We offer our endorsement for the federal election on October 19.
After the longest Canadian federal election in more than a century, we understand if you are feeling election fatigue. But it is important to remember that the reason you are feeling that fatigue—and the reason this election has been so needlessly long—is that the Conservative party, which has been in office for almost a decade, wanted you to feel it. They and they alone chose to have an extended campaign period, after literally years of negative ads targeting the other parties, because they decided that an extended campaign would be to their advantage. It would give them the chance to exhaust voters, spend more campaign dollars, and give the Tories more opportunity to exploit wedge issues.
And exploit wedge issues the Tories have done. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper’s attacks on the niqab are a barely veiled and embarrassingly successful attempt to use Islamophobia as a political weapon. His appeals to social conservatives that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau wants to “legalize brothels” are both wildly disingenuous and incredibly sleazy. Of course, dishonesty on the campaign trail is nothing new for Harper—but the cynicism and sheer spite with which the Tories have gone about their nasty business is new and disquieting.
Especially disquieting, we might add, because the Tories’ record in so many ways is such an embarrassment. The Conservative response to the Syrian refugee crisis has been dramatically insufficient, and provides a look at their shortcomings in general. Harper’s attempts to confuse the issue by falsely implying Canada takes in far more refugees than it actually does was bad enough, but then we learned his office interfered with the refugee vetting process to prioritize refugees who would be more politically sympathetic to him, which is outrageous, irresponsible, selfish, and morally obscene. Refusing to conduct an inquiry into vast numbers of murdered and missing indigenous women and declaring it is not a priority for no reason other than the seeming distaste of his electoral base is simply disgusting (and we note that both the Liberals and the NDP have demanded such an inquiry, to their credit).
Canada’s cities (and particularly Toronto) have urgent affordable housing crises that Harper has not dealt with in any realistic fashion, and has not shown the interest to do so. Canada’s cities (and particularly Toronto) are also desperately underfunded with respect to transit. This country does not have a national childcare strategy that makes any sort of sense, because Harper’s plan for childcare is the same as his plan for everything else: boutique tax credits that primarily benefit his voter base and which do not actually address the real problem, which in this case, is that most people can’t even come close to affording childcare. These are all issues where both the Liberals and NDP have made major commitments and both parties deserve credit for those promises. They are, at least, trying to discuss policies that matter, and we urge whoever forms the next government to tackle these issues with the compassion and commitment needed to overcome these challenges.
With that said: it is perhaps an understatement to say that, for those looking for a progressive alternative in this campaign, both the Liberals and the New Democrats have been less than impressive. Certainly, we wanted—and expected—more spirited opposition to Harper’s seemingly endless list of moral and ethical offences against the principle of good governance he is meant to uphold. We hoped that the Liberals and New Democrats would, for once, concentrate more on the Tories who have spent four years systematically dismantling so many key elements of our public sector and gradually damaging Canada’s international good reputation.
Of course, that didn’t happen; instead, we got the umpteenth iteration of the Liberals and NDP sniping at one another’s policy proposals—which are, in the broad strokes, similar in many ways—and re-igniting the never-ending childish feud between Canada’s two major centre-left parties. (Yes, we get it: the Liberals are snooty elitists and the NDP are inconsistent populists. Please. Both of you. Just stop.)
The NDP and Liberals, and their leaders, have also at times disappointed us on their own merits during this campaign. Trudeau’s support for the Keystone XL Pipeline is directly at odds with his suggestions that the Liberal party is the right choice for Canada with respect to climate change. His plan for a Canada Child Benefit is too small and incremental to deal with the childcare expense crisis Canada (and even moreso, Toronto) currently suffers from.
The NDP have also disappointed, duplicating one of the worst aspects of Andrea Horwath’s disastrous Ontario election campaign of last year—namely, promising immense new amounts of social spending, and then claiming that very incremental tax increases will not only pay for this spending, but that in fact, an NDP government will run consecutive budget surpluses. Some have complained that the NDP have taken a centrist tack in this election, but the NDP’s new tactic of exceptionally fuzzy, budget math is not centrist; it is pandering, pure and simple.
However, as much as we might dislike the NDP’s rhetoric and shenanigans on fiscal issues, we must recognize that they have proven as close to being a moral centre in this election as might exist. When the Conservatives decided to make the wearing of the niqab a divisive electoral issue, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair did not hesitate to defend the right to wear the veil, despite the fact that this cost him votes in Quebec (and likely, the opportunity to form the next government). Mulcair’s stand was admirable and deserves respect.
More important than the niqab issue, however, is that the NDP have promised to overturn the Anti-Terrorism Act, better known as Bill C-51, and it is that promise which gains the party our endorsement. The bill’s potential to chill free speech and the enhanced powers it grants to CSIS are horrendous. The fact that it appears to grant the courts the ability to allow the government to use cruel and unusual punishment or limit citizens’ Charter rights is galling. This law cannot be allowed to stand and Canadians must make their voices heard in opposition to it.
In many respects (not all, but many—and particularly with respect to fiscal management and the recognition that serious infrastructure investment will mean deficits), the Liberal party’s platform is superior to the NDP’s. The Liberal party has even promised to repeal those problematic portions of Bill C-24, the bill which creates “second-class citizens” of Canada by giving the government the power to strip citizenship from people who could potentially gain citizenship elsewhere. But the Liberal party’s position to “amend” C-51 rather than repeal it is a non-starter, especially after their proposed amendments were revealed and were obviously insufficient to combat the real harms the bill inflicts on our judicial system and the Charter. A party that is willing to sacrifice civil liberties so easily, particularly one that promotes former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair as a star candidate in spite of his record on carding and the G20, does not deserve our endorsement.
That having been said, our endorsement of the NDP is a qualified one, because the NDP—as we have explained above—has not run the best campaign in many respects, and more importantly, because the Conservative party cannot be allowed to have another government. If you live in a riding where strategic voting might result in the ouster of a Conservative MP, we recommend that you consider a strategic vote; it really is just that important that they be ousted. But, if at all possible, we recommend you vote for the New Democrats. Warts and all, the party has earned your vote.