So what ought a nonpartisan lefty like myself - or a full on NDP supporter like some of you - to do with this situation? I believe we should take yes for an answer. That is, we should generically1 vote Liberal and maintain the political dynamic that rewards parties when they tilt in directions we like. Indeed, if the swayable NDP voters don't respond to the shift to the left, in the future we shall either get a Conservative government or a Liberal government that shifts to the right as it aims for swayable Conservative voters.
This dynamic might be different if the NDP has a real shot at winning. Sorry, but they simply don't. It will be the Liberals or the Conservatives. However, that doesn't mean the NDP is irrelevant. The whole point of having a third party on the left is to try and steer the actual policy that gets implemented to the left. It isn't the case that the only time a party is relevant is when they form a government and get to directly create policy. When in opposition, the appeal to the electorate of that third party means the incumbent party shifts their policies in the direction of the opposition.
It should be considered a success for the left that the Liberals are proposing an Ontario pension plan (as the NDP has long aimed for). It should be considered a success that they want to make a progressive change to the tax code by increasing taxation on high earners, and that some corporate tax loopholes are being closed. Parties themselves don't mean anything, what happens is the policies that can get implemented by parties. An NDP supporter should not feel they have lost if the Liberals have turned to adopt and implement progressive ideas the NDP couldn't get elected to implement themselves.
During the 2011 Ontario Election, I wrote that it was, in effect, a referendum on the fairly significant green energy plan by the Liberals that was, to their discredit, opposed by the NDP. The kind of third party dynamic occurred only with the Green party instead. Namely, when the Greens won 8% in the 2007 election, this pushed the Liberals to come up with a big green energy plan. The Liberals then won the 2011 election and the Greens plunged to 3%. Some might think this is a failure for the Greens, but it wasn't. They were never going to get elected, but nonetheless managed to make a significant contribution to policy demonstrating the appeal of their position, and it was only when the Liberals adopted portions of their platform - the real success - that they fell electorally.
While the 2011 election may have been a referendum on green policies, this election certainly is not. To the extent that battle lines have been drawn, it is effectively a referendum on McGuinty era scandals that the voters never got to punish the Liberals over. Indeed, a seemingly slightly unprepared NDP appears to be scrambling to define this election on terms that are not just about the scandals. In particular, the reaction to creating an Ontario Pension Plan that was a stalwart of NDP policy is going to be tricky for the NDP, as seen by Horwath's email here:
"Empty promises. For ten years Liberals have ignored challenges like the pension crisis. In fact, three years ago, they voted against an NDP proposal to create an Ontario Pension Plan. Now, they‘re making 70 new promises worth billions of dollars while still promising to completely eliminate the deficit and protect corporate tax cuts.
The Liberal plan isn’t serious or credible. It’s a desperate attempt to get away from years of scandal and waste."
If the NDP demonstrates a reasonable chance of winning, they could be considered. And if they were pushing bold policy issues not adopted by the Liberals they could be supported in the hopes of tilting the political conversation the way the Greens did following 2007 and the NDP did following 2011. But while they have neither a reasonable chance of winning or major left wing policy planks we should try and push, we should vote for the party that has both: the Liberals.
1 I say generically because I typically support the realpolitick of voting based on the specific tactics that optimize our goals in specific ridings. A Liberals vs NDP riding - like my own of Parkdale-Highpark - is very different from a Conservative vs Liberal riding like so many across the province. ↩
Thoughts on this post? Comment below!
Share this post: