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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