by Barry Weisleder
Though the October 19 Canadian federal election is still three months away, the changing pattern of public opinion is forcing the major parties to shift gears. According to a major late-June poll, the labour-based NDP has the support of 35 per cent and is extending its lead. The governing Conservatives have fallen to 28 per cent, and the Liberal Party is down to 29 per cent.
It’s no surprise that both big business parties are increasingly directing their fire at the NDP. But the Liberals, under their man-boy leader Justin Trudeau, are turning to very traditional tactics — stealing and lying.
By advocating electoral reform that might include Proportional Representation, easier and wider access to information, and a return of the long-form census, by letting government scientists talk to the media, making it easier for university students and Canadians living abroad to vote, and stopping Canada Post from ending door to door mail delivery, the Liberals are simply copying NDP policies. They also promise to restore some social spending that Tory Prime Minister Stephen Harper cut.
But can the Liberals be trusted?
Remember the Liberal Red Book in the 1993 election campaign. P.M. Jean Chretien, and his successor Paul Martin, shredded the document and broke nearly every promise they made. Martin infamously cut 40 per cent of federal transfer monies to the provinces.
Today, Trudeau pledges to retain (with minor reforms) the appointed and highly corrupt Senate, to build more pipelines, and to support ‘free’ trade deals that kill good full-time jobs.
Trudeau Liberals favour tax cuts to the private sector to spur the economy. They sent Canadian soldiers to Iraq. They voted for Bill C-51, the so-called Anti-Terrorism Law. So it seems unlikely that Trudeau can get very far with his claim that he represents ‘real change’.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, on the other hand, champions change in the form of a $15 per day national child care programme, raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, increasing Canada Pension Plan benefits, giving the cities a new deal for mass public transit, and he demands abolition of the Senate. The party also calls for removing Canadian forces from Iraq and Syria, and restoring home mail delivery. Such progressive policies helped the NDP to a shocking win in the Alberta provincial election. They can carry the labour-based party to government in Ottawa.
Mulcair would be wise to resist pressure from the business class to downplay differences with the Conservative Party, leaving that role to the Liberals. But it is up to the ranks of labour and the party membership to push the NDP towards bigger and bolder change-seeking — like demanding national pharmacare, no new pipelines, expropriation of Big Oil and Gas to finance a rapid shift to green energy, and the implementation of steeply progressive taxation to give relief to workers, farmers and small business, and to make the rich pay.
And what if the October 19 federal election results in the NDP being in first place, but no party with a majority of seats?
Socialists urge the NDP to stand firm, form a minority government, and implement policies in the interest of the working class and the vast majority. If the capitalist parties choose to vote against progressive measures and force an early election, make them bear the consequences. Rule out any notion of a coalition with the Liberals, the Bloc Quebecois or the Green Party. Despite its many shortcomings, the NDP represents the possibility of a course of action independent of the bosses’ parties, and that must be amplified, not compromised.