Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How "Progressive" Is the NDP?

How left, how progressive, is the NDP really - whatever those terms now mean in a Canadian political context? They used to mean Marxist or Socialist in political orientation. Can we say that today's NDP is really Socialist or Marxist since they seem to be pretty deeply inscribed in the conventional capitalist matrix all the other parties are - out of necessity perhaps not necessarily by choice, though one could argue that a choice was made in 2001 when the New Politics Initiative was crushed at the Winnipeg convention.

As the terms are conventionally - historically - used, then, the NDP has moved steadily towards the centre since 2003, it seems to me, and most of their current fiscal polices could have been easily crafted by either the LPC or CPC, our mainline centrist parties, though there are differences in some areas such as the NDP's specific support for labour unions, attitudes towards the U.S. and the role of the military. But these are not left-wing policies as such; indeed both the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives have held these positions at one time or another. And some of those policies such as doubling the CPP plan have not been well-thought out or, as many have noted, properly cost-ed. Their thinking on the CPP, for example, suggests that they have no idea how the CPP investment board actually works or even a knowledge of how far behind returns are already for the CPP because of the recession.

Riddle me this: is raising the hot button language issue in both Canada as a whole and Quebec in particular by proposing an application of federal labour codes to private sector workers in federally regulated industries in Quebec a progressive move, or is it mere pandering to the Quebec electorate? This proposal has apparently become job number one for the Jackists, but many argue this proposal is completely unnecessary since in practice workers already use french in these workplaces, not to mention that it contravenes Canada's Official Languages Act.

Riddle me this too: is guaranteeing Quebec at least the same number of parliamentary seats they now have for the foreseeable future, even though their population is shrinking, a democratic proposal, or is it a mere pandering to the Quebec electorate?

And finally riddle me this: is opening up the constitution, even though such a process is theoretically "down the road," a well-considered move? Or, once again, is it mere pandering?

Since there are so many Quebec MPs now in the NDP caucus, there will obviously be a considerable amount of pressure to implement these proposals sooner rather than later. I'm just sayin'.

I have to admit that I no longer know what "left" or "progressive" means in a Canadian political context. But I do know that, like every other Canadian federal party, the NDP has and will continue to flirt with the centre because that's where they think the vote and thus the possibility of electoral power is. And they will now be intensely obsessed with that scenario given their new-found status as the official opposition. I'm just sayin'.

So will we have a polarized situation in Parliament, as many are suggesting? I doubt it: instead we'll probably have just a lot of quibbling about details in various centrist positions the different parties may take.

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