Monday, May 12, 2014

The ONDP needs some soul searching.

Count me among the thousands (at least) who think this Ontario election is completely unnecessary. At the core of my ire, the stream of centrist fodder running from Andrea Horwath's lips. Several media critics have drawn attention to the rightward drift of the ONDP, who seem to have abandoned social democratic goals in a blind attempt for power. (Check out what Rick Salutin and Nora Loreto have written.)

The sickening reality that grinds my gears is that if Ontario operated under a system of proportional representation (PR), which the ONDP advocates, the most recent budget would have passed. PR creates the expectation of minority governments and the expectation that minority government can actually govern through policy compromise.

Kathleen Wynne presented the most progressive budget since Bob Rae was Premier. In response, Andrea Horwath rejected it for what she perceived as political gain. Under a PR system the political impetus for June's election would have never seeded within Horwath's ranks.

I'm not too sure that gamble is going to pan out well for Horwath. Being a progressive leader is hard because you have two principal groups to cater to: disadvantaged peoples and ideological social democrats. A fundamental tension of the NDP is that the social democrats understand that there will be growing pains as we transition to a more equitable economy; meanwhile, those experiencing hardship in Ontario may be less dedicated to the reengineering of the economy, because of their preoccupation with making their lives tangibly less difficult.

Andrea Horwath has been inept at balancing these interests. By waving flags of middle-class tax relief and frugal minimum wage increases, Horwath manufactured an ONDP consent to trudge to the centre of the political spectrum.

As other critics have noted, this budget was Horwath's last chance to become Premier. Realistically, the party would have needed to replace her for her complicity in Liberal budgets, but that wouldn't have been the end of the world, especially for the social democratic wing of the party.

Party-first politics and self-interest are toxic qualities in leaders, if you believe the project of politics is to make the world a better place. I cannot stand when people advocate an electoral model because it will advantage the party of their choosing. Similarly, I do not respect leaders who call elections based on their perceived potential to form government.

The ONDP can no longer pretend they're left-wing when the QS (Quebec Solidaire) is next door writing blueprints for meaningful reform at the provincial level. The ONDP doesn't even have the spine to support a transition to a single secular school board, which only the Greens support. I would love to support the ONDP as much as I do their federal counterpart, but I cannot in good faith. The party is in dire need of a leadership contest and a new policy book.

I encourage progressives to vote based on their local candidates, not party affiliations. We might not be able to elect a progressive party in Ontario, but we can send progressive people to Queens Park. Ask important questions about our how we administer our school boards, the barriers to post-secondary education, and how willing candidates are to stand against their own parties on matters of principle.

I will be voting Green in the Ottawa South Liberal stronghold.


1 comment:

j evans said...

The only reason Wynn proposed the budget she did, was to appease Horwath. The way I figure it, if Horwath adopts the budget, as her own, then it should be no big deal. Could it be that Horwath is leaning a little more to centre, in order to give the Libs who aren't happy with Wynn a place to give their vote? Maybe even a few Cons who couldn't stomach voting Liberal. I don't know, but it sure would be interesting if Ontario ended up with a Green leader. I could live with that.