March 26 2004
RE: Taking Back Canada - New Progressive Party Launch
First, I should thank you for referring to my recent letter re Cellucci's visit to UWO on your website (Progressive Party.CA) as a "good read" - I do hope you will consider the following equally good, and equally well.
And let me start by saying please don't regard any of what follows as an attack on what you are doing - it certainly is not meant as such, as it sounds like we all have pretty much the same values and desires for the future of Canada and should be working together - I just think that your new initiative is taking place at the worst possible time, and you really ought to reconsider your options.
Let me explain a bit.
First, it is not the idea of a new party I object to - I have not been without similar ideas, nor am I now for that matter - 11 years ago I spent a year helping to organize the National Party under Mel Hurtig's leadership, including running in the election of 93 (not something a writer ought to do!) - for pretty much the same reasons you offer in your statement of principles for your initiative now - the mainstream parties, Libs and whatever name the other branch of the unified Bay St Party chooses to go under, "Conservatives" at the moment, are tweedledee-dum Big Business parties, the NDP not electable, and we need to offer Canadians an alternative, a chance to vote for Canada and things most Canadians believe in. I believed it then, and I believe it now - but I have also learned a lot in the last ten years, starting with that campaign, and things are, in my opinion, different now than then, in some significant ways, and we should be pursuing a more practical strategy, one that offers more hope of success, than offering another entry in the "divide and conquer ourselves" political race in Canada.
I think, at this time, we need to temper our idealism with a dose of reality - not a sellout in any way at all, just a recognition of the way things are in this country at this time, combined with the understanding that if we really want to save Canada for the things we believe in, we really do need a real change in government in this country at this time, and we are NOT going to get that change from the Bay St Party under either Martin or Harper, but we MIGHT under Jack Layton. Let's recognize that what we would have ideally, a single, united, centrist Pro-Canada Party, just isn't going to happen this year, and go for second best - the NDP. This is a real option, I think, not a "surface-only" option, i.e. the "anyone-but-Bush" movement in the US, pretending that Kerry would be different in any significant way from the present administration if elected, which he wouldn't.
Here, however, the situation is somewhat different than in the US, and I think we ought to recognize two important things:
1. without significant financial backing (and I'm talking TENS of millions, minimum - we had something like six million with the National Party, I think, with almost a year to work with, and it was woefully short - and there were other major problems as well, that you would undoubtedly encounter if you actually started something), there is simply no way a completely new party is going to get organised and command the kind of exposure that would be necessary to have any chance whatsoever to have a positive impact in an election this year, particularly one that could be called almost any day now (never forgetting that you would NOT get a fair shake from the mainstream media, quite the reverse, you would be frozen out as much as possible), and
2. the NDP, under the leadership of Jack Layton, WOULD be significantly different from the Bay St parties, and just MIGHT be able to take a significant number of seats in the upcoming election, if all of us quit our turf-squabbling, trying to pretend what amount to mostly petty differences are actually significant differences, and got behind them.
You say the NDP are unelectable - but insofar as that may be true, how much of the reason for that is that a whole lot of people who ought to be supporting them as the only viable alternative at this time to the mainstream Tweedledee-dumers are, for whatever reasons, NOT supporting them? - are, indeed, in many ways acting against them? Were all of the people who are opposed to the Bay St parties in Canada to get together behind the NDP and put all of this energy into supporting them - they might well be VERY electable - think about it!
Let me be honest here, so you don't get any wrong ideas of me being a hardcore NDP-er looking for support, which I am not, having never been a member of that or any other party (except the National Party for one year, as mentioned - oh, and I almost forgot! - I joined the PC party a couple of years ago to vote for David Orchard one time for leader - since lapsed) - for many years (since 1988, actually, when the NDP refused to consider (along with the Libs of course) some kind of strategic voting, thus handing the so-important "free trade" election to the Mulroney Republicans (RIP Dief's Tories!)) I have not been very supportive at all of the NDP, feeling other political options more to my liking, from the National Party as I mentioned, to supporting CAP after that, to ANYONE BUT the Bay St parties - but now, but now - I really think we have to find some way to get rid of the Libs, and NOT have them replaced with the Harper Republicans (I personally will NOT play along with their media-supported farce of calling their party a Canadian "Conservative" party, not with the memory of Diefenbaker still alive in Canada, and many of us are still well aware of the other Great Canadian Conservative, Sir John A, both of whom I have no doubt are shuddering in their graves at what first Mulroney and now these other people are calling a Canadian "Conservative" party).
And that leaves us - the NDP, a well known, national party, with policies that are most definitely NOT Bay St policies, with the organization and support and finances to run a solid, credible federal election campaign - quite a lot of that support has been soft for quite a few years, for various reasons, but I think this year there may be something in the air, something different - Jack Layton sure has a lot of Libs and the Harper gang pretty riled, which is a pretty good sign, and their poll numbers are doing good things - Layton is a strong and charismatic leader, and has a better chance, I think, than anyone else to do some upsetting here (have you noted the paucity of press the NDP have been getting the last few months (moreso than even usual, I think) - especially compared to the HUGE amount they have given and are giving to the "unite the right" movement (starting within days of McKay's "promise" to Orchard NOT to do such a thing!!), and then the "leadership race"? - I think that is very probably related - Canadians (all of us in "the West" now) are very conditioned to be influenced by what we see on the news, "brand-name recognition" etc - and the corporate people are telling the media to give the NDP as little press as possible while pushing Harper, I think, because they are very afraid of them right now....!! - and the LAST thing they want is ANY kind of awakening of the Canadian people to the fact that the NDP are in a very good position to have the voters of Canada turn to them, disgusted with the Libs and the new scandals and corruption now being exposed on a daily basis, and still a long ways away from being ready to go to the far right that Harper et al. represent.... - and an election very close by!!! - and of course, the very people who should be supporting the NDP - who are as close to an electable party "of the people" as we have right now, nationally - at this hour of opportunity now declaring them unelectable and talking about starting new parties or whatever is playing RIGHT into their hands!!!)
And that chance will only get better if those of us who are on the same side of the political line take this opportunity to support Layton and the NDP, rather than going through one more election giving all the voters who are opposed to right-wing Bay St politics in Canada a whole host of options to choose from - which will have two effects -
1. it will divide what vote we do have to a point of non-effectiveness, and
2. many voters who MIGHT be inclined to vote for some kind of solid, Canadian option to the Bay St parties whom they are sick of will look at the various "centrist" options, and figure none of these people have any sort of reasonable chance to get elected, and do as they often do - choose the least objectionable, to them, of the Tweedledee-dumers. It sure would be nice if we here in Canada could start voting for someone we supported!!!! rather than the least of evils, as we have had to do so often the last couple of decades!!
(and I suppose a 3 - don't imagine for a second the Libs and the Harper people, Bay Streeters all, don't just LOVE all these fringe parties draining a few votes here and a few votes there away from Layton right now!, and generally offering anything BUT a solid, united, CENTRIST (let's lose that "left-wing-socialist" label - it just ain't true!) opposition to their right-wing-far-right-wing options for Canadian voters!)
And - we lose. And Canada loses. Again.
I don't know how many "agains" we can take, after 88, 93, 97 and 2000. Time is definitely getting short, with both Martin and Harper preaching ever-closer ties to the US, and all of us only one more "terrorist" action (which, sorry if I sound a bit "conspiracy-theoretical", can (and I suspect will) be arranged if the people in caves in Afghanistan or wherever they hang out these days don't cooperate) close by away from big-time martial law of some sort - at which time "democracy" becomes very, very questionable, and in considerable jeopardy.
What I am saying is, we just don't have the luxury of a bunch of years to get alternative political parties together and running at a credible level - especially when we have one already operating that is pretty much what we need, anyway.
So what I would suggest you all do, is basically what I am doing here and promoting as I can - join together behind the one apparent party operating in Canada, at this time, for this election only, which has a chance to defeat these people. You don't need to join the NDP (I haven't, and don't plan to, and am not in touch with anyone there about what I write here or elsewhere), but for this election, support them, as the only national party with policies that generally support the Canada we want (just ask yourselves- would you rather see Paul Martin, Stephen Harper, or Jack Layton setting policy here?), and the only national party with a realistic chance of making a difference. Think this too - a majority NDP government is not completely out of the question, although you will NEVER hear or read that in the mainstream media - most Canadians are pretty pissed at the Libs right now, for good reason, and most Canadians do NOT support the far-right Republican party of Harper et al. - and what does that leave them?!?!?! - if we ALL - all us non-corporate government people - get behind Layton and the NDP - well, who knows what might happen!!!! hahahahahaaa!!!! Well, don't think I've completely lost it, I know that is a real outside chance, regardless - but it is quite possible that Layton's NDP will take enough seats, especially if we all get behind them and help rather than oppose them, to put the Libs in a position of having to make deals with him to form a minority government, and that in itself could make good things happen - as it did in those halcyon days of the late 60s and early 70s with a solid NDP influence in a Liberal minority government.
Think about it! - that scenario scares the hell out of Bay St - a solid, credible alternative to their right-wing tweedledee-dum Business parties - and at this particular time in our history, we have the opportunity to make that happen - but WE, the small people, have to do it ourselves, as we are going to get no help or encouragement whatsoever from the Canadian mainstream media - but a necessary precursor - probably the main one - to that is to quit fighting among ourselves!!! - I personally LOVE the democracy of the National Party, and the Greens, and CAP, and your new one, and anyone at all - but as long as we have this first-past-the-post electoral system, all we are doing is cutting our own throats by dividing our voices into all of these alternatives. Once we have some form of proportional representation - which Layton promises to do, and I believe him - THEN we can pick which particular branch of the center we want to support, and fine-tuning our policies and what not, and our votes will be counted - but for now, our first and only goal has to be to get SOMEONE into the government who is going to do two main things - put a stop to this ever closer and closer integration plan with the US, and change the electoral system - and we KNOW the Libs or Harper - the Bay St Party boys - are NOT going to do either - but Layton and the NDP are committed to both (whether they would succeed if elected is another story - I would imagine the US to be entirely capable of sending a few troops into Ottawa and effecting a "regime change" in this country to replace a government they didn't like - but we'll leave that discussion for another day, as not being germane to this one).
Well, I fear I am rambling and repeating myself - but I think this is very, very important.
Please - rather than starting another new party and dividing our vote even further, try something different. Talk to the like-minded people around you - Greens, CAPs, whoever. Suggest that (for this election only!) they support the NDP candidate in their riding in order to get rid of the Bay St government - once we do that, I believe the NDP will at least make an honest effort to institute proportional representation, and other changes we need to make our country actually democratic, at which time we can vote for CAP or the Greens or anyone we like, and, with proportional rep, those votes will result in representation - which they will not this year or any other year as long as we are electing people under the FPTP system.
If the Greens or CAP have a particularly strong candidate that you really want to support in your riding, then try to work with the NDP to have that candidate nominated as an NDP candidate, or even ask the NDP to be reasonable in one or a few ridings, and for THEM not to run a candidate opposing the strong alternative candidate, and throw their support behind her or him. If there is a quid-pro-quo that you can point to in other ridings, they might sign on to such a thing in a limited sense - you never know if you don't try.
But what is imperative is that we do NOT split the centrist, pro-Canada vote, which I do believe Jack Layton and the NDPs do represent, as we have done repeatedly over the last 20 years to the benefit of NO-ONE but the Bay St Boys - and let one of the Bay St parties waltz once again into power in Canada, as Canadians either don't vote at all for people they don't like or because they feel it's hopeless, or vote for the Libs to stop Harper, or Harper to stop the Libs, because they have no credible alternative that they can believe in and get together behind.
For if the Bay St Boys win this election, it may well be the end of our Canada - and that is what we ALL are fighting against.
We have a GREAT chance to stop them this year, with the anger of the majority of centrist people in Canada at the Libs, their dislike and distrust of the far-right Harper party, Layton's charismatic leadership, and the availability of the internet to use for campaigning (which may well be much more regulated somehow or other, and thus much less available, 5 years down the road) - perhaps one of those once-in-a generation things that come along sometimes and can change history - if we can get together and make it happen. Let's do it!!