CM – 2021 election: where to go social democracy in Canada?


The current 2021 federal election in Canada has fueled the hopes of social democratic voters and a feeling that the New Democratic Party (NDP), Canada’s eternal third party at the federal level, could make some gains.

The frustration on the COVID-19 policies of the ruling (neo) liberal government of Justin Trudeau and the clumsy false populism of Conservative leader Erin O’Toole have created an opening. On closer inspection, however, it turns out that this NDP is far from what supporters of a social democratic party could expect or want.

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Characteristics of social democracy in the past have been a commitment to the working class and issues of central importance to the working class people – affordable (non-market) housing, universal health care, unemployment and welfare, etc. Capitalism, social democracy has proposed a policy that has met some of the needs of the working class within capitalism.

In recent decades, however, social democracy has moved itself away from these limited obligations and instead adopted a style of leadership more akin to a pitch for neoliberalism with a human face. Balanced budgets, lower taxes for small businesses and tougher negotiations with public sector unions have become the new hallmarks of social democratic governance.

This is certainly true in the Canadian context, both through the provincial NDP governments and in the NDP’s election manifestos -Campaigns of the federal government. While the NDP was never the ruling federal party, it has served as the ruling party in several Canadian provinces and territories.

In assessing the nature of social democracy in Canada, we can look at some key elements of the federal NDP campaign during the current election. And in the face of these questions we could ask ourselves: « What to do with social democracy in Canada? »

A strong indication of the NDP’s orientation away from the working class and towards the petty bourgeoisie is the description of small businesses as the « backbone of the economy ». The latest platform statements and campaign efforts show how deeply this approach is anchored in the party and its political commitment. This goes hand in hand with a language change as the NDP has moved to discuss the “middle class” rather than the working class in its public statements.

The NDP’s platform priorities for small businesses – published on its website – read: “ Small businesses are the engine of job creation in Canada and an integral part of every community across the country. The truth is, mom and pop shops keep our communities going and they need our support now more than ever.

“The problem is – Justin Trudeau is ready to do anything for big corporations, but since the beginning In the pandemic, he has done the bare minimum for small businesses in our communities.

« [NDP Candidate] Jagmeet Singh believes that large businesses that benefit from this pandemic should be asked to pay their fair share so that we can small ones Can support businesses.

There is nothing wrong with small businesses benefiting from the pandemic, workers working in unsafe or unhealthy conditions, and using a wage subsidy program that pays businesses, not workers, with no recruitment or decent conditions mechanisms . The NDP doesn’t even go as far as critics of the pandemic wage subsidy calling for direct payments to workers rather than employers.

Instead, the NDP calls for continued payments to companies, not workers, so that companies can « keep their workforce by doing. » ensure the wage subsidy program continues until the end of the pandemic ”and calls for“ the rent subsidy program and ”business loan program” to continue until the end of the pandemic so that companies “can pay their rent and invest in their businesses”.

The NDP even advocates the multinationalization of small businesses and advocates that public funds be used to advance the interests of Canadian capital worldwide (even if it is small capital for the time being). The NDP Priorities page states:

« To help Canadian small businesses compete on the world stage, a new-democratic government will streamline access to government export services and make it easier to penetrate overseas markets. We will also offer small and medium-sized companies a single point of contact to simplify regulatory processes and support compliance.

In Parliament, the NDP, as the opposition party, has campaigned for lowering taxes on profitable small capital and even the blaming liberal government for overly taxing small capital. Instead of trying to raise taxes on all types of businesses to expand social spending in the context of a pandemic and climate restructuring, the NDP is trying to give small capital an even bigger break than the neoliberal ruling party. As the party puts it:

“In 2015, the New Democrats successfully pressured the government to cut small business taxes from 11% to 9% by 2019. During the elections, all parties promised to comply with these cuts. But the Liberals tacitly broke their promise – and it will cost small businesses in Canada $ 2.2 billion in the next few years. ”

Singh has made it a priority on campaign tours to hold events with small business owners alongside local candidates. While on a campaign freeze in British Columbia (BC), he met with targeted small capital and said, « We’ve struggled to improve support for small businesses, and that made a big difference. The Liberals started with a 10% wage subsidy, which was insufficient to keep the workforce. We’ve talked to small businesses and they said it won’t be enough, we’ve fought hard to get it up to 75%. ”

All of this leads to two false assumptions that show how far the NDP is from everyone basic class analysis or a working class approach is removed. First, of course, small businesses are not the backbone of the economy. Are workers. They produce the value that circulates in the economy. Second, the NDP approach looks like small businesses are not making a profit from workers.

A cornerstone of social democracy, regardless of its limits, is to be a commitment to social housing and move away from market models of housing provision. The NDP has chosen an individualistic housing market model that focuses on home buying. Critics have pointed out that the NDP approach could actually serve to drive up housing and rental costs and benefit landlords.

The NDP’s market measures for buyers include: Doubling the existing tax credit for Homebuyers at $ 1,500; and offers $ 5,000 per year in rental subsidies. Other plans include reintroducing a 30-year term for entry-level home mortgages insured by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation for first-time home buyers.

These measures do nothing to counter the skyrocketing rental costs that have made many Canadian cities unaffordable contribute to increasing homelessness. Instead, they represent a social transfer to landowners and landowners.

Tenants’ organizations have drawn attention to the impact of these policies on the working class. The Vancouver Tenants Union, for example, has argued that the NDP policy proposals amount to putting public money in landlords’ pockets, which in turn could increase pressure on rents and make working-class life even more precarious. especially poorer people.

The organizer of the Vancouver Tenants Union, Mazdak Gharibnavaz, said: “We shouldn’t provide public money for rents that are too high. In the short term, this would basically mean public money subsidizing rents, which shouldn’t be as high as they are, and essentially going into landlords’ pockets … In the long run, we might actually see an impact that this would increase the average total rent . « 

Penny Gurstein, a professor at the University of BC’s School of Community and Regional Planning, shared these concerns, saying the plan » needs to come with some safeguards to ensure that this housing benefit doesn’t just go to landlords.  » « .

Paul Kershaw of Generation Squeeze said, » The moment we allow people to borrow more, you can understand how that can help an individual … And what do you do when you get the price raise a house? They ensure that real estate prices rise around you, which then harms those who follow in your footsteps. « 

An individualistic, market-based approach to housing construction contradicts the supposed social democratic obligations to social and non-market economy (below housing options that would protect the working class from demands for housing gain. That the NDP would concentrate on such policies shows a move away from obligations to socialization and housing as a human good.

Given the number of landlords among the NDP parliamentarians, the emphasis on market models that benefit landlords is on federal – and country level, perhaps not too surprising. A recent research report by the socialist publication Passage found the following numbers of NDP MPs who are landlords: In Ontario, 7 out of 40 MPs who were landlords were NDP MPs (17.5%); in British Columbia it was 5 out of 33 (15.2%); in Alberta it was 9 out of 24 (37.5%); in Saskatchewan it was 2 in 7 (28.6%); Nationwide it was 3 in 24 (12.5%).

Another plan by the NDP platform that would impose a 20% tax on foreign home buyers is actually fueling the flames of xenophobia and anger against non-Canadians. This presents speculation as a « foreign buyer » problem rather than land speculation, investment housing purchases and for-profit home turning involving domestic buyers shouldn’t be too surprising, as she took this route before many elections. This was perhaps most clearly confirmed, both symbolically and practically, when the party made the astounding decision in 2013, in preparation for the 2015 elections, to remove references to socialism from its constitution.

The NDP’s orientation towards a neoliberal Centrism is not a new step. It has been evident in NDP provincial governments since the early 1990s, such as: Bob Rae of Ontario (1990-95); Manitobas Gary Doer (1999-2009); Saskatchewans Roy Romanow (1991-2001); and Mike Harcourt (1991-96) and Glen Clark (1996-99) of BC. More recently it has included anti-ecological and pro-extractive governments like the Rachel Notley administration in Alberta and the current administration of John Horgan in BC.

All of them have reiterated Third Way policies that most with neoliberals like Associated with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President Bill Clinton.

The NDP continues to claim a commitment to social democracy or democratic socialism, although its meaning is less certain as socialism is being removed from its guiding document . His consumption-oriented approach of 2021 could give some idea.

The Green Left uncompromisingly represents the interests of those in Australia and around the world who have no real voice in contemporary capitalism. In the current crisis, the Green Left is needed more than ever.

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