Monday, January 21, 2013

History of NDP does not include current political reality

NDP governments tend to have certain characteristics. They are close to the trade unions, for example, a movement dominated by public sector workers keen to expand public services, raise levels of public sector pay and pensions and remove limits on public sector collective bargaining. The party also attracts many who believe sincerely in the state’s ability to achieve fairness by high levels of redistribution, financed by high taxes, big debt, or both.

There is nothing wrong with believing in any of these policies, except that Canadian voters have, with time, tended to recoil from governments that pursue them. They do so because such policies drive out investment and growth, reduce opportunity overall and create a privileged class of public sector workers. (From "Column: Liberals and New Democrats were never natural soul mates" by Brian Lee Crawley, Ottawa Citizen, January 18, 2013, excerpted below)
While Mr. Crawley's characterization of the NDP governments has historic validity, there has been a considerable shift in the political and economic climate over the last decade or two. First, the disparity between the rich and the poor has grown in most countries in the west, including Canada, if less dramatically here then south of the 49th parallel. Second, there has been a all-out assault on the labour movement, especially on the public service sector, that is neither warranted nor productive for the long-term in generating new opportunities for both workers and the environment. It is not the public service workers who seek an expansion of public services, but rather an electorate that continues to demand access to the kind of public services that ensure the 'social contract' between those in power and those "outside" the boardrooms of power and thereby maintain the trust of the people in their own government, the sine qua non of democracy. Resisting the stripping of long-fought-for bargaining rights of unions is not the same thing as 'remov(ing) limits on public sector collective bargaining'. They are rightly determined to hold fast to those legitimate rights, in the face of a North American right-wing onslaught. Furthermore, their capacity and willingness to bend wage rates, pensions and health care benefits in order to preserve the fiscal future of major corporations like those in the auto industry demonstrate their flexibility and resilience and force critics to further examine their perspective that paints labour as the enemy of the new economy.
There is no deep reservoir in the public purse according to the messages leaping out of the mouths of people like the Minister of Finance, Jim Flaherty, so all political players are left with is fighting for a balance to the austerity cuts and the maintenance of public services. That includes the NDP, who are working to serve the legitimate role of the voice of ordinary people, in the torrent of rhetoric that supports the "rich" at the expense of the "poor". "Trickle down" is no longer a legitimate argument for tax loopholes for the big corporations, for relaxed environmental protection regulations, for massive military expenditures and even more massive prison construction just to placate the "law-and-order" rump in the conservative party.
The Liberals are as historically enmeshed with the "big money, big corporations, vested interests" as are the conservatives, and the emergence of the NDP (while admittedly the Quebec resurgence is not a sign of national prominence) comes at a time when paying attention to the legitimate needs and aspirations of ordinary people are receiving their rightful attention, and only the NDP can and will sustain their support for those people, the core and beating heart of the democratic state in which they find their voice.
Also, by marrying both environmental protection and economic development, for example, the NDP is no the enemy of either investment or responsible federal budgets. In fact, there is a clear history of balanced budgets under NDP provincial governments, that could and ought to serve as a credible and reliable story of their maturing, their listening to the public demand for responsible budgets and their authentic capacity and willingness to adapt to the realpolitik of the times.
Sorry, Mr. Crawley, there is more to the story than what is contained in the history books...Sometimes, the present and the future have a voice in the prospects of the future.

Column: Liberals and New Democrats were never natural soul mates
Brian Lee Crowley, Ottawa Citizen, January 18, 2013
Even when the Liberals were seduced by the creation of the welfare state in the ’60s, and let spending rip, the Tories followed. That suited the electorate. They had two parties reasonably close to the core values of society, so voters could change leaders without having to change fundamental policy direction. Then both parties reversed course over the deficit.
That allowed first the CCF, then the NDP, to parody the other two parties as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, indistinguishable from one another. What the social democrats didn’t get was that was just what the electorate wanted. And as long as the NDP stood no real chance of taking power, that reasonably friendly rivalry between Tories and Liberals made sense.
But virtually everywhere that the CCF and later the NDP grew to have a real chance of taking power, the division between Liberals and Tories became a liability. By splitting the votes of people who agreed they wanted a society of opportunity, competitive markets, free choice, moderate taxation, limited government and social programs that help but don’t entrap, the NDP could occasionally take power.
NDP governments tend to have certain characteristics. They are close to the trade unions, for example, a movement dominated by public sector workers keen to expand public services, raise levels of public sector pay and pensions and remove limits on public sector collective bargaining. The party also attracts many who believe sincerely in the state’s ability to achieve fairness by high levels of redistribution, financed by high taxes, big debt, or both.
There is nothing wrong with believing in any of these policies, except that Canadian voters have, with time, tended to recoil from governments that pursue them. They do so because such policies drive out investment and growth, reduce opportunity overall and create a privileged class of public sector workers.
There are important regional variations of course. Prairie New Democrats are constrained by a small-c conservative culture that frowns on profligacy, for example.
But on the whole, when New Democrats become major political players, the other two parties quickly learn there is a high price to indulging their separate identities. Where they successfully present a united front, they almost invariably beat the NDP. Where the anti-NDP coalition is weak or only partial, the NDP often triumphs.
Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Column+Liberals+Democrats+were+never+natural+soul+mates/7839917/story.html#ixzz2IcPVfS6p

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