May 23, 2014

Not Your Traditional New Democrat

Earlier today, over 30 “high profile” New Democrats sent an open letter to Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader Andrea Horwath criticizing her populist policies and her opposition to the Liberals’ budget.[1] While I have had my reservations about Andrea Horwath – specifically her lack of proper communication on certain issues – to warrant her changes as a reason to give up on the NDP is taking things too far. For this blog post, I would like to describe how I ended up supporting the NDP and why Horwath’s new style is not as unorthodox as it appears.
Me with the late Jack Layton - May 1, 2011

My support for the federal NDP started ten years ago when I was in my final year of high school in New Brunswick. I was too young to be part of the union and have never joined one to this day. I was not raised in an agricultural setting nor in a politically active family, though my grandmother has been my inspiration, given her tireless volunteering for causes such as scouting and literacy. Instead, I am what some may call a disillusioned Liberal. Back then, I realized the Conservatives’ agenda would end up going against everything Canada stood for as we have seen since Prime Minister Harper won his majority in May 2011. I also realized the Liberals were plagued with scandals and were more concerned about satisfying corporate interests over those of ordinary Canadians. Since I couldn’t possibly support either party, I recalled hearing about the NDP, but didn’t take them seriously. Upon doing some research, I knew I found the party that spoke to my values and the party’s leader Jack Layton was relatively new to his role at the time.

What did this NDP believe in that caught my attention? They were about standing up for students by supporting lower tuition fees. They were about protecting the environment when the Liberals failed to live up to its Kyoto obligations and the Conservatives outright gutted environmental laws with their recent omnibus budget bills. They supported national strategies for housing and public transit; both of which were neglected by Liberals and Conservatives alike. And yes, the federal NDP under Jack Layton (and now Tom Mulcair) supported various affordability measures such as capping ATM fees and stopping pay to pay billing schemes. Years before every province and territory brought their minimum wages up to $10/hour, the federal NDP was advocating for that wage nationwide. And when you factor in the fact the NDP is the only party supporting raising corporate taxes for large businesses while supporting small businesses, given reductions under the Liberals and Conservatives lead to corporations hoarding cash instead of creating jobs, there is no denying why I feel the NDP stands for ordinary Canadians. This change in focus beyond the traditional organized labour and agricultural base has paid off for the federal NDP, in which they formed the official opposition for the first time ever in May 2011. While Justin Trudeau’s fame may have dampened that orange wave somewhat, it would be irresponsible to use that as an excuse to underestimate the NDP during the next federal election.

After looking at what happened to the NDP federally, does this sound familiar to what is occurring in Ontario? Even in the midst of this change in focus, the initial focus on organized labour is by no means lost, as evident by their opposition to the provincial Liberals’ imposition of teacher contracts via Bill 115 in 2012. For those of you who vote Liberal or Conservative, you may draw your own conclusions as you see fit, but there is no denying the fact critics of this new approach are taking things too seriously. While a few traditional supporters may be lost forever, the gain in a new group of supporters under NDP 2.0 makes this change a good call.
Change it up!
Rob Z (e-mail)

[1] CBC News. “Andrea Horwath campaign leaves prominent NDP supporters ‘deeply distressed’.”

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