Friday, April 15, 2016

A Different Crowd

Some commentators view what happened in Edmonton last weekend as an exercise in self destruction. Not so, writes Murray Dobbin. The membership of the NDP has sent a clear message. Principle is more important than political opportunism:

The NDP has paid a staggering price for the politics of its last two leaders. Jack Layton was more in tune with the social democratic roots of the party than Mulcair, but he launched the shift to a strategy aimed at achieving power. The inevitable result was to water down social democratic principles and move the party to the centre.

It also led to political opportunism. Instead of continuing to force Paul Martin's minority Liberal government to pass progressive legislation by threatening to withhold support, Layton defeated the Liberals in 2005, believing the resulting election would be the next step toward power. Instead it resulted in the election of the most destructive, right-wing government the country has known.

The party under Layton made Stephen Harper prime minister. And Dobbin lays the blame at the feet of  the two public relations gurus into whose hands the party placed its future -- Brian Topp and Brad Lavigne. Brian Topp founded his own public relations firm with two other partners:

But these partners were not NDPers -- one was Ken Boessenkool, a former aide to Stephen Harper and later chief of staff for Liberal Premier Christy Clark until he was forced to resign for inappropriate behaviour. (The other partner, Don Guy, was a Liberal.)

Brad Lavigne was a vice-president of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, one of the world's largest public relations firms and a symbol of the darkest aspects of corporate and political damage control and manipulation of public opinion. It's perhaps most infamous for its work creating public support in the U.S. for the first Gulf War. In 1990, Hill+Knowlton helped arrange testimony at the U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus by a "witness" (actually the Kuwaiti ambassador's daughter) who claimed she saw "Iraqi soldiers take babies out of incubators in a Kuwaiti hospital, take the incubators, and leave the babies to die." Her testimony was later found to be unsubstantiated.

You can tell a lot about a political party by the company it keeps. The NDP, writes Dobbin, has decided to join a different crowd.



Lorne said...

And the same is true, of course, with Ontario's NDP, Owen. The cynical opportunism that prompted leader Andrea Horwath to trigger an election was precisely the reason I could not vote for her party the last time out.

The Mound of Sound said...

They've wandered pretty far out into the desert, Owen, and, even if they do decide to turn back, it's going to take a while. Under Layton/Mulcair the NDP set labour adrift in order to court "middle class" voters. They didn't turn on labour but simply took it for granted. When Harper used his pre-emptive back-to-work cudgel on one union after another the NDP did not rally in outrage to the workers' defence. It was hardly surprising that major union leaders turned on Mulcair in Edmonton.

The Left has been neglected, undefended for too long. Perhaps the path to forming government isn't there as Layton/Mulcair concluded. Then again, perhaps both of them were wrong in light of the rapid change that is overtaking the world, Canada included.

Mulcair allowed Trudeau to move to the vacated Left and it sent the NDP from first place to the cellar and quite deservedly. However Trudeau has wasted no time in clearing an opening for the NDP to reclaim that territory. Everything - the Saudi arms deal, pipelines, the BDS resolution, the TPP - disqualifies the LPC from occupying traditional NDP turf.

The NDP has to find the courage to say "we were wrong, we're back where we belong, let's get on with it." They have to find leadership, experienced but younger, and unsullied by the Layton/Mulcair foray to the Centre. There's a lot at stake for the country but there's a lot at stake for the New Dems also. If they languish, wallow they could be finished as a political force.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Lorne. The party's choice of leaders -- and campaign directors -- has led them to the place they find themselves in.

Owen Gray said...

The Liberals have traditionally campaigned from the Left and governed from the Right, Mound. That dichotomy ensured a place for the NDP. When the Dippers claimed they would govern from the Right, Canadians concluded they had two parties who already did things that way. They didn't need a third.

ron wilton said...

For the benefit of non BC readers it should be known that the BC 'Liberal' party is in no way what you might think or expect to be 'Liberal' in any way, shape or form.

The BC 'Liberal' party is festooned with harper conservatives and like all harper conservatives has little or no regard for truth, honesty or respect for the public will.

Notable BC 'Liberals' include harper's minister without a ministry Gwyn Morgan and special advisor to the premier along with the geographically challenged Stockwell Day and former harper operatives Dimitri Soudas, Dimitri Pantazopoulos, Ken Boessenkool, Sara MacIntyre and on and on and on it goes.

Owen Gray said...

Sounds like the party is in clear violation of the principle of Truth in Advertising, ron.