You know all those criticisms you keep reading that call Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath a right-wing populist who will try any harebrained scheme, no matter how cynical or see through, if she thinks it will get her votes? It's getting harder to ignore them.
Horwath announced today that a government led by her would appoint a "Minister of Savings and Accountability" charged with finding "new savings" of half a percentage point, or $600 million per year, from the provincial budget.
Horwath also promises a smaller cabinet, which will "steam-line services," naturally. These promises were accompanied by a social media image declaring that the NDP would "deliver savings" as if they were something you can order on Amazon.com. The attendant invitation to all comers to "like and share" should come as no surprise from a leader who crows about social media shares instead of asking social justice activists and working people what they think the minimum wage should be.
Even if you don't believe, as I do, that just talking about "ineffeciencies" and "government waste" buys into the whole rhetoric of austerity and neoliberalism -- which aside from being horrible policy it is also bad strategy since everyone knows that there are at least two options who do neoliberal austerity better than the NDP -- this announcement by Horwath is a cartoonishly terrible move.
For one, it is transparently cynical and desperate. Oh YOU want to end wasteful spending? I'm going to create a whole MINISTRY of ending wasteful spending. It's a laughable move geared to buy votes and respectibility on the cheap -- neither of which ever comes at a low price. Worse, the move had a tailor-made reubttal, which even dimwit Hudak was bright enough to find:
Mr. Hudak laughed when asked about Ms. Horwath's idea during an event rolling out his own platform.
"Only the NDP would create more bureaucracy to reduce bureaucracy," he said.
Second -- and while I don't think this can be said enough, as a current resident of British Columbia still reeling from the disastrous "One practical step at a time" campaign of the B.C. NDP, apparently it needs to be repeated -- the NDP will never win with policies that adhere to Conservative definitions of what counts as fiscal responsibility. Not ever. Fiscal responsibility is not spending your time looking under couch cushions for extra change. Fiscal responsibility is spending money on programs that help regular people and not the rich or corporations. All else is a Conservative smoke screen -- one with which Horwath sees no problem in robing herself.
Finally, it is a terrible and desperately unimaginative way to define cabinet. Where is the Minister of Public Insurance? The Minister of Social Housing? The Minister of Food Security? We keep hearing promises of bold thinking from the ONDP, but we keep getting the Liberals, but more so: ten per cent more spending on daycare and kindergarten, one dollar more on minimum wage, and lots of talk about small businesses and cost savings.
The only bold idea from Horwath is finding a place at Queens Park for the Hon. Minister Scrooge McDuck.