Monday, October 13, 2008

Dr.Dawg endorses the NDP

[If anonymous editorialists can get away with this stuff, my last-minute endorsement is just as authoritative and probably will be just as effective --DD]

The only serious choice for electors on Tuesday is Jack Layton's NDP. We (that's the royal "we": Marie Ève is on her own here) say this after considerable soul-searching and a critical examination of what each party has to offer. Given that we're smarter than the Ottawa Citizen and the Globe and Mail, more principled than the Toronto Star, and a lot nicer than the National Post, we expect that our endorsement will enjoy a serious reception.

It's not that we believe that Jack Layton is the perfect leader. He sometimes appears too interested in scoring debating points, and at other times the "light and lively" label might, with some reason, be applied. But knowing Jack as we do, we would indeed buy a used car from this man, and drive it with confidence down the highway to the future.

True, he has not been tested with the responsibilities of government, except at the municipal level. But we can think of another candidate in another election campaign in another country who has similar experience, and is considered to be a serious contender for the second and even the top office in the land. Lack of government experience should never--repeat, never--be a bar to high office. Indeed, such experience can be a positive disadvantage: the wiles and tricks of governmental back-room dealings have poisoned the political culture of the established parties in Canada, and, when allowed to erupt into public consciousness, have offended the nation.

As a former Metro Toronto councillor, leader of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, and Member of Parliament, Jack brings a seasoned career of political activism to the table, and a team of candidates who, by and large, are no worse than the candidates of other parties. For every slur about alleged "Islamists" or "truthers" flung at individual NDP candidates, too often without any foundation at all, the NDP could point to the extremist connections of, for example, Conservative hopeful Peter Kent and the far-right Coalition for Canadian Democracies, in which he holds executive office. Provincially, NDP governments have ruled responsibly, and--with the notable exception of a certain now-Liberal candidate--have handled the financial side of the job with prudence, without tearing up labour union contracts to do so.

More importantly, however, the NDP has a human face, and it isn't ashamed to show it. The Conservative Party tries to appeal to the inner stockbroker; the Greens court small entrepreneurs who want a different type of conservatism. The Bloc makes its pitch to narrow regional interests that the québécois themselves have long outgrown, and the Liberals chat up anyone who's listening. Only the NDP actually stands consistently for people--ordinary, working people and their families.

Whether this includes bolstering health care by hiring more doctors and nurses and investing in cancer research, or offering a Child Benefit and a children's nutritional plan to hard-pressed working households, or investing in social housing, or protecting the environment with measures that are easily understandable and will work, the NDP has a detailed, well-thought-out platform.

The NDP stands foursquare against so-called "social conservatism" and the smoldering bigotry in some Canadian backwaters that has been fanned into flame by the Harper conservatives. The latter want small, non-intrusive government--unless it comes to women's reproductive choice and people with a non-heterosexual orientation. They want everyone who comes to
live in Canada to be just like them--a frankly horrifying prospect. The NDP recognizes the importance and the desirability of immigration and diversity, and believes that every citizen of this country, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity, is a first-class citizen.

The NDP will also put some substance behind Harper's empty and self-serving "apology" to our First Nations, with a comprehensive plan to invest in aboriginal and Métis education, health, and skills training. And it will put an end to Canada's shame on the international stage by signing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In foreign policy, Canada will chart an independent course, not merely wait for signals from the White House. In the Middle East, the NDP will work for solutions, rather than turning Canada into a blind adherent for one side of that many-sided conflict.
As for our foreign military adventures, which even Stephen Harper has by now thought better about, the NDP will return our military to peacekeeping roles and defending our sovereignty in the Arctic.

But more important than any of these specifics is vision. The NDP is only party that looks forward--not backward like the Conservatives and the Bloc, not nervously everywhere like the Liberals, and not merely with a focus on the environment, as important as that is, like the Greens.

It's not that the NDP has a completely unclouded view of what is to come--but that's to be welcomed. We have had our fill of blueprints and grand schemes over the past century. Nor, if the NDP comes to power, can we be certain that it, too, will avoid opportunistic betrayals of people and principles, as the Bob Rae government in Ontario so amply demonstrated. Rather, the NDP offers us hope--possibilities for ordinary citizens to be heard, be involved and be effective.

The NDP will modernize our electoral system so that every vote counts. It will abolish that expensive house of patronage known as the Senate. It will implement legislation to force would-be floor-crossers in the House of Commons to resign first and run in a by-election. It will look for a non-confrontational, cooperative partnership between the federal government and the provinces and territories.

The NDP will also make government more accountable--by strengthening the Access to Information Act, enforcing the abandoned provisions of the Accountability Act, and establishing rules and guidelines for ethical behaviour by government, parties and politicians.

In a time of economic crisis and a worsening democratic deficit, we do not need more of what we've had for two years--autocratic micromanaging, secrecy, attacks on independent government watchdogs, and an ideological agenda borrowed from the extremist wing of the US Republican Party. Nor do we need the "what do we do now?" approach of the Liberals, never seeking solutions on behalf of Canadians as a whole, but looking only and always for advantage and power for itself. The NDP has a more workable and effective environmental platform than the Green Party, and a more inclusive view of Canada than the insular and out-of-date Bloc Québécois.

The NDP is not all things to all people, and it does not offer either a perfect leader or perfect policies. But Jack Layton and his team can be trusted to get the big things right. In the midst of current global uncertainty we need not only strong and thoughtful leadership, but the ability to empathize with the Canadian public--and to listen. We need, in other words, a humane approach as well as a hard-headed one. Only the NDP offers both of these qualities to an alienated electorate. Tomorrow, vote not just for change, but for change that could make a difference.

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