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May 30, 2014

Vote NDP in Ontario – but build an Independent Alternative!

SS Editorial

Ontario NDP

In the current Ontario election, the Ontario NDP has adapted to neo-liberal pressures and advocated a ‘Making Sense’ agenda that is to the right of the minority Liberal government – who have embraced an expansion of social wages through an Ontario public pension plan.

This right wing populist NDP agenda, which scapegoats public sector workers and panders to business with promised tax cuts, has led to a protest by 34 leading Ontario NDP members with an implied argument for abstention or strategic voting for the Liberals to defeat the Neanderthal Tory agenda to cut 100,000 public sector jobs.

This is a strategy of despair in the name of realism, without thinking about how to preserve and build upon the independent organization of working class people for a genuine socialist alternative.

Canadian social democracy has always tried to bridge the irresolvable contradiction of representing working class people, as expressed in trade union affiliations and funding, and managing the market.

In some circumstances, like the long boom of the 1940s to 1970s, it managed to implement a social contract bridging the gap by pioneering public health insurance and a fairer labour relations system. But, since the turn to neo-liberal markets, it has not, as budget cuts and corporate tax concessions have been prioritized with provincial governments in British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan.

This irresolvable contradiction was particularly on display during the Ontario Bob Rae NDP years in the early 1990s.

So it should not come as a great surprise to many on the left that Andrea Horvath’s NDP has capitulated to neo-liberalism in the hope that the Ontario NDP can pose as a potential market manager in the mold of Tony Blair’s Labour Party – and by deliberately reducing its working class orientation.


What is challenging is what to do about it?

More than likely some will pose a policy, perhaps leadership, challenge to this right wing turn – especially if it proves to marginalize the party in the aftermath of the election. This contradiction might even be posed more sharply if the Ontario NDP wins or becomes a partner with a Liberal minority government, where all have promised to end the deficit shortly. And, in the worst possible scenario, if Hudak’s Tories win, the pressure to politically polarize or adapt will be extreme, perhaps greater than the Harris years.

In such scenarios, what would be most hopeful is a political regroupment on the order of Quebec Solidaire where there is an extensive stock staking of working class interests based on union and social movement activism.

However, in the world of English Canadian left politics, as they are, it is important to still symbolically affirm independent working class politics by voting for the NDP – and work to build an independent socialist political alternative, whether through small propaganda groups or a larger regroupment.