Thursday, February 6, 2014

Andrea's Dilemma: Whither Blowest The Wind?

Were I a gifted artist (or any kind of artist, for that matter) I would draw Andrea Horwath in a two-panel caricature. In the first panel, index finger raised, she would be turning to her left, and in the second, to her right, testing the prevailing winds. That would, I believe, adequately capture what I, perhaps a tad harshly, characterize as the political prostitution of the Ontario NDP leader.

Like her long ago party leader, Bob Rae, who even today refuses to admit he made some grievous errors during his time as Ontario's Premier by trying to placate and court business, Ms Horwath seems to be walking the same lover's lane that leads to electoral heartbreak. And while it is true that she has gained popularity through some of the initiatives she has foisted upon the Liberal government as the price of her party's support, she seems to be falling victim to the same hubristic notion Rae did, that somehow she can appeal to the political right via the business community.

This strategy is given short shrift by Michael Laxer in a recent article for Rabble. Beginning with the NDP's rather oleaginous stance on the push for a $14 minimum wage, Laxer goes on to make this observation:

... the leader driven party has not strayed from its message of boutique appeals to minor consumerist middle class issues and its pandering to the fiction of the small business "job creator." While it is true that small businesses create many jobs, it is also true, especially in the absence of an industrial or neo-industrial state job creation strategy, that the jobs they create are often not even worthy of the term "McJob." They are, overall, without any question the lowest paying jobs and rarely have any benefits of any meaning.

Laxer also questions whether the consumerist approach Horwath has taken (lower insurance rates, small cuts to hydro bills, etc.) is consistent with the party's principles :

Minimum wage and non-"middle class" workers do not primarily need small cuts to hydro bills, auto insurance rates (if they even own a car), or to have the worst employers in the economy "rewarded" for creating bad jobs, they need higher wages, expanded and free transit, universal daycare, pharmacare, and the types of universal social programs "progressives" and social democrats once actually fought for. They need a wage and job strategy that is not centered around the economy's worst and least reliable employers, "small business."

They need active parliamentary political representation that will fight for living wages and economic justice.

And therein lies the problem: the Ontario NDP has essentially abandoned those whose interests it has traditionally served and advocated for.

Matin Regg Cohn, in today's Star, opines that under Horwath's 'leadership,'

...the NDP has transmogrified itself from a progressive to a populist party. Now, the third party is riding high in the polls and dreams of a breakthrough. She wants to broaden her appeal in the vote-rich middle-class suburbs and among small business owners by downplaying the party’s radical roots. Poverty is not a rich source of votes.

Hence the abandonment of long-standing party principles, evidenced in the following statement from the party leader this week regarding Ontario's minimum wage which will rise to $11 per hour on June 1:

“Well, look, I respect the work of the grassroots movements that have been calling for the $14 minimum wage, but I think that what our role is right now is to consult with families that are affected, as well as small business particularly that’s also affected,” she told reporters Tuesday.

Some might argue that this is just smart politics, that aligning oneself too much with progressive policy will simply alienate voters. But I am left with one fundamental question: If the NDP refuses to be the party of advocacy, who will be?

To that, I think the answer is obvious.


  1. John Lennon said that by the time politicians get into power, they have compromised themselves so much that they stand for nothing (I think I read that in a Rolling Stone interview - can't remember exactly).

    That idea holds true to this day. Politicians are controlled by the oligarchy, creating an illusion of democracy and fairness to distort the reality.

    1. I would have to agree with Lennon and your assessment, Anon. While such is particularly evident in the United States, where the puppet strings are barely concealed, we would be fooling ourselves to think it is much different in Canada.

  2. If it's been Mulcair's - and even Layton's - goal to move the NDP away from the leftist backbone of the party that was set and given meaning as a genuinely progressive, socialist alternative by the likes of Douglas, Lewis, and Broadbent to a mushy, bland, inoffensive, seemingly moderate centrist party I'd have to say they've succeeded, and Horvath is just another expression of that. It simply underscores the way that neo-Liberalism has invariably insinuated, infected, contaminated, and corrupted our political thinking, policies, and systems. The Liberals at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels openly embraced neo-Liberalism decades ago (I remember hearing John Manly admit to as much in a documentary some years ago), which, since one of neo-Liberalism's core tenets is to favour business interests and thus move any political party which espouses it inevitably to the right, forces them into the corporatist agenda. As the Conservatives under Harper, Harris, and Hudak have become increasingly extremist and fascistic, intolerant of the anti-poverty, progressive, and labour movements. The Liberals migrated right into a centrist role and the NDP has followed them rightward, shedding the old "socialist bugaboo" that many perceived existed for the NDP. Problem is, few, of any, in Canada, have ever seen a truly progressive, socialist government at work, and those ho decry socialism are usually those with the most to lose from it, namely the fascistic, parasitic, ruling class.

    Canada, and, by extension, Ontario, the other provinces, and our municipalities, need a genuinely progressive, socialist alternative tou our existing system. Sadly, Andrea Horvath and the NDP are no longer it...


    1. Until some new expression for progressivity in the political arena can be found, Neil, I fear that the people can expect only a few incidental crumbs from the neo-liberal table, when it serves their purposes. Thanks for your comments.