Election 2015: Congratulations, Erin Weir!
The massive change dealt by Canadian voters to the seating arrangement in the House of Commons last Monday has seen the 3rd party Liberals leap to a majority government, sending the incumbent Conservatives across the aisle to the Official Opposition bench and the once-hopeful NDP back to the 3rd party seats.Â In addition to the disappointment of being reduced from 95 seats to 44 seats, the loss of several talented parliamentariansÂ was particularly stinging for the NDP.Â Debate in the House of Commons will be less with the absence of Megan Leslie, Paul Dewar, Peter Stoffler, Peggy Nash, among others.
Fortunately, this apparent new era of sunny days contains some rays of light for the NDP.Â One such ray is the election of Erin Weir to represent the constituency of Regina-Lewvan.Â Erin is the past chair of the Progressive Economics Forum, winner of the PEF student essay contest (twice!) and consummate PEF blogger.Â Presently an economist for the United Steelworkers, Erin has worked previously for the Canadian Labour Congress and the Government of Canada (including stints in all three central agencies â€“ Privy Council, Finance and Treasury Board).
Erin won his Regina-Lewvan by 143 votes, a squeaker of a race and a testament to the importance of a tenacious team of staff and volunteers who made sure Weir supporters made it to the polling station.
His election comes at an important time as members of the weakened NDP reflect on its discouraging electoral performance, analyze what went wrong (and right) and chart its future course, both in holding the government to account and preparing for the 2019(?) election.Â A key issue that must be evaluated is the NDPâ€™s 2015 campaign tactic of committing to balance budgets.Â Although this couldnâ€™t have been predicted at the beginning of the campaign, the Liberals clearly outflanked the NDP in this regard.Â In this period of critical reflection, Erin finds himself in unique position of being both a member of the NDP caucus and a member of the Progressive Economics Forum.Â Letâ€™s wish him luck!
Congratulations indeed, Erin! A great win, especially considering the red tide that swept across the country. Best wishes for an exciting and influential career in the nation’s capital!
As for the NDP fiscal policy platform, Eric Reguly of the Globe and Mail gave this analysis:
“The NDP, which was running in first place at the start of the election, decided to mimic the budget-crunching Harperites and campaign for balanced budgets. NDP leader Tom Mulcair accused the Liberals of being â€œfiscally irresponsible,â€ a ruinous move on his part. NDP support evaporated as the Liberals emerged as the genuine progressive party.
As a few smart Canadian economists, among them Marshall Auerback, a director of Economists for Peace and Security, and Louis-Philippe Rochon of Laurentian University, have argued, austerity doesnâ€™t work when an economy is in retreat. Waning government spending on top of waning private spending only sucks the oxygen out of an already weak economy. When an economy is in recession, austerity deepens it. This is Keynesian Economics 101.”
I believe one of the best investments the NDP could make would be to purchase 100 copies of Jim Stanford’s book “Economics for Everyone: A Short Guide to the Economics of Capitalism â€“ Second Edition” and distribute them to all MPs and VIPs in the party. And preferably courses or workshops based on the book would be offered.
And I hope every Canadian MPs get a briefing on the history of the Bank of Canada and why owning a central bank puts the government of Canada in a situation very unlike Greece which uses a foreign currency, or Canadian provinces which are limited to taxation or borrowing to fund their programs. As proven in times of war or when financial crises erupt and require bailouts, the Canadian government is not fiscally constrained and can always spend whatever sums of Canadian dollars are needed to renew infrastructure and to hire off the bottom to achieve full employment. As John Kenneth Galbraith put it “If there is idle capacity and unemployment, the government must spend more that it receives in taxes………there is no merit at all in a policy that just balances income and outgo, none whatever.” .
A lot of people in the NDP know what is in Economics for Everyone. The problem is people won’t believe it coming from the NDP because they are the “fiscally irresponsible party”.
Here is a bold idea. Have the NDP mail an abridged version to every household in Canada (with online links to the complete version). That would make a big splash.
Rather than distribute “Economics for Everyone” to the MPs and VIPs, may I suggest a copy be handed to each delegate attending the next NDP conventon? If you’ll take a look at Section 1.6 of the 2013 federal NDP Policy Book, this is what you’ll see:
1.6 Finance and budgetary policies
New Democrats believe in:
a Balancing budgets and confining short-term deficits to severe economic downturns and national security emergencies.
b Building a sustainable economy by reducing the debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio.
c Establishing fiscal reserves during times of surplus to help create investment opportunities.
d The autonomy of the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
e Implementing the recommendations of the 2004 Pay Equity Task Force and establish a pro-active pay equity regime, enshrined in law.
Delegates will have the opportunity to deal with subsections (a) and (b) at the next federal convention.
Mulcair decided to run the “safe” race when it was clear the electorate was ready for real change. He got scared of his own party’s policies and emphasized the true, but little believed, fiscal responsibility of the party. That confused people. They were ready to take a chance on a party that would put their interests first, but got told that their interests would have to fit into a balanced budget. Trudeau, on the other hand, continued his emphasis on radical changes. From legalizing marijuana to changing the electoral system to letting provinces determine their own environmental strategies, he kept leaping forward with big, bold ideas that captured the imagination of voters. Mulcair plodded along, always putting the NDP platform out there but it became boring, old and stale.
Darwin O’Connor is correct in that if everyone were better versed in the fundamentals of economics then they would make better electoral choices, but isn’t that always the lament of the losing party? The trick is to get people to listen to your arguments, like Jack Layton was able to do. He put forward a positive choice for voters. Mulcair put forward an economic argument. It’s not surprising that voters chose the more positive sounding party.
Congrats Erin. I am sure you worked your butt off winning this election locally. Actually amazing- did you know that your riding was one of the top in median family income? The NDP won only 2 of the top 30 income ridings based on median family income! Amazing. The NDP won 14 of the 30 ridings with the lowest median family income. Who said class politics was dead? Now we just need to get those middle class voters! Given those stats- makes it really obvious that what you achieved was a something quite astounding. All the best Erin- you will do well. I know we have jaw boned a few issues on this site- the good news- we have typically been on the good side of the fence. Have at it dude.