Thursday, April 7, 2016

New Democrats missing the point, again

The Leap Manifesto

After having a leader and a campaign that completely misread the electorate and botched their best chance at power in their history, some very smart people are deciding to do a complete 180 and start missing the point in the other direction with the support of the incredibly crazy Leap Manifesto.

Here's the thing: Canadians didn't vote Liberal because they went full on left-wing last election, they voted Liberal because they wanted a break from Harper's right-wing government. Canadians were looking for a break, but honestly it was more about a difference in style but not necessarily in substance. Yes, our government is a little more to the left than Harper's on a lot of issues, and I believe our priorities and our passions are more aligned with Canadians - but this ain't no revolution, folks, and that is what Canadians wanted. Mulcair failed because he decided to stick so closely to the Harper script that people had a hard time recognizing him, beard or no.

The Leap Manifesto though? That platform is a left swing so far out there that you'll have trouble seeing the electorate in the rear-view mirror as you speed past it. Differentiate yourselves, sure, but you don't need to fully separate yourselves from reality.

Now, I will 100% throw my support behind the NDP endorsement of the Leap Manifesto, but that is mostly because I enjoy watching Dippers immolate themselves. Current party leaders, however, like Rachel Notley and Andrea Horwath, are moderates looking to be elected (or re-elected in Notley's case) in a few years time. They will not be as amused as I.

The Leap Manifesto, if adopted, would absolutely destroy the Alberta NDP. Despite running  the most fossil fuel industry friendly government in the country, they are still constantly accused of being eco-communists who will forest over the oil sands. Federal party adopts the Leap Manifesto, in Edmonton no less? Suddenly it all seems validated, and say goodbye to your only government.

In Ontario, the provincial Liberals seem set for a reckoning, but would kill for the chance to paint the NDP with the Leap Manifesto. Horwath already has something of a reputation as someone willing to do whatever it takes to get power, suddenly the presentation of the priorities in the Leap Manifesto come forth and suddenly Kathleen Wynne and Patrick Brown start talking about the true agenda of the NDP, scaring the bejeezus out of the suburban voters who they've spent so long trying to court. Or it could go in the other direction, with Wynne pointing out how the flaky New Democrats can't seem to get their priorities straight, instead blowing to and fro based on what they perceive to be the momentum from an election several years past (an idea we Liberals are painted with all too often).

There is also an election in BC where this could come into play. The Liberals are going for a fifth term, and by all rights they should be taken out by a revitalized NDP, but John Horgan is hardly inspiring and has already decided to take stands that cost his predecessor a chance at becoming Premier. Add in the Leap Manifesto, and while a few granolas in Vancouver and Victoria might be grateful, the large majority of BCers will not be. Christy Clark re-elected, again.

Listen, Dippers, you can sit there and be the conscience of Canadians all you want, that's fine - so long as you truly are our conscience, and not the ramblings of a hipster stuck in a Marx-inspired high.


  1. "25-year old Liberal from Burlington, Ontario."

    that says it all if you want to give advice to the NDP join the f****ing party.

    1. I enjoy giving unsolicited advice and opinion without having to join the ranks of the faithful, thanks.

    2. Joining *any* political party is too fucking binding. I currently support the federal Liberals both financially and with my vote. I get contacted regularly to join the party. But the NS Liberal party is a wing of the federal party. And as long as Stephen McNeil's mean-spirited, austerity driven, anti-labour, faux-Liberal government pulls the levers of power here, I will never join. For the here and now, I support the NDP.

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  2. My thoughts:

    -I can see why Thomas Mulcair was dumped, although I was surprised that his rejection rating was that high. As at least one pundit wrote, it wasn't like Mulcair was running on a right-wing platform in 2015, with planks like national pharmacare and childcare programs as key elements. If anything, his pledges against tax increases and deficits were prudent efforts to bolster the NDP against the most predictable attacks the competition would throw at it.

    -I'm not exactly sure that it was Justin Trudeau "out lefting" the NDP that led him to victory. A lot of it had to do with his "rock star" political appeal, and his telegenic approach, something that Mulcair obviously couldn't match. And a lot of Justin's appeal came from the fact that many Canadians were simply fed up with Harper and wanted him gone. One Quebecois friend of mine said that this was the main reason that la belle province voted so strongly for Trudeau, rather than his francophone roots or his "rock star" aura. I have no reason to doubt him-and given how many Atlantic Canadians were alienated and pissed off at Harper, I suspect it was the same in their neck of the woods too.

    -I have extremely mixed feelings about the "Leap" manifesto. It strikes some critically important notes, such as the need to respect Indigenous rights and the problems with modern "free trade" agreements (which, among their other defects, are more about enshrining certain types of pseudo-constitutional rights for a few foreigners that the rest of us don't get). However, the idea of no new pipelines or energy infrastructure makes me want to puke, and I'm not at all sure whether "local" energy grid controls are practical.

    A point made by Rachel Notley, among others, has to do with the fact that many working-class people in Alberta are getting hammered with the fall in oil prices, something that isn't easily remedied by getting them all to somehow transition to a green energy industry that, if not in its infancy, is still only in its terrible twos. Not to mention that many Canadian communities still rely very heavily on fossil fuels in many different ways. That includes Indigenous communities who are themselves profiting from jobs in oil and gas, and often forming businesses of their own.

    Remote northern communities are heavily dependent on having goods transported to them by plane-how the hell will high speed rail reach some place like Iqaluit? How about Newfoundland, or the Haida Gwaii on the other side of the country? What will power the boats and planes that transport people and goods across the water? How much wildlife disruption is going to occur when building high speed rail lines everywhere, including through critical wildlife corridors such as in the Northwest Territories?

    Again, the Leap manifesto has some excellent ideas in it, but it's an extremely mixed bag. I don't see it as reflecting many of the concerns of people in smaller and more remote communities-particularly those who are reliant on fossil fuels for so much. That sense of being ignored, of people not responding to their needs, is precisely what gave people like Stephen Harper and Rob Ford the boosts they needed-and made it easy for them to damage their progressive opponents.

    1. If one looks at the polling average going back to the 2011 election Mulcair and the NDP were either in second or third for most of that time. The only times Mulcair and the NDP lead in the polls were after his election as Opposition Leader from May-June 2012 and then again in the flux just before the writs dropped. From the time young Trudeau became leader (April 2013) until Oct. 19th the Liberals lead in the polls and the Mulcair NDP routinely third. Therefore, I agree wholeheartedly with your opinion and am confident the polling data confirms it that the NDP lost not due to Trudeau's "out-lefting" the NDP but, reasons to do with leadership and personality.

    2. It wasn't an "out-lefting," I agree - at least mostly. It was more a matter of *seeming* to out-left the NDP, or in better terms the Liberals offered a more radical platform than that offered by the New Democrats in a year where radical change, or at least the presentation of it, was the route to victory.