The NDP leadership candidates’ platforms suggest that, in order to appeal to the party’s membership, they need to advocate policies that would not add up to a responsible program of government for Canada.
Even the apparent front-runner, Thomas Mulcair – who is accused by some of his rivals of trying to turn the NDP into a second Liberal Party or, perhaps worse, a Blairite one – proposes to double the maximum benefit under the Canada Pension Plan. Indeed, this doubling of the CPP with little explanation of how to pay for it is a common theme among the candidates. And Mr. Mulcair would try to reopen Canada’s existing international trade agreements, as well as add to the Investment Canada Act, in ways that would favour the interests of labour unions.
Though more phlegmatic in temperament than Mr. Mulcair, Brian Topp, an official of ACTRA, wants the CBC to be “insanely great again” – evidently with the help of a much larger budget. To his credit, however, he does a better job than the other candidates of how he would raise tax revenues for his plans, such as his ambitious programs of pharmacare and nutritious food for schoolchildren.
In the headline of one of her press releases, Peggy Nash, a Toronto MP, has promised an early-childhood-education and care plan that will “pay for itself.” More reasonably, near the end of the release, she explains that increased labour-force participation would yield enough tax revenues to cover the government daycare subsidies.
As for Paul Dewar, the MP for Ottawa Centre, who has emphasized party organization in this campaign, he proposes a system of subsidies for political parties that amounts to a scheme of incentives for nominating more women candidates – which would favour the NDP, historically strong on that point.
Niki Ashton, the MP for Churchill, Man., wants grain to be declared a “strategic asset,” as the basis for the rejection of a foreign takeover of Viterra Inc., under the Investment Canada Act (which in fact contains no strategic-asset concept). And she has proposed a Crown corporation that would make distribute generic drugs, presumably by crowding out or underselling (or possibly nationalizing?) existing Canadian generic-drug firms. Moreover, she advocates support for the Palestinians, in one-sided terms.
A number of the candidates’ proposals are desirable in themselves, but the NDP does not emerge from this campaign as a fiscally responsible Official Opposition – or government-in-waiting.