Saturday, April 23, 2011

Shades of Ontario 1990: let's hope this flirtation with Dippers ends this week...

This past week's flirtation with the NDP in Quebec and perhaps elsewhere reminds me of Ontario's flirtation with the NDP in 1990. Quebecers have never experienced life under NDP rule. Ontarians did from 1990 to 1995, and it wasn't overly pretty: an idealistic platform of expensive promises were quickly abandoned after the Ontario NDP came to power and it went downhill from there. I'll spare you the history lesson, but it's safe to say that Ontarians have no illusions about the NDP anymore, unlike our Quebecois neighbours.

Jack Layton is a decent, hard-working man with the polished charisma one would expect from a career politician. I can't criticize him as a person and obviously he's talented at what he does. But he's not offering a serious governing option to Canadians in 2011. Check out this recent Jeffrey Simpson article for more evidence.

I'm afraid a strengthened NDP in this election (coupled with a Liberal result that barely moves up from the 2008 result) will only make the removal of Stephen Harper and his Conservatives further delayed. Worse, it could pave the way to a Harper majority.

It's time for those who oppose Harper to get serious and vote for an actual alternative government. In this election, that's Michael Ignatieff's Liberal Party, who have done the work to present a platform that is balanced, progressive and costed.

It's easy to appeal to voters when you are untried and untested and are offering pie-in-the-sky platitudes that soothe our progressive hearts and fantasies. But this is not the NDP of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and even Nova Scotia provincial politics. This is still the pre-1990 Ontario NDP with a bunch of promises, an appealing leader and a record free of experience.

If the NDP win a breakthrough in Quebec in this election and take down the Bloc a peg or two, that will be momentarily interesting to watch. But it'll also further deepen the schism that runs through Canada's opposition parties and helps ensure repeated Conservative victories. In an ideal world, we'd have one federalist, progressive alternative to the Conservatives called the Liberal Democrats, with credibility and support across the entire country. Our nation's progressive bent would ensure this new party beats the Conservatives more than not.

But of course, it's not clear how that could ever happen. If the NDP wins a breakthrough in this election, why would they want to abandon their party and merge it with the Liberals? I fear the only thing that could bring about such a merger would be repeated Conservative majority wins, and I don't want to see that happen to our country.

The Liberal Party of Canada's success in the 1990s and early 2000s was built largely on a weak NDP with barely 10 per cent support (and of course a divided conservative movement). Since Jack Layton became NDP leader, the Liberals have had a difficult time beating those pesky Conservatives because huge chunks of the progressive left have opted out of choosing a real governing option. It seems the only way for the Liberals to one day beat the Conservatives on their own is with a suppressed NDP vote. That was certainly the goal of the Liberal campaign in this election.

Sadly, Layton's beaming smile has screwed that option (at least this week.)

We'll see how this all works out.


Anonymous said...

To get rid of Harper, Canadians living in conservative held ridings or ridings where the conservatives have a chance to win, need vote for the party in their riding that has the best shot at beating the conservative candidate. Liberal, NDP or Bloc.

leftdog said...

"Quebecers have never experienced life under NDP rule. Ontarians did from 1990 to 1995, and it wasn't overly pretty: [...] I'll spare you the history lesson, but it's safe to say that Ontarians have no illusions about the NDP anymore, unlike our Quebecois neighbours."

I am not trying to be a smartass ... but ... the guy responsible for what you are referring to is named BOB RAE! He's your guy! Turns out he was never a real New Democrat! Fact is that dismal period in Ontario 1990 - 95 was authored not by the NDP but by Bob Rae, the prominent (and perhaps future leader) of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Trust me .,. people remember.

Matt Guerin said...

Honestly, if the NDP had the best chance to beat the Tories in my riding, I'd vote NDP. But I'm in a Liberal riding with the NDP as the only challenger, and I'm voting for the real governing alternative to the Conservatives.

My point is: Ontario flirted with an untried, untested party in 1990 and got burned. We aren't jumping on that kind of bandwagon again. Yes it was Bob Rae and that's why I'll never support him in a Liberal leadership race. I'm glad he switched to the Liberals and is serving well in caucus and a future cabinet. But he'll never be Liberal leader.

Speaking of people who switch parties, which two big NDP candidates in Quebec used to be sitting Liberal representatives? People switch parties. It happens.

leftdog said...

As I said, I have no intention of being a smart ass here. I like your blog and I am committed to seeing the Harper era ended asap. Don't be so sure that Mr. Rae won't win the next Lib leadership. He lives and breaths for it. But if Denis Coderre is the main competition to Rae, be very worried.

Like your blog ... keep on bloggin'

Matt Guerin said...


And neither Rae nor Coderre will ever be Liberal leader, trust me.

Joseph Kerr said...

Ha ha ha

hee hee hee

Heh heh heh heh

Admit it it's fun to be scared sometimes ha ha ha ha ha

Joseph Kerr said...

Maybe they've never lived under the orange team but guess what they've lived under a socialist left-wing rule before and liked it hahahahahahaha

what's the difference between the light blue team and the orange team? Hahahaha the orange team is available to all progressive voters

Hee hee hee hee hee hee

John Prince said...

Give me a break. Provincial 'conservative' governments have been nothing to brag about... think Ontario under Harris and Saskatchewan under Devine to name just two in recent memory.

Or do you people only have selective memory recall against the NDP only?

As it has been said, "A conservative government is an organized hypocrisy."

Matt Guerin said...

I have very bad memories of provincial Conservative governments too.

John Prince said...

Living in Alberta as I do conservative governments give me 'nightmares' and a case of indigestion too. :-)

With conservatives, its best to not over-indulge while remembering one's A.B.C.'s - "Anybody but Conservative"

Kirbycairo said...

Equating the Ontario NDP under Rae with the federal NDP is ridiculous. It is like equating the federal Liberals with the BC Provincial Liberals.

Bob Rae was never a real NDPer - thus, as most of you Liberals seem to forget HE IS A LIBERAL NOW!!!!

sharonapple88 said...

I am not trying to be a smartass ... but ... the guy responsible for what you are referring to is named BOB RAE!

You can't blame all of the problems the NDP had in Ontario on Bob Rae. A big chunk of their problems was the result of the recession. There was also massive job loss because of free trade. At the same time, the NDP had never expected to win the election -- they really had no plan for government. Frances Lankin admits to being prepared to be in opposition and that she was scared about having to run a ministry.

(Here's my biased opinion: the NDP in this federal election are probably prepared for opposition -- in fact they seem to be actively campaigning for offical opposition -- than for government.)

Anyway, it didn't help that the caucus was slightly undisciplined. There was in-fighting, and apparently a number of scandals, although the only one I can remember a cabinet member offering a job to a woman he met at a bar (Peter North tried to run for the PCs in the upcoming election).

In Three Questions Bob Rae quotes a description of Labour by George Orwell that he thought fit his own problems:

"The greatest disadvantages under which the left-wing movement suffers: that being a newcomer to the political scene & having built itself up from nothing, it had to create a following by telling lies. For a left-wing party in power, its most serious antagonist is always its own past propaganda."

Once in power, the NDP couldn't help but dissapoint (but as noted earlier, it didn't help that they were facing a major recession).

Mr. R said...

Brian Mulroney must take 100% of the blame for the goings-on in Ontario between 1990 and 1995. His dogmatic free market shock therapy was just too powerful for any Ontario premier to resist.

John Prince said...

Right on Mr.R.

Almost makes one wonder whether it was a Republican/Conservative plot to literally kill two birds with one stone, doesn't it?

Scott said...

Sorry Matt but I voted NDP. I want a significant opposition to what will most probably be another Conservative minority government and Ignatieff wasn't impressing me. At all.

Besides, the Ontario NDP under Rae and the federal NDP under Layton are very different beasts. I know what Jack's about and I'm ready for his good qualities AND his weaknesses.

And, on a minor but still important note, that ad above is really, really douchey. No vote from me.