and her personal insults and retractions of said insults directed to the members of the special committee. But, make no mistake, the story is rather, of course, that the Liberals are doing everything in their power to scuttle electoral reform as such. That their efforts to do so include insulting the members of the special committee as a cheap distraction from the strategic blow that the committee has dealt to them is secondary. Having been outmaneuvered at every turn, they have given up the ghost of trying to appear the good guys, and are now simply spitting bile and vitrol in hopes that it will overshadow it’s occasion.

The Liberals, having been the party of ‘sociology now,’ are now relying upon base anti-intellectualism. Canadians don’t want electoral reform, we are told, because look, here, in Maryam Monsef’s hands, a mathematical formula. ‘Isn’t it complicated?’ she asks, ‘inscrutable even?’ The Liberals are waving pitchforks at statistical modeling, fearmongering about formulas. The purpose of the Gallagher Index is to ensure that any system of elections conforms very closely to proportionality. It is as though the Liberals had cracked open a conventional radio and said ‘aren’t these electronics complex? Canadians don’t want the songs and voices that this indecipherable hash of wires and speaker cones offers.’ What the Liberals despise about the Gallagher Index is not its indecipherable complexity, but rather that it sets a standard and benchmark for proportionality that the Liberals cannot fudge, mystify, or obfuscate. Justin Trudeau and Maryam Monsef desperately want an exit-strategy from their electoral reform promises and their options were to either scuttle the entire business, or move forward with a variant of electoral reform that is not in fact proportional. The committee’s hard work has denied the Liberals the opportunity to champion a self-serving and disproportionate electoral system like ranked ballots, and so they have been left to flail about, smashing and sabotaging what they can. 

The Liberals are incensed because the committee actually did something really smart. They were hoping that the committee would come back with one system so that the Liberals could smother it with a pillow in the night. Instead they returned with a standard, or benchmark, below which the Liberals' preferred system[s] fall and before which they flunk. Its important that they not let the story become 'Maryam Monsef was mean, but now she's apologized.' The story is 'the committee has greenlit a referrendum with FPTP vs. any system which meets the standard of the Gallagher Index (within 5% of absolute proportionality).' The Liberals have been trapped and cornered by Cullen, the rest of the special committee, and, most importantly, the Gallagher Index. They hate it intensely because it precludes their preferred mystifications and obfuscations, they hate that they are now stuck with a rubric from which they cannot escape. What is insufferable, however, is the shock and disappointment from Liberal voters. Of course the Liberals are unscrupulous, of course they are disingenuous and hamfisted. These are not ‘new Liberals,’ they are the same sorry, corrupt, and undemocratic technocrats that were evicted in 2003. The Gallagher Index and its function is not, as Monsef and Trudeau would have it, beyond the comprehension of the poor hinterland Canadian’s intellect; nor are Monsef and Trudeau’s true motives in suggesting as much. Far from ‘not doing the hard work,’ as Monsef alleged, the committee has made it ‘hard work’ for the hackneyed and duplicitous Trudeau Liberals to wriggle out of their signature campaign promise. 

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