by Barry Weisleder
Conditions are ripe for a socialist leader of the labour-based New Democratic Party of Canada. Officially, the contest began in July to replace federal leader Tom Mulcair. Mulcair lost a confidence vote of delegates at the NDP convention in April 2016 following his “no deficit” economic austerity campaign that cost the party one million votes and 60 per cent of its federal seats in October 2015. So far, no candidates have registered to run for Leader. The vote by members is set to occur in October 2017.Early in the Fall of 2016 an array of labour and NDP leftists launched an attractive, poignant public website. Its purpose is to promote a socialist platform for the NDP, and to urge former Ontario Federation of Labour President Sid Ryan to run for NDP Leader. The website http://www.sidryanforndp.ca closely reflects the views of Ryan, although it is not authorized by him. Visits to the site number over 10,000. In addition to policy statements on 17 key issues, the display is replete with quotes and videos that demonstrate, beyond any doubt, that should Ryan decide to toss his hat into the ring, he would stand firmly and proudly on that platform.
NDP Members of Parliament rumoured to be candidates, Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, and Peter Julian, plus Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh, have shied away from making known their views on major policy issues. In stark contrast is Sid Ryan, lifelong socialist, five-time candidate for the NDP provincially and federally, and an avid admirer of socialist leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn twice defeated the Tony Blair-led, right wing BLP establishment.
The NDP, under now-interim leader Mulcair, currently languishes at 13 per cent in opinion polls. But the public appetite for a socialist alternative is evident in massive support for climate justice measures, for indigenous people’s resistance to pipeline construction, boycott of Israeli apartheid, opposition to the privatization of Hydro One in Ontario, hostility to international corporate trade deals like the TPP and CETA, to price-gouging by big Telecoms and big Pharma, and to weapons sales to repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia. A candidate for NDP Leader who articulates these views, who projects a political battle for good jobs, steeply progressive taxation, a Social Investment Bank, public ownership and economic democracy will attract thousands to the party, and potentially will draw millions into the fight for a government in the interest of the working class.
To join this effort, go now to: www.sidryanforndp.ca Endorse the platform. Volunteer to help the cause in any way you can. Below is a sample of what you will find on the site.
Public Ownership and Economic Democracy
Large corporations and financial institutions are undemocratic and hierarchical. They seek profits and power over and above the interests of citizens and the environment. Social ownership is necessary for a more democratic, needs-based economy. A new, democratic socialism for Canada in the 21st century could re-forge the idea of public ownership. Newer forms of public ownership could involve popular democracy, with the input of the wider community and employees, not just senior government officials. This also has the capacity to halt future privatization. A public referendum should be mandatory before any public assets are sold to the private sector.
A New Democratic government should examine Norway’s model of public ownership of natural resources. Norway claimed sovereignty and public control over its natural resources and built up a massive reserve fund from the profits of oil and gas for the benefit of its citizens. On the other hand, Canada gave ownership of its natural resources over to the oil companies that extract the oil from the ground and the government receives only a pittance in royalties in return. The result is that Norway has a massive heritage fund, well in excess of a trillion dollars, while Alberta is in deficit and extracts twice as much oil as Norway. Today’s NDP needs to establish a Green Energy Crown Corporation based in Alberta.
Likewise, the Canada-wide rail system should be returned to public ownership, instead of us silently watching Bill Gates profit from Canadian National Railway. Nationalization can ensure the safe, affordable and timely movement of goods. One needs only to look at the Lac Megantic rail disaster to see how the private sector has screwed up by cutting corners, resulting in the tragic death of 42 people. A return to ViaFast as a first step towards high speed rail can bind this country together, provide a public good, and create thousands of well-paying jobs.
Canada is the only country in the world with universal health care that lacks national Pharmacare. Citizens paid $33 billion for prescription drugs in 2012. We pay more for prescription drugs than most countries, with our drug prices 30% above the OECD average.
A national drug plan would save Canadians over $7 billion a year. It is urgently needed to improve public health, especially of seniors and the poor.Canadians need a Public Pharmacare Corporation that could be an integral part of medicare for all residents of Canada – not just making the federal government a central bulk purchaser of pharmaceuticals, but making free provision of medication a feature of public health care and a matter of right for all patients.
New Politics. New Leadership. What Sid says:
The CCF was based on a solid foundation of opposition to the capitalist system, and vowed to replace it with “a planned economy.” The CCF called for the nationalization of key industries, such as transportation and electric power. Interestingly, 83 years later, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party leader in the United Kingdom, urges the nationalization of Britain’s railway and energy systems, which polls show is wildly popular with voters. South of the border, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described “Democratic Socialist,” stormed the presidential primaries with his vocal opposition to “free trade agreements” and “Wall Street bailouts.” It appears Socialism is making a comeback.
Ottawa Citizen, September 2, 2016