Let our MPs go - Macleans.ca

Let our MPs go

James Rajotte, Linda McQuaig and the continuing discussion about freedom


James Rajotte basically gets right the multi-part riddle of MP independence in this interview.

And Linda McQuaig might make for an interesting case study (presuming that, at the very least, she wins the NDP nomination in Toronto Centre or, subsequently, in some other riding). Jonathan Kay notes that Ms. McQuaig has proposed some specific ideas about tax reform.

In the concluding chapter of The Trouble with Billionaires, McQuaig makes her policy recommendations very clear: She advocates a marginal tax rate of 60% for incomes above $300,000, and 70% for incomes above $2.5-million — plus an inheritance tax, the eradication of high-end tax-shelters, and the creation of a tax on speculative investments. That may sound radical, but it’s not so different from some of the progressive policies implemented by the (economically healthy) nations of Scandinavia.

The question is: Will Thomas Mulcair give her the green light to campaign openly on this sort of thing? And if so, how will it play in the Toronto and national media?

Mr. Mulcair has dismissed the idea of raising taxes—see the final two questions and answers in this interview. He could change his mind, of course, but presuming he doesn’t, Ms. McQuaig will have to decide how much she believes in these ideas and whether she wishes to pursue them (and, if so, how she wishes to do so). As the candidate for a registered political party, she is obviously not entirely her own person. She could foreswear her previous recommendations entirely. She could say that she still believes her recommendations are worthy of consideration, but that she will ultimately defer to the wishes of her party, its leadership and its membership. She could champion her recommendations and openly call on the party to adopt her ideas as official party policy.

Of course, should she win the NDP’s nomination in Toronto Centre or any other riding, the Conservatives and Liberals will have some cause to associate her recommendations with the party she now officially represents. And it will be all the easier to claim that association if she does anything other than completely renounce those recommendations.

How much in the grand scheme of things does it matter that Ms. McQuaig has proposed ideas that might not perfectly match the official policy of her party’s leader and platform? Possibly not very much. But it is a complication. And the people who run political parties do not appreciate complication.

Conceivably, of course, it should be possible to live in a world in which MPs can have their own ideas and views while also belonging to parties that present unified statements of what policies they would pursue as a government. As a basic model, I might point to how the Prime Minister handled the issue of abortion, at least before the silencing of Mark Warawa: taking a position as a government, but allowing backbenchers to pursue matters of their own initiative.


Let our MPs go

  1. This is why the NDP has never made govt.

    • What is ‘this’ ?

      • McQuaig’s stated platform whether she uses it this time or not. Standard NDP dogma.

  2. Scandanavia, and Canada pre-Mulroney.

  3. That’s actually extremely misleading re: McQuaig’s proposals being “not that different” from the Scandinavian tax regime. Scandinavian countries depend very heavily on revenues from very high VATs (their equivalent of our GST). Last time I was in Norway, their VAT was 26%. If McQuaig had any real guts, she’d propose radically jacking up the GST. Instead, it’s just mostly symbolic sticking it to rich people, and most tax policy experts will tell you that, although that might make poor and middle-income people feel good and give us a big equity feel-good glow, it doesn’t really raise a lot of revenue compared to consumption taxes, it encourages flight to low-tax jurisdictions and other evasive tax-planning strategies. Tax policy is very much about balancing tax base versus tax rate, and the problem with focusing on rich people is that you get high rate, narrow base (and if the rate gets high enough, as in Harold Wilson’s Britain, the base narrows even further as rich people leave). The beauty of a consumption/VAT tax is that the base is about as large as it can be, i.e., virtually everyone.

    • Harper would love the opposition to run on raising the GST. He has done a good job of poisoning that well. Ditto the carbon tax.

      • The Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party of Canada also did one helluva job poisoning the GST well when Brian Mulroney and his Progressive Conservative government first proposed and implemented the GST, remember Jan? Those oh-so-progressive Liberals spent the entire final years of the Mulroney-Campbell government crapping all over the GST and thus poisoning that tax in the minds of Canadians (at least those Canadians who listen to Liberals and believe what they say). You might recall, Jan, that the oh-so-progressive and oh-so-principled Liberal Party of Canada had as a key plank of its 1993 election platform an explicit promise to scrap that horrid GST. So the fact is, that well was already poisoned before Harper got anywhere near it, seeing as all of this stuff happened before Harper was even first elected as an MP. Remember, Jan?

        • The Liberals certainly cut a DIFFERENT tax than they said they would in their run up to election victory. to me the worst bit was Mulroney talking about how merchants would reduce all their prices to account for the new tax HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHAH

  4. The reason why it becomes a problem for MPs (or candidates) to have different opinions than their leaders is because they do not represent their riding in Parliament, they represent their party in the riding. Or at least that has come to pass in an environment where MPs hold their seats at the pleasure of the leadership–how could it not be that MPs views are essentially endorsed by the leader?

  5. ONLY THE CABINET is responsible for a government’s positions.

    • Shocking that an NDP columnist, who worked at the same newspaper as another NDP columnist turned NDP candidate, would pen an “opinion piece” to back up her former colleague. *SHOCKING*

      This is the reason why the Toronto Star has zero credibility with 95% of the population. They simply try as hard as they can to spin things to fit their world view, instead of analyzing things without bias.

  6. Yes, let Linda McQuack talk all day long about how much she wants to raise taxes. I’m sure that’ll go over great with the millionaire’s that live in Toronto Center.

    As a basic model, I might point to how the Prime Minister handled the issue of abortion, at least before the silencing of Mark Warawa

    And will you mercilessly mock the NDP, like you did the CPC, Wherry? You’re absolutely shameless.