Posts Tagged ‘Socialism’

“Nice suits and empty slogans.”

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

That comment about suits and slogans was in the last line of the Toronto Star’s pompous editorial on “The challenge for Singh.” The newspaper editorialists want Singh and Trudeau to square off on progressive policy issues in the 2019 federal election. Lot’s of luck on that!

But the problem is that the Star writers think that Jagmeet Singh was selected by the New Democratic Party. That is a mistaken belief. The Ontario MPP was the choice of the Sikh community across Canada. Canada has been welcoming Sikhs to this country since the earliest government records were kept back in the 1800s. StatsCanada tells us there are more than 275,000 adherents to Sikhism in Canada today and the largest numbers are in British Columbia. For the Brampton MPP to sign up over 40,000 Sikhs in a few months was not a very difficult feat.

But why he would want to win the NDP leadership the same way as that putz Patrick Brown took over the Tory leadership in Ontario makes no sense.

As the new leader of the NDP, Singh’s first job is to make nice with the NDP caucus in Ottawa and then he has to get out to small town Canada and prove to Canadians that he and his party have a vision of this country that can be delivered by a guy in a turban.

And it also might be a good idea for Singh to stop dressing as though he is some sort of playboy. He should change from Harry Rosen bespoke suits to buying his clothes at Mark’s Work Warehouse. He needs to show that he is an NDPer, not a Liberal.

When he gets around to working out a program of NDP policies for the coming election, he can forget wrapping the packages in “love and courage.” Whatever theme his brain trust comes up with, it has got to have a lot more bite to it.

‘Chuckles’ Scheer and his Conservatives are all smiles these days because of the vision of Trudeau and Singh in the coming election beating each other up over the same ridings in the greater Toronto and Vancouver areas.

But I got the impression that the Star’s editorial writers might never have seen Jagmeet Singh MPP in inaction at the legislature in Toronto’s Queen’s Park. He is no Benjamin Disraeli.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

What ‘New’ Democratic Party?

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

We are hearing that ‘Love is in the air’ and the New Democratic Party of Canada is facing the future to the beat of new drums. Everyone anticipates that this new day will start with the election of the new leader of the party. And if you believe all this guff, I have a fine piece of swampland in the Ontario north in which you might want to invest.

The first part of all this B.S. is the news media believing the NDP is a social democratic party. That is further from the facts that any human can throw. When the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) was founded by Tommy Douglas and J.S. Woodsworth in 1932, it was a socialist party with agrarian roots.

In 1961, the CCF became the base of the New Democratic Party (NDP). It was a deal made with the Canadian Labour Congress and the party structure was committed to organized labour. It was and still is a party of labour. That is not the basis for social democracy. Labour can best be described as organized collectivism. It is a mutual protective society. It is rarely interested in the overall concerns of its society—other than when it affects them.

Social democrats are people who can work within a democratic structure to effect reforms. They are progressives who want to build a better future for their society. They recognize the rights of the individual ahead of the collective. They build on human excellence.

But who among the four candidates really understands this need for a social democratic party? Who is the progressive? And who can lead?

Listening to the four candidates on Sunday in Hamilton it was obvious that Guy Caron was the thinker. The Quebec MP had the positions that he felt the party should take. What he could not demonstrate was the leadership the party needs.

Charlie Angus was up to the challenge. The Northern Ontario MP showed his empathy for the long-time party members who want to help define where the party is going. He was the only one to note the need to keep the faith with seniors and promised to advocate for them.

Niki Ashton was also in good form. The Manitoba MP showed that she was the last true prairie socialist and she stuck to her guns.

The newcomer Jagmeet Singh showed up with his drummers. The Ontario MPP brought some showmanship to the event.

What nobody brought was a future for Canada’s New Democrats.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Why progressive elites are losing.

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

The disappointment progressives have felt with the New Democratic Party over the last couple decades has been something we have argued about but maybe not understood as well as we should. Maybe Robin V. Sears of the NDP put his finger on it the other day when complaining in print about the ease with which Donald Trump took much of the angry underclass away from the Democrats in the American’s 2016 presidential campaign. Donald Trump caught all of us progressive pundits with our pants down.

In Canada, we were still wondering why it was that NDP leader Thomas Mulcair blew away a sizeable lead towards winning the 2015 federal election. He could not even hold on to the seats in his own province brought to his party by former NDP leader Jack Layton.

But when the biggest policy argument of the NDP convention that fired Mulcair was the shallowness of the LEAP Manifesto, we should have twigged to what was wrong. This is a party that is out of touch with the people about whom it is supposed to care. It is a party dominated by unions that hardly know how to serve their own members.

What academics explain as the anger of the white working class is supposedly caused by the job losses to automation and the corporate ability to move production to lowest-wage jurisdictions. Add to that the realization that all politicians lie to them and that nobody can solve global warming and you can see how the frustration is building.

When stressed, voters turn to extremes. In America, we saw the accident of Trump. In Europe, we saw Brexit and the close call with Marine Le Pen. Canada picked the untried and unproven Justin Trudeau.

What the public is looking for are politicians that put principals ahead of promises. That is the lesson that at least Mulcair learned in the last federal election. Who was going to believe a socialist who promised a balanced budget? And where was the decency in arguing about Niqabs?

In the American tragedy of their last election, voters saw what anger, lies and distrust can produce. The only politician who came out of that horrendous selection process with honour was an aging democratic socialist by the name of Bernie Sanders. We should all take a page from his book.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

The poster boy and the NDP.

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Charlie Angus meet Jagmeet Singh. No doubt Charlie Angus MP, candidate for the New Democratic Party leadership has met Jagmeet Singh MPP, the newest candidate for the NDP leadership, before, but not likely as a competitor. The only surprise about this meeting is that both these gentlemen are in the same political party.

What is also obvious is that the 38-year old turbaned Sikh is in the wrong party. This is also the problem he has as deputy leader of the Ontario NDP and it will follow him into the leadership race for the federal party. Jagmeet Singh is not a union man. He seems to have had little or no experience with unions. With the ongoing role of unions in the NDP, that could be a liability.

That lack of understanding of the New Democrats and their socialist past by Jagmeet Singh has been obvious for some time. All you have to do is read back through the bills he has presented to the Ontario Legislature during his six years there representing Bramalea-Gore-Malton. You will see a person who is concerned with individual rights more than the collective rights of unions. Jagmeet Singh would probably be comfortable in a more progressive Liberal Party.

It is easier for a guy like Charlie Angus to deal with the problems that the unions present. He stood up to his Catholic church on the question of same-sex marriage and he is used to the rough and tumble of Northern Ontario union activists.

But the double problem for Ontario is that the union movement has been losing ground as well as seeing some key unions (temporarily, maybe) shifting over to support the Liberals. The New Democrats have not handled these problems well and both federal and provincial parties have been losing in the polls. Thomas Mulcair federally and Andrea Horwath provincially have been feeling the shifting ground that they stand on and you could see in recent elections the problems they faced in trying to tell us where their party is going.

While Jagmeet might already have the notoriety as one of the best dressed New Democrats or Sikhs in Canada, most interest will be in what he will say in the leadership about where the NDP is headed. This is a party that is desperately in need of some direction—and the contestants so far, Ashton, Angus, Caron and Julian, have come across as an anemic barbershop quartet.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

The empty chair of Tom Mulcair.

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

In a much condemned political schtick by actor-director Clint Eastwood at the Republican National Convention in 2012, he talked to an empty chair. The chair was supposed to represent President Barack Obama. We always thought it helped get Obama elected to his second term.

We were reminded of it recently when reading an op-ed piece by New Democrat stalwart Robin Sears. Sears was writing about failed promises of Justin Trudeau such as how Canadians vote. Sears would be far more productive at this time if he directed his supposed political smarts on the empty chair of NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair is a lame duck. He has been found wanting by his political party and is serving out his term of office. It shows he has more intestinal fortitude and honour than Stephen Harper who could not wait to get out of Ottawa once the voters past judgement.

Unlike the temporary leader of the Conservatives, Rona Ambrose, Mulcair has been doing the opposition job with continued verve and flair. Ambrose only follows the Tory Book. Nobody really listens to her.

But when his time expires, will Tom Mulcair’s chair remain empty? Are there no believers left? Is Canada’s left bereft? Does nobody believe in the LEAP Manifesto? Does it matter?

Canada desperately needs a political party of the left. It hardly needs three on the right. It has always been our hope that the Liberals and New Democrats would combine into a social democratic party. That does not seem to be on Justin Trudeau’s agenda. While such an event would drive many so-called Liberals into the Conservative camp, our betting is that the social democrats would prevail at least through to 2050. And, as the expression goes, we should all live so long!

It was fascinating this past summer watching the New Democrats on the special commons committee on voting reform trying to manoeuver the other parties into supporting a proportional voting system. If they see that as their only hope to get more power in this country, they will be disappointed.

And while there are those who do not like our questioning of the Liberal party and its leadership, it is a small attempt to keep them honest. Robin Sears should direct some of his questioning inward to his own party. New Democrats also need to examine their future.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Leaping nation building at a single bound.

Friday, August 26th, 2016

In analyzing where Canada’s New Democrats are headed, we took another look at the LEAP Manifesto. Frankly LEAP stumbles on the first hurdle. It reads like the Regina Manifesto without the socialist ranting. It fails us.

And where does this document get off treating Canada’s first peoples as some sort of pathetic wards of the state. They are not just people you use for pageantry. They are people just like us. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. They are not stuck in some time warp that forbids them to evolve, grow and learn. They want opportunities, not handouts. They share this land with us. Preserving this land matters to all.

But New Democrats have barely just discovered concern for the environment. You can also read the same sort of words in most other party literature and web sites. What people look for today is action. We assume Premier Sharon Notley of Alberta has not signed onto the LEAP Manifesto. Is LEAP something you sign onto if it does not cost you personally?

What really surprises us on this more critical perusal of LEAP is the shallowness when it gets into the economics of a socialized society. Economics are the key to a society that looks after its people first. It is easy to think you can just tax industry but after you lose too much manufacturing to low wage, low tax ignorance, you look very silly starving to death. We are not a closed loop economy. We have to interact with the rest of the world.

A first principle with business is that it matters that you are a good citizen here as well as where you come from. If you want to do business in our country, you play by our rules. And we make the rules here. Free trade does not mean we cede any rights. Free trade has to be built on fair trade.

Our advantage in world trade must always be the fact of a well educated and healthy work force that is encouraged to innovate and create. Education, health care, dental care, medicines must be basic human rights as we move towards a better future.

And the resources to build that future are not a grab bag of financial changes but carefully planned and logical advance to the future that Canadians want. It takes leadership and consensus and planning and the will. Leaps will only get you so far. Canada has a journey to undertake.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

The Left’s lost moment in time.

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Why do so many political writers believe that groupthink is achieved by constantly rewriting history? Never a fan of Ed Broadbent or the Broadbent Institute, it was still dismaying the other day to read a puff-piece in the Toronto Star about the so-called institute. It was promoting itself for activities planned for the next year.

But why launch self-congratulatory puffery with being excited about the publicity for the New Democratic Party in recent months. Much of that media attention was drawn by the controversy over NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. While few could have predicted the measure of his downfall at the recent party convention, it was hardly positive attention for the NDP.

Even the publicity at the convention that featured an impassioned plea by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley for support of pipelines for the products of Alberta’s tar sands was far from being in line with core progressive policies of the NDP or anyone else.

And yet the Broadbent Institute writers give the back of their hand to the Leap Manifesto, the first really progressive material from the national NDP in many years. The creators of the manifesto hardly need to be patronized or put down by Broadbent and company.

For the writers of this puff-piece to point at fundraising tactics of the Liberal governments in Ontario and Quebec is a gratuitous smear that reflects badly on provincial NDP efforts in Ontario.

And when they laud the federal government for considering reforming the Canadian voting system, it is nothing more than a plug for proportional voting. To commend proportionality as an effective electoral system for democracies is farcical. It is also an effective system around the world for despots and police state tyrants. It gives all the power to centralized political parties and little to the people. It is a system designed for illiterate voters and separates the politicians from the people who elected them.

And can you imagine these people being proud of the claim that the word ‘socialism’ is the most looked up word in the Miriam-Webster on-line dictionary? All that means is that fewer people are aware today of what socialism really means.

While there is both good and bad among the issues promoted by the Broadbent Institute, the people there seem less and less in tune with the progressive side of Canadian politics. There is definitely little future for people who spend their time trying to rewrite history. Their moment in time might be long past.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Yes, you can bet the rent money on Leap.

Monday, April 18th, 2016

One of our favourite bloggers insists that you should not bet the rent money on the Leap Manifesto. While agreeing that no gambler should ever bet the rent money, we will take that bet. Despite the naysayer being one of the best read and erudite of left of centre Canadian bloggers, he might lack our insight into the New Democratic Party activists behind the Leap Manifesto.

Leap has its roots deep in the Toronto NDP environment. It is a reasoned and rational answer to where the party was being lead in last year’s election. They held their indignation in check. There are no sour grapes or grapes of wrath. It rejects recriminations and looks only to the party’s future. It is positive and trusting in its direction to handling our country’s needs.

These are the same people who wanted to rebel against Andrea Horwath in the last Ontario election but eased up in sympathy for her weaknesses and lack of an adequate claim on power.

It was not until they saw Thomas Mulcair make the same mistakes in 2015 that they knew something had to be done. Mulcair put power ahead of principles and destroyed the base that the party had built with Jack layton. And they set out to annunciate the party’s needed direction.

As we have mentioned before, the Leap Manifesto does away with the bitterness and anger of the last century’s Regina Manifesto. It posits objectives instead of demands.

It is easy to picture Avi Lewis and his wife Naomi Klein sitting in his mother’s kitchen discussing the manifesto. It is not obvious what encouragement she gave but Michele Landsberg would have been with them every step of the way. The journalist, author would have had excellent suggestions and, along with husband Stephen Lewis, would have had excellent strategic advice.

The manifesto was already available on the Internet and well supported when brought to the recent Edmonton NDP Convention. The strategy was just to propose study by ridings and discussion over the next two years. This is no Trotskyite or Waffle strategy. It forces a decision on the manifesto on every candidate for the party leadership at the time and you can expect that the new party leader, whomever he or she is, will already be totally committed to the Leap Manifesto and its implications for the party.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Mulcair: Canada’s pseudo Johnny Appleseed.

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

Tom Mulcair’s role for Canada’s New Democrats seems to include wearing a forced smile and offering band-aid solutions to problems. Other than his strange arithmetic about day care, he is spreading seeds of programs rather than anything that might bear fruit in the foreseeable future. To most voters he remains an unknown, an enigma.

In trying to explain Tom Mulcair, you need to understand his background as a lawyer, a provincial Liberal Member of the National Assembly and as a federal New Democrat in Quebec. He was a prickly environmentalist in the Charest Liberal Government in Quebec and quit the cabinet when he accused Charest of demoting him.

When he won Outremont riding in Montreal for the NDP in a 2007 by-election, he became the only NDP MP from Quebec and Deputy Leader of the Party for Quebec.

It was 2011 when Thomas Mulcair was joined by another 58 newly-elected NDP MPs from Quebec. He was neither mentor, nor leader, nor inspiration to them. They were drawn in by Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair is no Jack Layton.

Where Mulcair did prove best was in his methodical and persistent prosecution of Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the House of Commons. The NDP Leader took his role as Leader of the Opposition seriously and he was relentless. This performance was wasted on the majority of Canadians but convinced the news media of his potential for more.

But why we would want a prosecutor as prime minister is a good question?

All Mulcair has proved in the first month of the election campaign is that he is not bothering to add up his promises and yet he is promising a balanced budget on which even Stephen Harper has gone silent.

The real irony of Mulcair’s campaign for the NDP is that it smacks of the confusion caused by Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s campaign last year that gave the Wynne Liberals a majority mandate. In trying to replace the Liberal Party’s traditional place in Canadian politics, Mulcair is campaigning further and further to the right of his rivals. He actually sounds like Stephen Harper in some of his more smarmy moments.

But as noted, Tom Mulcair is not Jack Layton. Layton was a socialist, posing as a populist. Tom Mulcair is a right-wing Quebec Liberal posing as a socialist-environmentalist, running as a concerned conservative.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

NDP changing times, changing directions.

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

The CCF—the party of Tommy Douglas—represented the working man, the farmer and the socially conscious in an era of rapid growth and acquisition after the Second World War. We had little time for CCF concerns or socialism in those exciting years but the party was respected as a political conscience. It was only when the Canadian Labour Congress was formed that the combination of the CCF and labour became a reality.

The problem many of us young left wingers had against the labour involvement was that we did not see labour as having a social conscience. We saw labour involvement as an “I’m alright Jack” attitude. We saw the use of labour’s muscle to benefit its members but not the average working stiff. It was union people who became the strong-arm organizers for the NDP in our urban centres and produced the highly effective canvassers that dominated elections in the less affluent areas until other parties learned how to do the same job.

Now more than 50 years after the CCF was dissolved into the successor New Democrats, the party has again reached a crossroads of conscience. The old socialists are gone. The experiment in governance such as the Bob Rae NDP Government in Ontario in the 1990s was a failure. The party is again seeking to re-invent itself. Its partnership with labour is crumbling. Individual unions are cutting their own deals with the Liberals. They are trying to exchange confrontation for reason and relationships. Labour has been leaving the Labour temple. There is no longer a “forever” in solidarity.

But the breakdown has left the New Democrat politicians floundering. The example of what happened to Ontario New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath last year was a cautionary tale. Her policy pronouncements sometimes fell on the political right of the Liberals. She confused her candidates and she confused the electorate.

And if you think it was a shame what happened to Andrea last year you should pay attention to the current troubles of federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. Does he have policies? He has all kinds of policies. He might not explain them well. He might get confused on his statistics.

But does Thomas Mulcair have direction? No, his only purpose is power.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me