Get with the Program, Andrea

When voters in Ontario, Canada‘s most populous province, go to the polls on October 6, will they reward the party with the ‘coolest’ leader, or the one with the best policies?

Andrea Horwath, Leader of the labour-based New Democratic Party of Ontario, seems to be aiming at ‘cool’, sadly at the expense of feminism. To deflect media criticism that she is keeping much of the NDP election platform under wraps, Horwath quipped “I’m a woman – I know you don’t give it up all at once.” Later, she pledged to “balance the budget on high heels”.

Many women are not amused. In any case, mildly sexist jokes are no substitute for a Workers’ Agenda. Neither is a platform that emphasizes “Making life affordable” and “Live within our means”. Instead of aspartame to make the capitalist medicine go down, working people crave an alternative. Socialist policies are that alternative.

In the first place, survival is the issue, not just ‘affordability’. The lack of secure, decent-paying jobs, the mounting debt weighing down workers, the growing scourge of homelessness and disease, against a backdrop of environmental degradation and wars of occupation, show that measures against capitalist power and privilege are sorely needed.

Capital and the rich should pay for the crises their system creates. The Ontario NDP should campaign to eliminate the HST, not just remove it from hydro and home heating. Freezing prices at the gas pump and at the transit fare box would be commendable, but should be part of a plan to nationalize Big Oil and Gas. That way mega-profits from the resource sector could be invested in green energy alternatives and adequate funding for mass public transportation.

Job creation is a top priority. It will not come primarily from concessions to small business. It will come from government action to create, or operate existing industries democratically and in the public interest. Corporate tax giveaways should be reversed, not just halted. U.S. Steel in Hamilton should be nationalized under workers’ and community control. The same should be done to bad bosses and runaway employers like IQT Solutions in Oshawa.

Health care, including drugs and eye care, should be exclusively public and non-profit. So should education. It ought to be free through university, with no public funding for private or religious schools. Universally accessible, quality education can be financed by a re-vamped, steeply graduated tax system that targets high incomes, speculators, corporate profits, and huge inheritances.

In view of deepening food, debt and ecological crises (featuring rampant floods, wild fires, drought, nuclear fall-out), now is the time to conscript big wealth for system change. ‘Balancing the budget’ on the backs of workers, farmers, women, youths and seniors is not what’s needed. Greece is our inspiration, not for its austerity measures, but for its workers fighting back. This fight is continuing across Europe, North Africa, Latin America and beyond.

Capping CEO salaries and halting the use of consultants at Queen’s Park, as the NDP demands, would be good mini-steps. But the party should be talking about slashing CEO salaries and democratizing crown corporations and government ministries. While calling for a full, public, union-led enquiry into all aspects of the June 2010 G20 Summit planning and policing, we demand a radical reduction of expenditures on policing, on weapons and surveillance equipment. Stop state litigation against indigenous peoples, unions, women’s organizations striving for justice in the work place, and climate justice seekers.

It is wonderful that Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP are campaigning to form a government. We may benefit from the ‘orange wave’ still rippling from the May 2 federal election tsunami. But because opinion polls show that the October 6 vote could produce a minority Conservative government, it is critical that the NDP pledge now that it will not enter into a coalition government with the Liberals, nor with any capitalist party.

The NDP, as Ontario‘s official opposition, or in government, should fight for a Workers’ Agenda, for eco-socialist measures, to make Capital pay for its crisis and for the needed environmental clean-up. It should fight to make quality education and health care a right for all Ontarions. Our task is not to make capitalism work better for the rich, but to establish a democratic socialist alternative in the interests of the vast majority.

> The article above was written by Barry Weisleder.