UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

A message for pundits

The NDP leadership race matters

By Dennis Gruending


Soon, members of the New Democratic Party will begin electronic and mail-in voting to select their new leader. Featuring such competent and principled candidates as MPs Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton and Guy Caron, as well Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh, the race has become increasingly interesting. But the wider question is whether the NDP will be relevant in Canada’s political future? Having served as an NDP MP between 1999 and 2000 (although I no longer hold any party membership), I contend that it will be.

Since winning the 2015 federal election handily, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has had a penchant for promising much and delivering less, while papering it all over with charisma and charm. That will wear thin. There are significant societal issues that the federal Liberals aren’t prepared to tackle at this time. For example, the price of prescription drugs has gotten out of control — the cost falling heavily on individual Canadians. In addition to national pharmacare, there’s a need for better childcare and affordable housing, a project abandoned by the Chretien Liberals. And it’s the NDP, not the Conservatives, that will likely bring these issues to the fore. 

Nonetheless, the party is often held to a different standard by pundits. In June, Globe and Mail Columnist Gary Mason wrote that this was “the most boring leadership race ever mounted, anywhere,” adding that “it has been variations on the same tired NDP tropes: income inequality; poverty reduction; the working-class poor; affordable housing; the homeless.” Actually, it’s Mason who deals in tired tropes. Nobel Prize winning U.S. economists Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman have said repeatedly that persistent inequality has a crippling effect not only on individuals but upon democracy itself. That’s true in Canada also. 

Another of Mason’s flimsy claims is that the NDP continues to have an existential crisis: “Who are we?  A protest movement happy to advocate for progressive policies or a mainstream political party willing to compromise some of its beliefs in order to run a complicated, multifaceted country?” One would think that question was put to rest when Jack Layton led the NDP into official opposition in 2011.

In any event, the NDP leadership will be won by a principled pragmatist. The most established candidate is Angus, a veteran MP, although Caron and Ashton have served enough time in the House of Commons, themselves. Still, it’s Singh who has surprised and impressed NDP members. The 38-year-old from suburban Toronto was a criminal lawyer for six years prior to being elected to the Ontario legislature. And many believe that he represents the political future of a country that’s increasingly urbanized and ethnically diverse. Already, Singh has sold more memberships, raised more money and can boast of more endorsements than any other candidate.

For more than 85 years, the NDP and its forebear, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, have played a significant role in federal politics and have governed in six Canadian provinces. One shouldn’t write them off just yet.



Author's photo
Dennis Gruending is an Ottawa-based author, blogger and a former Member of Parliament. His work will appear on the second and fourth Thursday of the month. His Pulpit and Politics blog can be found at www.dennisgruending.ca.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Faith

The author is baptized at Central United in Calgary. (Photo courtesy of Al Coe)

Why I got baptized in a United Church at the age of 42

by Jacqueline Mercer-Livesey

"I told myself that I didn’t need to go to church to believe in God. I found peace and the Holy Spirit in the things that surrounded me. But still, there was a nagging sense of something missing."

Promotional Image

Observations

Editor/Publisher of The Observer, Jocelyn Bell.

Observations: The rewards of letting go

by Jocelyn Bell

Editor Jocelyn Bell reflects on the upcoming changes for The United Church of Canada, the magazine and in her own life.

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Two nurses tackle Vancouver's opioid crisis

Richard Moore is a resident of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. In this poignant interview, he explains the important work of nurses Evanna Brennan and Susan Giles.

Promotional Image

Columns

June 2018

The moment the Pope asked me to pray for him

by Miriam Spies

A United Church minister on the impact of a simple gesture from a powerful man.

Society

July 2018

Best self-care tips for caregivers

by Kate Spencer

Counsellors, teachers and ministers share what it looks like for them.

Faith

July 2018

Meet your 2018 moderator nominees

by Mike Milne

Later this month, General Council commissioners will choose the United Church’s next moderator. As of press time, 10 leadership hopefuls had been announced. We asked each of them to sum up their pitch in a tweet.

Faith

July 2018

A fond farewell to presbyteries

by Steven Chambers

They will likely be eliminated this year as the United Church restructures. Steven Chambers celebrates the end of an era.

Society

July 2018

Instead of retirement, these two nurses are battling Vancouver's opioid crisis

by Roberta Staley

At age 71 and 65 respectively, Evanna Brennan and Susan Giles embrace their unconventional work in the Downtown Eastside.

Columns

June 2018

I hate you, Canada, for teaching people to treat me like this under your name

by Zach Running Coyote

A Cree actor says he blames our country for the racist comments recently directed at him in a McDonald's restaurant.

Promotional Image