(This op-ed, signed by a group of Quebec academics–including Daniel, Patrick and me–was published in Le Devoir yesterday. As far as I know, and despite Charles Taylor’s involvement with the NDP since the 1960’s, it’s the first time in Quebec’s intellectual history that a group of scholars express support for the NDP publicly)
The vast majority of Quebec voters want a change of government in Ottawa. We are a group of academics who believe it’s time for Quebec to fully exercise its political weight in Ottawa, not just in the House of Commons, but also by voting for a party that aspires to form government.
In a first-past-the-post voting system, parties need to federate different views. It’s unrealistic to think that one party could defend all of our preferred political positions. It comes down to choosing the party that is most likely to adopt the range of policies that is closest to our values and considered judgments.
As progressives committed to fundamental rights and to the health of our democracy, we believe that the New Democratic Party is currently the best alternative. We’re not under any illusions. No party is going to carry out all of its commitments. We believe, however, that the election of a first NDP federal government in Canada’s history would be a significant step in terms of reducing inequalities, fighting against global warming and establishing a fairer relationship with aboriginal peoples as well as a more humanitarian international policy.
Some on the left are disappointed with the NDP’s move toward the centre – a movement initiated by J. Layton and continued by T. Mulcair. We understand this disappointment, but strongly disagree that it justifies putting all the parties in the same basket.
It’s true that J. Trudeau’s Liberals surprised everyone by adopting a more progressive platform than what we have been used to by that party. Some are even saying that the LPC has replaced the NDP on the left because of its promise to run three modest deficits even if the country isn’t in a recession. But an analysis of the progressiveness of a party’s platform shouldn’t be based strictly on its stance regarding deficits alone. We first need to look at the parties’ respective approaches to fiscal and social policies as a whole.
In this respect, the NDP’s plan for public affordable childcare is preferable to the checks the Liberals want to send to families. Affordable childcare promotes equal opportunities, social diversity as well as women’s employment. And because the NDP would allow the provinces to opt out with full compensation, Quebec would receive new transfers enabling it to better fund its own affordable childcare system.
Furthermore, it is entirely possible to adopt new social policies while balancing the budget if we increase federal tax revenues. For instance, the NDP has committed to closing tax loopholes for stock options to fund its plan to end child poverty. It has also promised to raise the federal corporate tax rate and reinvest in employment insurance.
Finally, the NDP plan to counter climate change is the most ambitious of the three main parties. They have committed to reducing GHG emissions by 34% by 2025, while the Conservative target is only 14.4% by 2030 and the Liberals have yet to give a concrete target. While the NDP’s ambiguous position on Energy East is regrettable, its commitment to a credible, thorough environmental process that takes into account the impact of any new project on climate change as well as our international commitments is preferable to the position of the other two main parties.
Mulcair isn’t perfect, but he distinguished himself in this campaign by standing firm on questions of principle even if opportunism would have arguably served the party’s interests. Attacked by Trudeau, who has taken the same hard line on Quebec’s right to self-determination as Harper and Chrétien, Mulcair defended the Sherbrook Declaration. On the niqab issue, while the Bloc played into the hands of the Conservatives’ politics of division and distraction, the NDP didn’t waver. The NDP voted against C-51, while the Liberals voted in favor. This is the kind of moral integrity and political courage that we want to see from our elected officials.
We think that that the NDP represents our best chance for a consistent and coherent social democratic government, as well as a strong voice for Quebec in Ottawa. A historic window opened up in the last few months. Let’s not allow it to close because of a simplistic narrative on the progressiveness of the parties’ programs and, more importantly, the gross instrumentalisation of the niqab by the Conservatives.
Jocelyn Maclure, Dominique Leydet, Martin Papillon, Ryoa Chung, Daniel Weinstock, Jane Jenson, Frédérick Guillaume Dufour, Martine Delvaux, Dimitrios Karmis, Pascale Dufour, Peter Dietsch, Isabelle Dumont, David Robichaud, Naïma Hamrouni, Martin Petitclerc, Charles Taylor; Mélanie Bourque, Pablo Gilabert, Geneviève Nootens, Patrick Turmel.