Last week’s decision by the federal NDP to support Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government on a confidence motion represents a new low for Canada’s traditional party of conscience.
In one short year, the New Democrats have gone from trying to jump into bed with the Liberals to actually doing so with the Conservatives.
This wouldn’t be so bad if the party had achieved something significant on behalf of ordinary Canadians in doing so. The tragedy is that it has received nothing in return for keeping the Tories in power.
In the past, the NDP has frequently supported minority governments, exacting in return something significant for the poor and the working classes. These arrangements were honourable.
But last week’s decision to keep Harper in power was a tawdry decision, reflecting only the NDP’s fear of a general election. And that is the crux of the matter.
For the past 20 years the federal NDP has lurched and careened dangerously toward the political “centre” (read “right”), to the point where it is now almost indistinguishable from the parties (the Liberals and Conservatives) openly committed to the corporate agenda.
It is all fine and well that the Liberals and Conservatives are slavishly committed to the corporate capitalist agenda. After all, both those parties are financed and controlled by the corporations and the wealthy.
But the NDP is not financed or controlled by the corporations and the wealthy. In fact, this party was built on the backs of the poor and the working class and it is to these groups that the NDP should be totally committed.
All the polls show that two-thirds of Canadians reject the policies of the Liberals or the Conservatives. But they also show almost 85 percent of Canadian are opposed to the NDP’s tepid platform.
If the NDP wants to truly distinguish itself from the Liberals and the Conservatives in the next federal election, it is incumbent that the party promote a truly leftist agenda.
That agenda could and should include the following: 1) Immediate withdrawal of all Canadian forces from Afghanistan; 2) Vast expansion of Canada’s health-care system to eliminate the shortage of doctors, nurses, technicians and home-care workers, unburden overcrowded emergency rooms, and drastically reduce the unconscionably long waits for tests and treatments; 3) Establishment of a comprehensive $5-a-day child-care system; 4) The dissolving of NAFTA if it cannot be drastically overhauled to provide very high labour and environmental standards, greatly expand labour mobility and abolish all clauses enabling foreign (i.E. American) corporations to sue Canadian governments for acting in the best interests of Canadians; 5) An all-out War On Poverty to be carried out through a comprehensive overhaul of the tax system that would finally make corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes and redistribute a vast share of income from the top five percent to the bottom 50 percent of the population; 6)A comprehensive overhaul of the justice system that would ensure all Canadians – regardless of means – have full and equal access to both criminal and civil justice; 7)The creation of a new crown corporation to undertake green technology research, development and manufacturing in Canada; 8) Decriminalization – if not outright legalization – or marijuana and its derivatives; 9) A serious crackdown on white-collar crime; and 10) A complete overhaul of the election system and the election financing system to ensure that all Canadians are democratically equal.
This would be an ambitious and costly program. But it could be totally financed simply by cancelling the scores of billions of dollars in tax cuts that successive Liberal and Conservative governments have bestowed on the corporations and the wealthy over the last 20 years.
And it might even restore the NDP’s erstwhile credibility as a viable governing alternative to the Liberals and Conservatives.
But does the NDP have the balls to propose such an agenda?