Monday, September 21, 2015

Liberal or NDP? (Lesser of Two Evils?)

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.


Gyor said...

Now a days I think lefties would call Tommy Douglas a Neoliberal Blairite. Look at how Tommy Douglas approached governing in his first term as Primier, building the foundations for universal medicare, but not the whole system while balancing budgets, and then the next term he expanded it, building upon the foundation that he'd previously built.

People who say Mulcair has moved the NDP to the centre need a better sense of history.

People who like Trudeau's deficit plan should vote for Harper, its his approach from 2008, jump start the economy by deficit spending billions on pet projects, with no real long term plan.

Me I'll go with the sort of vision Tommy Douglas had, the type of vision for the future the Mulcair is channeling.

Kirbycairo said...

I'm sorry Gyor, but you really don't seem to have any idea what you are talking about. First of all if you think leftist would call Douglas a Neo-Liberal then you really have no idea what Neo-Liberalism is. It would be like called Hegel a Marxist. Furthermore, it seems to be you who needs to check your history a little closer. The so-called quantitative-easing that Harper used in 2008 was an idea loudly called for by the NDP. Jack Layton often spoke in those days about the need for stimulus spending. And the concept of stimulus spending has a long history among most, if not all, social democratic parties. Furthermore, as I have said before, government revenue was once much higher in terms of GDP than it is today, giving governments room to manoeuvre when it came to stimulus spending. Your claim that Mulcair has not moved the party toward the centre is so ridiculous that you just come off as a whacko. You could, I suppose, make a cogent claim that he has not moved the party too far but to say that he hasn't moved the party toward the centre is just pure partisanship of the worst and most embarrassing type. Furthermore, this Tommy Douglas fetishism is very typical irrational partisanship. First of all, Douglas left politics 35 years ago and hasn't been a leader for nearly 45 years. It would be a bit like a red-tory trying to justify support of the Conservatives based on what Rab Butler did. I am afraid you are one of those blind partisans who either ignores or simply doesn't appear to understand the basic concepts with which you are trying to function ideologically.

Glenn Ashton said...

If your main priority on October 19, is to remove the Harper government, then vote accordingly. Vote for the NDP or the Liberal candidate who has the best chance to unseat a sitting Tory MP, based on the 2011 results. Harper won his majority with only 14 seats having an average winning margin of 443 votes each. These 6,000 votes gave him the majority he needed; but at the same time there were over 318,000 opposition votes in those 14 seats to the total Tory count of 220,000 - almost more than 100,000! With razon thin margins like that in the critical 14 seats, and slightly higher margins in many others, Harper is vulnerable to strategic voting. And then we can have a replacement government (perhaps NDP, perhaps LPC), that sets about reforming our electoral system by scrapping the FPTP system and replacing it with something that is democratic. That will forever change our politics. Elizabeth May will in the following election have a fair share of seats in the House. On the Praiiries, all three of the CPC, NDP and LPC will send a big whack of representatives to Parliament. No region will not have fair representation. Regional tensions will subside. Parties will work cooperatively, just as dozens of European states with modern electoral systems do. It will be a revolutionary age for our country: a giant leap forward in our democracy. And we can achieve this result in just over a dozen or so seats!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Glenn (and Kirby, of course!).
The fate of the national election is a local issue. Since very few ridings actually have polls, how do we know which person to choose?
Leadnow is doing some work, focusing on swing ridings, but I fear they are biased against the NDP. They also use data from previous elections as opposed to current polls, creating more bias against momentum.
That said, are there other resources available (or that we can create in 30 days) to help voters avoid splitting and get a progressive government that will take us forward (and hopefully leave Harper in their dust)?

Scotian said...

Of the two choices I would argue, as I have before, that Trudeau is the better anti-Harper vehicle. First before going into that though your point on Trudeau's caucus votes that supported Harper in the past prior to becoming leader, you can explain that by two fairly straightforward elements. First off, as was well understood by all political observers at the time who weren't letting their blind hatred of the Liberals get in the way, after the fall of Martin that party was in desperate financial shape thanks to the donation rules changes cutting off their old corporate donation support which had been a primary revenue source for that party. A rules change I should remind people came from the Libs themselves, and which has over the last decade shattered the power of corporations over said party because of that loss and the move to individual donations, but that is an aside, not the main point here.

The main point here is that both the NDP and the CPC knew full well the Libs could literally not afford to trigger another election anytime soon because of that situation, and so both sides used it to maximum advantage. Fair enough politics, it can be argued, but it also shows that the votes were due to reasons of party survival, and not actual agreement with the government, especially when said government kept turning almost every vote into confidence matters. So that brings us to the second element, because of that reality the Lib leaders would have clearly been whipping their votes, and Trudeau as a MP would have been bound by that, and thus his votes are understandable and explicable. How much that still bothers someone is up to them, but given the realities at the time they make perfect sense to me without being any proof of agreement with the Harper agenda or way of operating Parliament.

Now, as to my reasons for believing the Libs are the best choice for government and as the anti-Harper vehicle. First off, despite the weakness the party has had, it has the tradition of being a credible governing party whether you liked what they did or not, they clearly had competence across many important files including foreign affairs and finance. Trudeau still has a core of experienced people running for him this time out and many of which are likely almost certain wins given they managed it during the great Ignatief disaster. This is a brand that has resonance still throughout the nation, the ONLY reason the NDP are not getting blown away is because of questions about the leadership of Trudeau in the minds of many, and I suppose the way the party acted on C51 (which I still think was the right call for the circumstances as odious as it was, and at least they didn't pretend it was for anything but expediency purposes, one of the things that Dippers do a lot of that really annoys me is the tendency to pee on me and tell me it is raining when they ask for my vote) is another element, although I see that as more reinforcing the experience one myself.

to be concluded...

Scotian said...


However, when one stops to consider that whoever takes over from the Harper CPC is going to discover that the federal governing system is a disaster, and one intentionally created by Harper for his successors (I call him Harper the Destroyer and Salter of the Scorched Earth for a reason after all) then Trudeau clearly has leadership experience clearly the best suited for such, and proven at that, unlike Mulcair who acts like it will be a simple matter of simply taking over (the fact that he and the NDP used the CPC budget numbers for their costings despite all the massive evidence then and since that those assumptions and numbers were wildly overly optimistic and wrong is itself a major red flag for that lack of understanding of the truth of how badly things have been damaged) the government and changing course towards Dipper paradise. Mulcair either fails to see the scale of the problem or worse, refuses to acknowledge it and be honest with the electorate for fear it might harm his chances for power, which in itself would be a red flag of another kind.

Trudeau though, Trudeau came to lead a party that in 2011 had been brutally riven, broken, and seen as about to vanish, either on its own or through merger with the newly powerful NDP, or at best be like the post 1993 PCPC and out of serious contention for government for many election cycles. That the party had not been able to fix its fundraising to meet the new realities and was so broke it couldn't fix itself, and was broken across the nation in the riding and constituency level and the machinery of more than a century had shattered. Yet within 2 years of hard work in those riding and constituency organizations Trudeau rebuilt the party into one that is competitive, AND he also unlike Dion or Ignatief managed to revamp the fundraising for the party to comply with the new realities and do so that it became able to compete not merely with the Official Opposition NDP fundraising numbers but close in on the CPC numbers, something the now Official Opposition NDP never came near. That shows Trudeau has the right skill AND mind set to deal with national organizational disasters, and THAT I submit is what is most needed in whoever follows Harper.

Mulcair has never had to show that he can make those kinds of repairs to a national organization, nor even a Provincial one come to that. We have never seen him lead any organization other than the NDP, and when he took that over it was sitting better than it had ever in its entire history, again, which shows no skills at dealing with disaster organizations. Mulcair has had it easy organizationally speaking throughout this political career, (this is not meant as an insult, but a point about why he isn't the best to follow a disaster maker like Harper), but then so have most party leaders in our history. Few have had major disasters to deal with when they became leader, and fewer yet were able to deal with them as effectively and powerfully as Trudeau managed, unlike his two predecessors, who I might add had better tools and resources available to them to do so with than Trudeau did. This is a rarely needed skill set in our political history, and right now the only one that has shown they have it is Trudeau, and we *WILL* need it badly in whoever follows Harper, because I am certain that after a decade of Harper destruction the true state of our national government is far worse than even most of Harper's sharpest critics would believe. I've said it many times before that as bad as we can see it being it is still the tip of the iceberg to the reality.

THAT is why I would argue that Trudeau and the Libs are the best anti-Harper vehicle, and on grounds far more immediate and significant than just ideological flavour anf which/what prmises to believe in and/or will be kept.

rumleyfips said...

What you seem to have blogged is blueprint for cooperation between the NDP and the Liberals in a minority parliament.

Kirbycairo said...

@ Scotian - A lot of good points here. I don't necessarily agree with all of it, but I also share your distrust of the NDP leadership and their shift to the right has been painful. Furthermore, I deeply distrust Mulcair in general particularly given his role in the Charest Government. I agree to a degree on the reason why the Liberals supported the Harper government but I don't think that absolves them of the crime. You lie down with dogs and you get up with fleas, as the saying goes. Either way, I would like to see a minority government and I would like to see the NDP and Liberals cooperate on trying to change the electoral system.

Glenn Ashton said...

Fire Harper; fix the system

Scotian said...

Kirby re Lib vote supports of minority government...

Fair enough, I'm not saying it absolves them either, I AM saying that the basis for those votes was not rooted in ideological or political sympathy but rooted in pure self survival, and I think the reason why the votes happened is important to keep straight as I have seen a LOT of Dippers using them to "prove" Librocon/Libs Tory same old story is still true. AS I said, you want to hold it against them fair enough, but do so for the honest reasons for why they did it, and not this fantasy being used to further myth-make where the Libs are concerned. The Harper CPC is clearly something alien to both Lib and NDP even in their present incarnations, and to claim that there is little difference between the CPC and EITHER of the two parties on their substance (as opposed to style and tactical thinking, there alas you CAN point to a lot of overlap with the CPC and NDP, but that is in terms of tool using, not core beliefs/political philosophy, as much to the right the NDP is currently from its old spot it is still nowhere near the Harper CPC on that basis anymore than the Libs are) is either being ignorant or deceptive in my books, and I find neither acceptable.

As I have said so many times before in so many places, we are all entitled to our own opinions about things, we are not however entitled to our own facts, and that is where I am most bothered by the new NDP from the top down, they seem to have adopted that tool that Harper's CPC uses so heavily and to such effect. I do not find that comforting at all.

Well on that note I am stepping away from my computer for the next several hours, it is the wife's and my wedding anniversary and we are going out to dinner to celebrate the fact we can still stand either other for over a dozen years now...LOL

Kirbycairo said...

Thanks Scotian
Again, I agree with much of your position. And I suspect that our differences are more quantitative than qualitative. It is a matter of degrees. I think that there were enough similarities between the LPC and the Conservatives (particularly under Ignatieff) to make this cooperation possible, particularly on general economic outlook. Under Trudeau's leadership this cooperation might have been impossible regardless of political necessity. I also agree on the point that, regardless of what stalwart NDPers say, there are important fundemental differences between the Liberals and the Conservatives. Even if they are both basically Neo-Liberal parties, the Kelowna Accord demonstrates the important philosophical difference between these two parties, to say nothing of Martin's childcare plan. It is difficult, for example, to imagine Martin (Neo-Liberal that he was) ever trying to destroy Elections Canada, eliminating the Long Form Census, or Muzzling scientists. In other words, for all their drawbacks, are basically committed to the spirit of the Constitution while the Conservatives under Harper are clearly not. I also share your distrust with the NDP style in recent years. People like Anne McGrath and even Mulcair himself are no different in style than the Harpercons, they clearly abuse power in terribly hierarchical ways.

I hope you enjoy your anniversary.

doconnor said...

If you want to remove the Harper government the NDP is the better choice. Between the Liberal's past unconditional support of the Conservatives and Trudeau's claim he will support the party with the most seats (likely Harper if polls stay as close as they have been).

The Liberals could have asked for something of substance in return to supporting the Conservatives. The Conservatives had no problem improving EI by hundreds of millions in return for one confidence vote from the NDP.

I think they Liberals would have found that leading a coalition government would have greatly improved its fundraising.

Anonymous said...

I suffering from the progressive blues - two dead ends and you've still got to choose.

Scotian said...


Thanks, we did!


Actually, I am not sure I can understand why you would think that regarding the fundraising, since the core problem was the inability of either Dion and Ignatief to shift the fundraising machinery to recruiting individual donations, something that was clearly needed, especially after the CPC killed off the per vote subsidy after coming to minority power. What Trudeau did was understand just how radically the party needed to reshape how it fundraised, and he did so, now granted his name and the excitement behind it helped in that regard, but he still had to create the infrastructure to make us of it, and that is where the prior two leaders really fell down on, which in turn is why I cannot understand your claim in regards to coalition government somehow helping Libs fundraise.

So you think the cheap whoring of the NDP for that confidence vote is fine then? EI sure has gained from that, while Medicare sure lost when Layton used it to bring down Martin when he did (ad don't bother with the numbers argument, the point is that Harper was unwilling to bring down Martin with only the BQ, he needed the NDP for political cover). The point being no ones hands are clean when it comes to being used in that manner in a minority, but it was always the Libs who kept trying to warn all about how dangerous Harper was, not the NDP, no the NDP was more than happy to work alongside Harper in their mutual goal of Liberal destruction, which might have been defensible were Harper not the most anti-progressive federal leader in the history of this nation!!!

So, sorry, I profoundly disagree with you regarding who is the better choice to replace/remove Harper, for reasons I have laid out already it is clearly the Libs and Trudeau, warts and all, versus the say anything do anything Mulcair and the NDP/Lib wannabe party. What I think disgusts me most with the Dipper partisans these days is how they STILL seem to think they have any moral high ground for claiming to be the "progressive" choice when the actions of the past decade clearly show that is not and has not been the primary focus of this party. People like Kirby see it, people like my wife went from being a hardcore Dipper to a Trudeau Lib in the last decade saw it, the silence of all senior members of the NDP who disagree with Layton/Mulcair underscores it (for a party that used to value free speech and diversity of voices the NDP sure became a one voice party, especially under Mulcair), yet so many Dipper partisans still blithely use the same tired slogans and the same blind trust/faith that only they are the progressive/moral choice and therefore only they deserve power.

Sorry, if you were the NDP pre-Layton I would be fine with an NDP win, might even be working towards it, but this party of expediency first while trying to still wear the clock of principles first, sorry, that level of sanctimonious hypocrisy I will never support in a quest for power wherever I encounter it.

doconnor said...

" I cannot understand your claim in regards to coalition government somehow helping Libs fundraise."

Being the government brings in donations from people who want to be favorably viewed by the government.

"especially after the CPC killed off the per vote subsidy after coming to minority power"

The Conservatives didn't kill the subsidy until after they got a majority and after they needed Liberal support to stay in government.

"So you think the cheap whoring of the NDP for that confidence vote is fine then?"

I wasn't that happy with it given it was 10 month after the Conservatives suspended democracy. The amount they got was similar to what they where getting from the Martin government to support them, about a billion per month. Still a lot better the giving it away for free like the Liberals did.

"ad don't bother with the numbers argument, the point is that Harper was unwilling to bring down Martin with only the BQ, he needed the NDP for political cover"

The Conservatives and BQ didn't have enough votes to bring down the Liberals on their own. Those are the numbers.

"The point being no ones hands are clean when it comes to being used in that manner in a minority"

The Liberal's hands are a lot dirtier.

"the NDP was more than happy to work alongside Harper in their mutual goal of Liberal destruction"

I've never seen any evidence of that. The only thing they have in common is that they both criticize the Liberals, occasionally for the same reason.

I have lots of problems with today's NDP, but being too hard on the poor innocent Liberals isn't one of them.