Keith Beardsley’s View From the Hill – NDP Going Postal – Was it worth it? – June 27, 2011

Ottawa ON – There are two basic types of political discipline- internal party discipline and the party’s ability to restrain itself from foolish endeavours.

The recent NDP filibuster over the Canada Post back to work legislation puts both types of discipline on display for the NDP.

The NDP did well in managing their rookie MPs, getting everyone into the House when needed, and more importantly had them stick to the same basic speech script. All of their MPs were suitably outraged at those dastardly Conservatives; they proudly announced their solidarity with their union brothers and sisters and told everyone who would listen that they weren’t going to be pushed around by Harper and his Conservatives.

Maybe they forgot that empty rhetoric is best saved for the next election some four years from now. Simply put, Canadians wanted their mail and saw the NDP filibuster as obstructive, not constructive.

Why the NDP would pick this hill to die on is anyone’s guess. They stood up in support of a union that most Canadians have little use for and by dragging out the process they also succeeded in costing the union’s membership addition pay while at the same time angering the voters that just recently sent them to Ottawa.

The NDP is right to be proud of its increased clout in the House, its Official Opposition status and the addition of all of its new MPs, but an increased presence in the House doesn’t necessarily mean that you have increased your influence at the same time. I think it’s fair to say that Jack and company had much more influence when we had a minority government. Perhaps they forgot that all of their election speeches which focused on making Ottawa work for Canadians also included nonunionized workers, the general public and small business owners.

An all out filibuster of the type employed by the NDP, is generally a political weapon of last resort that is reserved for crucial debates of national interest, not back to work legislation. One could see it being used for debate on constitutional issues, items such as free trade, dismantling the Wheat Board, major changes to health care or maybe even perimeter security agreements with the United States, and other issues like that.

But having shot their bolt over this particular labour issue, what do they do for an encore?

Are they telling Canadians that they will filibuster every piece of back to work legislation that this Tory government might have to bring in down the road? Just how many voters do they want to alienate.

And while the NDP kept the House of Commons sitting through the June 24th holiday weekend, who in Quebec was listening to them? The very voters they hoped to impress were starting their summer holidays. There were celebrations, festivals and activities all over the province of Quebec where it would have helped to have a federal MP, including federal NDP MPs present.

This filibuster reflects the NDP’s lack of experience and lack of discipline at the top. Their rank and file performed well and deserve credit for that, but the key decision-makers at the top need to learn a bit of discipline. Don’t always take the bait that the government throws your way and above all pick and choose your battles wisely. There was never any doubt how this one would end and now they have backed themselves solidly into the union corner. They will learn that you can only cry wolf so many times and then the voters will either tune you out or worse still, turn on you.

For the Conservatives they got their legislation through, they ended the Canada Post lockout/strike and they have with the help of the NDP split the House of Commons clearly along ideological lines. Not a bad outcome for Mr Harper and his Conservatives.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.

Best Western


  1. They don’t impress me much! It would seem that the only people the NDP wish to impress are the unions.

  2. I think what is lost in all this is that the mail stopped flowing because the workers were locked out. Why didn’t the government force Canada Post to let the workers come back and continue negotiating. The rotating strike was a nuisance but the mail was still getting through. The government chose to punish the union and forcing a settlement that was less than the last offer by Canada Post.

    I think this shows what kind of heavy hand we can expect from our new Con-con government for the next 4 years. We should all right this down and keep a score for the next election:

    Con-cons 1 – Canadians 0

  3. BS Reg, your socialist ties are beginning to show. Negotiations had been going on for some time and final offers were on the table. There was nothing left to negotiate! The postal union workers WALKED OFF THE JOB to chose to try and punish (as usual) all Canadians and tried to force a fast settlement. Thats when the mail stopped flowing Reg. When they decided to come back the government responded by locking them out. After all, who is really in charge? The workers or management? It has become quite apparent that with all the other companies in the business, we don’t really need Canada Post.

  4. Stan, there is always something to negotiate. Compromises can be made if the parties are willing. The LOCK OUT shows that Canada Post was not willing to negotiate or compromise. It may have just been coincidental that the confrontation peaked just after the Con-cons came into power and provided an opportunity for them to flex their new found muscles, but I think not.

    Reality is the union was in a legal strike stituation and tried to strengthen thier postion by rotating their actions to minimize disruption of the mail. I know that my mail was still being delivered until the workers were LOCKED OUT.

  5. You can blame the government for attempting to reduce the crown corporations but what about the entity in itself? Did employees just shhot themselves in the foot? Maybe back to work legislation helped save the Postal service jobs.

    As a result of the strike, banks can now coast an additional 76,000 on line banking customers. If this is just the tip of people switching to online services would that not eliminate the need for some Postal employees? How many other services can claim a growth in online services?

  6. Of course the NDP will fight for the well-being of workers. Since Tommy Douglas launched the CCF, later to become the NDP, the purpose of the party has been to improve the lot of Canadians who find themselves shut out of the “privileged” class.

  7. I think the CCF and Tommy Douglas’s original dream and concept has been all but lost under the new out look of the NDP and their union beliefs.

    Yes they originally wanted to help ” the common man” now it has become a business like all the rest.

    I am curious if union presidents and all the people working for the unions actually belong to the union?

  8. @smee. I don’t think anyone shhot themselves in the foot. Of course we all know that Harper and his Reformatories hate unions. That’s no secret.

  9. Furtz
    Is it specifically unions or in this case Crown Corporations? The government is also about to sell the development portion of AECL to SNC Lavalin. That is a great burden to drop from our tax dollars provided the government is to having to pay for all the pensions and buy outs.

    I agree unions had their time, but have since strayed some from their original mandate.

    I have worked as a member of 2 different unions and both places are now closed. The general mentality was as everyone states. During negotiations some people had asked the unions to slow down on some of the expectations and the unions response was quite similar in each case, “it’s negotiation time and the company always says they cannot afford to give us more” what they did give us was more time off.

    Yes unions can be good but people still need to work a little harder for what they expect, only then will we achieve any form of economic growth. We will not improve by a business (unions) telling another business(industry) how much operate.

  10. So do most Canadians Furtz

  11. Smee is a fraud! I have found proof! He says that there is no such thing as rowing a boat, and here is proof that he himself has done that very thing! What say you to that now Smee? 🙂

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