By Henry McRandall
The fast-dwindling flock of diehard Canadian federal NDP (New Democratic Party) supporters finds itself desperately searching for an elusive elixir that might somehow save the tattered party from the real possibility that it could be wiped out in the next federal election. And as party members struggle for a solution to the massive damage inflicted upon this once-proud working-class party by its bizarre rightward shift under right-wing leader Thomas Mulcair in the midst of the 2015 federal election campaign, one must wonder if today’s “centrist” NDP is even capable of achieving a policy consensus leftist enough to avert such a catastrophe.
More “leftish” members of the party are pinning their hopes on adoption of the so-called LEAP manifesto – authored by Canadian international best-selling non-fiction author Naomi Klein and her husband, Avi Lewis – the son of former Ontario NDP leader Stephen Lewis and grandson of former federal NDP leader David Lewis. And while the LEAP Manifesto has many fine qualities and makes many worthwhile proposals, it also has some glaring weaknesses: It is too tepid in its overall thrust; It is somewhat unrealistic in its approach to transitioning from fossil fuels to entirely renewable energy; It is out-of-touch with unrelenting working-class challenges and stresses; It is too wishy-washy with regard to foreign trade and Canada’s role in international affairs; It is too narrowly focussed in its proposals for radical and urgently-needed change; It fails to propose an urgent timeframe in which to deliver the changes it proposes or the strategies and tactics through which they might be achieved; and It was written from the socioeconomically-detached perspective of persons who’ve likely never missed a meal in their entire lives.
Most damning, however, is the LEAP Manifesto’s failure to recognize that it is not more gradual, incremental, one-step-forward-two-steps-back, business-as-usual, so-called “change” that is needed but massive, rapid-fire change – starting not tomorrow but yesterday.
It is only by leapfrogging the LEAP Manifesto that Canada can deliver real political, economic, criminal, civil, environmental and social justice and deliver the massive redistribution of wealth, income and power that will end “government of the people…by the rich (and their puppet political prostitutes in almost every corridor of power)…FOR the rich” and create a real, inclusive and functioning democracy. Here are a few thoughts on the LEAP Manifesto, its importance in shifting the parameters of political discussion and debate, and the irrefutable logic of leapfrogging past LEAP:
Klein and Lewis aptly note the barbarism of Canada’s past; the savage and soaring gap between The Rich and The Rest; and the country’s tawdry and near-criminal record on climate change. And they go on to assert a set of values that includes respect for human rights, internationalism, diversity and environmental “stewardship”. But nowhere do they mention the excruciating and worsening financial circumstances of the bottom half of Canadians – and especially of poor Canadians. It is a glaring and unforgiveable omission. If a massive and rapid redistribution of wealth, income and power are not the FIRST and the HIGHEST priority of the LEAP Manifesto’s proponents, then it remains highly likely that the financial and social cost of massive and rapid change will fall largely on the shoulders of those least able to afford the cost.
Klein and Lewis write of creating “innovative ownership structures” and of democratically-run business entities “paying living wages”. But they offer no details on how they propose to make such “innovative ownership structures” even possible. After 35 years of wage stagnation, soaring costs of post-secondary education, vanishing employer pension plans and employee benefits, and consumer debt that is careening out of control, very, very, very few Canadian would-be entrepreneurs – either individually or collectively – still have any real hope of generating the savings to be able to make a viable entrepreneurial investment. The BDC (Business Development Bank of Canada, which is a federal government agency) boasts in its TV advertising that it is “the bank of entrepreneurs”. But with almost all but the already-wealthy unable to meet BDC’s entrepreneurial investment requirements, the “bank of entrepreneurs”, to be perfectly honest, should instead be calling itself “the bank of wealthy so-called entrepreneurs” or simply “a slush fund – or public trough – that only the wealthy can dip their snouts into.”
The ONLY way such “innovative ownership structures” can EVER be created is if the BDC’s mandate takes a 180-degree turn and becomes a source of venture capital for impecunious would-be entrepreneurs rather than a public trough for the wealthy and the well-connected.
The authors of the LEAP manifesto also write aptly of the need for investment in public infrastructure, in high-speed rail and in affordable public transit. But once again, little detail on exactly what they envision. WRISEUP.COM has long been a proponent of f-a-s-t, frequent, FREE and comprehensive 24-hour-a-day public transit as a mandatory tradeoff for the two new pipelines Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government just approved – in open breach of his own campaign promises to aboriginal Canadians – and continuing extraction of bitumen from the Alberta tarsands. Even if every country and every corporation and every industry in the world immediately became totally committed to a rapid transition to entirely renewable energy, such a transition would still take decades to achieve. And while it might sound environmentally heroic for a Canadian federal government to suddenly halt all fossil-fuel extraction, such an action would cause massive economic dislocation which would – once again – be a burden placed almost entirely on the shoulders of the poor and the working class. In the coming weeks, as we continue to develop the plan, WRISEUP.COM will publish a viable plan for rapidly transitioning toward fast, frequent, free & comprehensive public transit.
We also stated recently that WRISEUP.COM is developing a detailed plan for completely abandonment of government “austerity” and the launch of a massive job-creation program that would go for beyond simply construction job. Yes, we certainly do have a lot of construction that needs to be done. But Canada also has a massive number of unemployed and under-employed workers whose skills are not suitable for construction work. That plan is developing well and will be published in the coming weeks.
One area in which WRISEUP.COM is in total agreement with the rhetoric of Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government is the need for massively expanded immigration – from EVERY corner of the world. WRISEUP.COM is also working on a detailed plan for expanded immigration – and a better-balanced distribution of immigrants and of population across the country. That will also be published in the coming weeks.
(You can also follow Henry McRandall on Twitter – @HenryMcRandall1 )