Washington Post columnist J. J. McCullough wrote last week that Canada’s New Democratic Party is living in a fantasyland if they think they can form the next government. He calls the party’s ideas outrageous.
Although I think McCullough is probably right about Jagmeet Singh’s chances of becoming Canada’s next prime minister I don’t think the NDP platform is outrageous. I think it is idealistic.
It is probably idealistic to think Canada could ever have a guaranteed basic income for every citizen, but that is a goal the NDP voted to work towards at their 2021 policy convention. Leah Gazan my member of Parliament, for Winnipeg Centre introduced a private members bill in the House of Commons that would have implemented a guaranteed basic income. It was defeated.
When she called to ask for my vote, I questioned her about the guaranteed basic income idea. She said it is necessary because too many people in Canada are living paycheque to paycheque, working multiple jobs just to get by. A basic income guarantee would cut poverty rates in Canada by half. I appreciated her thoughtful explanation but there is no country in the world right now with a guaranteed basic income, so it’s probably idealistic to think Canada could be the first.
The most expensive plank in the NDP’s platform is health care. They plan to fund universal prescription drug coverage. They claim millions of Canadians are not taking the drugs their doctors have prescribed because their jobs don’t come with health benefits, or they are unemployed or self-employed and can’t afford to pay out of pocket for medications.
The NDP would also cover dental care and mental health expenses for low-income Canadians and would expand long-term care in our country. These are important initiatives, but many might label them idealistic because they will cost $68 billion.
How will the NDP raise that money? They say they will institute an annual 1% tax increase on households earning over $10 million. They will impose extra taxes on companies that made large profits during the pandemic, crack down on tax havens, and raise the corporate tax rate. A Broadbent Institute study supports these proposals claiming the gap between rich and poor in Canada is ever-widening and our current tax system does little to promote more income equality.
The Washington Post columnist on the other hand says the NDP’s plans to tax the ultra-rich won’t work. In an economy based on the capitalist system, you can’t punish the wealthy while liberating so many others from financial obligations. Are the NDP being idealistic to think they can tax the rich to help the poor?
The NDP won’t win the coming Canadian election. But that doesn’t mean they can’t still be a force in Ottawa. Should the Conservatives or Liberals win a minority government the NDP will most likely hold the balance of power and may be able to force the other parties to move towards some of their idealistic goals like creating a climate bank to invest in environmentally friendly business ventures, ensuring that universal childcare becomes a reality, and honoring the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling to compensate First Nations families whose children were removed from their homes and placed in the welfare system.
The NDP may be idealistic, but we shouldn’t forget that idealism often leads to progress. Idealistic is the word I’ve chosen for the New Democratic Party. I think their idealism might provide just the balance we need in Ottawa should we elect the Conservatives who I described as suspicious or the Liberals who I described as disappointing in my previous election columns.