The NDP filibuster ended last night, not because Jack Layton achieved the impossible, but because he changed his mind. Going against his party's core principles, the NDP Leader decided the longterm success of his party was more valuable than a less and less likely positive outcome for Canadian Postal Workers.
After 47 hours, as it became increasingly apparent that Canada Post and the union representing its employees were not any closer to an agreement, and public opinion becoming a factor, the New Democrats ended their filibuster of the Conservatives' back-to-work legislation.
Though Bill C-6 Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act passed unamended at 8pm last night, it was clear for some hours before its final vote that the NDP had given up on their idealistic hopes of stopping the Conservative government from infringing on the rights of workers to collectively bargain.
The filibuster began on Thursday at 9pm with a speech by NDP Leader Jack Layton in which he spoke passionately about the injustices within the bill. Mr.Layton stressed:
"This bill violates the rights of workers to negotiate a collective agreement in good faith. It also weakens the collective bargaining rights of all 33 million Canadians; their right to work together with their co-workers to secure better conditions, a right entrenched in section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."In speaking to a Vancouver Sun reporter the NDP Leader emphasized his willingness to do whatever it would take to ensure the bill didn't pass:
"We intend to fight the legislation every step of the way, using all procedural manoeuvres that are possible in the House of Commons."
At noon in the House of Commons New Democrat Olivia Chow stood up and spoke with poignancy about how CUPW was making every effort to come to a compromise but the wife of Jack Layton noticably changed her tone when adding that Canada Post was not budging.
Just an hour later, at 1pm Liberal MP Gerry Byrne tweeted to CBCs Kady O'Malley about the change in the NDP and the Orange Stalwarts not wanting to draw out the process any longer; he referenced the Committee of the Whole, the committee stage consisting of the whole House of Commons:
"@kady NDP intend not to have CotW go too long. They have given up and recognize they need to get the mail moving or loose a lot more support"The Committee of the Whole followed Second Reading, and of all the stages, was the one that would have allowed the NDP the most opportunity and time to filibuster. Each clause of the bill had to be debated and countless amendments could have been introduced, each amendment offering more New Democrats a chance to speak out and add further delay. Yet when the Committee of the Whole began at 4:30pm few amendments were offered. The few amendments that were presented were voted down by a regular and constant 158 Conservative votes.
It was thought that the NDP would make their stand on Clause 15, the clause stipulating that postal workers would receive wages lower than those that Canada Post had last offered, but this was not the case. In the end the Committee of the Whole lasted all but three hours, all clauses were adopted, and the bill proceeded to Third Reading without one amendment.
As the back-to-work legislation entered the third and final stage it was obvious the NDP had gone from adamantly filibustering it to passively succumbing to it. Sometime Saturday morning Jack Layton decided the longterm success of the party was more valuable than a less and less likely positive outcome for CUPW. Toronto Sun's Mark Dunn attributed Layton's change to a letter he received from the head of the union.
"Union president Denis Lemelin told NDP Leader Jack Layton in a letter that the union was throwing in the towel because of what he described as an "intransigent" employer."And with the realization that the deadlock between Canada Post and CUPW would take up more time than he was willing to allow detract from his newly found popularity, Jack Layton made a political decision to stop filibustering and to allow a bill contradictory to his ideology's core principles to pass.
Unaware of Jack's about face, the oblivious spectators watched the proceedings from the press gallery or on CPAC. It was just a few hours later, with no climax, with no defining moment, with only a gradual realization that the NDP were slowly stopping their efforts to speak, to ask questions, and to delay, that the filibuster ended.
The NDPs dramatic change over the short period can not be understated, on Thursday it advocated action, on Saturday it advocated acceptance. In his opening speech, just three days ago, Mr.Layton stated he wouldn't allow the bill to pass:
"We will not sit idly by and watch the Conservatives turn back the clock and strip workers of vested rights they fought so hard to achieve. I am simply not going to sit and watch the Conservative government follow in the footsteps of the U.S. Republicans and their Tea Party friends."However on Saturday Mr.Layton did just what he promised not to do, he and his party prematurely ended the filibuster and sat idly by as Bill C-6 passed.
The filibuster began because the NDP stood up for its ideology, it ended because the NDP fell into its political reality. Along with the party's recent convention, this filibuster shows the future of the New Democratic Party will not only be of fighting Conservatives and Liberals, but its own ideology too.
*An interesting note is that for the 47 hours of the filibuster the calender inside the House of Commons (see picture above) did not change, this was because the day had never been adjourned, so for the House it was still Thursday even on Satursday. Hansard reflects this in its citation of time with references to impossible chronology, like this 33:35 at the bottom NDP Dany Morin's speech.
A Few Notable Filibuster Comments
"There's not a whole lot of juice left in this orange," Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner, Saturday Evening, speaking to the NDP's 47 hour filibuster.
"Socialism will always be there to bail out capitalism" - Green MP Elizabeth May, Saturday Morning
"As a surgeon, this bill doesn't need three or four days of labour -- this is a c-section." - Conservative MP Kellie Leitch, Saturday Afternoon.
"Sometimes I think the finance minister is channeling Maggie Thatcher, all he needs is a sweater set and pearls." - NDP MP Pat Martin, Friday
"The reality is that a trap was set and a trap was taken. That's what happened with this filibuster." - Liberal MP Gerry Byrne, Saturday afternoon
Thursday June 2
Canada Post workers begin rotating strikes.
Wednesday June 15
Raitt gives 48 hour notice of back-to-work legislation, but because the House does not sit on Friday, won't be introduced till Monday June 20
Monday June 20
Bill C-6 introduced at 3pm
Tuesday June 21
Government House Leader Peter Van Loan gives notice of closure
Wednesday June 22
Thursday June 23
Closure is moved and carried
8:40pm - Lisa Rait introduces Bill C-6 for Second reading,
9:00pm - filibustering begins with speech by Jack Layton
9:40pm - Hoist motion proposed by Jack Layton (to postpone Bill C-6 for 6 months)
Friday June 24
Saturday June 25
12am (Midnight) - Hoist motion is voted down 160 -74 Vote, 6 Liberals voting with government. Liberals didn't support the Hoist motion, because it provided no resolution for six months. The bill goes to second reading.
12pm (noon) - In a speech Olivia Chow announces that the union has been trying its hardest to come up with an agreement, but Canada Post is not compromising.
4:30pm - Bill C-6 passes Second Reading. Results: Yeas: 158 Nays: 112. Goes to Committee of the Whole which is chaired by Denise Savoie.
7:30pm - Bill C-6 carries, moves to third reading.
8:00pm - NDP filibuster officially ends with Bill C-6's passage unamended,
Throughout the closing speeches everyone thanked the pages and other parliamentary staff for their work during this sitting, one MP noted as they are salaried employees they were not getting paid extra for their dedication.