Saturday, May 17, 2014

Who Smells Best

It's not just Andrea Horwath's Dippers who are acting out of character. Tom Walkom writes that, in this election, all of Ontario's political parties are not to be found at their usual addresses. The economy has changed everything:

Ontario has been hit hard by the slump. Weak U.S. demand and, until recently, an unusually high Canadian dollar have crushed manufacturing.

Multinationals are realigning their North American operations at the expense of Ontario branch plants.
The damage isn’t always visible in Toronto. But a trip to London, Windsor, Leamington, Wingham or Smiths Falls can be an eye-opener.

The official jobless rate in the province is 7.4 per cent. When discouraged workers are counted, it rises to about 10 per cent.

That reality has changed the pitch of all of the parties:

Initially, the Liberals hoped that putting a new face on the same content would solve their problems.
While charming, Wynne held fast to the key elements of McGuinty’s economic plan, including fiscal restraint.

The hope was that she could woo voters just by appearing to be nicer.
That didn’t work. So the Liberals veered left, raising the minimum wage, promising pension reform and crafting a stimulus budget that they thought could win them a majority government.

It was a budget that put them to the left of the NDP.

If the budget put the Liberals to the left of the NDP, the Dippers are now trying to occupy the real estate once claimed by the Liberals:

Yet, under Andrea Horwath, the New Democrats were already shifting rightward. In part, they were following the trend of social democratic parties worldwide, from Britain’s Labour under Tony Blair to France’s Socialists under Fran├žois Hollande.

In part, they were mimicking the realpolitik of the federal New Democrats led by Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair.
But they were also responding to their own history. The Ontario NDP had formed government under centrist leader Bob Rae but done poorly when his successor, Howard Hampton, took them back to the left. Maybe they’d fare better by again deking right.

And Tim Hudak really deked right. His strategy is to present a stark alternative to the Liberals who, he believes, are stale and tired.  So he offers the Common Sense Revolution 2. But he seems to have forgotten that old saw about common sense: It's like deodorant. Those who need it most don't use it.

In the end, it will be up to Ontarians to decide which party smells best.


Lorne said...

I think, Owen, that Walkom's column makes evident the real paucity of choice that this election is offering us. It is too bad we have reached this nadir, but of special interest to me is what percentage of the electorate will stay away from the polls this time around.

Owen Gray said...

It's a sad commentary on our politics, Lorne, when winning depends more on the people who stay home than on the people who show up on voting day.

Dana said...

What is there to "win"?

A chance to be reviled and attacked while achieving nothing. To officially lie full time with the imprimatur of the Great Seal of the Province of Ontario as protection. The opportunity to make more money in the shortest period of time possible and never be discovered and prosecuted for it. And to land on one's feet in a highly paid corporate sinecure requiring only that one keep one's mouth shut.

That's what there is to "win".

Owen Gray said...

It's now all about personal achievement, Dana. The notion of public service is a fossil left over from the past.

The Mound of Sound said...

It genuinely saddens me, Owen, to see the NDP abandon the Left, federally and provincially. It's a clear admission that the principles they espoused so loudly for so many decades have been jettisoned in a display of rank cynicism and opportunism. They are choosing to transform themselves into the very political creature they once so scathingly denounced.

I know this troubles some of the true believers who, unlike most dippers, can't look the other way. They're no longer represented by their own party. Most, it seems, are content enough to hold their noses and swallow hard. Despite the Blairification of the NDP many of the party loyalists still try to cling to their moral indignation.

Owen Gray said...

I keep wondering, Mound, when Ed Broadbent and Stephen Lewis are going to say something.

Dana said...

If Broadbent and/or Lewis were to say something they would be attacked as relics of an irrelevant and unsuccessful past.

And I think they know it, which is why they're silent.

About 6 or 7 years ago I was ridiculed for saying that TC would not recognize Layton's party. 'Who cares what dead people might think?' was the attitude.

But, again, none of this really matters any more. There's nothing in humanity's future but destruction no matter which political party or philosophy or economic theory or military strategy or religious fanaticism does, says, thinks or tries to dictate.

There's no light at the end of any of these tunnels.

Rural said...

Perhaps Owen its who stinks the least!

Owen Gray said...

It's beginning to look like that, Rural.

Dana said...

Can't publish that, huh?

Can't say as I blame you really.

It's true though.

Owen Gray said...

As I recall, Dana, Broadbent expressed his reservations about Mulcair. Unfortunately, he lost the argument.

That's what's truly sad. Just as Joe Clark warned us about Harper, Broadbent warned us about Mulcair.

Owen Gray said...

No, Dana. I had to go out to an 80th birthday party. You may be right.

Scotian said...


My, you HAVE become rather bleak in your political outlook haven't you. Not that I disagree all that much with what you are saying of course, especially about the NDP, since I was another one of those voices making the same points back at the beginning of the reign of Jack "Harper's BFF" Layton and the silence from within the NDP about the radical shift in their party direction he was taking without ever getting any approval/ratification for it from the party convention as he should have if he were actually going to follow the rules and precedents within the NDP of the time. But no, these days we have the "new" NDP which has shown itself to be in truth and reality the very portrait of all they portrayed the Liberals as truly being for decades without any of the Liberals redeeming qualities (of which they do have a few besides their massive faults, one of which was they did at least some of the time create legislation which moved Canada into a more progressive direction, after all it is hard to explain how Canada prior to Harper had become such a progressive nation in values and policies over the decades of Liberal governance without accrediting the Libs for at least some of it). A mirror image of the Harper CPC is what the "new" NDP is turning into more and more in thought and deed, and that is almost as sickening to watch happen as was watching the betrayal of the PCPC and the creation in treachery and deceit of the Harper CPC. At least we heard old time PCPC voices decrying the move, we have not seen the same from within the NDP alas.

I also think that you are correct Dana in why the old true Dippers have stayed silent, because they know they will be treated harshly for daring to comment on anything that dares tarnish Saint Jack's great accomplishment of winning the battle to lose the war, aka becoming the first NDP Official Opposition status (by giving Harper his first majority, but that's a price Canada should pay for the advancement of the NDP, right...?). I've always been struck by the silence of the old core Dippers since the rise of Layton unless they were speaking in favour of Layton, that was so unlike the NDP I have grown up with, and was an early signal of the reality behind the scenes to my eyes of just how far the NDP was turning away from what it once had been.

Yet despite all of this Dana, despite all my own anger, rage, disappointment and frustration I find I cannot give into the bleak sense of despair I see from you, despite everything I still have hope. Fragile hope I will admit, but it is still there nonetheless. I took my break from politics and political blogging after Harper won in 2011 so as to not totally burn out and fall into that despair so that when the next election rolled around I could still fight back (well that and I was seriously worried about how watching Harper "governed" with a majority would spike my blood pressure and risk further serious health concerns to my already fragile health status).

We live in a world at a time of very poor choices, but I also believe that we are in the period where the darkness is strongest and yet about to be burned by fresh light over the next quarter century. For reasons far too lengthy to write about here I've always seen this decade as the bleakest one where the corrupt o;d power structure comes out the strongest in, but I also believe that the more they come into the open like this the more that ultimately proves their weakening, because these types of power holders have always worked best from the shadows, the more they are exposed the more they are seen, and in the end historically that tends to be their downfall, and for that alone I can still have hope despite all we have seen.

Try to remember that the chiche "it is always darkest before the dawn" is such because it does have truth within it, and these times are indeed dark, yet darness never lasts forever.

Owen Gray said...

Given the choices we have, it's easy to become cynical, Scotian. Dana's dark mood is quite understandable.

But, if there is to be a future, we have to believe that it will be better than the present.

Scotian said...

Owen Gray:

Oh, I understand where Dana is coming from, we are old blogging companions from over a decade back on American political blogs as well as here in the Canadian blogosphere. And it isn't like I don't understand and feel much the same things as he does either, nor have missed seeing the same things he does, but somehow I just can't bring myself to surrender that last bit of hope within myself. If nothing else it for me is the last surrender to the bastards destroying my world and I refuse to quit fighting to that extent, even when it feels like I am only smashing my head to pieces against that proverbial brick wall.

It's just I've noticed Dana has gotten even by his standards quite bleak as of late, and I guess I couldn't just sit by and not try to offer a little encouragement during this time of endarkenment (I so wish I had coined that word, it is so nice, but the only word I ever coined was trolletariat and it never really caught on). I really do think that what we are seeing is actually the weakening of the great industrial age shadow powers, because to defend their power they are having to come out more and more into the open, and as I said that weakens them by exposing them, when they are strongest is when they are in the shadows and pull that old trick about making most people not believe they really exist. Not that this makes watching what we have been seeing any easier of course, but I also think that as this is a second gilded age, just like after the first one followed the great reforms that did so much to advance human society, rights, and dignity from the Great Depression we are going to see the same happen again. Not without a lot of pain, sweat, tears, and I fear blood, but I truly do not think the forces of darkness' grip on us is anywhere near as strong as it looks/feels at the moment.

I know, ever the optimist, but I refuse to believe that humanity managed to stave off burning ourselves up in nuclear holocaust for a half century only to be swallowed up by this evil darkness. As strong as our tendency of self destruction tends to be we yet still manage at the very last moment to pull back from the abyss after taking a long look into it and come back stronger for it. The question I always have is though how long can we dance that razor's/sword's edge before finally falling down and being sliced apart by it, but until it happens I am not going to stop believing that despite everything we can in the end make for a better future.

As I said a foolish dreamer of an optimist...*chuckle*

Owen Gray said...

It's good to hear from someone who remains an optimist in these dark times, Scotian.

I sincerely hope you're right. We may be living through the death pangs of the Industrial Age.

But we need to remember we are at at a defining moment. It's not just the fate of the country which is at stake. It's the fate of the planet.

Scotian said...

Owen Gray:

It was the fate of the planet when we were facing total nuclear war too, don't forget, so it is not like we haven't seen that threat before. Although to be brutally accurate it is not the fate of the planet so much as it is the fate of many species including our own to be able to survive that is at stake, the planet will remain, probably experience another great die off, and over the millions of years evolve more and more species adapted to the environment that prevails/remains. It just won't be human life. It is not like the planet has not recovered from other extinction events, indeed arguably it is the one 65 million years ago with the dinosaurs that directly laid the groundwork for our evolution to the top of the food chain.

Sorry, but the phrasing "fate of the planet" kind of bothers me, because there are very few things that would truly destroy this planet beyond the ability to sustain life at all, and it is for that level event that I feel "fate of the planet" fits. Fate of the human race and many other species though, on that got no problems with, that fits without question. I certainly don't want to see the extinction of our species, indeed far from it, but I recognize that this is what we are truly talking about when we say the fate of the planet is at stake.

I do agree though it is far more than the fate of the country, indeed any country at stake, but for the moment it is this country that I am in the position of trying to have an impact on so there is where I will focus my efforts, as I would hope and expect others in other countries would do in theirs. However, the forces we are up against are also transnational, which means it is going to be a hard row to hoe.

Personally, I've always thought the biggest mistake was the legal notion that corporations have the rights of citizenship but not the same burdens/responsibilities, the business with GM knowingly selling cars with a lethal fault in them and the only penalty available once this is exposed is fines underscores this. If a person/individual did the same thing they would be imprisoned for life or executed depending o the jurisdiction. Another thing I think is a serious issue comes from the focus on people as taxpayers, as opposed to citizens, citizenship is a word that carries both rights and responsibilities within the word to the greater collective group, while taxpayer carries mainly a sense of resentment and burden, alienating people from the collective whole. These two things I see as two of the greater evils we created for ourselves in this world and that I am hopeful will turn around over the next few decades as the issues with both become increasingly obvious to people.

Anyways, thanks for the cheer of support, but really being optimistic is nothing more than being alive and still willing to believe there is a future worth striving for, and really without such a belief why would one want to continue living? That's how it is for me anyway.

Owen Gray said...

It's interesting, Scotian, that politicians from Rob Ford to Tony Clement have taken to referring to citizens as "taxpayers."

That phrase relieves citizens of any responsibility for the nation or the species.

Their only responsibility is to their own wallets.

Scotian said...

Owen Gray:

Yes, I know, I watched the shift happen throughout my life, and it is one of the things which has seriously bothered me, as I recognize the importance of semantic shifts in language at a very deep level. It is why I cited it as one of the major concerns I see, because the semantic load shift between citizen and taxpayer is not inconsequential, far from it, and it enables the removal of political power from the individual to the collective/powerful. I really do believe that this shift, along with the point I made about corporate citizenship without the drawbacks of such being two of the largest problem sources for why the country has been going to hell the past few decades, especially the last one.

The shift also allows for the distinction/divider to be made between all citizens and those that are able to contribute to the tax base, another way of diminishing the equality of citizenship which in turn helps to further create in the minds of people a class system, whether it is openly thought of as such or not. By creating such stratification it weakens the bonds that unite a citizenry within a society, making it easier to divide and conquer. I could probably write multiple comments just expanding on all the various impacts shifting from citizen to taxpayer as a way of referring to people has had in the political world, but I think my basic point has been made.

I've always paid a lot of attention to language and the way it shifts and the implications that such shifts can create. This one is one I find particularly worrisome because of how easily it came about and how little the negative implications were noticed by people all across the political spectrum. I've often thought this is one of the up sides of growing up the outsider and observer, I don't tend to take for granted much most people do, of course the downside is I have some rather nasty blind spots on things most people already get at the near instinctive level. As in everything else there are always tradeoffs...LOL.

Owen Gray said...

As Orwell said, Scotian, the first step in political regeneration is to reclaim your language.