Sunday, October 04, 2015

Why I'm Voting NDP

I am voting for the NDP in the upcoming federal election and I think you should too. In this post I'd like to offer some reasons why.

Why I support the NDP?  

Because the NDP stands for something, and it mostly stands for the things I stand for. The NDP, when it's at its best, offers a blend of support for personal freedom and empowerment alongside social support and public infrastructure.

The niqab issue is a case in point. The NDP stands for the right of women to choose to wear the niqab if they wish when swearing their Canadian citizenship oath. The Conservatives have declared their opposition, and are in court arguing women must be forced to bare their faces when swearing the oath. The issue is apparently costing the NDP support in Quebec.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair knew the position was unpopular and took it anyways. Quebeckers should take note of his willingness to take a principled stance in order to support the rights and personal freedoms of a minority. Mulcair has already taken stances in support of Quebec that were unpopular in the rest of Canada. He won't sell out a minority just to pander to a population's baser instincts, not even yours.

The NDP is supports personal freedom in other areas. Again taking a stand that was unpopular at the time, Tom Mulcair opposed the Conservatives' Bill C-51, which greatly extended the powers of surveillance and enforcement of Canada secret services. The NDP voted against the bill, while the Liberals and Conservatives voted in favour.

It is important to understand the sweeping nature of Bill C-51. It allows the government to monitor all aspects of a person's life and share this information with a wide range of security agencies, including those in the United States, revealing personal income tax details, credit histories, travel and vacation plans,  and more. The government can monitor and act against 'terrorist propaganda', which is anything that disrupts the normal functioning of the state - effectively lumping in environmental activists and labour unions with al Qaeda and ISIL. The bill removes most requirements for CSIS to obtain warrants and grants it "'disruptive' powers, meaning it would allow the spy agency to do things above and beyond mere observation."

Of the three major parties, only the NDP was willing to stand up and oppose this legislation when it was politically unpopular to do so.

The NDP is well-known for its stance on personal empowerment. Again, this isn't always popular; as my own brother pointed out, the NDP's support for students caters to a demographic that doesn't really vote. Maybe not. But when Rachel Notley took over in Alberta, students and universities there noted her immediate action to reverse cuts to the education system and to freeze tuition fees. This is because education is important to society as a whole, even if students don't vote.

Personal empowerment also means a living wage. True, people living on the minimum wage are also not very likely to vote (or they may be blocked from voting by one of the new voter registration laws) but the NDP has nonetheless advocated a federal minimum wage increase to $15/hour. This directly affects a hundred thousand people, and puts pressure on the provincial governments to increase their own minimum wage.

The Liberals have criticized the minimum wage promise, arguing that it only supports 135,000 people. This is true. That's all the NDP can change directly; provincial governments must do the rest. But 135,000 people is still a lot of people, and it's way better than zero, which is how many people the Liberals would help. 

And personal empowerment extends to basic respect for people. The NDP will protect pensions and roll back the retirement age to its original setting (it was extended from 65 to 67 under the Conservatives).

 It will restore benefits to veterans. It will restore the money looted from Employment Insurance, and pass on the benefits of the EI surplus back to the people who paid into it, freezing EI rates and restoring eligibility for EI benefits to people cut under the Harper government.

The NDP is also noted for its support for social programs. Though there are many, there are three that I would highlight: first, its longstanding support for public health care, with support for a national pharmacare plan. Second, it will restore funding to the CBC, which has been starved for decades. And third, it will restore funding to the network of environmental and scientific organizations that have been denuded by the Tories.

The NDP position on the environment is of significant importance. Canada's environmental agencies were slashed to the bone by the Harper government, and independent agencies called "terrorists" and subject to harassment. This will change under an NDP government, with a return to stringent emission standards and support for renewable energy.

This matters to me. And I see the impact of an NDP government every time I drive to Sackville. On the Nova Scotia side or the border, under an NDP government, dozens of windmills have taken root. On the New Brunswick side, in the same windy area, neither the Conservative nor Liberal governments have built even one windmill. It's one thing to express support for alternative energy. It's quite another to actually do something about it.

I could actually go on for some while describing the positive measures the NDP will undertake, but you get the idea.

Why I Do Not Support the Liberals

In a word, I don't trust them. The Liberals have a long history of adopting politically expedient positions during an election campaign, and then reneging on their promises once elected

For example, just days after being elected in New Brunswick, the Liberal Party reneged on two key planks in its election platform, including daycare subsidies and child care tax credits. It also announced plans to tax seniors' assets despite a campaign pledge not to tax seniors assets (it has since rescinded the tax).

This is the norm for the Liberal Party. It's an approach that dates back as far back as Pierre Trudeau's stance against wage and price controls in the 1970s. "Zap, you're frozen," said Trudeau, mockingly. Once in power, however, he very quickly instituted wage and price controls.

More recently, after Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney introduced the hated Goods and Services Tax (GST), Liberal Jean Chretien campaigned saying he would eliminate the tax if elected. Of course, he did no such thing, and we have the tax to this day.

This time around, we have Justin Trudeau suggesting the party will introduce a national child care program. They attack the NDP plan.  We know that if it's at all possible, he NDP will do it. The Liberals? Well, they've made this promise before, and never followed through. Why should we think this time is any different?

It's the same story for pharmacare. Canadians have heard this promise many times before, especially from Liberals, in successive campaigns dating back to the 1990s. And although Liberals have been in power for most of that time, they've never implemented such a plan.

Historically, the Liberals talk a good game on pharmacare, but when push comes to shove, they side with the pharmaceutical companies. That's why the extended patent [protections granted to the companies by the Mulroney conservatives were never rescinded by the Liberals, despite their vocal criticism of them while they were in opposition.
Why should we trust Justin Trudeau?

For example, he says he would legalize marijuana. Fine - I support that. But I don't trust the person who voted to impose mandatory sentences for marijuana possession to actually legalize it.

And Trudeau is announcing that he will fundd his spending promises with a series of deficits. I can understand this, and I imagine most people would respect his honesty. But back in July, when the word 'deficit' was risky politically, Trudueau was announcing that he supported a balanced budget. So after the October election, which version of Trudeau would we see making budget decisions?

If history is any indication, the Liberals will promise to support education, health care, the CBC, and all the rest of it, and dramatically decrease funding to all of these programs. We see this provincially. We see it federally.

Why should we believe him when he says he will "amend" Bill C-51? 

The Liberals sound like change, and oh! I would be so happy to see it. But the Liberal record is very clear on this point. No change. More of the same. And all the regressive measures implemented by the Conservatives over the last eight years left in place.

You can see this in action if you look in the right places. For example, in The Norther Miner, we see the Liberals attacking "the New Democratic Party’s job-killing corporate tax hike" and saying "A Liberal government will maintain the current corporate tax rates." But the Liberals know full well that there is no evidence whatsoever that lower corporate tax rates result in more jobs.

The Liberals are counting on disaffected Conservatives to remember this, and to keep the status quo by voting Liberal in this election. People seeking change should take note that they are in alliance with Conservatives opposing change should they vote Liberal. 

Why I Do Not Support the Conservatives

It turns out that when the Conservatives said they did not have a "hidden agenda" for Canada, they in fact had a hidden agenda for Canada. And over the last eight years they've destroyed much of what Canada stands for and much of what made it such a great place to live and call home.

There are so many reasons to oppose Harper it's hard to know where to start.

He's not a particularly good financial manager, having run a series of deficits during his tenure, despite not spending money on various programs that he had promised to spend (indeed, he has made the fake spending announcement a new art).

And he is an incompetent manager. This becomes especially clear in the botched military procurements, from the multi-billion dollar F-35 account, which is essentially a series of lies from beginning to end, to the botched replacement of Canada's naval forces.

He shows contempt for Parliament, for elections, for the courts, and for the people of Canada in general. His new 'fair elections act' seeks to disenfranchise voters, while his operatives have actually been found guilty of election fraud in previous elections. His current candidates won't respond to media enquiries or appear in candidates' forums. Harper himself refused to debate the other leaders in a national forum.

He is anti-data. As the Post notes, he "defunded medical and scientific research; the muzzling of government scientists; a bizarre, almost universally decried debasement of Canada’s census."

He ran on a campaign to reform the Senate and eliminate corruption, but his slew of Senate appointments have set a new standard for political corruption in Canada. And he continues to defend a position of innocence in the whole matter that defies belief and insults Canadians.

He continues to run a war in Syria that makes no sense whatsoever, believing somehow that Canada's bombing raids will somehow stop ISIL and bring peace to the Middle East. His response to the refugee crisis is not the traditionally Canadian open arms - indeed, he has basically blocked any Syrians from entering Canada at all - and instead has called on more war to solve what he says are the 'root causes'.

But this anti-refugee stance reflects a deep dislike and distrust of people who are not (as he says) "old stock" Canadians. We know what he means. It's the same distrust of brown people that causes him to impose visa requirements on people traveling to Canada from places like Brazil and Mexico. It's what led him to destroy CIDA and turn it into a branch of Business Development.

Harper's government is essentially designed to transfer wealth into multi-national corporations and to stay in power through the politics of race and division, and where necessary, media and voter manipulation.

It is a sad state of affairs that we have such a government in this country, and I sincerely hope the Liberals and NDP can agree on a system of proportional representation so that it never happens again (I'm sure the NDP will do this, but as for the Liberals, well, see above).

Why I Will Not Support the Greens

I love the Greens, I really do. But they're too small and too easily co-opted.

I don't mind small. I've participated in small campaigns in the past.

But the co-option is serious and never too far from the surface. It was most apparent with Elizabeth May was making deals with Liberal Stephane Dion.

I don't think the party is large enough and has a wide enough base of support to ensure that its candidates are not really operatives from another party seeking to undermine the progressive vote. Proportional representation will help address this, as it will ensure that the Greens obtain a fair representation in Parliament and a proper degree of funding support. Until then, I think people who are voting Green are often actually hurting their own cause.

A Note on the Balanced Budget

Frankly, I don't care whether the budget is $10 billion over or under. It's a rounding error on a spreadsheet that totals almost $300 billion. So a lot of the discussion about Trudeau's deficit or Mulcair's balanced budget is political posturing.

But I will say this:

When Harper said he balanced the budget, he lied. We're of course used to this from the Conservatives. And it is sad that he had to raid the premiums paid by Canadian workers into EI to sustain this lie.

More to the point, the record on fiscal responsibility in Canada is clear. The New Democratic Party is far more likely to be fiscally responsible, based on the evidence of federal and provincial governments over the years. The Liberals are better than the Conservatives (which isn't hard, frankly) but not as good as the NDP.

I think it is unfortunate that Mulcair has to say he will balance the budget in order to counter a deluge of misleading and downright false reporting about the so-called "tax and spend" NDP.

In the end, if you are looking for the government that will produce the best fiscal results - if the economy is your thing, if profits are what get you going, if take-home pay matters to you - then the NDP is head and shoulders your party of choice.

Right now, after decades of Liberal and Conservative governments, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. This doesn't change no matter which of them is in power. The only time this ever changes is when the NDP are able to exert their influence.

These days Mulcair is attacking the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. It's not nearly as headline-grabbing as Trudeau's attacks on Harper. But it matters a lot more to your wallet. The deal is being kept secret, and for very good reason:

"'[C]ompanies and investors would be empowered to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings -- federal, state or local -- before tribunals....' And they can collect not just for lost property or seized assets; they can collect if laws or regulations interfere with these giant companies' ability to collect what they claim are 'expected future profits.'"

Think about that for a second.

What's the Liberal position on the deal? As usual we don't know - but as this article notes, it's the sort of deal they'd support. It's the sort of deal they've supported in the past.

Think about whether you want corporations to control regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings in Canada. Think hard.

And that - all in all - is why I'm voting NDP.