Holiday cheer for New Democrats: Five toasts for the New Year

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The House of Commons met December 3, and elected a speaker; it heard a speech from the throne the next day; and it will rise for a holiday break December 11, returning January 25, 2016.

If, as polls suggest, 60 per cent of New Democratic voters are happy with the make-up of the new Parliament, as many as 40 per cent are not happy. Unsurprising really, given the disastrous results for the party in the October 19 election.

Losing 51 sitting members of Parliament rates as much worse than a poor electoral outcome. The party was wiped out in Atlantic Canada. It won none of the 25 seats in Toronto, where it fell to less than 14 per cent of the vote, and where it previously was well represented in the downtown core.

Party voices can be heard speaking of the second-largest number of seats in history, and of attaining the main objective: reversing the Harper government. Offering this as an analysis suggests strongly the party has lost the after-election, and not just the vote on election day.

The NDP is currently polling in the low teens, which means it has lost one-third of its support on voting day, and according to, by some measures, if an election were held today, the NDP would lose official party status. It will be remembered as the party that led the polls when the writ was dropped in August, and for some weeks thereafter.

Is there to be no holiday cheer for New Democrats? Yes, but to warm themselves up will take more than a strong drink and roaring fire.

New Democrats need to rediscover themselves, remember their aspirations, and fix their expectations anew. Here are five toasts to help bring in the New Year and see out the old.

1. To the party.

For the NDP, the leader is not the party. Leaders express what the party stands for, they do not substitute for it. Those who represent the party at election time do so on behalf of the membership. At the Edmonton party convention next April, delegates will vote to decide if they want the current leader to continue. The choice is not his to make. 

2. To what the party represents.

The domination and control over politics exercised by concentrated economic power needs to be ceaselessly challenged, and reversed through democratic action. That is why the New Democratic party exists. This creed is not to be forgotten, set aside or abandoned to please corporate advocates or those who work on their behalf. Concentrated economic power stifles democracy and inhibits political action for the common good.

3. To working Canadians, those who seek work and who have retired from paid work.

The prevailing ideology serves the interests of existing wealth, denies most working Canadians a raise, many young people a future, and a lot of seniors a decent quality of life. If you think wages, salaries, scholarships, pensions, welfare cheques and unemployment insurance payments are benefits and not costs, you should be a New Democrat. If you are a New Democrat, you had better be sure all party officials understand why this is so.

4. To the exercise of the democratic franchise.

Mobilization of those who work for a living, would like a job, or have worked in the past would ensure NDP majorities irrespective of the voting system or the appeal of the opposition parties. In order for working people to act politically, they need to feel compelled to do so by a party that listens to their concerns, speaks on their behalf, and acts accordingly.

5. To justice for all.

Ethical action has been widely defined in the religions of the world: do unto to others as you would have them do unto you. New Democrats use this golden rule to identify injustices and to work out how to erase them. It was Frank Scott, former CCF president, poet and McGill law professor who coined the phrase "a Just Society." Justice for all is the ethical perspective New Democrats bring to politics. Without it, the party can offer little not available from others.

Duncan Cameron is the president of and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.

Photo: Edson Hong/flickr

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