Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Tom Mulcair could learn a thing or two from former Ontario Premier Bob Rae
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has been many things during this campaign.
He has been Tom the defender of small business who will cut small business taxes. He has been Tom the leader who will balance all budgets come hell or high water, recession or surplus.
Tom the hardworking guy from a family of 10 who put himself through school, which means don’t expect the NDP to do anything about skyrocketing post-secondary tuition rates for our young people.
And, he has been Tom who thinks taxing the very wealthy is a bad idea.
One thing he has not been is Tom the social democratic leader who will stop Canada’s 20-year path down the road of economic neo-liberalism and austerity. The rhetoric from the NDP during this long campaign has of course been deafening and, more often that not, it appears the public is tuning out as the party starts to slip in the polls.
On Monday, Mulcair took the level of debate in this campaign yet one notch lower by taking a swipe at Ontario’s first and, to date, only NDP premier Bob Rae. Did the Federal NDP leader attack Rae for failing to deliver public auto insurance, breaking a collective agreement with public sector unions and instituting “Rae Days”, or for at times isolating himself from both his caucus and party base during his term from 1990-95?
Of course not. Mulcair attacked Bob Rae for having the audacity to run deficits in perhaps the worst recession in post -war Ontario history instead of cutting services and fighting that recession on the backs of working people.
The NDP Leader has taken a lot of heat, and rightly so, from all sides in this campaign ever since he made the ill-advised pledge to balance every single budget in the first term of his party’s government without raising taxes significantly, regardless of the state of economy. And the heat was on once again Monday night during the Munk debates. So, Mulcair chose to take his frustrations out on an all too familiar political punching bag – the short-lived Ontario NDP government!
Now Bob Rae certainly has his critics as well as his defenders. And, some could rightly accuse the former Ontario premier of being somewhat politically misguided at times. For example, Rae may have been wiser to take a quiet academic posting at a university somewhere rather than deciding to come out of political retirement and make a bid for the Liberal Party leadership ten years ago.
However, one thing Rae has never been questioned for is his integrity or commitment to public service – agree or disagree with him. Further, Bob Rae has always tried to conduct himself with a certain degree of decorum in the public arena and refrained from political cheap shots. The same cannot be said of the current NDP Leader and not surprisingly Rae immediately took to Twitter to give Mulcair a good thrashing after the political insult was unleashed.
It actually wasn’t all that long ago that the NDP used to be about doing things – social democratic things. Sure, the party wanted to get elected but it wanted to do so in order to implement social democratic policy.
Unfortunately, it now appears those days are gone for good. Today’s NDP has learned the trick that if you promise next to nothing or no change during an election campaign, then maybe the public will expect very little of the party if it happens to get elected to government. This strategy failed miserably in the recent B.C. and Ontario election campaigns and for the one-term Dexter NDP government in Nova Scotia -- but that hasn’t stopped the federal party from trying it again in this election.
Hence, always stay on the attack against your opponents, misconstrue facts, numbers and history (Tommy Douglas anyone?) and never, ever promise to really do anything – at least anything social democratic anyway. And always remember, no political low blow is too low as long as it may get you some sort of advantage over your opponent.
Did Bob Rae’s Ontario NDP government fail? In many ways, yes it did. However, did Rae try to do what he felt was right during very difficult economic circumstances and did he put in place some social democratic policies during his five years as premier? Yes he did.
The truly unprincipled intentions of Thomas Mulcair and those surrounding him have been on full display during this election campaign. The group of them could learn a thing or two about the right way to do politics from Bob Rae.
Fraser Needham is a freelance journalist living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He has been working and writing in Saskatchewan for the past 15 years. Aside from the Saskatchewan CCF/NDP, he follows Aboriginal issues and politics closely.
See also: Tom Mulcair, Bob Rae and balanced budgets
See also: The NDP's phony “credit card” analogy: a neoliberal conception of the public household
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