Toronto Star endorses the NDP

2 mai 2011 - Harper majoritaire

Monday’s federal election may well turn out to be historic for all kinds of reasons that were not obvious when it was called five weeks ago today.
Unless the pollsters have totally misread the mood of the voters, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives look to be heading for another victory. As we said on Friday, that would be bad for the country. The last thing Canada needs is an affirmation of a government obsessed with control, dismissive of critics, and determined to further diminish the role of the state in charting a better future for the country.
Voters who believe that Canada can — and should — aim higher have an important decision. Until 10 days ago, they had only one realistic alternative to the Conservatives — the Liberal party under Michael Ignatieff. Today, that is no longer the case.
The New Democrats have been reinvigorated under the leadership of Jack Layton. After Monday, they may well challenge the Liberals as the principal national standard-bearer for the roughly two voters in three who disagree fundamentally with the course charted by the Harper Conservatives. Progressive voters should give them their support on Monday.
In the past it has been easy to dismiss the federal NDP as naive idealists. That no longer applies. In this campaign they have emerged as a credible force, for many reasons.
• The party is on the verge of a historic breakthrough in Quebec, which would go far toward establishing it as a truly national party. Pushing back the Bloc Québécois is an enormous service to all Canadians. For the long-term unity of the country it is vital to have a national federalist leader trusted in Quebec as well as other regions. Layton’s roots in Quebec have proven key to this.
• The platform the NDP offers voters is ambitious and puts people first. It focuses on seniors, health care and the environment. It is in the broad tradition of nation-building that has long been at the heart of Canadian politics. After years of hearing the Harper Conservatives give the back of the hand to such aspirations, it is refreshing to see.
• On economic issues, long the NDP’s weakest point, the party is much sounder than it has been in the past. It is reaching out to small business as the main motor of job creation, and proposes no increases in personal taxes (though it would hike the corporate tax rate to 19.5 per cent). It pledges to balance the federal budget in four years, the same as the Liberals and Conservatives.
• In Layton it has a leader who has won the trust of many voters — a rare feat in a time dominated by cynical, ultra-partisan politicking. As a product of Toronto’s municipal scene and a veteran of urban politics, he is more attuned than any other major leader to the needs of our country’s cities — the engines of innovation and future prosperity.
Question marks remain. The NDP has never felt the discipline of power at the national level, and it shows. There are doubts about some of its proposals, including the amount that might be raised from its cap-and-trade system and its plan to claw back revenue from tax havens.
New Democrats have shown at the provincial level that once in office they can square their social conscience with fiscal responsibility. They are the party of Tommy Douglas, Allan Blakeney and Roy Romanow — pragmatists with a vision and a heart. Now that a much more significant role beckons at the federal level they must accept the challenge of developing that approach nationally as well.
The way this campaign has developed took everyone by surprise. The biggest disappointment has been the Liberal party under Ignatieff. Going into the campaign they had by far the biggest challenge — to connect with voters and offer a strong alternative to the Conservatives. They had to overcome the Conservatives’ brutal but effective framing of Ignatieff as something other than a real Canadian. With only two days to go before voting day, all the signs are that they have fallen short.
Ignatieff has spent the past few days lamenting the loss of the centre ground of Canadian politics and attacking the NDP as spendthrifts and “boy scouts.” His party’s collapse in Quebec raises the question of whether it can truly be considered a national force at this point. Liberal governments built much of what is best about this country — but voters are sending a clear message that they don’t feel they owe the Liberals anything for what the party did once upon a time. Nor do they believe the party has fully purged itself of the cronyism and corruption of the past. Elections are about the future, and the Liberals have not made a persuasive case for themselves as the alternative in 2011.
Fortunately, this time there is a real choice. Voters who believe Canada should aspire to something greater than the crabbed, narrow vision offered by the Harper Conservatives should look to Jack Layton and the New Democrats on Monday.
But vote strategically
In some parts of the country there is a real risk that a surge toward the NDP could sap the Liberal vote and have the perverse effect of tipping more seats to the Conservatives. Voters worried about that should consider voting strategically — giving their support to the progressive candidate best placed to win.
In much of the GTA, that means Liberals. Indeed, there are a number of seats that Liberals won by a narrow margin over Conservatives in 2008. The Liberal candidates in those ridings deserve support. They include Ruby Dhalla in Brampton-Springdale; Andrew Kania in Brampton West; Rob Oliphant in Don Valley West; Joe Volpe in Eglinton-Lawrence; Paul Szabo in Mississauga South; and Ken Dryden in York Centre.
Going for the NDP in those ridings risks handing more seats to the Conservatives. That would be the worst outcome for the province — and the country.

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