Facebook is always asking me what’s on my mind. The answer varies from one moment to another. It all depends on what I’m thinking about at the time.
At this moment, I’m thinking about the people going to the NDP convention this weekend, and I am wishing them well in their decision making. I am hoping they decide to adopt the LEAP manifesto and that they choose to have a leadership election.
There are lots of reasons to want a new leader. The idea that Justin Trudeau outflanked Tom Mulcair on the left is not one of them. In fact, I don’t think it’s even true. He outflanked us on communications. Image trumped substance one more time.
There is nothing left or right wing about balancing budgets or running deficits. Governments on both sides of the divide have done both. Our team did not do a good job, they actually did a terrible job, of explaining how and why they would balance a budget. Maybe their hearts and minds just weren’t into it. Or up to it.
A budget is a statement of where revenue will come from and where expenditures will go to. A left wing balanced budget would increase the revenue taken from wealthy Canadians and redistribute it to the people at the bottom of the scale. The ones who have always been given the shitty end of the stick. It would lift them out of poverty and encourage them to become full participants in our community. A budget is not a simple matter of finances. It is a set of political decisions. Political courage, even.
I don’t know if Tom was going to bring in such a budget because he never told us. He did tell us he was one of several siblings in an unwealthy family, that he worked hard chopping wood and made a success of himself. The message? If I can do it, you can do it. Never mind that thousands of others also work hard and still struggle to make ends meet.
Never mind that labour laws make it damn near impossible for workers in the modern precarious economy to join a union. Or that globalization makes it impossible to stop companies from moving to low wage regions. Or that deregulation gives companies the license to treat our environment like their toilet.
Tom didn’t say much about what he planned to do about this. He did say that low-wage workers in federal jobs could wait eight years before getting a minimum wage raise. Same with affordable child care. He also reaffirmed his affection for Margaret Thatcher.
Like Margaret, Tom thought it a good idea to lower taxes for small businesses. And not just Tom. The idea infected NDP provincial campaigns across the country and got them exactly nowhere. Except maybe Rachel Notley, but bigger factors brought her into government.
The current wisdom is that small and medium-sized businesses create 80 per cent of all new jobs. Never mind that they are mostly insecure part-time non-union jobs. As they say, job is a job.
If you gathered all the owners of small and medium sized businesses in a room and asked if they are happy with the taxes they pay, they’d all say no. Every one of them. Set us free from Canada Revenue, they’d say, and we will create 85 per cent of jobs from now on.
Then if you asked them if they are happy with the minimum wage, they’d also say no. Set us free from bureaucratic red tape, they’d say. Let the market determine our wage levels and we will create 90 per cent of jobs from now on.
Then if you asked them if, in return for tax breaks and other considerations, they would support changes to labour relations laws to make it easier for their employees to join a union, they’d also say no. Set us free from the obligations of collective bargaining, they’d say, or we’ll create no new jobs. We’ll move to Mexico instead.
So we reward this corporate citizenship with lower tax breaks and increased profits.
When they cast their ballots on Sunday morning the delegates should not dwell on balanced budgets. It’s the rest of the baggage they need to deal with. Pack it up and tell Tom to bring it home with him.