Linda McQuaig has not yet surrendered her brain to her party

'I certainly didn’t get into politics to kind of modify my voice'

Over the weekend, it was noted again that Linda McQuaig, the NDP’s candidate in Toronto Centre, and Thomas Mulcair, the NDP leader, have expressed different opinions on the appropriate level of taxation for the most wealthy among us.

In a new interview, Ms. McQuaig is asked directly about her independence.

NK : You mention that you’ve been outspoken and taken a strong stance on issues you care about. Certain research groups like Samara have found, through interviewing MPs, that MPs are surprised by how much party discipline is present in Parliament.

What are you thoughts on that? If you’re elected, do you see your outspoken and combative approach changing within the context of how disciplined our Parliament can be?

LM : I mean I certainly didn’t get into politics to kind of modify my voice. Or cease to be outspoken on issues. You know, that would be counterproductive. At the same time, I would say that I understand that if you enter politics it’s a different process than being a writer. You belong to a party and you make decisions collectively within that party on what the stance is going to be. And I accept that as part of the democratic process. I understand that that it is…the way it should be.  So, among other things, one of the things I look forward to is to be a strong and effective voice within that NDP caucus. Advocating those progressive positions that I’ve long done publicly.

This is both a fairly reasonable approach to party politics and a tension that is easily exploited by one’s political opponents. One man’s better kind of leadership is another man’s losing control of one’s caucus.

In the case of Ms. McQuaig, the Liberals might be keen to fuss over the difference of opinion, but then their leader has promised open nominations in all ridings and lamented that “party discipline has become absurdly over-used in Parliament” and “Conservatives and NDP are led by people who believe in top-down, autocratic rule.”

As for the policy question of taxation, Alex and Jordan Himelfarb write that the conversation around taxes is deluded.

The current conversation is a consequence of the neo-liberal economic policy that began to dominate American and British politics in the early 1980s, and emerged more slowly and subtly in Canada at around the same time. In this view, economic growth and individual freedom are best served by reducing government and its influence and letting the market do its work. Politically, tax cuts were treated as a free good — with little discussion of what public services would be lost and at what cost. We still get promises of tax cuts as though they will magically pay for themselves or will simply require greater efficiencies and less waste. Yet the numbers on waste never add up and the cuts inevitably lead to eroding public services, rising inequality, environmental deterioration and lost opportunity. There is no gravy train and no free lunch.

Possibly that conversation doesn’t change until voters can be convinced either that something is worth paying for or that something truly valuable has been lost as the government cut back and that only increasing taxes will bring restore it, the former particularly requiring a sufficient amount of trust that the government can make good on delivering that something.

See previously: Have Conservatives won the tax debate? and Thomas Mulcair versus taxes

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