The NDP surge, and what’s at stake in this election - Macleans.ca
 

The NDP surge, and what’s at stake in this election

We shouldn’t let poorly founded fears let us take risks with our prosperity


 

The real story in the last week of the federal election campaign may not be Jack Layton so much as it is the professionalization of his New Democratic party. So often Canadian voters have flirted with scrappy well-intentioned New Democratic underdogs; equally often, they have decided in the end that men like T.C. Douglas and Ed Broadbent were better fitted for the bridesmaid’s gown than the bride’s. From the polling evidence, however, it appears we are taking an unusually close look at the goods this time.

But please don’t say it’s because Jack Layton is a “fighter” or a “happy warrior.” NDP leaders have been peddling this sort of self-mythologizing since the ink was moist on the Regina Manifesto. None of it ever managed to get any of them inside the gates of the federal Opposition leader’s residence.

Layton has an outside chance of making it. And there are two interrelated reasons: he has been fortunate in the Liberals’ choice of leader, and his team is excellent at staging, advertising and using new technology to reach voters. Gone, mostly, is the patina of amateurishness that was once a trademark of NDP-made media. One senses that we are witnessing the consequence of a deep seismic shift; Liberal internal fractiousness seems to have driven off the best young political professionals, as it drove off potential Liberal prime ministers such as Frank McKenna and John Manley.

Despite these advantages, it is by no means certain that Layton will seal the deal. In the last week of campaigning, voters will have time to re-examine the New Democratic platform and decide whether they are really so keen on a dramatic increase in payroll taxes; on the expensive construction of an apparatus for cap and trade carbon credits without an advance guarantee of U.S. participation; on a corporate tax hike that gives nine-tenths of economists a migraine; and on just plain twerpish stuff like the reintroduction of the federal minimum wage and supports for locally grown and organic food. (It would be hard to find a better definition of stupidity than for a national party to have any position at all on “local” and “organic.”)

And then, of course, voters will have to take a careful look at what’s not in the platform. In front of eastern audiences, Layton is full of barbs and warnings directed at the “dirty” oil sands—a business in which, for better or worse, a whole nation of workers, taxpayers, shareholders and pensioners now has a stake. He no longers talks of a moratorium on new oil sands development; that part of his spiel has been bagged and shoved into the crawl space, along with the party’s traditional support for marijuana decriminalization.

The official NDP platform is also silent on the Constitution, yet it turns out that Mr. Layton has quite a lot to say about it. He said in Quebec on April 26 that “we have a quarter of our population who have never signed the Constitution,” calling this a “significant gap” that “has to be addressed someday”—and maybe soon, should there exist “some reasonable chance of success.” It must have been startling for long-time NDP supporters in English Canada to hear their leader espouse the Bloc Québécois view of the Constitution as unfinished business. Was it for this, rather than for social-democratic public policy, that New Democrats in Burnaby, B.C., and Kenora, Ont., and Baie-Verte, Nfld., have been toiling all along?

It won’t mean much unless someone can manage to suppress the Conservative vote share, which has remained fairly intractable throughout the campaign; Stephen Harper’s supporters won’t abandon him, by and large, but he’s failing to add to them in any discernible number. The Tories have adopted a strategy of “microtargeting,” going for a majority more or less by making their existing vote more efficient. Up to a point, Canada’s flirtation with Laytonmania makes this goal easier, dividing the “progressive” opposition as evenly as possible. Which is fine. The evidence for a Harper “hidden agenda” of social-conservative reaction is meagre; meanwhile, the shared Layton-Ignatieff agenda of old-school protectionism and corporate taxation squats in plain sight.

This difference is important, though increasingly neglected. Purists of the fiscal right like to make despairing criticisms of the Conservatives for their occasional sins against economic orthodoxy. But Canada is emerging in pretty good shape from a recession that has threatened the integrity of the European Union, left the British welfare state in a shambles, and cast ugly shadows on the solvency of the U.S.A. Harper has held the line laid by Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, preserving the relatively open and competitive nature of Canada’s economy. Despite some polite participation in the worldwide orgy of anti-recessionary “stimulus,” he has not come close to expanding government to its former size relative to GDP.

Much of the resistance to a Conservative majority is based on the perception that it’s something to be feared. But it would be foolish to let ephemeral, poorly founded fears stampede us into an embrace with positive risks to our prosperity.


 

The NDP surge, and what’s at stake in this election

  1. Kittay sez, NDP surge iz in your minds stealing your cents.

  2. The days of a resistance to a Conservative majority being based on the "perception that it's something to be feared" have long passed in the country. For numerous reasons folks have settled on the belief in their bones that the Prime Minister is not to be trusted with complete power. Interesting that this has been achieved not through relentless paid messaging but rather by a steady drip, drip, drip of self inflicted wounds and overreaching. Alas, most relationships are die from a thousand slights rather than one catastrophic blow. Our much maligned media deserve credit / blame for this as it has been their reporting that has produced the result. As an aside, seems unlikely that any new government in whatever form will run us onto the shores of economic ruin. Too many check and balances within our system (political and cultural) to allow for such a thing. Take a deep breath dear editors and enjoy the ride ahead. Spring is coming, it's still a beautiful world and Canada will continue to move forward.

  3. "Much of the resistance to a Conservative majority is based on the perception that it's something to be feared. But it would be foolish to let ephemeral, poorly founded fears stampede us into an embrace with positive risks to our prosperity."

    Shorter: Don't vote for Layton over baseless fears of Harper, you should vote for Harper over baseless fears of Layton.

    • Indeed.

      Basically it doesn’t matter how much the NDP moderates itself; as long as it advocates a fairer taxation system that favours the majority of Canadians, it will be rejected by the class that dominates the media… whose fears are not exactly “baseless” — just selfish.

    • The fears over Layton aren't baseless, or at least have more foundation than the fears over Harper. Layton's inept economic policies are right there in the NDP campaign platform, and the party constitution advocates nationalization of industries and opposes profit generation. Conversely, the fears attributed to Harper are largely a product of his opponents.

  4. they won't legalize pot by legislation.
    they will do it by letting the courts figure it out, and then regulating it with legislation after the fact.

    but that is moot. all this vote splitting spells a Harper majority, which means simple possession will get you manda-TORY jail time.

    this IS coming, so call your lawyer immediately.

    • Fear mongering is fear mongering. Employers will be the deciders of policy ultimately with regards to person's life choices.

  5. This conveniently ignores all of the points about the health of our democracy that Andrew Coyne mentions in his analysis of who he is voting for and why.

    The thing to be scared of isn`t Harper`s policies (especially when so much of the platforms of all parties are so similar) but rather his lack of regard for the political process.

  6. A word from the Owner class.

    "The Tories have adopted a strategy of “microtargeting,” going for a majority more or less by making their existing vote more efficient. "

    Er…shouldn't that read demonizing your opponents, by whatever means necessary?

    "Much of the resistance to a Conservative majority is based on the perception that it's something to be feared. But it would be foolish to let ephemeral, poorly founded fears stampede us into an embrace with positive risks to our prosperity."

    What a steaming pile? Yeesh you sitting on this board Mr Coyne, or has Mr Whyte got you in a headlock? And after all you wrote yesterday. We all gots to compromise 'n all that to get along, but really…couldn't you produce a dissenting minority report or something?
    http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/04/29/this-is-a-scar

    Don't you guys look at the blog content before you opine?

  7. Gee, I guess this means poor ol' Jack doesn't get an invite to sip lemonade at the
    Donner summer picnic. Shame.

  8. It continues to amaze me how much of the media is willing to trade our democratic and parliamentary principles in exchange for "good economic management." Even assuming that Stephen Harper has provided that (a concession I do not make given how the last five years have proceeded) our country can survive a bad economy.

    It will not survive the loss of our democracy. That is what is at stake this election.

    • I know, I know…I posted this several times but it is important to those opposing Harper…I just saw an ad on CTV that is new to me. It was a stop Harper ad but not from a political party. I was pleasantly surprised and immediately thought "Wow, maybe the left is actually mobilizing and countering the rights continual propaganda machine". The ad was from these guys http://www.avaaz.org/en/index.php. They boast some 8 million members worldwide. Check them out.

      • Have you not read any of the reporting that revealed this group as a US-funded organization intervening in a Canadian election? I ask if you'd react as favorably to an Exxon- and Halliburton-funded intervention in favor of Harper.

        • It is misleading, at best, to say that Avaaz is "US-funded." Their founder, Ricken Patel, is a Canadian activist who lives in New York, and the group campaigns on issues all over the world. However, the money they spent on this election was all donated by Canadians.

          Avaaz raises money from people (including myself) to spend on Canadian and global issues-based campaigns. And, just as groups like Amnesty and WWF do, they raise money from people in other countries as well to campaign on a variety of issues.

          Wake up to the reality: people care about the world, and they have a right to work together to bring about the kind of change they want. If Avaaz is trying to be part of that, the more power to them. They don't deserve to be smeared as a "US-funded" organization, which is a laughable charge in its implications, given what the group stands for.

          It's as if some people might *prefer* Exxon and Haliburton to be calling the shots in Canada, rather than a grassroots political group like Avaaz.

          Rest assured, those companies will make their voices heard loud and clear in the corridors of power when they need to.

  9. The real story in the last week of the federal election campaign may not be Jack Layton so much as it is the professionalization of his New Democratic [P]arty.

    A bunch of college kids "engaged young Canadians" (HT: LKO) with deer-in-headlights looks of OMG I might actually end up in Ottawa instead of going for those six summer credits in May & June. Yup. Real perfeshunnul…

  10. All you NDP supporting Idiots ….. yur smokin too much dope!!!!
    An NDP government with increased Corp. taxes, carbon taxing industries, will be a sad day for Canada.
    Possibly a rejection from US and possibly making every Cdn. to apply for a visa to go to US or to fly over US airspace!

    Cdn. companies will tolerate increased Corp. taxes and will move south where tax structure is less.

    That means no jobs for Cdns., a lesser tax base and therefore no social programs that Layton has promised.

    Development for ship bldg. in Atlantic Canada, not happening, deep water port in artic helping to maintain our sovereignty in Arctic not happening with Layton, decrease in militiary spending with Layton, and increased powers via Human Rights Commissions to censor internet, phone calls etc. Less freedom of speech! All with Layton and NDP Government.!
    Possible stock market crash if NDP get in!!!

    • Guest, there are certainly legitimate beefs with the NDP, and raising corporate taxes is certainly one of them. But you should check out the current corporate tax rates in Canada and the USA. And you should know that even the NDP is not advocating raising the Canadian rates above those of the USA.

      You will then certainly wish to amend your statement above.

  11. You talk about fear for our economy, but what about fear for our democracy?!? How much do Canadians value our rights and freedoms?