The twilight of the farcical and facile politics of a system in decline?  

The first week of the glorious Ontario election seems to confirm Marx’s adage of tragedy and farce. The politics of the early 1990s that this is a reprise of were a tragedy that ended with Harris. This is a farce that may yet end with the austerity apocalypse of Tim Hudak. 

After a well-laid, and quite obvious, trap that ensnared Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP into flat out rejecting the most “progressive” budget on offer since 1995,  Kathleen Wynne, being a Liberal and being Kathleen Wynne, has launched her campaign by doing little other than being a Liberal and being Kathleen Wynne. She has rather easily, so far, crafted herself as the “left” “progressive” “visionary” by doubling down on a mediocre budget as the “great leap forward.” She has gone and cleverly framed herself as both more moderate than and to the “left” of the ONDP and they allowed her to do so. Hence her first person ad “calling out” Horwath for having placed, as Horwath did, political self-interest ahead of progressive policy that would benefit the real people in the real world that “progressives” love to prattle on about.  

The Liberal budget was the bare minimum of “progressive.” If the ONDP and its sycophants think campaigning against it as a bunch of “false promises” that are not “realistic” in the present context is a good idea, then, frankly, that tells you all you need to know about the ONDP. 

Wynne’s cynicism notwithstanding, and the Liberals have been profoundly cynical, she gave herself a demonstrably progressive platform to campaign on in the narrow discourse of the day and is doing so effectively as was predictable. Liberals campaign. Campaigning can almost be said to be the essential basis of their very malleable “ideology.”

In the case of Horwath, there is little to say. After walking into the Liberal trap, the ONDP have come out swinging against the Liberals in many cases from the right. Horwath launches her campaign by going to a business to promote her (pathetic and poverty) minimum wage “plan” and appears with the boss not the workers. She frames it therefore as a “reasonable” “small business friendly plan” that will include entirely unnecessary and misleading “small business” tax cuts. After all, no one wants to be seen to be only on the side of the worker.   

After calling out the Liberals for wanting to privatize the TTC (a clearly false allegation) she says “there’s an opportunity to engage the business sector to be a partner with the building of transit,” then tries to back away from the implications of this statement, and also indicates her support for the Scarborough subway plan putting her at direct odds with the primary platform plank of Olivia Chow and with reality. 

As Martin Cohn of the Toronto Star noted: “Before her bus pulled out to face the GTA’s endemic traffic congestion, Horwath offered yet more Ford-style populism to build more mass transit: First, subways for Scarborough (hasn’t she chatted with Olivia Chow?). “

This is, to say the least, hard to understand on Horwath’s part.

It is mystifying that she would put herself at odds with the primary platform plank of Chow and the one policy where Chow is irrefutably bang on.

One has to wonder what Horwath will do, as is inevitable, when she is asked what her policy would be if Chow was elected? What plan would she support then? What if she is asked by the press, as she will be, if she thinks Chow is wrong?

The Scarborough subway plan is a disaster. The LRT makes far more sense from a mass transit perspective (and, incidentally, financially). The subway plan is a signature policy of the Ford fiasco.

For the leader of the ONDP to back it is a clear example of the triumph of perceived personal self interest over sound policy.

And then there is Tim Hudak. Campaigning on a “Million Jobs Plan” by announcing that he will fire 100,000 people!

Take a moment to think about that one.

It gets more and more ludicrous every time you roll it around in your head!

It also relies on terribly dangerous and demonstrably false assumptions about how modern capitalism “works” (it really doesn’t) all of which have been shown to be false by Europe’s catastrophic austerity self-immolation. 

It is a plan to literally shut down the Ontario economy. Withdrawing that number of jobs from the economy that rapidly, even aside from the profoundly immoral aspects of it, is also obviously ridiculously dangerous and nearly certain to trigger an anti-stimulus effect. That many people losing that many well paying jobs that quickly, under the conditions of a government sustained housing bubble, is a clear recipe for disaster. 

It is so manifestly and dangerously wrong one has to wonder if the Tories understand this and see it as only a means to an ideological end. It makes no sense otherwise.  

A day after promising to throw 100,000 people out of work to “create” jobs Hudak says he is going to create 120,000 jobs by cutting corporate taxes by 30 per cent.

How will this create 120,000 jobs? It will because he says it will! Otherwise it is total nonsense.

Yesterday TTC security officers derailed another great moment in Hudak’s fantasy fiction austerity tour by unceremoniously throwing him off the subway when he attempted a campaign announcement on the system without permission.

What did he do after having broken the rules and paid for it? He typically and gutlessly blamed TTC workers for his own actions.

This is a terribly demoralizing and disenfranchising situation. We have mass campaigns to end poverty and campaigns for a liveable minimum wage in Ontario that have literally no political representation in the election.

The guaranteed result of this is that one of the goals that we will not, no matter who is elected, be getting after the Ontario election are living and fair non-poverty minimum wages or social assistance rates that are not cruel and sadistic. Nor will we be getting anything like pharmacare, free dental care or free transit. 

These are policies that would directly impact on the lives of millions of people in clear and obviously positive ways. They would help to actually move us towards the poverty-free, more socially just and equal Ontario that is so often rhetorically advocated for.

And we are guaranteed not to achieve them.

Why? No one who is seen as having a chance of “winning” is advocating for them.

At some point, if the Left is at all serious about ending poverty and fighting extreme inequality and injustice we have to change this.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons