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Minimum wage and poverty are not 'white wine' elitist issues: How right-wing New Democrats have reframed the debate

In an absurd series of insulting and ugly attacks upon, among other people, the co-founder of this very website rabble.ca, a variety of what must be termed as ONDP apologists, have attempted to frame the concerns of the so-called "Group of 34" as a form of elitism by academics who are supposedly not really in the NDP anyway.

The "Group of 34," which as noted, counts among its members rabble's Judy Rebick, also includes community activists and former NDP candidates such as Winnie Ng and Cathy Crowe, and feminist activist Michele Landsberg, penned a private letter, later leaked, that expressed concern over the path being charted by the party they have in many cases devoted much of their lives to.

In a series of seemingly co-ordinated responses, all of which had the same essential nasty, dismissive, condescending and pseudo-populist tone, the ONDP was defended in strikingly similar ways in various forums.

Former Liberal attack dog Warren Kinsella, who now clearly thinks orange is the new red, insulted Rebick and others in the odious Toronto Sun:

Which brings us, this fine spring morning, to Gerald Caplan, Judy Rebick, Michele Landsberg and several other old people you have never heard of, and hopefully never will. On Friday, it was revealed Caplan-s cabal had written missives to Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, saying they were "deeply distressed" by the provincial NDP campaign. (The letter "was obtained by CBC News," and everyone knows who helped them "obtain" it.)

In a Toronto Star piece, Robin Sears, the same Robin Sears who was Bob Rae's sidekick and who lobbied Harper on behalf of Mulroney, and who now advertises himself as "a management, executive search and public affairs consultant" for Earnscliff Strategy Group has the nerve to opine in the supposedly "liberal" Toronto Star that:

She was elected leader of a shrinking party of furious Northerners, aging community leaders and trade unionists sliding slowly into political irrelevance. When she arrived, the NDP had recently lost its right to call itself a party.

Then we have, on the very pages of rabble itself, Warren Thomas, with no apparent sense of irony that among the people he is insulting is one of the people whose activism ensured he had a space to actually write anything at all, stating:

Too bad the NDP 34 won't put down their white wine, get back into their work clothes and come to see how average people feel about the election. 

I'm out there every day. I know more than ever that average people believe Horwath is on the right track. Workplaces are abuzz, volunteers are flocking, Ontario is changing.

Seriously? I am not sure Thomas got the internal memo but one of the biggest policy efforts of the Ontario labour movement, the fight for a $14 an hour minimum wage, a living wage, has been completely betrayed by the ONDP.

Did Andrea Horwath have her "work clothes" on when she decided to adopt a minimum wage plan that condemns workers to poverty? Was this what "average" people wanted? Is it better because maybe she was putting down her Bud Lite at the time? 

I also am out there every day, Warren. Working with an array of anti-poverty, LGBT, minimum wage, tenant and other groups, especially in South Etobicoke. Not a lot of white wine, but a very real sense of betrayal.

There are other examples of this absurd attempt to frame community, anti-poverty, women's rights, labour and left activists, with literally centuries of combined proven commitment between them, as all a bunch of "wine-swilling" "elitists.

But these stalwart defenders of Horwath and the ONDP's new course have little to say, between the insults, of who is left behind by Horwath's policies.

It is not the "elites"! 

It is minimum-wage workers and people on social assistance who Andrea Horwath and the ONDP literally want to keep in poverty. 

When did minimum wage workers and people living in poverty stop mattering?

When did we stop caring about those who most need our solidarity?

Lost in the media coverage of the letter by former ONDP stalwarts and the letter from Gerry Caplan, an activist who has literally been a member of the NDP since day one, lost in the inanity of the Hudak call for further punishing those on already cruel social assistance rates, forgotten in the wake of the idiocy of the typical Liberal silliness of sending plants to "protest" the NDP, the fact remains that minimum-wage workers and people living in poverty are not getting our solidarity.

Despite the fact that we as a society, as a left movement, as people working in activist communities, as people fighting for a vast array of human rights, demand and rightfully expect the left and "progressive" politicians to stand up and be counted on any number of social issues, we seem to often during elections be silent about the devastating reality that is poverty and that is working full or part time, often in multiple jobs, for what everyone knows are poverty wages.

In the ongoing farce that is the Ontario election none of the parties have a plan that would do anything to eliminate poverty or to lift minimum-wage workers out of poverty. None.

They have a great many plans about a great many things, and they all trot out their talking points about the "middle class," "affordability," "fiscal responsibility" and the like, but there is no mention, at all, of an actual plan to bring people on social assistance or people making the minimum wage out of poverty.

It is as if they simply do not exist.

Where is the solidarity for our fellow Ontarians most in need? Where is the outrage for them? Where are the articles denouncing the actual elitists, business and small business owners, who want, with the help of all the major parties, to keep poverty-wage workers poor?

Your friends. Your neighbours. The people you know working at your local fast food joint or Shoppers Drug Mart. The people you know desperately trying to survive on sadistic social "assistance" rates imposed by the $100,000-plus-a-year politicians who put their re-election ahead of them.

They are guaranteed, after this election, to be the victims of poverty minimum-wage plans and social "assistance" rates. Endless promises that amount to much ado about a middle class nothing can be trotted out, but these victims of capitalism and indifference are always left behind.

They will not be drinking white wine. They likely will not be drinking Bud Lite much. 

But it certainly won't be the "Group of 34" and other activists for higher minimum wages and social assistance rates that will have betrayed them. 

When "elitism" is framed as wanting to fight for policies that will help minimum wage workers and those living in poverty, then we need far more "elitists" and far fewer sanctimonious poverty apologists for the ONDP.

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