Today in the Toronto Sun (of all places) there is an article by Tom Parkin suggesting that those who want to defeat Stephen Harper (and let's face it, that is the vast majority of Canadians) should opt for the NDP rather than the Liberals. The fact that this article appears in the Sun is, perhaps, an indication of a generalized impression that the NDP is now actually to the right of the Liberal Party. More likely, I think, is that Sun editors and their ilk are eager to see the NDP as a possible government because they think that it will panic voters in the closing weeks of the election and push people to vote Conservative. However, putting aside speculation about the ulterior motives of the Sun Editors, Parkin's article is at the very least interesting.
Let me say right away that I put very little stock in either the Liberal Party or the NDP. While the Liberals embraced Neo-Liberalism in the 1990s, the NDP has only more recently made this painful conversion. But since the Green Party is the only real alternative here, and it is very unlikely to form government, progressives are compelled to look at the other two major parties as a path to defeating Harper. I lived in England when Blair took over the Labour Party and I watched while many foolishly and blindly partizan Labour supporters stayed in the Party and acted as though it was still an genuinely progressive party. Meanwhile, I watched other, more careful and acute observers leave the Labour Party, fully realizing Blair's Neo-Liberal, Neo-Thatcherite agenda. Now while it is an exaggeration to say that Thomas Mulcair is as far right as Tony Blair, it would be simply foolish to pretend that he is anything like a traditional NDPer.
The fact is, if you are willing to be non-partisan (and surprisingly few people are), both the Liberals and NDP are offering a few attractive alternative policies to the HarperCons. I think that the Liberal infrastructure plan is overly modest, but an important idea whose time has come. Furthermore, while NDP stalwarts lambast and ridicule it, it is just simple hypocrisy not to realize that if the same plan came from Mulcair, NDP supporters would screaming from the rooftops about what a great idea it is. The Liberals have also been more active on the Environmental issue in recent months than the NDP who, for reasons I can't fathom, have included almost nothing about the environment in their financial plan. The Liberals are also at least talking about higher taxes for the wealthy, an idea that should be NDP territory. But the supposed tax-cut for the 'middle-class' is just an attempt to vote-buy on Trudeau's part. A simple understanding of economics should tell you that you don't need tax-cuts, you need better services because the collective purchasing of goods and services is infinitely more efficient and cost effective than anything you can do with a few bucks of tax savings. On the other hand, the NDP's talk of a national pharmacare program is very important and anyone, regardless of your economic status should be in favour of it. Though Mulcair has waffled a little, he is at least talking about an increase in corporate taxation. However, if you are at all leftwing you know that Trudeau is right about small business taxes actually favouring people who are relatively wealthy. This is because not only do wealthy tax payers use small businesses as a method of avoiding taxes, but the fact is that most small businesses (and the definition of 'small-business' usually includes businesses with up to a hundred employees) generate a relatively high degree of wealth for their owners. The NDP is at least talking about a national childcare plan, but its creation depends on many factors that might not come to fruition, and meanwhile Mulcair is failing to target childcare money to those who really need it. On foreign policy issues there is little to distinguish the NDP and the Liberal Party, and unfortunately both have terrible positions on the Palestinian issue (which to me is always a litmus test for a progressive party).
Thus, I would say if you want to guarantee that Stephen Harper won't return as PM, and you are a progressive, there is painfully little choice out there. Both the Liberals and the NDP offer a few tidbits, but they also offers shockingly little. (I am secure in my leftwing credentials and have little concern for blindly partizan NDPers who will try to defend Mulcair as though he was never a Thatcherite. Their partizan comments are tiresome in their vacuity) Which brings me back to Parkin's article in the Sun. Parkin's only real argument other than some dubious electoral math, is that the Liberals and Trudeau have a very bad history of propping up Stephen Harper. This is true and should not, I suppose, be disregarded out of hand. If you supported William Bligh when he was a brutal Captain, it is understandable that you would have little credibility after the mutiny. In other words, while Trudeau may not have been the Liberal leader during the period in which the LPC propped up Harper with countless votes in his favour, but he was in the caucus and he should certainly wear that terrible crime and should be called on to explain it (which he has never done). And if someone were to refuse to vote Liberal based only on this principle alone, I would understand. But Mulcair (let's please be honest) has similar baggage. Mulcair had a rather dismal record as Environment Minster in Quebec. I could see how some progressives would say that his position in the Charest Government and his effort to privatize Mont Orford Park (something he claims to have opposed, but the facts of the matter are fairly suspicious) should be enough to preclude him from being the leader of the NPD let alone an NDP PM.
I can only conclude that anyone who is really a political progressive should have no faith in either the NDP or the LPC. People have to decide which they think is the lesser of two evils. For me (fortunately or unfortunately) it doesn't even matter since I live in a seat that will go Conservative even if the entire caucus was arrested tomorrow for molesting collies. But for others out there, I think they should weigh the facts carefully.