The continued mystery of the NDP’s existence

    Nov 24, 2021

    OTTAWA—During the post-election lull between choosing cabinet and the Speech from the Throne, I ruminated on the political issues that have shaped the year. And increasingly—now perennially—one question always sticks in my mind and will continue to in the years to come. 

    Why does the NDP exist? 

    No seriously. 

    The recent pointless election was an opportunity for the NDP to solve that mystery. After a year and a half, there’s still a pandemic that left a lot of people struggling economically, inflation is on the rise, there’s a housing crisis, a climate crisis, a military crisis, rising white supremacy, domestic terrorism, and broken promises of reconciliation. This country is in crisis, which would be a perfect time for the NDP to tout its progressive policies. But instead, the party fell into formation with a Liberal-lite platform that was as fleshed out as a rotten peach, since it provided only slightly greater detail than a university protest flyer. 

    According to Canadian Dimension, the NDP’s biggest promises on the expenditure side included: pharmacare, maintaining child care promises of the Liberals, guaranteed income for people with disabilities, and upholding the Human Rights Tribunal decision on Jordan’s Principle. These policies are eventually going to be absorbed into the Liberal washing machine, where they’ll be sanitized for neoliberal sensibilities. In other words, even when they do get a little progressive, they end up as a policy farm for the Liberals. Don’t see why this parliamentary session should be any different. 

    And the most frustrating part? The NDP seems to be fine with its lot in life, which seems rather regressive as far as ambitions go. According to The Toronto Star, “Jagmeet Singh and the federal NDP are set to return to Ottawa to face the prospect that, after campaigning for 36 days with a deeper war chest and a more experienced national leader, not much really changed.” Despite more resources and a familiar leader, the party achieved roughly the same returns as when it was broke and invisible. And the NDP leadership seems to be fine with that outcome. Progress for progressives, I guess. 

    Fauxgressives with zero ambition will never deliver the systemic change that is necessary in this country, so I wish they would stop wasting my time. 

    Don’t even get me started on their leader.

    Singh has led the NDP through two elections and hasn’t delivered. I have written about his naked self-promotion at the expense of communicating NDP policies, commitments, and values to the larger public. Assuredly, relying on social media to convert a younger audience to the polls is an unproven strategy that requires meticulous planning and organizing—two things the NDP has proved it’s incapable of doing. 

    But the most egregious part of Singh’s schtick is that he confuses likeability with power, and it’s the one mistake BIPOC make in elevated positions of visibility. 

    During the English leaders debate, Shachi Kurl asked the question everyone in this country should’ve been asking but are too cowardly to do so, which was to ask Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet why he denies systemic racism in a province that, well, practices systemic racism in the form of Bill 21. Naturally, the perversity of “reverse racism”—which doesn’t exist—was bandied about by three white men and one brown man, Singh.

    Singh, the first racialized leader of a major federal party in Canada, sided with patriarchy and white supremacy in the form of joining three white men to bully a brown woman who was the only one in this country to have the courage to stand up to Quebec’s racism. When national director of the NDP Anne McGrath was asked by Politico Canada about the party not pushing back harder against Bill 21, her reply was, “I don’t see any value in barnstorming the rest of Canada against Quebec, for one thing. I think that would be a huge mistake. … To identify Quebec as one particular place for people to generate that anger, I think is dangerous from a national unity point of view.” According to McGrath, it’s quite acceptable to disenfranchise BIPOC for national unity. 

    Qwhite a middle finger to communities of colour and religious minorities, delivered by the NDP. 

    In addition, who can trust Singh and this party on Indigenous rights and the climate crisis? No one. At least, no one in B.C. Time and time again, Singh has either stayed silent or tepidly supported Premier John Horgan’s crusade against Indigenous land defenders. From Fairy Creek to a re-ignited Wet’suwet’en, Singh and the federal and provincial NDP have demonstrated that they will protect colonialist interests above all. 

    The NDP has some great MPs, like Matthew Green and Leah Gazan, however even if they’re the heart of the party, they’re not the soul of the party. That was sold out a long time ago. 

    Erica Ifill is a co-host of the Bad+Bitchy podcast.

    The Hill Times