Trent Wotherspoon has been appointed interim leader of the NDP here in Saskatchewan. I decided to write him a note, reflecting on the disastrous recent provincial election results and the future direction of the party.
Here’s what I said:
Like many progressives in this province, I was dismayed by the results of the last election.
For the past thirty+ years I have voted NDP or Green in every federal and provincial contest.
I think what bothered me most about this past election is that I didn’t see enough, well, socialism at the heart of the party’s message. I believe it was Pat Atkinson who complained that Mr. Broten’s campaign seemed to consist of a kinder, gentler version of Mr. Wall’s, and I think that’s a legitimate criticism. I didn’t see any kind of a defining, guiding ideology, the kind of definitive statements I was looking for as a traditionally left wing voter:
* No mere moratorium, an outright ban on fracking
* Transitioning out of the fossil fuel economy, investing in job retraining for oil patch workers, Green technology, aggressive environmental targets, punishing polluters, enacting a carbon tax, ditching ridiculously expensive and untried “carbon capture” technology, etc.
* Massively increased grants and subsidies to post-secondary students so that college and university is affordable for all
* An overhauled tax system that digs deeper into the pockets of upper income earners; luxury taxes on big ticket items
* A minimum wage that allows the working poor to live with a modicum of dignity
* Cultivating better relations with First Nations people, while presenting a friendly, welcoming atmosphere to new Canadians and refugees
* Higher wages and better staffing for those caring for our seniors
* More subsidized housing for low income earners (partnering with federal government)
* Prosecuting “slum” landlords
* A system of pharmacare (in tandem with feds) to alleviate prohibitive costs of prescription medicine
* Including regular dental visits and procedures under provincial medicare, at least for for children up to 18
* Restoring the sanctity of collective bargaining and labour fairness
…instead I heard too much talk about bringing back the film tax credit, not exactly a high priority among the people I’m acquainted with. However, I do hear many of them fretting about the cost of sending their kids to college or how much their braces are going to set them back.
Mr. Wotherspoon, for too long the NDP, both provincially and federally, has been trying to crowd into the middle of the road along with everyone else. When I see a new approach, like the LEAP Manifesto, I’m struck with some hope–at least there are some out there who feel as I do, that the party has abandoned principles for a shot at power, ideology in favour of practicality and pragmatism.
The people of this province are apprehensive of the future and I believe they would like some reassurance that the NDP understands that they’re having trouble making ends meet, that they spend many sleepless nights worrying how they’re going to afford to pay the bills and still retain the ability to provide for their kids’ education fund. Ordinary men and women will vote for the party that has their back, that they believe will minister to their present needs, while also devoting sufficient thought to the future world we’re creating.
“Since the dawn of history in virtually every human society there are some people who are given a great deal and many more people who are given little or nothing. Some people have property and power, class and capital, status and clout which are denied to the many. And time and time again, the people who receive a great deal tell the many to be grateful to be given anything at all. They say that the world cannot be changed and the many must accept the terms on which they are allowed to live in it. These days this attitude is justified by economic theory. The many with little or nothing are told they live in a global economy whose terms cannot be changed. They must accept the place assigned to them by competitive markets. By the way, isn’t it curious that globalization always means low wages for poor people, but is used to justify massive payments to top chief executives.
Our Labour Party came into being to fight that attitude…”
–Jeremy Corbyn, British Labour Party leader
I hope that in the coming months the NDP will have a “long, dark night of its soul” and seek to recapture some of the vision and courage of an individual like Tommy Douglas, who overcame disapprobation and vilification and enacted profound changes on our society that resonate still.
I’ll be watching your discussions and deliberations with great interest.