Thursday, August 31, 2006

Softwood lumber. Again.

I've been watching the development of PM Stevie's latest gambit, this time over the ongoing softwood lumber finagle. I have no idea if the deal's any good or not. What interests me is the political maneuvering going on. The basic plot is that Stevie is wagering his government on this deal: if the deal is defeated in the House, then we go to an election. So, where do the players stand on the deal? Well, according to this, Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc Quebecois are hoping to get some traction against the Cons in Quebec. It's not clear from that whether or not they will oppose. According to this, the Liberals and the NDP will oppose the deal. Also according to this same article, however, the BQ will probably be supporting the deal, as Quebec industry is basically in favour of it. Let's suppose that's all true: Liberals and NDP will oppose, Cons will vote in favour, BQ will also vote in favour. This means the deal passes, 175 to 131 or 132 (depending on which way the sole independent MP votes). My questions are two. First, what the hell is Duceppe thinking? And, second, did Stevie knew this all along?

If Duceppe doesn't start distinguishing his party from the Cons, he's going to start bleeding support. After all, why support a party on the way down, fracturing at the seams, when you could support the next governing party? On the other hand, though, Duceppe and the BQ have to been as standing up for Quebec's interests in order to shore up their flagging support. Opposing a deal that Quebec industry leaders like would be pretty clearly exploited by the Cons in the next election (whenever it ends up happening).

This then leads into my second question. Initially, I thought Stevie was being an idiot on this -- finally overplaying his hand. The Liberals would get it together to oppose a bad softwood lumber deal, if only so that they can negotiate a "better" one when they resume their role as natural governing party. The NDP would never support a deal that the Cons like. And the BQ would try to distance themselves from the Cons and throw a bone to their base. As said, that was my initial thinking; however, now it looks like Stevie had an ace up his sleeve. Duceppe has been really backed into a corner here: on the one hand, he has to do something to keep his left-wing, union and artistic bases happy; but, on the other hand, he has to defend Quebec's economic interests. It seems he may impale himself on the second horn, and hope for an opportunity to show his left-wing credentials on a different issue. It's disappointing to see -- personally, I'd like to see Stevie go to the polls, only to find out that Canadians, on the whole, still don't want to give him a majority -- but it's understandable.

On an interesting note, though, according to this, the money the US government basically stole from Canadian lumber producers is, at least in part, going to be spent without any oversight from Congress. One wonders if Stevie agreed to the deal in order to help Dubya shore up the Republicans before mid-term elections. (Admittedly, this is a bit conspiracy theory. Given how far to the right the Democrats actually are, I'm not convinced that Stevie really cares if the Republicans lose control of Congress.)

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