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During an election year, I find my support for the New Democratic Party(NDP) comes under considerable scrutiny.
In years past, when making my political views known at dinners, parties, or over drinks with friends, people tend to be open to, if not remarkably receptive to my convictions. Expanding healthcare to include universal pharma and dental care feels like a logical next step for a country that prides itself on its public healthcare.
Establishing a peaceful and principled foreign policy makes sense in an increasingly small world, rocked by the fallout from the United States’s blunderous ventures in the Middle East.
A program to help relieve student debt is a visceral issue for my peers, mostly students, and millennials who themselves have been saddled with seemingly insurmountable student debt in the name of education and nebulous future job prospects. Yet once an election year rolls around, I find myself hearing a very different story.
It’s no secret that young people tend to lean progressive, and with good reason. If nothing else, consider naked self-interest: Young people tend to be the lowest earners in society, plagued more often than not either by crushing student debt, or in the case of those without secondary education, laborious, insecure, low-or-minimum wage jobs.
Simply put, it isn’t hard to convince people that mass politics of labour focused on building up living standards, opportunities, and a social safety net have something to offer them.
Yet in so many ways, it seems that a writ of election is accompanied by some magic spell that falls over the land, turning ambition to contentedness, hope to resignation, and youthful defiance to submission. “I know,” I hear them say, “that Justin Trudeau declares his support for better climate policy out one side of his mouth while approving pipelines out the other.”
“I know Trudeau claimed to want to raise taxes on the rich to benefit the rest of Canadians while his 2015 tax law ended up being a net tax cut on the highest earners, but aren’t the Conservatives worse?”
This question is the product of a false dichotomy that voters cling to: you are either Liberal or Conservative. I see where they’re coming from. It’s hard not to. If the Liberals are the lesser of two evils, are they not, then, the obvious choice for someone simply seeking to do the most good?
I maintain that no, they are not, and that moreover, this line of thought is fundamentally flawed.
Opting for the lesser of two evils is quite reasonable, so long as the choice is only being made once. This choice, however, is not being made once. This choice is being made many times, most likely once every four years for the rest of our lives, and the outcome of this election can inform decisions in the next.
The fact is, the Liberals expect that they can cow the people of this country who have the audacity to demand a safer, happier, more egalitarian society into submission by maintaining the specter of a Conservative government.
They will convince people that the stakes of each election are higher than the last, and as they do so, they will demand just another inch of compromise. Just one more concession to big business instead of working people. One more deal with human-rights-violating nations abroad instead of the victimized people Canada can and should stand up for.
The two parties that have dominated politics in this country for one hundred and fifty-two years will become more indistinguishable than they already are, and we’ll all be worse off for it; we’ve all been worse off for it.
I don’t blame people for being preoccupied with defeating the Conservatives. I want that too.
That’s why I believe in building a popular movement based on real, tangible policy that makes peoples’ lives measurably better. Comparing the platforms of both status-quo parties, we see the Liberals, in page 14 of their official platform, declaring their intention to “take the critical next steps to implement national universal pharmacare.”
This sounds nice, but upon inspection, it leaves questions unanswered; what are these next steps?
How many steps are there? How long will Canadians be without universal coverage before the program is implemented? Compare this to the NDP, who commit unambiguously to “[the creation of] a national pharmacare program that provides universal, public, comprehensive coverage to everyone in Canada.” Here, there are no vague “steps” that must be taken, just an explicit commitment to real policy.
Regarding the transition to a greener economy, the Liberals promise a confusing patchwork of vague commitments to developing renewable industries, without a mention of ongoing subsidies for the oil industry. In contrast, the NDP flatly declares their intention to end subsidies for fossil fuel industries, as well as support for renewable industries and the creation of a carbon market.
Now, I know the response to this. “What does better, simpler, more effective policy mean if you’ve never formed government?” The answer is that it means quite a lot. In addition to representing and working with governments at the provincial level, universal healthcare was established in this country directly thanks to the NDP. Additionally, policies like unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, and civil rights legislation can trace their origins to the NDP’s forerunner, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, who forced the hand of a reluctant Liberal Party through their control of the balance of power.
These achievements are important to a lot of people, and none of them would have been realized without the NDP having a presence in Ottawa, through good times and bad. The Liberals and Conservatives would be very happy if that presence were gone, or were even to falter once.
So, is it possible that a strategic vote by the supporters of the NDP could prevent a less than ideal government? Sure. Is that worth risking the destruction of a principled third party that works to give ordinary Canadians a voice in Ottawa?
Not at all. On October 21st, I’ll be voting NDP.
READ MORE ABOUT EACH PARTY
Series: As a part of our 2019 election coverage we have reached out to supporters of every party and asked why they plan to vote the way they do.
Throughout the election, we will be releasing these views.