Saturday, March 13, 2010

The reviews are in

Susan Riley rightly notes that at least one federal party has actually been offering positive ideas for Canada, and notes that it's only unfounded assumptions that have led to those receiving less attention than they deserve:
A noble exception is the NDP, which continues to offer detailed, practical remedies to pressing problems: more gas tax to municipalities for green infrastructure, an extension of the home reno program for energy retrofits, enhanced public pensions.

Layton opened question period on Thursday with questions on Harper plans to open telecommunications to foreign ownership. By contrast, Ignatieff led with yet another question on detainees -- an indirect reminder that he has no urgent quarrel with the Harper economic agenda.

Unfortunately for Layton, his party (politics, generally) is mired in outdated ideological stereotypes. No matter how huge their deficits, how faulty their predictions, Conservatives are somehow the party of fiscal rectitude. No matter how savage their cuts to social programs, how huge their income tax cuts, the Liberals are slave to big spending and Big Government. And, despite the frugality and policy innovation of countless provincial NDP governments, "socialists" are dismissed as unsound.

Ideology aside, we have been led, for decades, by a succession of dull, cautious, uninspiring, almost interchangeable, governments, Liberal and Conservative. They have been inching us to the right -- nervous about new social programs, eager to hand generous tax cuts to business and the middle class, ready to shop our economic treasures to any passing stranger.
About the only problem with Riley's take is that I'm not sure one can accurately describe the shift to the right as merely inching". But it's absolutely true that Canadians deserve better than the same old warmed-over market jingoism that makes for the economic message of the Libs and Cons alike - and the more commentators recognize that the NDP can in fact pair a record of responsible fiscal management with its innovative ideas, the better Canada's chances of electing a real alternative to the Con/Lib status quo.

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