It was a sad week for the NDP. The federal caucus stood in their places on Tuesday evening and voted in favour of an Alliance party motion to cut oil taxes as a way of dealing with the rising price of fuel.
Never mind that the Alliance motion rewarded drivers of gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles more than single moms trying to get to work. Or that the motion said nothing about conservation or energy alternatives. Or that it's part of Stockwell Day's attempt to suck up to Big Oil and get their dough for the imminent election campaign.
It's fear of their electors that prompted this shocking move by misguided NDP MPs. Many of them come from rural areas out west and from non-traditional NDP areas down east, and haven't figured out how to sell the right policy instead of giving in to immediate self-gratification. If they want to help the poor, the NDP should propose a rebate based on income. Hell, even the Harris Tories have a better policy than the NDP -- they're dealing with truckers' woes by bringing in a surcharge for shippers!
There was a lot of self-serving, apologetic blab from the federal NDP caucus about how there's so much pain out there and they felt they had no other choice but to vote for the motion, even though they held their noses to do it. (Thankfully, being an opposition motion, it went down to defeat.)
But more sensible people in the NDP weren't buying it, among them Marilyn Churley, the Ontario NDP's environment critic. "I think (the MPs) are panicking before an election and jumping in because they're getting so much pressure from their constituents."
But her calls to the federal party did no good, nor did entreaties from other party supporters, even such unlikely participants in an environmental debate as the Steelworkers' union.
What's troubling is not only that the NDP missed an opportunity to come down on the correct side of a pressing public issue. It's also the latest in a series of gaffes by leader Alexa McDonough, whose way of dealing with a caucus who often don't agree on what position to take is to resort to her social work training and come up with a gutless middle position.
Remember, it was under her watch that the party supported the Liberals' hard-line, anti-Quebec "Clarity Bill." And she supported the bombing of Yugoslavia, although she changed her mind partway through. Sigh.
Remember, Alexa, leaders lead. Get with the program.