06.19.2011 08:17 AM

In today’s Sun: the NDP, in self-denial

Firmly ensconced in Stornoway for the next four years, delighted by the many perks that come with official opposition status, Jack and his orangey crew are pinching themselves. They don’t want to do anything that will send them back to the perdition of Rump Party status. These are the best jobs they’ve ever had, after all. So, they are tossing out whatever it is they once believed — and as one Liberal friend memorably put it to me — “they are trying to depict themselves as the Liberal Party in drag.”

As a federal Liberal — and as someone who had the privilege to toil for the winningest-ever prime minister, Jean Chretien — I have some free advice for my not-so-new, not-so-democratic friends getting together in gloomy, post-playoff Vancouver this weekend.

Here’s the advice: When you start getting rid of the stuff that makes you what you are, people stop voting for you. It’s simple: They don’t know what you stand for anymore and neither do you.


  1. Steve T says:

    This is an interesting analysis, when looking at the Reform/Alliance/CPC versus the Liberals. What you said, WK, is definitely true for the Libs. It might be one of the key reasons they imploded during the recent federal election.

    However, look at the CPC. They have shed a lot of the Reform (and even Alliance) principles that attracted a number of people to them – myself included. Grassroots populist policy has been replaced with top-down control. Fiscal restraint, and the scaling-down of the public service, has been replaced with more traditional high-spending ways. A willingness to resist the Quebec pandering that typifies most federal parties (on everything from transfer payments, to “nation” status, to draconian language laws) has been replaced by…. pandering. And the list goes on. The result? A huge swell in national support, without much loss in the Western support they previously enjoyed. Frustrating to early supporters like me, but then again I still voted for them in the last election.

    So, what’s the difference? To me, it seems the Liberals were already a nationally-appealing party that moved away from what made it appealing to some people. By contrast, the Reform/CPC had a more narrow appeal, and moved away from those things.

    I would classify what the NDP is doing (or suggesting doing) more along the lines of the Reform/CPC transformation. Strip away the things, like ties to organized labour, that make the NDP narrowly appealling. The unions will probably still vote for the Dippers, even without this formal tie.

    All of that being said, I wonder how much room there is in the centre of the spectrum. If every party stands for the same thing, how is there any differentiation in their appeal?

    • kitt says:

      What is the difference? Reformatories spend like drunken sailor, trying to beat previous Con governments in how deep they can rack up a deficit while Liberals balance the books, bring order to Canada’s economy and take care of things, education, health care, research and development, art and culture, infrastructure, raise Canada’s International profile, promote Canadian businesses while Cons strip the social network funding, starve whatever they want to get rid of, ie public health care while spending like drunken sailors in the PMO, ads promoting themselves, signs promoting themselve, trashing Canada’s International image, patronage to all their buddies….. The NDP? Just want power no matter what they have to do to get it.

      So yes there is a huge difference.

  2. Paul R Martin says:

    So far, the “new” New Democratic Party doesn’t seem to be quite sure of who they are. It will take some time for them to figure it out. In the meantime, there is a big risk that the party will split into warring factions. The honeymoon should be over before the Liberals chose their new leader. If Layton has to step down as leader, an internal battle will soon erupt.

  3. david ackerman says:

    I know that Chretien won.. But his arrogance helped decimate the party. indeed it was him who helped turn me off the Liberals.

  4. Harith says:

    Too bad the liberals didn’t heed that advice.

  5. Cath says:

    good column! Although I’m hoping that the NDP are the last thing on the minds of many families today as they honour their Fathers, Grandfathers, Husbands……Happy Father’s Day Warren.

    The PM put out a nice statement that remembers Fathers no longer with us – like mine.

    Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on Father’s Day

    “June 19, 2011
    Ottawa, Ontario

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper today issued the following statement to mark Father’s Day:

    “Father’s Day is a chance to say thank you to our fathers and to celebrate the role they play in our families.

    “Fathers take on various key roles including caregivers, teachers and role models. They are sources of strength for their families. And their devotion, values and morals act as a foundation that helps shape who we become.

    “Fatherhood is a lifelong commitment that involves guiding children and youth as they overcome life’s hurdles and grow into remarkable individuals. This day is a chance to honour and celebrate paternal guidance, influence and support.

    “As Canadians celebrate Father’s Day, Laureen and I encourage all families to pay tribute to the men who fill this role and to honour those no longer with us. We wish all fathers and their families health, happiness and every success in the coming year.”

    • Philip says:

      Harper issues a pro-fatherhood press release? On Father’s Day??!!! Stop the presses! Let’s get this controversy on the front page where it belongs. What possibly could be next?? Huzzah for puppies? Harper supports apple pie?
      Thanks for re-papering the board with that hot scoop. Job well done Cath.

  6. Mulletaur says:

    Harper has become everything he once abhorred, and now Layton is abandoning what few principles he ever stood for.

    Both the Conservatives and the NDP would have Liberals believe that they stand for nothing, and Liberals have even started believing it themselves.

    It’s just not true.

    Liberals believe in prosperity for all Canadians, social justice for all Canadians, and a sustainable society and economy for all Canadians.

    We need to show Canadians that we Liberals are the only ones who have always believed in values that benefit all in a universal way, and that we have never abandoned them, nor shall we.

  7. AP says:

    The New NDP Rules:

    The first rule of the New NDP is, you do not call yourself a socialist.

    The second rule of the New NDP is, you DO NOT talk about socialism.

    If someone says socialist, means of production or nationalize, they’re to be silenced.

    Two words: Social Democrat.

    One dictatorship of the proletariat at a time – and this is not the time.

    No socialists, no Marxists.

    The New NDP will hide its socialism for as long as it has to.

    If this is your first New NDP convention, you have declare allegiance to Smilin’ Jack aka Junior Commodore.

  8. Bill M. says:

    I don’t know why the NDP would run from socialism.

    Harper bought us a car company and he got a majority.

    Call yourself the Ice Cream Party if you want, it’s by what your actions that you’ll be known.

    • VH says:

      Gord, you can believe that one all you want.

      The CONs *didn’t* want to bail out big business and their American masters? LOL. That’s the only reason they exist.

    • Derek Pearce says:

      Flaherty’s riding is Oshawa– even if they’d had a majority back then they’d have still done the bailout.

    • Michael says:

      Those poor Conservatives. The big bad opposition parties made them do it.
      If they had principles they would have gone to the electorate over the issue.

      So, either what they believe in is wrong or they have no principles?

    • Bill M. says:

      Fall asleep to your lies every night if it makes you feel better.

      The opposition had nothing to do with the auto bailout.

      I know it, you know it, and no amount of trying to reduce your cognitive dissonance changes that.

  9. Warren: I can’t argue with your advice here, but why all the beating and trashing of the federal NDP? During the next 4+years Canada will not be humiliated internationally by the NDP, our environment will not be trashed by the NDP, our most vulnerable citizens will not be battered by the NDP, our budgets will not be wracked by open-ended spending on prisons and sole-sourced military contracts invented by the NDP. You have have the wrong target. The reality is that most Liberals can live far more comfortably with an NDP government than with the Conservatives. Many of these Liberals will continue to get on the NDP bus. Not so long ago you were talking about merger. By beating up the Dippers you are feeding the notion that the best the LPC can do is regain second place. Why not focus your attacks on the authors of all the stupidity we are going to endure until 2015?

  10. Sean says:

    Much of the Tory success story is a result of pretending to be Liberals. The NDP is trying the same strategy.

  11. Good mea culpa from EKOS on flubbing their May election predictions. Culprit: Low voter turn-out below 45 yrs of age.


    • Gord, all pollsters have bias, EKOS among them and perhaps egregiously so. I really don’t have enough of a handle on the industry to make a sound judgment. But what about their (EKOS) claim that the under 45’s did not vote as much as those over 45? And what do you think of his conclusion about the lack of a wave of Manley Liberals voting for the CPC in reaction to the rise of the NDP in the polls during the last few weeks of the campaign?

  12. dave says:

    Gad…aren’t those ND’s terrible: they won’t own up to be ‘socialist’ because the capitalists (aka ‘free enterprisers’) have been successful in making the word a pejorative in North America; then they are anti semitic, because they distrust the ‘white people helping white people’ approach to Palestine and Israel; and now they are acting as Samuel Johnson suggested when he said that a political party is a group of job seekers, – those machiavels are only lusting for power.

    (Late 1960’s I was sitting in a pub in Winnipeg with a pal. In came a young man in jacket, briefcase, and tie and sat with us. The newcomer was campaigning for the NDP in aprovincial election.
    My pal asked him: ‘I’ve never known an NDP government in Manitoba. I’ve known only Liberals or Conservatives. What would you NDP do that the Liberals and conservatives haven’t done?’
    The newcomer sipped his draft, then answered: ‘We’re going to change the graft structure. Instead of the Liberals and Conservatives getting the graft, we’re going to get it.’)

  13. A. Cynic says:

    Bob Rae said the Cons were a party of “Pretenders”. I say the NDP are the party of Illusion.

  14. moose says:

    It’s interesting that you say that the serious global recession was
    caused by both private-for bad lending practices,and public-for
    letting them get away with it.
    For “bad lending practices” I would substitute “greed without
    bounds” and for government “letting them get away with it” I would
    substitute “no government-laissez faire,no need for government
    interfering with the market”.
    Let’s give the NDP more than six weeks to prove their worthiness.

  15. Alex says:

    According to news reports that I just read, it appears that the NDP have put-off a decision on whether to remove the word “socialism” from the Party’s constitution to a future date. It also appears that the Dippers have left the door open to future merger talks with the Liberals.

    As someone who has voted for progressive parties all my adult life (I have voted NDP, Liberal and Green) it is obvious to me that Harper and co. will only be defeated through a merger of the center-left. Those who seem to resist calls for a merger seem to come from the hard-left in the NDP and the Martin-wing of the Liberal Party. Which is ironic, for who would have thought that Scott Reid et. al. would indirectly join forces with the Socialist Caucus in the NDP to help the Tories remain in power.

  16. Danny Boy says:

    Actually, Warren, this argument is as old as the NDP itself. Gerry Caplan can tell you with amusement how he and Stephen Lewis amazingly came to be perceived as establishment types back in the day. There was the Waffle in the 60s, left caucus in the 70s and 80s and the socialist caucus today. Rae of course was always centre left and a natural fit for the Liberals even when Premier, he only survived by using all his considerable political skills.
    It’s going to take an enormous amount of goodwill and empathy to unite the left and I’m pleased to see that you’re pulling your punches a bit…. 🙂

  17. Michael says:

    “It is better to have a firm ideolgical stance and policies that reflect that stance”

    The Conservatives believe in smaller government, yet under the Harper government the civil service is large than it has ever been.

    Conservatives believe in free enterprise, yet they bail out the automakers.

    Conservatives believe in sound fiscal management, yet they manage to turn a surplus into the largest deficit in Canadian histroy.

    How’s that for having a firm idealogical stance and policies that reflect that stance?

  18. smelter rat says:

    Finding the middle ground has worked well for the NDP in Manitoba for the past 12 years. No talk of socialism here, not even from the Cons.

  19. Brian says:

    I’m about ready to see the major parties just get past the BS and start being real brands, like “Centersure” or “Refesh Canada” or “GovWorks” and get it overwith.

    If Conservatives aren’t really going to be conservative, Liberals aren’t really going to be Liberal and New Democrats are really hoping to *be* Liberal, why not just break free from the illusion of some sort of ideological fetish entirely and market on pure brand ID and emotion? It’s more or less what’s happening already.

    (“Do your want your government to feel sparkling and new? It’s time for… Refresh!”)

  20. Elisa says:

    True Grit we should be…

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