Archive for May, 2014

May 24, 2014

Tacking to the centre or losing our way?

I have written twice now about the Ontario election. Today there is a public letter out from a number of NDP stalwarts bemoaning the move to the centre of the Ontario NDP. It reminds me very much of all the years I put into the NDP when I was younger.

Perhaps I am becoming more conservative with time. That’s always a possibility, as scary a concept as it seems to me. But I wonder about the value of ideological purity in the absence of access to power. The NDP has always struggled to reconcile the contradictions between seeing itself as a movement or a political party seeking to attain power.

Many in the party, and I suspect that includes most of those who signed the letter and many labour leaders, enjoy the self satisfaction of the concept of purity. They enjoy the self righteousness that the Left likes to feel about itself and are seriously disturbed when they have to relinquish some of that in order to persuade others to come along for the ride. The object of a political party (and, I would think, of any political movement) is to convince others that they have the correct approach that will eventually lead to solutions of problems and a better life outcome. This often means compromise and dialogue. That is hard for many people. And the Left finds it very hard.

I don’t object to some tracking to the centre. New Labour in Britain may never have attained power without a move to the centre. One may reasonably ask then what is the purpose of attaining power if only to be the same as everyone else? That’s a fair question and one that can reasonably be asked of Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP. Considering they don’t have a response to the Liberals’ pension plan, they are week on public transit (particularly how to pay for it) and took forever to respond to the Liberals’ raising of the minimum wage, why then vote for them?

And that’s the question I would ask today.

It’s not the ‘tacking to the centre’ that the NDP have undertaken that I object to. It’s the complete absence of vision that concerns me. The NDP have borrowed from the federal Conservatives the concept of ‘retail politics’. They are offering individual tidbits to parts of the electorate in an attempt to buy their votes. The is not social democratic territory in any realm.

As I said in a previous article, the Right has gone a long way to convince the public that there is no good role for government, smaller is better. The Ontario Liberals with their transit, but particularly the pension plan, are saying that there IS a role for government. And to me that is a huge statement and a huge ideological platform that I strongly support.

One last thing. I chuckled when I read that some traditional NDPers object to Horwath saying she would try to stop waste in government. Of course the phrase ‘cutting government waste’ is often code for cutting services. But I think Tommy Douglas would be turning in his grave if he thought that the NDP would not be fiscally prudent and hard on mismanagement and waste. Any prairie socialist understood that taxpayer money was a trust. Too bad today’s socialists seem to have such little regard for thrift.

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May 23, 2014

Say no to Hudak

I continue to watch the polls like a hawk.

The Conservatives continue to lead. The polls seem to show that the Liberals could still get more seats with a lower percentage of the popular vote because of their vote distribution. Yet it is disturbing that the Conservatives are still ahead.

The polls are a bit volatile, however.

It appears that the Conservative vote is more likely to hold than the Libs or NDP with voters moving between the latter two in preference. That would suggest that the biggest battle at this point is among the more ‘progressive’ voters. Conservatives know what they want, the rest of us are unsure. And that’s where strategic voting is so important.

At the moment the NDP have no chance of forming a government. They know that. They are hoping that disgust with the Liberals (and fear of the Conservatives) will move voters enough in their direction that they have a significant jump in seats after this election. That would position them, they feel, for a legitimate run in the next election. They could care less if this strategy puts in power an extreme right wing government in Hudak.

This is the same strategy used by Layton to dump Martin. To some extent it seemed to have worked. Their seat total propelled them into Official Opposition. The fact that it has given us 8 years of Stephen Harper seems not to matter to NDPers.

If the Liberals are resurgent in the next federal elution and the NDP goes back to 3rd party status all their machinations will have failed. This currently looks like a real possibility. They will have had a temporary blip in popularity at the price of a country-wrenching Harper government.

And this is what we may see in Ontario. The NDP will hand the reigns of power to the Conservatives while realizing some temporary gains in seats.

Having had a look at the NDP platform just released can anyone really say it is worth the gamble so the NDP can gain seats?

I know Liberals are not to be trusted. I know their ‘progressive’ attitudes can be fleeting. But Horwath is hardly the clear headed and decisive leader to move this province forward. She took weeks at each of the last two budgets, while standing outside with her finger in the air, before deciding whether she could support the Liberals. She is an opportunist.

I’m not looking for an ideologue. I can live with the NDP deciding a move to the middle is where they want to be. But they haven’t moved to the middle so much as the muddle.

I’m voting strategically. And I’m voting Liberal. That is, unless a shock happens and the polls show the NDP passing the Liberals in likely seats. Then I will vote NDP.

As I’ve said before: when the votes are counted and the Lieutenant Governor approaches a party leader to form the next government, I want that person to be anyone but Hudak.

May 17, 2014

Election Ontario

I’ve been wrestling with how to vote for a while now. Ever since St Jack screwed Canada so royally.

We had a negotiated national child care program, a Kelowna Accord. We lost both of those so Layton and the NDP could stroke their egos by denouncing their true enemy. No, no the Conservatives, but the Liberals.

I’ve been involved in politics for a lot of years. I began formally working for the NDP as a teen. I learned early on that the real enemy was those fickle Liberals. As Smokey Thomas pronounced at the start of this election campaign ‘at least we know what the Conservatives stand for’.

Well, yes we do. They stand for a lot of regressive and nasty things. Just the way Stephen Harper is no Brian Mulroney or Joe Clark, Hudak is no Bill Davis.

Now I have to admit, when I was younger I thought all Conservatives were the same. And, to be sure, I still don’t like them in most any guise. But Harper and Hudak aren’t your patents’ Progressive Conservatives. They are a new breed, a spin off of the American Republican right. Yes, we’ve seen these kind of people before in Canada. But until recently there has always been a tempering dose of Red Tory-ism in the party. Not this iteration.

So when the NDP hands the reigns of power to the likes of Stephen Harper because of some crass internal political calculation we have to take notice.

And if Andrea Horvath, in her new role as a small ‘c’ conservative populist, hands the election to Hudak’s Conservatives, then the NDP will have cemented their role as obstructionists to the progressive agenda.

I like my local NDP MPP. But when the ballots are counted and we are presumably left with a minority government (oh my god, not a Conservative majority) I want the Liberals to have one more seat than the Conservatives. Even if that means one fewer NDP sear. I want the Lieutenant Governor to ask the Liberals to form a government, not the Conservatives.

Under Wynn the Liberals are campaigning to the left of the NDP. I know, the NDP rhetoric is that you cannot trust the Liberals to carry out their program. They have a history of running from the left and ruling to the right. I am not naive. But what I like about the Liberal campaign is their pension plan policy and their transit policy. Unlike the NDP’s policy of handing nibbles to the ‘middle class’ the Liberals are not afraid to offer vision and a bold role for the public sector. I feel the Liberals are saying ‘government is back’. I think in these times of less taxes and smaller government that’s a hugely important message.

That’s why, for the first time in my life, I’m going to vote Liberal. I want to break away from the strangle hold I feel the NDP has had on my vote and give it to a progressive party. This time around that appears to be the Liberal Party.

May 6, 2014

“Farmers feed cities”

I’m sure everyone has seen this bumper sticker at least once. It seems to be growing in popularity.

I guess farmers are feeling neglected.

Now I have nothing against farmers. We need food so we need farmers. But I find the whining and winging a bit annoying.

If it weren’t for urban population concentrations where would farmers sell their goods? If it weren’t for manufacturing and the urban working class how would farmers plant and harvest their produce? If it weren’t for scientists at universities how would farmers get those new hardier and more economically/environmentally viable strains of grain and other plants?

What I resent, as a progressive urban dweller, is the conservative governments that farmers continue to disproportionally support. Rural voters (not all farmers, of course) stymie the progressive instincts of the urban population. They vote for governments that would decrease the earning power of the people who buy from farmers and produce their machinery. They vote for governments that deny climate change and would cut back of agricultural scientific research.

So every time I see one of these bumpers stickers I feel like asking the driver ‘what the f**k are you asking for?’.

Read this article for some of the economics of farming in Canada: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/taxpayers-oblivious-to-the-cost-of-farm-subsidies/article13055078/

I think it’s better to practice the politics of inclusion and unity of working people…whether in the city or on the farm, not sow division the way these silly bumper stickers do.

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