Andrea Horwath’s Debacle
I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud when I saw election results. I almost spat a mouthful of my breakfast across the room.
Almost nobody expected Ontario’s Liberals to win a majority, least of all the NDP’s Andrea Horwath. Her decision to pull the plug on the Wynne government has to go down as one of the worst political miscalculations in recent memory.
While the NDP are putting a brave face on the results, there is little question this was a debacle of Horwath’s engineering. While once she was in the driver’s seat, now the NDP are once again relegated to third party status.
Moreover, it didn’t have to go down this way. She could have used the election to stake out the ground left of the Liberals. Instead, she did quite the opposite. As a result, the NDP picked up just one seat, although lost important seats in the crucial Toronto region.
In a story published by the Toronto Star days before the election, written by Linda Diebel, Horwath was portrayed as being deeply angry with the Liberals for reneging on promises made the previous year. She was so pissed that she apparently didn’t bother to read this year’s budget before pulling the plug. A budget many considered the most progressive seen in years.
But instead of running to the left and portraying the Liberals as corporate sell-outs, the NDP campaign steered right. They set out to curry favour with small businesses, and vowed to set up a ministerial post to chop waste. And they attacked the Liberals, while ignoring the far more dangerous Tories.
In fact, the Star’s Thomas Walkom ran a column in which he said that Horwath might be willing to support a Tim Hudak government and join them in slashing the civil service (the difference was that she wanted to chop managers and he wanted to chop frontline workers). Such willingness to embrace elements of the right’s agenda was what raised the ire of the 34 prominent leftists but also – it turned out – the Ontario electorate.
The NDP’s strategy is important because of next year’s federal election. The NDP, in 2011, went after the Liberals in order to pick up seats, which finally gave Harper his long-coveted majority. The question now is whether the NDP will dust off this strategy once again, risking the Tories sneaking up the middle. If they are smart (which is debateable) the party will stay clear of the sectarianism of the past and go after the Tories from the left. Indeed, Hudak’s policy of taking a hard right turn has shown how the right-wing message is not resonating.
Still, what is getting lost in the aftermath is the fact that all three parties have embraced, with varying degrees of severity, the austerity agenda. All three wish to balance the budget on the backs of workers and the poor. None of them are really prepared to raise sufficient funds by taxing the banks, brokerages, corporations and multinationals that do business in Canada. Or plug the numerous loopholes in our tax code that allow the aforementioned to exploit offshore tax havens to tremendous effect.
Recently, in one of France’s daily newspapers, Alexis Tsipras of the Syriza party of Greece’s radical left, gave an interview about the impact of austerity on his country. There is a good chance that Tsipras could be Greece’s next prime minister.
Greece’s economic woes lie in the fact that its political elite basically took on way too much debt without collecting enough taxes to pay it off. Since the credit crisis began, the elite has attempted to solve the problem by cutting government spending, slashing wages, laying off civil servants and selling state assets to the private sector. They have not clamped down on massive tax evasion by the Greek bourgeoisie and corporate sector. The result has been 6 years of painful recession and 27% unemployment.
Tsipras said the crisis has been used by German capital, the EU and the IMF to turn Greece into a low wage state. Indeed, massive unemployment, as we know, freezes and even deflates wage growth. Tsiparis’s analysis clearly applies to Canada, where cuts to the public sector and growing unemployment tend to cow labour demands for higher wages.
In fact, Hudak’s agenda was clear on this: along with cutting 100,000 civil servants’ jobs, he planned to slash corporate taxes and turn Ontario into the cheapest place in North America to do business. And to think the NDP were open to forming a government with these guys.
The NDP could have tacked left and used the current economic conditions to emphasize the necessity to have big business and the rich pay their fair share. It was a lost opportunity, one they paid a steep price for.
Indeed, look forward to the Wynne government eventually taking an axe to the public service. And the NDP will now be sitting on the sidelines instead of preventing real damage being done. And it was all very unnecessary.
Until people begin to look at political alternatives beyond the three mainstream bourgeois parties, economic expansion is not likely to occur.