Most notably, after three years of Con government which has ranged from useless to outright embarrassing abroad, one of the NDP's top figures seems to have had little trouble making a positive name for himself and for his party around the globe with a call for effective financial regulation:
To his compatriots, Tom Mulcair might not have been the most obvious Canadian representative to (a) two-day gathering to discuss the new world that will emerge from the most profound financial and economic crises in decades.Of course, the message hasn't yet filtered through the Canadian political scene to the extent it seems to have been picked up internationally. But with such a strong consensus among Canada's allies, it only makes sense to recognize the common themes of lax regulation and enforcement which have led to the economic difficulties now sweeping across borders. And it has to be a plus for Mulcair to be able to lead the charge at home and abroad.
But the finance critic for the New Democratic Party was much in demand among guests including Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel prize winning economist, after making a strong impression during a presentation to the group the previous day, according to a French diplomat.
The participation of Mr. Mulcair reflects a quiet but determined effort by the social-democratic party to deepen its knowledge of the challenges facing the financial system and to strengthen its credentials in developing new policies that will impact the banking system, according to aides...
Mr. Mulcair, speaking from Paris, says the crisis in the banking system has made it imperative for policymakers and regulators to engage much more closely in the workings of financial institutions and markets.
He says this was one of the key points of consensus during the gathering in Paris, and was driven home forcefully by Mrs. Merkel.
"There is a fundamental agreement across borders on this," he says, adding: "The world has changed and we have to change with it."
"For too long we tolerated it when financial institutions told us 'not to worry our pretty little heads, that they knew what they were doing.' Well they didn't. They have shown that," he says.
Mind you, political effort to establish regulations undoubtedly has to be paired with internal knowledge of the industries to achieve the best possible effect. And it's noteworthy that even two out of the three bank lobbyists contacted by the Post had positive things to say about the NDP's engagement on financial issues:
(T)he NDP caucus has been calling on external advisors and allocating more resources to strengthening its research on financial policy.The latter quote looks to be a particularly strong statement in the NDP's favour. By way of contrast, even in the rare cases where they've deigned to talk with any of their preferred political targets, the Cons have seldom been seen to put any thought or effort into the interaction. (Mind you, the Cons apparently don't have much idea what they're doing in their perceived areas of strength either.)
"There as been an effort to expand the capacity of the caucus," says an aide, who points to meetings with outside economists such as Glen Hodgson, chief economist for the Conference Board of Canada...
One bank lobbyist remained highly skeptical of the party's contribution to the debate, and was disparaging about attempts at dialogue with the party.
But other current and former bank lobbyists say they have observed a gradual shift in the NDP's approach.
"I think you can see in Mulcair a fairly pragmatic approach to our issues. It is probably a more effective approach. I think he is on to something," says one bank lobbyist.
One former lobbyist still active on Bay Street says during meetings with senior party figures they had consistently shown themselves to be "thoughtful and backed up by good research, though we didn't always agree."
Yet even in the course of publicly raising concerns about bank profits and ATM fees, the NDP has managed to present a reasonable enough case that representatives for the banks themselves appreciate the contribution.
Now, the article may raise a separate question as to where the NDP's efforts are best directed - and I'll deal with that issue in a future post. But for now, it's worth highlighting that the list of groups which the NDP has anaged to impress now extends beyond both international and ideological borders.