Tommy Douglas and David Lewis wouldn't recognize today's New Democratic Party. If you want to take the measure of how much the party has changed, start with economic policy. On that score, Tom Walkom writes, Thomas Mulcair and Stephen Harper aren't that different:
So how would a Mulcair government act? If the NDP leader’s comments are any indication, the answer to that question is: very, very cautiously.
First, he has rejected most tax increases. As he told the Bloomberg news service in March, an NDP government would not raise income taxes on the rich. Nor would it boost the federal portion of the HST.
Marginal tax rates on the well-to-do, he said are already too high.
However, Mulcair has left open the possibility of hiking corporate taxes. He says he would use any money raised there to fight poverty and bring back down to 65 the age at which Canadians can receive Old Age Security pensions.
But, perhaps most tellingly, Mulcair has bought into the austerity myth:
As part of its effort to appear fiscally responsible, the NDP has been promoting balanced budgets since Jack Layton was leader. What isn’t clear is the time frame involved. Harper has pledged to balance the books by 2015. Mulcair hasn’t yet committed himself to a zero-deficit date.
But at the same time, he hasn’t attacked the Conservatives for being too hasty in eliminating the fiscal shortfall. Rather, he criticizes them for bad management — for spending too much on the wrong things.
And, like Mr. Harper, Mulcair wants to do big oil's bidding:
When he first became NDP leader, the former Quebec environment minister talked a lot about sustainable development. In particular, he talked of the need for Alberta tarsands operators to pay for the damage they are wreaking on the environment.
It was a reasonable position, but one that Mulcair doesn’t raise quite as much any more. Rather he talks of enforcing existing environmental standards. And he has promised the oil industry that an NDP government would be a reliable “partner” in developing the energy sector.
Under Mr. Mulcair, the New Democratic Party has ceased to be Canada's conscience and become a player:
Trade. Oil. Fiscal probity. If this sounds like a fairly conservative economic platform, that’s because it is.
Mr. Douglas and Mr. Lewis would not be happy.