The Globe was right … there’s no leader to back
If you follow Canadian news, you probably heard about the bizarre Globe and Mail editorial that endorsed the Conservatives but not Stephen Harper—or as one tweeter put it, “I endorse The News, but not Huey Lewis #OtherGlobeEndorsements.”
There is a lot wrong with the article. It assumes that Harper and the Conservatives are separable entities. Harper may be an unpleasant politician, but he’s not a Ford, Huckabee or Trump. He doesn’t say particularly outlandish things—he’s just a bland, run-of-the-mill white Conservative who believes in big government when it comes to foreign policy and “Canadian Culture” and small government when it comes to helping the poor and marginalized. Maybe there’s a member or two of his party that self-presents as a bit more politically correct than he does, but there is no reason to think his party would look much different without him.
The endorsement also broadly accepts the premise that Conservatives are good for “the economy.” This position rings hollow, as the article provides no metric to clarify what that means. On a larger scale, this claim gives into two key elements of right-wing propaganda. Firstly, it treats “the economy” as a single issue, ignoring that “the economy” is in fact a collection of smaller issues and that a good overall economy may be good for some social stratas but not others. Secondly, by speaking vaguely about economic management, the article silently accepts that fiscal conservatism is equal to sound fiscal policy. In fact, as the NDP (ineffectively) pointed out in this election, one can balance budgets through means other than austerity.
Where I disagree with the Globe’s critics, however, is in their focus on the Globe’s endorsing an outcome that one cannot directly vote for. As a socialist, I have strong political differences with Globe Editor-in-Chief David Walmsley, but I also can’t bring myself to endorse any candidate from the three major pro-capitalist parties without substantial reservations.
So I won’t endorse a party—I’ll endorse a result, a result that is far more likely than the one Walmsley wants. On October 19 I want a Canada with a minority government. Minority governments don’t just to have to sell enough victories to get re-elected once every four years, they have to constantly be prepared to avert elections. That means engaging enough with social movements to prevent other parties from opportunistically doing so in preparation for a non-confidence vote.
Part of me wants an NDP minority. For three straight elections the Liberal Party of Canada has faced an existential crisis, and I’d like that crisis to continue. Come next election season, I don’t want to hear the same old rhetoric about which mediocre centre-left party has more principles and which one should be strategically voted for. Rather, I’d like to see the somewhat-phonier of these two parties (i.e., the one without a strong connection to unions, the Liberals) be vanquished.
On the other hand, I think the current NDP needs to be punished for its failure to offer a meaningful alternative to the Liberals. While on some specific issues, like Bill C-51, childcare and the Trans Pacific Pipeline, the NDP has maintained its position to the Liberals’ left, their overall presentation focuses on making their party seem more “responsible,” not more progressive, than the Liberals.
I’d thus like to see an NDP minority where Mulcair loses his seat or a Liberal minority with the NDP in second place. In either instance, I hope for the NDP to see a duplication of the recent U.K. Labor leadership race that saw three centrist leadership candidates defeated by the more radical Jeremy Corbyn. While, as Corbyn is already finding, a leader alone can’t change a broken party, it would be nice to see more radical and inspiring rhetoric enter Canadian public discourse.
To add some final details to my wish list, I’d like to see the Greens win some new seats. While I don’t fully support them, I’d like to see Elizabeth May and her party rewarded for making a clear move to the left on non-Green issues with her support, for instance, of free university education. Furthermore, while it was perhaps not her finest hour for other reasons, I applaud the conviction May showed when she called out Canada’s handling of the Omar Khadr case.
I’d like to see the Bloc kept alive, but I don’t want them to rise to prominence again either. The Bloc’s current politic seems to combine the anti-austerity nationalism seen in Scotland with the Islamophobia of the provincial Parti Québécois. Hopefully, in the next few years the Bloc’s left wing will win out, allowing Québec nationalism to emulate the potent anti-austerity, anti-war (and multi-cultural) movement that has emerged in Scotland.
Finally, I’d like to see more votes go to small parties, particularly the Communists (okay, and maybe NOT the Christian Heritage Party). If I’m ever going to endorse a party and not a result, I need more viable electoral options, and that’s only going to come about if popular perception about which ideologies are politically acceptable changes.
Maybe this endorsement is even less helpful than the Globe’s in telling you how to vote. What I hope it will do is change the way you think about elections. What’s the point of critical thinking and activism if when it comes to be the time to choose a government, we can only think in terms of the narrow boxes our system presents us with? That’s why I endorse stopping Harper, but won’t back Trudeau or Mulcair #OtherGlobeEndorsements.