Saturday, October 12, 2019

Federal Election 2019: Left-wing parties and leadership

I've commented on the political right and center, and will offer some personal comments on the federal Canadian left.

As I mentioned with the first posting, I don't vote along party lines.  My vote for a candidate nominated by a party, or even a financial contribution to a candidate, is not in any way an endorsement of the party.  I believe nearly every party has great candidates (some of which I hope become or remain MPs), and they also have horrible candidates (who I hope don't get re-elected or elected).  Party affiliation alone doesn't mean anything to me.

New Democratic Party

I have donated hundreds of dollars to NDP nominated candidates because I wanted them to continue to sit in parliament, and I have donated to the campaign of an NDP nominated candidate who was the most likely candidate to oust a bad candidate (who happened to be nominated by the Liberals).

Of the parties long-term parties that nominate candidates where I live (PC which morphed into Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Green), the party I felt least likely to have an affinity with is the NDP. I have my own beliefs, and don't want to feel judged as being either "with us" or "against us" as I've often felt when discussing politics with lifelong NDP supporters. It has always felt I needed to agree with them on every policy in order to work with them on any, and there were so many policy ideas they expressed which I believed were simply unworkable even when I thought their goals were in line with my own.

There is a video called "Lefty Boot Camp" made by Australian ABC Comedy that sums up the feeling I've all too often had when getting into political discussions with strong NDP supporters.

When Jack Layton became leader in 2003 he helped reshape the party to give it focus on areas of policy that more Canadians could join with. Under his direction and leadership we saw a historic high in the May 2011 election with the "Orange crush" that was partly due to huge support in Quebec. The "Orange Crush" was largely mirrored by a collapse in support for the Bloc Québécois in Quebec, clearly suggesting that the NDP and the Bloc were competing for many of the same voters.

After Jack Layton's death, the leadership moved to Thomas Mulcair. Many suggest the loss of seats in Quebec, and much of the gains the NDP had under Layton, was due to Mulcair's views on the niqab. Quebec started its movement towards a stronger separation of church and state, and Quebeckers were getting increasingly frustrated by the angry slurs being thrown at them from outside. As suggested in the video above, calling someone a "racist" who don't think they are racist (and there is no evidence they are racist) isn't going to change their mind, but it is going to make them dismiss or otherwise distrust you.

The party membership gave Mulcair a non-confidence vote for a variety of possible reasons: low seat turnout (which was largely due to opposing Quebeckers on secularism), opposing Alberta's oil industry (apparently the NDP brand matters more than anything else, and the fact Alberta had an NDP provincial government was supposed to flip the entire country), and a promise to balance the budget (which is one of the things which made the party seem more legitimate in the 2015 election).

The election of a leader who wears an opposition to Quebec's secularism on his head, and the fact that NDP devotees will shout "racist" any time someone brings up the entirely separate issue of religion, has put the NDP back into their pre-Layton position. I fully expect the continued fall of the NDP in Quebec will be seen in the form of a rise of the Bloc in Quebec.


I believe in a strong separation of church and state (See: Freethought), and believe we need less religion in politics rather than more.

Due to my adoptive ties to India (see photograph of my wife and I ), I am very concerned about influence of religion on politics, with partition being one historical result.  Ongoing Hindu and Sikh nationalism (and the related battles, including terrorism - Air India Flight 182 comes to mind from a Canadian perspective) continuing to have harmful impacts.

I disagree with the suggestion that to be inclusive of religious views we need to bring religion beyond a persons private life and community, and bring religion into government.  I consider it insensitive of people with strong religious views to have them seek assistance from a theoretically secular government, and be confronted with a person prominently displaying symbols from a differing religion that has historically (or currently) been at war with the citizen's own religious community.

I consider religion to be a foreign political influence, and the display of religious symbols seems to put that government representative in a visible conflict of interest with the secular government they should be representing.

While I believe there is some hypocrisy in Quebec on religious symbols within government, given the ongoing Christian religious symbols even within their flag, I believe that they are headed in a more progressive direction.  There is no attempt to ban any religious beliefs, but there is a ban on promoting that religion through prominent religions symbols while that person should be clearly representing the secular government.  I wish there was as forceful removal of ostentatious Christian symbols from Quebec government, but what they are doing is better than what many other Canadian political leaders are suggesting.

I believe that to have a more healthy and inclusive society that is not constantly at war with itself we need less religion in politics, not more.

It should be obvious that the NDP membership, with their current leader as visible spokesperson, disagree with my views on secularism.

Democratic Deficit

I believe in participatory democracy, which is why I've considered it my duty to participate as a citizen including by being a witness at parliamentary committees (and an observer of easily hundreds of hours of parliamentary work).   Things work well when parliamentarians leave their "team jerseys" (party affiliation) at the door and work together as people.  The best committees can be observed when this happens, and the worst can be seen when hyper-partisan MPs repeat party talking points at each other.

My experience with many NDP MPs and supporters is that they are hyper-partisan.  I've heard many suggest that an MP that had been nominated by the NDP should be barred from crossing the floor.  This suggests that these elected members are expected to put party first, and the interests of the citizens in their constituencies later (if at all).  They see the party and the interests of the party as their constituency, not the people in the ridings.  This could be seen at the convention that ousted Tom Mulcair, where the fact that there was a NDP branded government in Alberta made party brand more important than policies that NDP candidates and supporters had been fighting for for years.

In any discussion on electoral reform the NDP pushed forward party lists, believing that all that mattered was that an interchangeable NDP nominated candidate won.  I have a hard time seeing this desire to draw a circle around every NDP supporter in Canada, regardless of where they live, to be any more than gerrymandering on steroids. I consider this attitude to be one that can only increase the democracy deficit, with more MPs having a stronger allegiances to their party brand than any policy or democratic principles.

I have many more things I've felt over the years about the NDP and its leadership, but they become examples of the same themes that could be seen on secularism and democracy.  The attack-pamphlets I've seen from the NDP aimed at the Greens, deliberately misrepresenting the Green's support for participatory democracy, shows how little the NDP is interested in working together with anyone not part of their party after an election.

Bloc Québécois

The Bloc has felt similar to the NDP in many ways, except in their case it is their belief that their interpretation of what Quebeckers wants that is their focus rather than the NDP with their party brand focus.

I understand why the Bloc exist, and consider it very unfortunate.  What unites the provinces has never been as simple as the more top-down federal parties have tried to suggest.  I don't believe it is helpful when "federal" leadership (often representing views of a minority of Canadians, focused inward on their parties) attacks Quebeckers for their beliefs.  The more some suggest that Quebeckers are somehow less Canadian because they have different beliefs, the more the Bloc will continue to exist.

I find it disturbing how much the other party leaders have been campaigning for the Bloc in this election, by constantly bringing up Bill 21.  I don't see how this is helpful to the unity of Canada to be so actively promoting the idea that a majority of Quebeckers don't fit into some other Canadian's idea of what it is to be Canadian.  I also suspect that if asked without the uncalled for angry name-calling, a majority of other Canadians would support the idea of moving forward with Canadian federal secularism.

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