Fear that a Fall Canadian federal election would decimate the ranks of New Democratic Party MPs drove Leader Jack Layton to a self-inflicted act of desperation – voting for a rotten Tory budget.
Months of failing to advance socialist policies to meet human needs and differentiate the NDP made Layton’s parliamentary caucus more vulnerable to a tactical shift by the Liberal Party. On September 18, Michael Ignatieff had his Liberal MPs vote non-confidence in the Conservative minority government of Stephen Harper. But it would take a vote by all three opposition parties in the House of Commons (Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois) to defeat the government and force an election. Worried that NDP support would bleed towards the Liberals, and that voters would punish the NDP for precipitating a fourth federal election in only five and a half years, Layton and company opted to prop up the more rightist Tories.
According to opinion polls, 60 per cent of Canadians don’t want an election now. Many want employment insurance reform and the $6 Billion home renovation tax credit in the budget Harper tabled.
But 40 per cent do want a federal vote to dump the labour-hating, Tar Sands-loving, war mongering Tories. That segment of the electorate is much more likely to consider supporting the NDP than the anti-election crowd – provided the party gives them some good reasons to do so.
By selling out so cheaply (that is, for E.I. changes that won’t help most of the 1.5 million unemployed), and by propping up the Conservatives just to avoid an election, Layton comes off pretty badly. He looks like a hypocrite and alienates the NDP base (of 2.5 million voters) at one stroke.
The labour-linked NDP, the left and the workers’ movement as a whole are squandering a golden opportunity to put capitalism on trial, and to seize upon the global capitalist crisis as a tailor-made platform to fight for public ownership and green energy conversion through workers’ and community control of industry.
If Jack Layton isn’t up to the task, which was evident at the federal NDP convention in Halifax in August, he should step aside. The sooner, the better. -Barry Weisleder