If the NDP was looking to create reasons for us not for vote for them then their past year has been a resounding success both provincially here in Ontario and Federally. If you want to know what is wrong with the contemporary NDP you need look no further than this weekend's Ontario NDP convention. Despite Andrea Horwath's miserable failure as NDP leader, yesterday at their convention she underwent an obligatory leadership review and received more support than she did last year. If you are having trouble letting that sink in, I will repeat it for you. She received more support than she did last year. Andrea Horwath is an embarrassment to the NDP that extends well beyond Ontario's borders and a poster-girl for hypocrisy. As you will recall, after supporting the minority Liberal Government for years, in their last budget round she suddenly decided to pull that support and force Ontario into an election. This election held serious problems beyond Ms. Horwath's crass and crude style. The plain truth is that the Liberal budget was arguably left of any budget that Horwath herself would have presented if she had been premier and at the very least if an NDP government had presented this budget Horwath would have been the first to champion it as a great leap forward. This is just hypocrisy. There is no other word for it.
But aside from this act of unabashed hypocrisy, it was the political style of the Horwath campaign that progressives should find most troubling. Whether or not Horwath has taken the party to the right is something many people have argued about. But regardless of the veracity of the claim, many traditional NDP supporters were concerned during the election and this concern prompted 34 NDP heavyweights to write an open letter to Horwath saying that they she was "rushing to the centre." The people who wrote this letter, like Judy Rebbick for example, surely did not take this step lightly and the very fact that it emerged demonstrated that there was a serious breach taking place in the Party's core. Did Horwath or her team take these issues seriously the way anyone committed to democracy should do? Of course not. Instead they accused thee NDP 34 of being "hacks" and "has-beens" and NDP strategist Kathleen Monk even went so far as to suggest that they were working for the another political party and intentionally sabotaging the Horwath campaign. That accusation in and of itself is reason enough to never vote NDP again.
This Karl Rove/Stephen Harper strategy-style has not only infected the Ontario NDP, it has become the stock-in-trade of the federal NDP under the leadership of Tom Mulcair. Let's take two important events in recent NDP history. First, the NDP's prevention of the nomination of Paul Manley. The NDP clearly blocked Mr. Manley's nomination because of his (and his father's) stance on Israel, particularly on the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. Not only did the NDP deny that this was the reason for blocking Manley's nomination (a denial that is universally suspected to be false) but, more importantly they adopted the Harper political strategy and proceeded to smear him publicly. Manley claims that in private the NDP admitted that Palestine was the reason that they denied him a nomination. The NDP denied that claim, but when Manley asked for a written reason for the blocking of his nomination, the NDP, in true UN-Democratic style flatly refused. But the wording of this refusal was deeply problematic. Andrew Mitrovica wrote about it on ipolitics in an article well-titled, "Is Mulcair just another Harper with a Beard?" Mitrovica wrote -
"To blunt the blowback, McGrath (The NDP's National Director) wrote concerned and outraged NDP supporters, telling them "I can assure you the issue being cited in stories and social media about Manely's rejected application is not accurate. The rejection is not related to the NDP's position on the Middle East." That just poured gasoline on an already out of control fire. Not surprisingly, Paul Manley saw this as a "smear" because it leaves open the possibility that he was guilty of some immoral, illegal, or unethical act."
Mr. Manley rightly pointed out that this was not a job application but was supposed to be part of a democratic process. It is one thing for a Party to block nominations, but to fail to give reasons for that is an entirely different matter and is blatantly untransparent and smells distinctly undemocratic. Mr. Manley is correct to see what Anne McGrath said as a blatant smear because the vocal refusal to explain the blocking of the nomination coupled with a denial that it is Manley's stance on Gaza suggests to anyone who is paying attention that the nomination prevention is rooted in something nefarious of which Mr. Manley is guilty.
But worse than their treatment of Paul Manley was the NDP's treatment of MP Sana Hassainia. Ms. Hassainia ostensibly quit the NDP over their overt support of Israel and their failure to defend the rights of Palestinians. Though the Party did attempt to defend its position in the days following Ms. Hassainia's resignation, (a defence which in my opinion was sorely wanting) they quickly reverted to their Harperesque default position which was to attack and smear Mr. Hassainia. Party spokespersons quickly suggested that Ms. Hassainia had a terrible attendance record in the House and that she was too busy being a new mother to be an effective MP. The entire affair was nauseatingly reminiscent of the Harper regime's attitude toward anyone who disagrees with them.
The fact is that there are many significant policy reasons for progressives to stop supporting the NDP. But increasingly there are also many other reasons to reject the poison politics of the NDP and the provincial and federal levels alike. There is no question that the Harper regime has poisoned Canadian politics. But the NDP can choose to follow the Harper example or to operate with integrity, transparency, and honesty. It is increasingly clear that they have rejected the path of good and opted for the path of poison.