By Barry Weisleder
To quote Yogi Berra, “It’s deja-vu all over again.”
The 2021 federal election, which Justin Trudeau called just to gain a majority of seats, looks much like the 2019 election result. The same parties are in place, each with nearly the same number of MPs as before.* But something has changed. All the leaders are skating on thin ice. One has resigned; another will soon be forced to do so. And Justin Trudeau is considerably weakened as Prime Minister. With zero appetite for another election, the Liberal minority government will have to lean heavily on the labour-based New Democratic Party to pass legislation. That means working class organizations have a great opportunity to extract concessions from the ruling class.
The reason that big business hates minority government rule is precisely that: it hates to concede anything to labour and the working class. That’s why Trudeau abandoned proportional representation in 2015. Bay Street doesn’t want PR, and Justin prefers not to share power, even if it is with a bunch of pro-capitalist labour fakers. So, that’s the first point – the prospect of a labour offensive to make gains. The offensive should start with childcare, pharma care, long term care, Indigenous restitution, green energy, social housing and a break with imperialism, the arms industry and military intervention.
The second point is leadership, that is, the need for a radical change of leadership if labour is to go forward. So, what went wrong, Jagmeet? How is it that, with more than twice the election budget ($24 million), and a collapsing Green Party, and polls showing Singh is the most-liked political leader, the NDP gained only one per cent more and just one extra seat in this election? Singh blames the low turnout, and the lack of polling stations at universities, during a snap election, in the midst of a pandemic. It’s true. Overall, voter turnout was 59 per cent – some eight per cent lower than in 2019 and the lowest it’s been since 2008. But another big factor was at work: There was nothing to inspire a large turnout. No major party offered an alternative to a system in crisis.
Across Canada, up to mid-September, 1.6 million fell ill with COVID-19 and 27,500 died. Thousands perished at for-profit Long Term Care sites. Vaccines, very slow to be administered, had to be imported because a past Tory government sold the publicly owned Connaught Labs, and no domestic pharmaceutical firm produces the needed vaccines. The fourth wave of COVID is now surging continentally and globally.
Bourgeois media coverage of the election campaign focused on the major party leaders. Personality politics always detract from issues, and completely obscure the context of a failed system. Half of North America was on fire. Floods and flames ravaged Europe and other continents. Workers in their millions face rising inflation, curtailed benefits and the threat of homelessness.
The situation cries out for systemic solutions. Sadly, all the major parties are committed to the preservation of capitalism. All favour a carbon tax on consumers, rather than expropriation and re-tooling of the big producers, especially Big Oil and Gas. All would tinker with assistance to home buyers, rather than take control of land development and the construction industry to build millions of homes, and to seize empty units for those in desperate need. Some decry big bank and telecom super-profits, but none demand ‘Expropriate the expropriators!’ All of them talk about reconciliation with Indigenous people, pledge a pittance to discover more unmarked graves, but stop short of demanding the churches pay for their crimes, much less insist on seizing the assets of giant resource corporations so that First Nations can gain clean water, quality healthcare and education, and exercise self-determination.
The result is a biosphere teetering on the brink of disaster. Pre-existing austerity conditions are worsened by unemployment, underemployment, and precarious part-time work at minimum wage and no benefits. Public medicare is debilitated by long wait times, no dental care, no vision care, no pharma care, no emotional and mental health care. Indigenous Canadians are subjected to shameful levels of unemployment, poor housing, healthcare, addiction support, and child support. Meanwhile, giant corporations plunder their resources and operate roads and pipelines through their lands, with heavily armed police at the ready. Cuts to benefits paid to the most vulnerable and victimized people under Canadian capitalism are the norm.
In Canada, the Conservatives ape the U.S. Republicans, trying to limit women’s reproductive rights, tolerating racist and Islamophobic attacks on immigration, and brazen attacks on workers rights, jobs, wages and benefits, even the right to organize a union. The Tories openly encourage and subsidize carbon polluters. They pledged to punish pipeline protesters more severely. When Erin O’Toole said he would balance the budget, we know on whose backs he would do it. While the racist Peoples Party of Canada won no seats, it increased its vote to 6 per cent by becoming the voice of the anti-vax minority.
Liberals profess to be more progressive than the Tories. But the Liberal Party ordered the postal workers back to work, broke their strike in November 2018, broke the strike of the Montreal dock workers in May 2021, spent $4.5 billion of workers’ tax money to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline, and shipped armoured vehicles to the disgusting Saudi regime to be used to commit genocide in Yemen and to repress the Saudi people. The Liberal Prime Minister was caught promoting “deferred prosecution” for corrupt SNC-Lavalin. He spent over $100 billion in the form of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, much of it going into the pockets of wealthy business owners. His appointment of Inuk leader Mary Simon as Canada’s 30th Governor General changed nothing. Most of the 94 Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls-to-action remain ignored by Ottawa.
Trudeau got the House of Commons to approve a resolution to prop up Israeli apartheid against the oppressed Palestinian people by falsely conflating criticism of the state of Israel with anti-Semitism. His then-Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland played a leading role in the failed effort to install, by force, a puppet of the United States as president of Venezuela. The illegal and brutal sanctions imposed on the Venezuelan people caused great hardship and 40,000 deaths up to 2020. Now Lima has quit the Lima Group. And the U.S. is defeated and retreated from Afghanistan.
On a per capita basis, Canada is tied with the United States for third-worst polluter in the world, behind only Saudi Arabia and Australia.
Canadian imperialism is heavily concentrated in mining, including the massive tar sands in Alberta. Canadian mine owners like Barrick Gold, Suncor, PotashCorp, Gold Corp, Teck Resources, and Cameco exploit resources for the sole benefit of their wealthy shareholders, subsidized heavily by our tax dollars, and leaving heavy pollution behind them. They operate all over the third world, reaping huge profits by paying low wages, denying basic rights and safety to the workers, violating the rights of indigenous peoples everywhere and using mercenaries to beat and even kill small miners who were trying to eke out an existence with hand held tools. Justin Trudeau has done nothing but support the Canadian corporate mining giants.
The Green Party program is entirely within the framework of the capitalist system. Founded by prominent former Tories and Liberals, the Green Party is a diversion for the millions of Canadians awakening to the unfolding climate catastrophe. Destructive climate change cannot be uprooted by the market. Capitalism generates profit by any means necessary. The greatest causes of carbon pollution, the burning of fossil fuel and the waging of wars to plunder resources, are core elements of capitalism. By accepting the horrific exigencies of private enterprise, the Green Party renders itself irrelevant. Its erstwhile Leader, Annamie Paul, is anti-choice, pro-big business, and pro-NATO. She surrounded her autocratic self with arch-Zionist ‘advisers’ who falsely accused two of her MPs of being anti-Semitic. Crisis ensued, crippling the Greens. Its vote sank from 6 to 2 per cent, with Ms. Paul running a distant fourth in Toronto Centre. She resigned on September 27. As for the Green win in Kitchener, it was a fluke, resulting from the late removal of the local Liberal candidate.
The NDP, a party based on working class institutions, with trade unions represented directly at NDP conventions, is the only mass working class party. For this reason, socialists give the NDP critical support in elections.
At the same time, we oppose its right wing, pro-capitalist, undemocratic leadership. More undemocratic than ever, the NDP brass increasingly hand-picks candidates without holding a local nomination meeting, often to exclude socialist contenders, and spends campaign money mostly on the Leader’s tour and tv ads. The Leader failed to draw the lessons of Canadian imperialist crimes in Afghanistan, Libya and Haiti. He is loyal to NATO, silent on Venezuela, condones the Zionist Apartheid state, and seeks a more rabidly anti-China policy.
Jagmeet Singh spars with Justin Trudeau over housing prices, but has no effective plan to spur housing supply. Singh’s demand for a 1 per cent tax on the super-rich wouldn’t fund national childcare, let alone generate mass social housing, free post-secondary education, or an all-service medicare system, including free medical drugs. He would cut subsidies to the oil industry, but not the military budget. Singh’s vain attempt to turn his personal ‘likeability’ into votes clearly didn’t work. In any case, a popularity contest, such as the one Trudeau won six years ago, provides no basis for meaningful change. Sadly, the NDP leadership is dogmatically devoted to petty reform of a system in its death throes. Sad also is the fact that some workers, misled by labour leaders like the president of Unifor, are still fooled by the old siren song that urges a vote for the Liberals in order to stop the Tories. Both the Liberal and the Conservative parties are tools of Bay Street, equally culpable for leading Canada and the world to more wars, greater inequality and environmental disaster.
We propose a socialist program to mobilize working people and our natural allies in a series of mass struggles aimed at challenging the capitalist system and ultimately overthrowing the polluters, exploiters and oppressors and their racist, sexist system in favour of a Workers’ Government. A Workers’ Government could expropriate the great resources and productive apparatus now owned privately by a few wealthy families.
A Workers’ Government, in alliance with workers worldwide, could build a new state, a workers’ state with a socially owned and democratically planned economy. A workers’ state can open the road to socialism. That is our goal. Today there is no mass socialist party that can pose as a mass alternative to the NDP, and it is counter-productive to support tiny reformist, nationalist parties on the Canadian left. So, our transitional slogan remains “Vote NDP and Fight for Socialist Policies”.
Inseparable from this slogan is the effort to build the NDP Socialist Caucus, and to grow the Workers’ Action Movement inside the unions. A class struggle left wing in the unions and in the NDP paves the way to a Workers’ Government. On that journey, we invite you to join us.
* Election results, in terms of seats:
LIB 159. CON 119. BQ 33. NDP 25. GRN 2. PP 0. Other 0.
170 seats, out of 338, is needed for a parliamentary majority.
** Foreign policy: Singh’s demand for a more rabid anti-China stance looks even more ridiculous in the wake of Washington’s decision to end its demand for extradition of Meng Wanzhou. That prompted her release from house arrest in Vancouver, and triggered the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor by Beijing. Sadly, still remaining is the reactionary demand that Ottawa seek membership in the cold war Aukus military alliance.