rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

The NDP's balanced budget platform aims to cure 'Bob Rae hangover'

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

The other day, a Facebook friend of mine called Thomas Mulcair a neo-Thatcherite, and the New Democrats an anti-worker political party.

This is only one -- slightly cartoonish -- voice. But it reflects the frustrations of many among the populist urban left who should be a major base of the NDP.

Dissatisfaction with the NDP's balanced-budget messaging this election season is growing enough to inspire social media frustration, VICE think pieces and, I hope, a change of course for the party I support.

But I don't think that change will come. The reason why lies in the peculiar nature of the NDP's growing pains as it tries to tap into the global anti-austerity movement while calming the anxieties of a socially progressive upper-middle class.

 

How to alienate a twenty-first century progressive

This disaffected activist and middle-class urban left is plugged into social media for their major sources of news. It has also become their public square.

They are plugged into the ideals of Occupy, which they carry to the contemporary liberation movements that organized through social media: they're allies of Black Lives Matter, the Arab Spring, and Idle No More. They're relentless opponents of austerity politics.

Balanced budgets is the demand of Tea Party Republicans, far-right libertarians, and the European Central Bank leaders who humiliated Greece with deepening austerity. In our fragile economic times, balancing state budgets as fast as possible frequently brings mass poverty as social services and supports for the middle class are destroyed.

So why the hell does the leader of Canada's progressive, social democratic political party say his top priority is balancing the budget?

 

Swearing off the orange stuff

I volunteer with the NDP campaign in my riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Phil Trotter. The area has a diverse population, but an overall suburban geography. We usually encounter friendly smiles and support from working class and immigrant folks, but many upper-middle class people remain skeptical of the NDP.

The most frequent reason we usually hear is that they don’t trust the NDP because of Bob Rae's NDP government of Ontario, and Rae's complete incompetence in dealing with the 1990s' economic collapse. I call it the Bob Rae Hangover.

Phil and I usually convince voters that the NDP has rejected Rae, and has a strong tradition of smart governance from its successes in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and now Alberta. But we can't talk to every skeptical voter in the whole riding.

"We will balance the budget" is a mass-media message intended to calm the anxieties of Ontarian voters who still suffer headaches from Rae Rum and delirium tremens from Harris Vodka.

 

First We Take Ontario

Ontario is rich in ridings, many of which will likely be decided by desperately thin margins on October 19.

Every vote counts everywhere: Atlantic Canada's blue-red races and three-ways, the west and Quebec City's blue-orange, Montreal's red-orange, and the rest of Quebec's teal-orange.

But southern Ontario (possibly also B.C.'s lower mainland and Vancouver Island if things get really tight) will likely carry the victory on many tight, three-way races in relatively wealthy ridings, like where Trotter is competing in Etobicoke.

If the federal NDP can cure the Rae Hangover, they can win many of these ridings in urban and suburban Ontario. At least enough that gains elsewhere in the country can bring the party more than 170 seats.

 

Feeling Betrayed

The balanced budget message is an effective way to appeal to those economically fretful, socially progressive upper-middle class voters. But a mass-media message hits everyone, not just its targeted audience.

The anti-austerity movement that has revitalized Western left-wing state politics: Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, Podemos, Syriza. The NDP should be on that list. Instead, many in that social movement are abandoning the NDP as a party hijacked by the neoliberal consensus.

The irony is that I don't think the NDP leadership actually plan to deliver balanced budgets above all else.

All their other messages describe the substantive priorities of a Mulcair cabinet: raising the minimum wage, strengthening unions, restoring environmental protections, real engagement with climate change, a national daycare strategy and pharmacare plan, higher taxes on the rich and multinationals, more power for the Canada Revenue Agency to break down overseas tax havens. 

All of these are incompatible with an overriding priority of balanced budgets. These social services won't run deficits forever, but it will take time for their progressive tax plan and enforcement to deliver the adequate government income.

The balanced budget message should have targeted only Ontarians still suffering from the Rae Hangover.

The question is whether the NDP can still win the election if they continue to haemorrhage support from the most energetic leftists in the country today.

Adam Riggio is a communicator, activist, and author living in Toronto. He currently handles communications for the Syria Film Festival. Find out more about his work at his author page. Follow him on Twitter @AdamRiggio

 

Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.