Tuesday, August 06, 2013

On test cases

Not surprisingly, Linda McQuaig's entry into the NDP's Toronto Centre nomination contest against Jennifer Hollett has set off plenty of discussion this morning. And much of the focus has been on a possible by-election battle between McQuaig and Chrystia Freeland - the authors of the two most prominent recent books highlighting the gap between the rich and the rest of us.

But I'll suggest that neither The Trouble with Billionaires nor Plutocrats figures to be the most important piece of reading material for the Toronto Centre by-election. While the campaign will hopefully raise the profile of economic inequality as an issue, I'm not sure either candidate can expect to gain much leverage against the other - and in particular, McQuaig's better-developed policy prescriptions may not stand out in a short campaign.

In contrast, McQuaig's It's the Crude, Dude offers a vital starting point for debate in the area where there's plenty of room for both clash and shifting positions among the opposition parties.

As I and others have already noted, the Cons seem determined to turn cheerleading for resource extraction into the core of their economic message. And the NDP and Libs have thus far taken significantly different positions in response: while the NDP has made the case for a more sustainable economy which includes eliminating public subsidies for pollution from the tar sands, Justin Trudeau's main line of attack has been that the Cons are putting the wrong shade of lipstick on the pig in making foreign bitumen sales the centrepiece of Canada's economy.

Now, it looks like those two positions are set to clash in Toronto Centre. And while the issue figures to be an important point of contention no matter who emerges from the nomination contests, McQuaig's presence in particular could present a direct challenge to the Libs' attempt to be the friendlier face of the tar sands.

That is, unless Freeland has enough clout within Trudeau's inner circle to try to change her party's direction to improve her own chances. But the more likely course of events looks to involve Freeland trying to sell petro-politics in downtown Toronto against an opponent who's literally written the book on the dangers of that strategy. And the question of whether the NDP can gain ground by being on the right side of that contrast may go a long way toward shaping our choices for 2015 and beyond.

No comments:

Post a Comment