NDP Sectarianism Returns with a Vengeance

You have to wonder what Andrea Horwath was thinking. By bringing down the Ontario government a week ago and launching an election as a result, the NDP risks opening the door for the provincial Tories reclaiming power. Which would be a disaster for working people across the province, let alone the social fabric of our communities.

Yet Horwath’s decision is in keeping with the NDP’s tradition in recent years of embracing hard-line sectarianism – of bashing the Liberals and thereby allowing the Tories to win. The Tories then go on to wreak their own special brand of devastating class warfare and economic mismanagement.

Let’s go back to 2005, when the federal NDP helped bring down the Liberal government of Paul Martin Jr. What was the outcome of this brilliant strategy? The election that ensued brought Stephen Harper’s Tories to power. Fast forward to the 2011 election and the NDP’s insidious strategy of designing its election campaign around targeting Liberals, then led by Michael Ignatieff. While the NDP won 103 seats, they also allowed the Tories to finally win their long-coveted majority. (In both these elections, the sainted Jack Layton pulled the switch…)

Sectarianism is defined as attacking your allies or potential allies with the result that it allows your enemies to win the upper hand. It’s a toxic and highly dangerous phenomenon, as history keeps demonstrating. For example, few now remember the sectarianism of the Communist movement in the 1920s and ‘30s when it labeled social democrats “social fascists”. It was a decision that prevented German communists and social democrats from forming an alliance against the Nazis, who won the 1933 election. The Communists and social democrats were soon sharing the same concentration camp bunks, while witnessing the catastrophic consequences of the Nazis’ horrific agenda.

In more recent times, we see the consequences of sectarianism in Syria, where a loose opposition alliance against the Assad regime seemed to be on the verge of toppling the dictator from power as early as two years ago. But infighting and a murderous internecine campaign launched by Islamist jihadists has so divided opposition forces that Assad has regained most of the territory he lost and is firmly in control of the country once more.

In the case of the NDP, the party’s sectarianism is harder to fathom. After all, only the slow-witted can see that the ideological differences between the NDP and Liberals are tiny to almost non-existent. The only clear demarcation is that the NDP is closer to the top leadership of the labour movement. But policy-wise, the differences are harder to see.

In fact, the Ontario NDP decided to bring down the Liberal government after that government introduced one of the most progressive budgets seen in years. Moreover, the current premier, Kathleen Wynne, is from the left-wing of the Liberal party and is an open lesbian.

Yet the NDP took this particularly awful decision despite the fact Ontario’s Tory Party leads in the polls and are currently led by a far-right troglodyte, Tim Hudak, a repellant creature whose entire agenda is based on destroying trade unions and their legal rights, laying off 100,000 public servants, cutting taxes and gutting government programs. Indeed, the already besieged labour movement is now having to spend precious resources launching an advertizing campaign against the Tories – money they could have put to better use. I wonder how many labour leaders are thanking Horwath for her decision to pull the plug on the Wynne government?

The thing that seems to blind sectarians like the NDP is they have some naïve belief the damage done by Tories and their right-wing ilk can somehow be undone. This is sort of like hoping once you’ve cut down a rainforest, it will quickly grow back by next week.

Let us tally up the permanent damage the federal Tories have done in the near-decade they have been in power (And this does not include the litany of undemocratic practices Harper has introduced):

• The de-industrialization of Canada. Our manufacturing sector has been decimated on Harper’s watch. Manufacturing’s share of economy has plunged from 16% to 12% over the past decade, with massive job losses. In Ontario alone, more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs have disappeared since Harper came to power. Meanwhile, the Tories have favoured the development of the oil sands, with its attendant permanent environmental damage.

• The selling off of our corporations and resources. Canada has witnessed most of its corporate crown jewels pawned off to foreign buyers, including the assets of the bankrupt Nortel (which Harper refused to save), almost the entire steel industry, most notably Stelco (which was later closed), and great swaths of the mining industry, such as Noranda and Falconbridge and Alcan. Critical oil sands companies and assets have also been sold to foreign multinationals.

• The destruction of our high-technology sector. This is highlighted in this excerpt from a 2012 article in the Globe and Mail: “High-tech companies now account for a razor-thin 1.6 per cent of Canada’s benchmark stock index, the TSX composite (excluding SXC, which is now counted as a health care stock). That’s down from a staggering 41 per cent in July, 2000, near the peak of the tech bubble, when Nortel Networks Corp. accounted for more than one-third of the index. That steep decline isn’t just due to Nortel’s demise: High-tech names have been vanishing from the radar in Canada at an alarming rate. Last year, 45 Canadian tech firms were snapped up by foreign buyers, up from 32 the year before and less than 15 per year in the mid-2000s…” Meanwhile, Blackberry is a shadow of its once dominant self. If it goes bust, Canada will no longer have a single world-renowned high tech firm left.

• The destruction of cultural institutions. The CBC is a clear example of this, as the Tories have cut its budget and refused to come to its rescue as it has lost advertising dollars, leading to layoffs and demise of many of its once cherished programming.

The NDP is not to blame for the Tories’ agenda directly, of course. And let’s be clear: the Liberals are a corporatist right-of-centre party too. But the fact remains that all three of our mainstream parties are pro-corporate parties. The issue is what wing of capital do they represent? The Tories represent the foreign multinational and most reactionary element of the capitalist class. Keeping them out of power no matter what should be paramount.

And yet federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair is once again attacking Justin Trudeau in the run up to next year’s election. The Tories must be rubbing their hands in glee. Mulcair has raised questions about whether Trudeau is in the House of Commons enough – the basis of the 2011 attack levelled by Jack Layton against Michael Ignatieff that had such a devastating effect. A devastating effect not only to the Liberals but to Canada as a functioning nation-state.


  • Both the Wynne and Martin governments fell because of corruption and broken promises.

    The Chretien/Martin Liberals campaigned from the left, won most of the NDP vote, and governed from the right for 13 years. Promised national day care, decriminalization of marijuana, etc. Ditched their promises after getting elected.

    Wynne made big promises in her 2013 budget. Broke them all. Made a whole bunch of new ones in 2014. Of course, we’re supposed to believe Wynne is not lying this time around.

    It’s ridiculous to blame the NDP when the Liberal lose elections. The Liberals lose due to their own incompetence. They are not entitled to power. When they have a minority government it’s their responsibility to EARN support for their bills.

    Wynne didn’t try to work the NDP on this budget. In fact, she ran attack ads before the budget was released. That is not how a government responsibly builds support for a confidence bill.

    In 2011, Jack Layton was praised for running a positive campaign. In the current Ontario election, Wynne has run two attack ads against the NDP. The NDP has run no attack ads. So again it’s nonsense to blame the NDP for attacking the Liberals to the “glee of the cons.”

    As for debate between the Liberals and NDP, this does not help the right in any way, shape or form. No centrist or left-leaning voters are going to vote for the con party.

    It’s up to the centrist Liberal party to fend off the conservative party and fight back when being attacked. It’s their job to split the right-leaning vote to keep the cons away from a fake majority. This has absolutely nothing to do with the NDP.

    The real problem is that Canada is not a democracy. But instead of dealing with the real problem — our absurd voting system — partisans try blaming others for their failures, when they were actually seeking out absolute corrupt power on 40% of the vote in the first place.

  • I wasn’t surprised to see Waller chime in with the standard NDP apologia/talking points. These hucksters cannot accept the fact that the NDP has been instrumental in putting Harper in power and subsequently giving him a leg up to majority. In British Columbia we need no lessons in how the NDP can hand rightwingers a virtual political monopoly on a decadal scale. It’s typical that, having inflicted rightwing government on the public, they blame everyone, anyone else for their perfidy. That way they can do it the next time and the time after that and…

  • Actually Dion and Ignatieff decided that playing punching bag to Harper’s sleazy attacks was the best way to win. Plain fact of the matter is that they lost to Harper because of sheer incompetence.

    The NDP was willing to form a coalition with the Liberals in 2008, to oust Harper. But the Liberals thought they could do better by winning the next election. So they decided to prop up the Harper Government. I suppose that’s the NDP’s fault too.

    The Liberals are not entitled to their entitlements. It’s time to man up and take some responsibility instead of sniveling about the NDP every time they play to win it all and end up losing.

    If the only game they got this election is to whine about the NDP, Ontario is in big trouble. Like Iggy, they’ll hand the PCs all the moderate right-leaning vote on a silver platter. (Or perhaps you think it’s the NDP’s job to split the right-leaning vote because they’re actually a right-wing party according to the latest Liberal rhetoric?)

  • Another extremely critical Harper initiative is to undermine the possibility of factual, evidence based research in favour of some murky, inchoate, ideological miasma.

    Evidence of Harper’s actions are found not just at Stats-Can but at Environment, Justice (100 let go in the past month0 and HRSDC. There are likely others that I have missed.

    By gutting Federal research Harper makes it harder for any citizen to judge the governments actions, harder for the opposition to make its case, harder for independent journalists to hold the government to account.

    You can grow the rain forest back faster than you can recreate a high quality research department.

  • No need to hyper-analyze. It’s all about Party power and personal gain, which tend to interfere with one another and effectively neutralize any potential for benefit to the political system in general or the electorate.

  • So, by this logic, the NDP should’ve just kept on supporting the Liberals, presumably no matter what, until . . . when? The Conservatives disappeared in a puff of hellfire or imploded into a black hole? Then we could start winnowing wheat from chaff? Until such a blessed day arrived, I think there’d be plenty of room for calling the NDP a bunch of opportunists (not surprising, given how the party’s been moving along the political spectrum for the past little while in an effort to cozy up to business and the wealthy).

    If you want to critique Horwath for calling an election at this point in time, you’ve got to come up with something better than just screaming “Look!! Conservatives!!!” (not to mention the nonsensical idea that there’s some direct connection between someone’s sexuality and progressiveness; there were gay Nazis, y’know). From what I know of Wynne’s budgets (and what she’s said about business in general), they’re nothing much to laud her and her party about as they give out a bit and take back as much or more in other ways. Other than looking at polling (which tends to put the Libs and Cons pretty much neck-and-neck [another minority government, anyone? Watch the Libs support the Cons in that case]), can you really blame the NDP for deciding to risk an election now when the media’s been full of examples of right-wing perfidy, stupidity, and viciousness for some time?

  • The best way to get the Conservatives to implode is to have an election where they are force to present their alternatives, rather then just complain about the scandal of the day.

    It happened during the last two Ontario elections. It looks like it is going to happen again.

  • And how about that new ONDP idea to create a ministry of deficit fighting- wow right out of the tory play book. Is that not like accepting that one cannot fix the economy and grow ones way out of deficit problems.

    Amazing how probabilities of garnering votes stack up against notions as democracy and tradition.

    Ultimately we are facing some very serious economic challenges in Ontario- and if somehow Hudak gets elected it could ultimately transform the province for a long time in the wrong direction.

    The economy has floundered since the manufacturing meltdown that started in 2004 yet four dynamics of the economy have kept household income from totally tanking in Ontario and keeping the wolves at bay for the last 10 years- but each one of these four saviours of the household income are set to put the brakes on consumption that could precipitate a very quick and nasty vicious cycle of declining consumption and all it bring about in the form of recession and decline.

    1) a 30 year trend of increasing female participation rate in the waged economy has been what help keep household income robust and growing. However we have now started reaching peak women employment which has so many implications as we have become so accustomed to more women working in waged labour. (see my website of a statistical analysis)

    2) declining unionization rates in the private sector mainly due to economic restructuring and manufacturing job loss has resulted in stagnant wages in the private sector as verified by several studies. So as we shift from good jobs to more precarious jobs we will see more pressure to ratchet down wages and benefits or risk capital flight given the high dollar and the lack of innovation within the economy.

    3) consumer debt and the housing bubble has enabled a debt fueled consumption as equity has piled up and is extracted to keep the shortfalls in wages – this is not sustainable as Canadian consumer debt levels hit some all time highs. This mainly premised on the rising real estate markets- the question is can it be managed to slowly decline rather than burst- obviously with the recent gains- the banks are still lending- but for how long?? It cannot go on forever- or maybe not even until the end of the summer! This the potential to drive the entire Canadian economy into recession.

    4) Government austerity- as well all know public services and government transfers are what keep a healthy middle class – yet after 30 years of neo-liberal cuts and now the austerity set in motion by the great recession and the tax cuts by recent right wing governments- the benefits and income supports to the middle class have been shifted from public purses to household increasing costs and decreasing public transfers to every household- again another negative on the overall economy. Basically by cutting away public services, investments and social safety nets to allow consumers to spend more- we have basically been trading off between new schools and roads for new cars and bigger TVs. Not a healthy trade off when one is striving to meet the demands of building a high wage workforce.

    5) demographics and aging- we obviously have more and more household incomes that will decline as people move into retirement. It was estimated recently that nearly 60% of retirees have no pension plan other than the CPP. So we will see a drop again in income.

    You combine all these measures and then have an ideologue such as Hudak run the economy and you will see a housing bust, an attack on women as Hudak has vowed an attack on the public service which is where a high percentage of good jobs that women have won gains are located, you will see an attack on unions and wages, and you will also see austerity take become a whole new attack on middle class gains through public services.

    Hudak will be a disaster for the economy- and it will produce an economic landscape that only a southern US state would be proud of- Ontario will open for business alrite- it will become the new low wage area to compete with the US south- is that what we want?

  • Bruce – I’ve been singing this song for many years, and am SO tired of all of the excuses the NDP comes up with.

    You’re right – the differences in policy between the Liberals and NDP are so small as to be invisible.

    For real fun ask a died in the wool NDP member to tell you what, exactly, the party stands for; what things are so important that the party would never bend or falter in their support of them.

    Mostly they’ll just stand there, speechless, and finally gasp “We’ll, we’re not the Liberals!”

    Meanwhile NDP leaders are singing the praises of Free Trade, lunching with the Board of Trade, declaring their support for service cuts and “balanced” budgets, and deciding en masse that money from Unions is a bad thing.

    These days I feel like I’m significantly to the left of the NDP on almost everything.

    I honestly believe that until the NDP gives it up and merges with the Liberals we’re going to see a long series of right wing governments.

    Every time an NDP leader attacks the Liberals (or the other way a round) Stephen Harper smiles and chuckles.

  • Regulations will not create managed decline in real estate. Too often this forum blames stagnating wages and as if rising prices are not at fault. The only problem with wages today that are nominally higher then any wages working Canadians earned in the 1930s is the fact they are not higher then prices of goods and services they Canadians need and want, so we take out higher levels of debt to buy goods and services. I unlike many here would tighten monetary policy mirroring the 80s, higher interest rates, deflate both consumer goods and services and especially stocks and real estate. The inflation we have is greater then Canadians wages, and know the 80s monetary policy is the cure for today, not an expansion, and had we never cut interest rates, in 08 the bubble would never have grown in real estate, households were encouraged by these interest rates, that have distorted and set up thousands if not millions of Canadians lives to be ruined the second we try to normalise monetary policy & withdraw stimulus.

  • I feel better and better about leaving the NDP several years ago after my local MPP Cheri DiNovo came out swining FOR Israel and called her critics “communists” and “women haters” (among other unhelpful things).
    Read “Ruling the Void” – decline of political parties in the OECD is a long term trend.

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