By John Orrett
NDP Socialist Caucus Policy Director
As President of Thornhill Federal NDP I was very involved in the latest election, putting up signs and distributing thousands of leaflets for our NDP Candidate Raz Razvi. I have been doing this for years. One day after the election I am now taking down signs. Our candidate received 6.2% of the vote which is about the average result.
During this campaign I had a sense of futility from start to finish and it was not because of Raz Razvi, or knowing that we were not going to gain much given the demographics of Thornhill, which is wealthy.
No, my sense of futility emanated from leader Jagmeet Singh and the central campaign team. For the third campaign since Jack Layton and the breakthrough for the NDP in the 2011 election, the party squandered another opportunity to run a meaningful campaign. Quite frankly, Singh’s message was tepid and uninspiring.
His wealth tax, while a much-needed corollary to Canada’s tax policy was never really explained sufficiently, and it was severely flawed by proposing only a single 1% tax bracket for all Canadians with wealth over $10 million. Surely there is a big difference between household wealth of $10 million and an estate of $500 million, not to mention the 47 billionaires in Canada. Just like an income tax, a wealth tax needs to be progressive to really redistribute wealth in this country. The tax should increase to 2% for wealth over $100 M, and 3% for over $500 M. This is the kind of wealth tax that Bernie Sanders proposed in the U.S. It is very sad that the NDP gets outflanked on fiscal policy by the left wing of the Democratic Party in the U.S.
On foreign policy a golden opportunity was missed. The American and allied forces left Afghanistan in a disastrous state. The NDP should educate Canadians as to how foreign and military policy has been wrong for the twenty years of the Afghanistan debacle. Being allied with the US in NATO has only harmful effects on the world. But the NDP brain trust does not believe in getting out of NATO, nor challenging the US in any significant manner.
The same holds true for the U.S. demand for the extradition of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. The US sanctions against Iran are unilateral and their banking and accounting strictures should have no extra-territoriality. Singh should have called for dropping the extradition case against Meng. That would not only have shown some independence from the US, but is also the best avenue to secure the release of the “two Michaels” imprisoned in China. All other foreign policy is simply cow-towing to the US, and a ridiculous beating of fists against your breast. Futile.
In the English-language televised debate Jagmeet Singh was clearly asked if he would cancel the Trans-Mountain Pipeline and he refused to answer in the affirmative. I’m sorry, this is a litmus test for supporting carbon emission reductions, and he failed miserably. Like the other leaders, he mouths platitudes about climate change and the green economy without putting any meat on the policy bones. The NDP needs to clearly support socialist production of solar panels, particularly in Alberta, and for public electric automobile, truck and train manufacturing. This is just the start of a list of specific policies and economic plans Canada could take outside of world corporatist economics that was simply not included in the NDP campaign.
While Jagmeet Singh supports pharma care for all, the plan is only half-baked. Free universal drugs through a single provider is a big step forward, but bulk-buying pharmaceuticals from Big Pharma is really very much like a subsidy to Big Pharma. The Covid-19 pandemic revealed to Canadians our reliance on vaccines from Big Pharma located outside of Canada. This was the perfect opportunity to offer a plan to build a publicly-owned pharmaceutical industry. Giant drug companies rely on patent protection and refuse to share vital information that would enable the production of medical drugs in poorer nations. Canada to its shame voted against even a temporary lifting of drug patents. The Liberal Government even extended patent protection in trade deals with Europe, the US and Mexico. The NDP leadership has little or nothing to say about this. Billions of dollars of profits and dividends are being siphoned away from public health care in the present international corporatist dispensation, and Canada plays the refrain to this big business overture.
Canada’s long term care homes have the worst record for Covid-19 deaths in the G-7. The for-profit LTC’s were the worst of the worst. Yet Jagmeet Singh announced a policy that would see Federal support for moving to publicly controlled and owned LTC’s but only IN TEN YEARS. When I first heard this, I almost fell off my chair. This is a serious policy failure. Can you imagine if we said we would have vaccines available for all Canadians in ten years? Most uninspiring.
The Liberals did not win this election. They lost the popular vote 32 to 34 per cent to the Conservatives. If we had proportional representation the Governor General would be asking Erin O’Toole to form a government. As for the NDP the slight increase in popular vote and one or two extra seats cannot in any way be considered a positive outcome. It was an opportunity squandered.
Jagmeet Singh should resign along with the disastrous party National Director Anne McGrath and her coterie of “advisors” in the highest positions of the NDP.