Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Can the NDP take power in Canada....some modest proposals for consideration of that worthy goal

Winning even a minority government, for the Canadian NDP under Tom Mulcair's leadership, in 2015 is and will continue to be a national priority. However, it is certainly not a foregone or predictable result. There are many residual impediments deeply buried in the national culture that stand between Mulcair's move from Stornoway, the home of the Leader of the Opposition, to 24 Sussex, the Canadian home of Prime Ministers.
Some of these impediments, while nothing in politics is exclusively dependent on merely empirical, scientific evidence, have been shaped by the complex combination of some evidence generated by history, and the process of how that evidence is perceived over time by the general public, the body politic.
One example of that 'distortion' is the lamentable reputation of the Bob Rae NDP government in Ontario in the 1990's. His government admittedly made mistakes, as have all governments. However, transferring those mistakes to the national party bearing the same name is nothing short of misplaced resentment, misplaced revenge and a denial of the full truths of  both the previous Ontario government and the potential of the current NDP in Ottawa to operate differently. Mulcair has to confront this "demon" of distortion and reclaim the high ground, in Ontario, using the positive evidence from the record to reconstruct the Rae government's reputation first among Ontario voters and second with the national media. To some extent this is a project of defeating a straw man, one based on distortions, and on misrepresentations and on exaggerations incubated and nurtured by a right wing dismissal of a 'bad apple' of a government that does not deserve the dissing.
Another 'demon' that Mulcair has to confront is that the NDP cannot and does not provide competent administration when in government. The pages of Canadian history abound with examples of excellent administrations all formed and led by the NDP. Some of these governments bear the names of premiers Tommy Douglas, Allan Blakeney, Roy Romanow, all of them leaders whose administrations provide more than adequate shoulders upon which Mulcair can  build a case for his own potential administration. Once again, however, he has to demonstrate the aspects of successful administrations he actually likes and would adopt, as his way of earning and earning and re-earning the trust of the Canadian electorate.
And then there is the question of the relationship of the NDP to the labour movement, a movement that just last night blackened both its own eye and that of the party through its protest in the city council chambers in Montreal when the city fathers were debating a measure that would require unionized workers to contribute more to their own pensions. Smoke bombs and overtaking the council chambers, treating the members of Montreal city council with disrespect including physical punches and raining copies of their collective agreement throughout the chambers is no way to protest changes to their pension contributions.
However, there are ample opportunities to begin the process of restoring the public respect and dignity of ordinary workers for Mulcair to embrace the issue of worker protections without falling into the trap of a Siamese twin relationship with the worst elements of the labour movement. Providing tax incentives for corporations who actually respect their workers, whether they operate within a union framework or not would be a reasonable beginning. Providing leadership through the contractual relationships that exist between the federal government and its own employees and contractors, through minimum wages, monitoring the ways through which the federal government achieves labour trust and respect would be helpful to other employers and their workers, through the publication of such examples of enlightened leadership. A serious look at the question of the federal minimum wage would also demonstrate a commitment to the lives of ordinary workers. And of course, the question of temporary foreign workers needs a unique, compassionate and fair approach, as compared with the exclusively pro-corporate approach of the Harper government. Workers also need the kind of legislative support for their legitimate needs, perhaps under a different rubric, such as worker associations that are unique to each corporation and not linked to an international union, working through a reinvigorated International Labour Organization, when comparing best practices (like those in Germany) as standards for Canadian workers. These modest steps would help to bend the arc of public perceptions of how the NDP would deal with the current realities of employer-employee relations.
And then there is the fundamental question of how Canada extracts and protects our natural resources which include not only oil and gas but also water, forestry and mineral extracts. A national approach to extractive processes that respect the long-term needs of the environment while permitting the exploration of new claims, including how Canadian resources are negotiated on the world market, and how the workers of Canadian corporations are treated around the world, while respecting the global environment....without necessarily imposing a carbon tax but through more creative fiscal structuring of natural resource extractions and the needed confrontation of how Canada will both use and protect our water in a world hell-bent on privatizing water, with the big guys already depleting the underground reservoirs in places like California one of the most productive world garden.
And on this note, the NDP could provide tax incentives for Canadians who return to local gardening and providing fresh fruits and vegetables for local populations, without the use of harmful toxic fertilizers.
And following up on the "greening of Canada" theme, the NDP could provide significant tax incentives to individual families to move off the electricity grid, and to purchase those fruits and vegetables grown in local community gardens, and to encourage provincial governments to subsidize new initiatives that link bedroom communities to their larger workplace hubs through commuter buses on a smaller scale to the already successful examples like the GO system in the GTA. People are moving out of cities and are crowding the township roads back into the cities where they work but would benefit from medium-sized buses to convey them to their work, without having to drive or spend excessive dollars on energy to drive their private cars.
And still with energy, the question of  the refining of Canadian crude inside the Canadian refineries, including the question of reversing an existing pipeline and the potential need for additional pipelines, as well as assurances that rail cars will meet minimum standards in the transition needs to be a priority for the party's energy position.
And then, there is a question of another national intervention into both the health care field and the field of transportation and communication. With respect to health care, we need a national drug plan and provides access to needed drugs to all in need, a national program to provide access to dental services for at least all children regardless of the economic status of their families, a nationally supported, if not Ottawa directed early child education program including access to high nutrition and physical activities through enhanced leadership and support for such programs as participaction and access to physical team sports for all children with both interest and commitment.
And while we are dreaming of a more "perfect" Canadian society under an NDP government, we will naturally expect prisoners to face rehabilitation that works, judges to return to a flexible sentencing posture, and workers to find full-time employment with minimal safeguards from physical and political interference and dangers.
And then, lets begin the process of investigating the feasibility of a trans-national rapid transit monorail train system that emulates those being built (in part by Canadian companies) in other countries. Our vision of the Canadian iteration of the national monorail system would link all provinces and territories and provide opportunities not only for employment but also for enhanced exposure by all Canadians of all regions and local cultures and traditions.
It is not a complete list of proposals but rather a stimulus to provoke more submissions from others more qualified than your scribe, in order to enhance the prospects of an NDP government in the election of 2015. And there is no need to move rapidly into the Colorado model of "pot" fundraising in order to be popular.

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