Can someone help me understand the overweening reliance on deficit/balanced budget explanations for the dramatic fall of the NDP and rise of the Liberal Party?
Did voters really turn away from the NDP because it promised to balance the budget three years earlier than the Liberals?
This whole deficit thing has me scratching my head and wondering in bewilderment: If voters were looking for a deficit budget per se, how did they miss the six straight deficit budgets—going on seven– of the Conservative government?
Sagacious commentators whose insights have intrigued me over the years, are, today, nonchalantly running the inference that deficit budget is the acid test for progressive policy(??) Again, that would leave one with the oxymoronic association of the word “progressive” with the Harper government that so eagerly stripped “progressive”—in word and deed– from Progressive Conservative at the earliest opportunity and immediately began running significant deficits.
Granted there seems to be some—note the word “some”– justification for associating balanced budget with “austerity” budget where those who contribute least to a financial crisis end up paying the greatest toll for the associated draconian budget cuts. But slashing the incomes of those who can least afford it to subsidize the iniquitous salaries of CEOs, economic vandalism of the big banks and pay outs to those wallowing in the luxury of unearned income is not inexorably about a deficit/balanced budget. Whether a cargo plane delivers relief supplies to a drought stricken people or drops bombs on a hospital is not about the inherent character of the plane, it is about the owners of the plane and the tasks they assign. A balanced or deficit budget can, like a cargo plane, deliver whatever goods and services we load onto it: austerity is only the most deceptive and vicious consignment.
While Conservatives (Canadian and otherwise) talk about balanced budgets like scriptural dictation, they almost never deliver. Ronald Regan added more to the debt (accumulated deficits) than all the presidents before—combined. Conservatives don’t want to balance the books, they want to give away the accumulated social good to the 1% and—happy occasion for them—debt, then, becomes the pretext for dismantling the social good which has for so long represented the ingrained and underlining meaning of democracy.
I realize I am at odds with the bulk of opinion on this much trumpeted inference: NDP=balanced budget; Liberal =deficit budget for at least 3 years; Result: Majority Liberal government/NDP sent to the bleachers. But, as best I can figure, it wasn’t the state of balance in budgeting that convinced voters, it was the fact that the Liberals sold Canadians on a vision of a renewed Canada and they fit everything they announced into this sense of a renewed Canada. Whether it was renewing the infrastructure that had been abandoned by the Conservatives to fund tax subsidies to the wealthiest few, or electoral reform or the return of caring about a climate we can survive, or calling off the CRA’s mad dogs that had been set on a long list of charities who seek the better good of society, or remembering that Canada once had the respect of the world for its commitment to finding peaceful solutions to the problems that beset us, or…—everything the Liberals did was part of proclaiming a vision of renewal after a dark and vicious time. It just happened to be copacetic that the Liberal leader was young and was the son of a prime minister who had championed his vision of Canada as a “Just Society”.
There was, in my opinion again, nothing wrong or inherently unmarketable about the announcements of the NDP nor with their leader Tom Mulcair, however the weakest aspect of the NDP platform was just that—it was a series of announcement rather than a vision. It was assumed that the electorate would recognize the vision by assembling the announced pieces. Unfortunately the core NDP message amounted to little more than: vote for us, we’re ready to govern—a point they asserted rather than demonstrated. Rather than a vision about getting our Canada back, NDP television ads focused on Mulcair and his background coming from a large, hard-working family. The balanced budget announcement never got off the ground because it was announced as a goal of itself rather than a part of a vision about how we get from where we are to where we want to be. Few actually believed it. It was too obviously just what the party thought the electorate wanted to hear.
It wasn’t the balance/deficit argument that won/lost the day; it was the Liberals who framed a comprehensive vision— a higher calling—to a peace loving Canada, to a renewed Canada of social justice and peace, to a Canada committed to a healthy environment, to compassion—between ourselves and for others– that brought Canadians out in record numbers to vote for a vision they shared and believed in. Mulcair was left in the field shouting out that he was ready to govern.
I will come back to this theme in future posts because the idea of putting together an over story, a “frame” about the greater vision of what our country/province/municipalities/world should be like is the point I see the NDP floundering on over and over–federally and across the provinces. They, who once championed the idea of a greater story about the way it should be, have become so lost in chasing after a few more middle of the road votes that they have lost the ability to stand up and talk about who we are and want to become and instead make petty announcements about platform details like a balanced budget that don’t inspire and clearly didn’t win votes.
Can you tell me what the core NDP vision is? How is their vision different from the story told by the other parties?