Why social democrats should vote Green: from a former NDP candidate
I grew up NDP, and through my adult life shared interest in Greens and NDP. I finally joined the NDP while working in global health, under the inspiration of Stephen Lewis. Stephen Lewis remains a greatest living Canadian for me. I left the NDP when I realized that unlike Lewis, the NDP weren't very social and weren't very democratic.
From my experience as a 'New' Democratic Party candidate, here are several reasons why I say this, and there are likely more. These are the opinions of an ex-NDP candidate, they do not reflect the views of the NDP. For the NDP's own good, I hope they receive a message in the next election akin to what happened to the PC party under Mulroney, and are reduced to nothing. Canada needs a party that stands for social justice, ecological wisdom, peace, respect for diversity, sustainability and participatory democracy. And a woman as Prime Minister! (Blogs are opinions and may not reflect the position of the GPC.) Here's why social democrats shouldn't vote NDP, but Green instead.
1. The NDP is not transparent when it comes to party policy. You will not see the actual policy resolutions decided on at national conventions, it is not available to the public. The Green party publishes it's complete party policy and history of policy-making. One may not agree with some of the resolutions, but at least you know what was passed. With the NDP, no one really knows what resolutions were passed except the caucus or anyone that can remember the convention. There is no public access to the NDP's actual policy.
2. The NDP does not invite participation and even rejects it.
- The party brass pick and choose from the hidden policy to decide what’s good political strategy at the moment, and if they talk to people, it's only to get testimonials to support their case. You cannot possibly get the party to respond to an issue it hasn't planned centrally, even if you are a candidate. Party brass is always talking about scarce resources and the 'fortunes of the party'. But why give them seats, is this how they would govern?
- The party uses the same types of controversial voter information technology as the other parties, which invades privacy encourages people to be entirely selfish in their politics (NDP Vote).
- They use Civicspace as their web technology platform, but they do not use it as a space for civic participation, all content is centralized on ndp.ca, you cannot even post a comment. Civicspace is a sister to Drupal, used by Greens, but the name "Civicspace" describes the intent to which the Green Party uses Drupal. The NDP has no participatory web media, despite having the platform designed for it.
As an example of the lack of participatory democracy, I was trying to suggest to the NDP for months and months as a candidate that they adopt democratic media (later discovered the Greens were way ahead of them and me!). Suggestions in the NDP meet with silence. The NDP does not listen to its membership, and doesn't have participatory democracy as a principle.
3. The NDP has forgotten the issues of the non-working poor. The NDP is the party of 'working families' and 'ordinary Canadians'. The Liberals, by coincidence are also a party for 'ordinary Canadians' and 'working families', as are the Conservatives. The NDP doens't seemed to be as concerned with people who can't work, or the homeless. Has the NDP come to that Conservative thinking of the 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor? The NDP does not have social justice as a principle.
4. The NDP has a stunning lack of vision. They only seem to react to the other parties. They're playing the game just like the rest. They like to play the 'good guy', standing up for the 'little guy', but where are their policy proposals? The NDP is thin on ideas. I've been told the NDP has a policy of supporting the Gauranteed Living Income, but you can't find the policy, as I've said. The NDP does not have a vision.
5. The NDP has poor leadership. Jack Layton has all the markings of a charismatic dictator. Everywhere he can put one up, he's got a massive photo of his head. Suffering from the charismatic dictator syndrome, Jack is really interested in power and recognition. Only he doesn't get that he's not actually that charismatic. The NDP is closer to the one-man American presidential style, than Tommy Douglas' grass-roots social democracy.
6. The NDP infantilizes its communication. The campaign literature is written at a grade four level. While they are busy with their corporate message to attract 'ordinary Canadians', they bank on the loyalty of their long-time social democrat supporters to quietly support them and hope they don't notice the Green party. Candidates have a 'message box', and in it they're told to ignore the Green party, hoping it will go away if they never mention them. When they do mention Greens, it is fear-mongering that the Greens are 'really conservative'. Which is funny next to the truth of a party which rises above the tired debates of the left-right spectrum. The NDP has turned it's communications over to professional strategists, and is not true to itself as a result.
7. The most recent NDP statement of values and principles was in the 1983, and is only found on the Guelph riding website , not on the party website (btw, I have a few candidates and MP's I'd love to bring over, and Tom King is one!). They have not succeeded in their internationalization objectives as with the Global Greens and in 1983 they stood for democratic socialism not social democracy . The NDP has no discernible values, and along with no principle on participatory democracy and social justice, and they no current values or principles on ecological wisdom, on non-violence, sustainability, or respect for diversity either . They only have their 'Great Leader'. Where, if anywhere, do they stand today? In short the NDP stands for:
N - No
D - Damn
P - Principles
Not so 'new', not so 'democratic', not very social.
You might ask yourself, can an ordinary citizen effect change in a democratic society throgh the political process? Candidates in the NDP are expected to promote the message of the party, but when it comes to participating in the message and policy, they are shut out. I was in the position of saying to voters, well, I could listen to you as a candidate, but it doesn't matter what you say, because if elected the party wouldn't listen to me anyway, so please let me give you a picture of Jack Layton and we'll call it a day! The NDP will not listen to you, so why should you listen to them? It would be naive to assume they'd start listening if they were only to get more seats or govern.
Social democrats will still wonder, as I did, whether the fiscal policy of the Greens is going to be bad for the poor. In another blog, I will discuss why the Greens fiscal policy is the best for social justice. I will make the argument that GP policies are more social than the NDP, more fiscally responsible than the Conservatives, and more liberating than the Liberals. The only thing we can't do is separate Quebec, so the Bloc has us there.
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