By Trey Shaughnessy
Published March 09, 2009
On paper, Andrea Horvath's win in the Ontario NDP leadership convention might sound somewhat exciting and it might make Hamiltonians proud that a former Hamilton City Councillor is now the leader of the Ontario NDP.
Most City Councillors have dreams of leaving the bush leagues of politics for a shot in the majors of provincial and federal office. Recall Councillor Sam Merulla seeking the NDP nomination in 2007 for the new provincial riding of Hamilton East - Stoney Creek (he lost to Paul Miller).
I was never a fan of Horwath's style of politics. As a council member, she spoke words but said nothing. It was the usual boilerplate politics, "it's definitely possible that we could consider looking into a realistic solution going forward" - just fill in the blank for the issue.
There was nothing inspirational from an Hamilton NDP convention. It was a missed opportunity to present a new New Democratic Party to the province, one that would no longer be content being the 'third party'.
The policies were the same predictable positions: fighting for organized labour, free daycare for two-income families, the usual environmental rhetoric will no real solution, thrown in with something about scabs, working-class families and evil rich people.
There was nothing substantial about support for non-union workers, real energy solutions, addressing a changing economy, support for one/single working parent families, support for small business, urban concerns, and the fact that the middle-class has been increasingly earning its wages outside of factories.
Will middle-class, white-collar workers be included in Horwath's same old NDP? Or is one not working-class if one doesn't wear earplugs or a hard hat on the job?
Workers' rights are already law. What if they don't want to join a union, will the NDP still protect their rights? Or by "rights" do they mean the right to join a labour union?
Apparently the NDP prefers to cling to an old class war between the proletariat and the bourgeois. It's as if the Party doesn't even try to win elections anymore. Horwath has said that her goal is merely to strive for 20-25 percent of the popular vote.
Attacking Premier Dalton McGuinty's policies and then copying them - albeit with a socialist twist - won't win elections. Last time I checked, McGuinty is already making light rail and transit a priority.
Not having any new inventive strategies for the environment and the changing economy won't win elections either. McGuinty is at least testing new ideas for health care, ideas that might work out for the better.
What about wind-farms, solar panels for all new homes, solar grants for existing homes, protecting the Greenbelt and Places to Grow Act, and transitioning Ontario's manufacturing economy to be modern and more diverse?
Instead of auto bailouts, how about loans for creating a true Ontario environmental automobile, not just supporting US branch plants that are at the mercy of Detroit's decisions? How about restoring Ontario's aerospace industry?
If choosing the same platform every four years is the strategy, they will always be the third party.
The NDP could have chose to reinvent themselves with more relevancy and the creative thinking that is expected from a third party. The right ones will resonate with the electorate; take Obama as an example.
The days of stubborn left-wing versus right-wing, worker versus manager or rich versus poor are over. What we need is a political party that chooses to do the right thing for the province and its citizens and to lead it into a prosperous sustainable future. Not a Party that serves itself by grandstanding on issues to pose as fighters.
Horwath said, "Voters shouldn't expect any dramatic changes from the Hampton years." This is not a new beginning, only a burned-out torch being passed, a torch that could only be expected to smolder for another eight-ish years.
Unfortunately, the trail-blazing, creative roots of the NDP/CCF are lost today in career politicians that strive for mediocrity.
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