So we’re having an election here in Ontario. The minority Liberals tried to introduce a budget, the third-party NDP announced that they wouldn’t support it, and Katherine Wynne, our premier, dissolved the government and called a snap election. And all the while, the opposition leader, Tim Hudak, smiled his glassy smile. We’ll be going to the polls in June.
It might surprise people to find out, but I’m not a partisan of any particular party. Every election, I go over each party’s platform and vote accordingly; I even read the Conservative party platform. Voting for one party because “that’s how I’ve always voted” is nearly as bad, in my opinion, as not voting at all. Each election means that the parties have to earn my vote. If you don’t force them to do that, if you just hand a party your vote, you can allow the party involved to drift away from its historical principles.
Case in point: the Ontario NDP. As Rick Salutin points out in his editorial this morning in the Toronto Star, the New Democrats have slipped incredibly far from their original left-wing position — so far to the right, in fact, that the centrist Liberals are actually more left-wing on many issues than they are. And why? Because they’re trying to win elections… and only win elections. Simple as that: under Andrea Horwath the provincial NDP is willing to compromise the party’s traditional stand on a lot of important issues in the hope of winning seats in the legislature.
Now, full disclosure: I tend to vote NDP, both Federally and Provinically, because by and large they’re the only party whose platform has historically matched my opinions. Well, mostly matched; there are some points of incongruity, which I understand happen because not everybody is as radical as I am. I occasionally vote Green, when I’m feeling Quixotic, but far more often than not I’m going with the NDP.
I am almost certainly not going to vote for Andrea Horwath’s provincial NDP in this election, partly because the NDP platform no longer matches up with my positions; partly because I don’t think they’re going to be able to form a government (or even the opposition) and I don’t want to split the left/moderate vote — therefore increasing the chances of a Harris-esque provincial government under a lizard-eyed mannequin like Hudak; but mostly because, as Jim Wright once wrote, I have absolutely no use for people whose principles depend on the direction of the wind.
And I want everyone to understand that I am not happy to be writing this. Like most left-wingers in this province, I look to the NDP to represent me and my concerns… and the more I see of Andrea Horwath, the less I think she’s doing so. I understand the need to moderate some positions in order to broaden your appeal to voters, but I cannot respect abandoning principles outright in the vain hope of forming a government. I’m writing this knowing that I might be upsetting some of my friends, especially those who are actively involved in the NDP locally, but it’s the way I’m feeling. In the above-linked editorial, Salutin expresses sympathy for the rank and file who are locked into a party whose curent lack of clear principles has pushed the party into pure electoral-politics mode; it’s a sympathy I share because I want so badly to feel like I’m being represented in provincial politics.
And that’s doubly frustrating to me because the Federal NDP is doing so well right now: between the Senate scandal and the cynically-misnamed “Fair Elections Act” Thomas Mulcair is twisting Harper’s nuts every chance he gets. In the absence of a chance to form a government, he’s doing exactly what the provincial NDP should be doing: trying to keep the government of the day honest. Mulcair is a very different person than Jack Layton was, but he’s picked up the torch and he’s doing an increasingly good job of carrying it.
If only I could say the same about the provincial NDP.
If there’s a silver lining it’s in the hope that the almost-inevitable trouncing the NDP are going to get in this election may trigger an internal shakeup in the party, forcing them back into their traditional positions. Certainly it’ll push Horwath out of her position as party leader, which I’m increasingly convinced will be best for both the NDP and the Left in Ontario generally.
This morning I got up, poured a cup of coffee, read Salutin’s editorial and immediately logged into Ontario Register of Electors to check I’m on the Voters’ List and that my address is up to date. I’ve always taken pride in the fact that, with my politics, me doing that of a morning would be worrisome in the extreme to the Right in this country. But now I’m finding it rather sad that my action might be equally worrying to the so-called Left as well…