Pick up a piece of election literature that Michael Valpy's team is handing around Trinity-Spadina, and you won't see the letters "NDP." Open it up and there's still no sign of the party moniker. On page 4 -- bingo! -- there are the three magic letters. Total number of times party leader Alexa McDonough is mentioned? Zero.There you have it, a poignant illustration of the state of the people's party. The objective conditions could not be more favourable for an NDP revival. Many voters would prefer not to vote Liberal, and fear of Doris Day and the Alliance has eased as Grit re-election appears inevitable. But the sorry state of the two leading parties has given no bounce to the NDP.
McDonough likes to whine about how the mainstream media has ignored her, accusing reporters of paying too much attention to Day's wetsuit. But blame begins at home. You have to make news to be in the news.
She has insisted, over the better judgment of those around her, on making health care the be-all and end-all of her campaign. Alas, one could see the problem with that a mile away. As usual, the Liberals spend big on the eve of the campaign and fool an unsuspecting public into believing they're dealing with the problem. She's still talking about it, but, the polls indicate, no one's listening.
How bad is it when reporters consider it more of a plum to be on Joe Clark's campaign plane than with the NDP? Stories about Joe have some chance of getting into print. Desperate for something newsworthy, hacks on the NDP tour dredged up a story last week about how, lo and behold, the same self-righteous NDP that's been accusing the Liberals of being the go-boys of the rich and powerful itself receives corporate donations. Gotcha!
The NDP could have done so much more with this campaign, even limiting themselves to the material in their platform. The NDP would make a new deal with cities, home of 75 per cent of Canadians, and contribute funds directly to the TTC. "The NDP -- keeping transit fares down." Now that's a good urban message. But McDonough has been too busy talking into the ether to play it up.
Nor has she talked about proportional representation (PR), perhaps the best way to return some credibility to our electoral system, in which fewer and fewer citizens participate. PR awards seats on the basis of the percentage of votes received, so we would probably have Green party MPs in the House of Commons.
No, none of that from McDonough, the fourth-place party leader with a prime-ministerial obsession with her image. After serving most of her career in Nova Scotia, where the NDP has until recently been an alien presence, she has craved respectability above all else. Why, fer chrissakes, won't she speak out on the decriminalization of marijuana (party policy) and against the jailing and stigmatizing of thousands of Canadians (many of them young people)?
Aside from how many seats the party will end up with next Monday night, the second-best guessing game in the NDP these days is who'll take over from McDonough when she's shoved out the door Tuesday or soon thereafter. The latest name mentioned by those in the know? Bud Wildman, who's expected to return Sault Ste. Marie to the NDP fold.
Of course, no party is happy with its leader. The Liberals have one that even they don't want but ask the rest of us to support. Joe Clark, for all his pluck, leads a shell of a party looking for a reason to exist, caught somewhere between the right wing of the Liberals and the saner elements of the Alliance. And Doris Day? Exactly.
Chretien will be gone soon. So will Clark (and perhaps his party). If the Bloc pick up enough Quebec seats to take back official opposition, will Day be bounced?
Those who vote Liberal this time won't be voting for Jean Chretien but in spite of him. Likewise with McDonough. We need the NDP in Parliament more than we need her, especially with the business Liberals under Paul Martin mere months away from their long-awaited takeover.
It's bad enough that the government is blowing $100 billion on tax cuts while tuition is so expensive in Canada that university is now a question of family wealth as much as personal merit. The government's social obligations will get even shorter shrift with the member for Canada Steamship Lines (whose vessels are safely registered outside Canada, in countries where the taxes are lower) installed in the PM's office.
Despite its underwhelming leader, the NDP is represented by inspiring candidates in Toronto, men and women who would be a welcome change after seven years of under-representation by Liberals rotting on the backbenches with no say, no profile and no power.
In Trinity-Spadina, there's Michael Valpy fighting Tony Ianno. Sorry, Tony, but despite your claims to be an environmentalist, your government has not passed a single piece of environmental legislation in seven years, and its much-anticipated housing plan has been panned by housing advocates.
In Toronto-Danforth, rookie Paula Turtle is making inroads against the dreadful Dennis Mills, he who would dam James Bay to make the rivers flow south as part of some crackpot hydro scheme and give tax breaks to NHL teams.
Mel Watkins, an economics professor at U of T and NDP candidate in Beaches-East York, would be a plus in any parliament. A wise man with a common touch, he'd be a valuable watchdog for the people. It's easy to recommend a vote for him over pretend lefty Maria Minna, whose words of concern for the poor children of the world are useful camouflage for the fact that Canadian foreign aid has dropped since the Liberals took over from Brian Mulroney.
Of course, in most ridings, the NDP doesn't have a chance. For example, in Davenport, old-timer Charles Caccia is so confident of victory that he barely bothers to canvass his fiefdom. With nearly the lowest median household income in Ontario and high numbers of tenants, this riding could be an NDP seat in the future. Vote for NDPer Jordan Berger as prep for the by-election expected when Caccia ascends to his government appointment before the next election.
It is never wrong to vote for what you believe in, regardless of your candidate's chances of winning. For all its disappointments over the last three and a half years, the NDP -- as poorly served as it has been by those in charge -- is still the only party that speaks for the public interest, for the greatest good of the greatest number of people. Dot-coms may come and go, but that's a value that will always have its place. email@example.com