“Serious fiscal restraint” wins in 2014 Ontario election

Kathleen Wynne - #14now!

With the Liberal majority now evident, the necessary question for self-identified progressives should be: what does this mean for the future of social justice struggles in Ontario? The Liberals have promised a budget that increases spending in a wide range of important areas, but they have also promised to impose three years of austerity after that. This makes it clear that their ostensibly progressive platform was only a cover for the same unimaginative, undemocratic program promoted by McGuinty-appointed bank economist Don Drummond in his austerity commission report. This will impose even more pain for the middle class, not to mention the poorest and most vulnerable in this province, whose numbers are growing.

On CBC radio’s election-night discussion of the results, it was repeatedly emphasized that the Liberals’ win would result in an overall program of “serious fiscal restraint” and public-sector austerity. Neglected in that coverage was any mention of the costs that would impose on those who can least afford it, and who are least responsible for the recent economic downturn. Nor did anyone mention the duplicity of the Liberals’ campaigning on a “progressive” budget while promising three full years of spending cuts (when population growth is factored in). Also not highlighted was how, to a significant extent, that direction was agreed to by the three major parties and how, therefore, austerity was the clear winner from the moment the election was called.

Unfortunately, while able to claim a significant short-term tactical victory, the anyone-but-Hudak campaign revealed a bankruptcy of meaningful strategy. The campaign failed to propose alternatives to the multi-party consensus on austerity, or present a vision for reducing inequality.  Also left unexamined was that all major parties backed spending reductions which, only a decade ago, would have been at home in any fiscal conservative extremist’s platform—a fact  barely mentioned by “progressives” in the labour movement or the mainstream media. This after a world financial crisis that was caused by the schemes of bankers and hedge fund managers who have escaped, not only unharmed, but almost immeasurably better off at the expense of the rest of us.

What can the left do to respond to this situation? Those within the NDP need to organize for a new leadership that is not afraid to stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable in the province. They should also marginalize the strategists and pundits who took sides against longtime core supporters critical of the party’s direction under Andrea Horwath. This should not be dismissed as a futile avenue for political action, even though it also has its obvious limits. Regardless of what the NDP becomes, those on the left have a responsibility to organize effective political alternatives, both inside and outside the electoral system, which have the capacity to threaten the establishment consensus on what the limits of possibility are in Ontario. Without such alternatives, it is extremely unlikely that this province will see meaningful social change anytime soon.

5 thoughts on ““Serious fiscal restraint” wins in 2014 Ontario election”

  1. Right on, Chris. All three parties did pledge austerity and since 1990 all three parties have carried out austerity defined primarily as cuts to the public sector which clearly affects social justice. Actually the parties have changed the definition of social justice to whatever they want it to mean at any particular time, rendering the term to be irrelevant. The ‘Left’ as it has been is dying and needs to be replaced with a true, progressive, clearly defined movement – and it would be more meaningful if it was grassroots. European countries have already learned this.

    1. A very astute analysis. I agree that we need “a new leadership that is not afraid to stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable….” And that we should “marginalize the strategists and pundits who took sides against longtime core supporters critical of the party’s direction under Andrea Horwath.”

      The NDP has been in need of reform since the 70s, at least. What has happened, from Andrea’s rejection of the Liberal budget on is just one more move in the NDP’s slide to the right. It’s time to “throw the bums out!”

      But let us recall that we live in capitalist society, and what we are calling democracy is capitalist democracy, not real democracy.

  2. It is time to get serious about bringing back the Ontario Savings Bank. The only state in the US that is not bankrupt is North Dakota. They have their own bank which works with other banks and citizens to keep their state fully employed on public infrastructure. Through our own bank we can monitorize the debt and pay no more billions in wasted interest payments to the Big Banks.

    1. Yes, an Ontario Savings Bank is an excellent idea, although I’m not sure to what extent the constitutional framework in Canada would allow for it to be fully independent in the same way as North Dakota’s. It certainly wouldn’t have the same power over monetary policy that I think they do. But it’s a good idea nonetheless, and worth exploring in more depth.

      There is a group called the Committee for Monetary and Economic Reform, which has been doing very good work on those issues federally for many years. Its spearhead is William Krehm, a man who, despite being somewhere around 100 years old, is actively suing the federal government over its misuse of the Bank of Canada. Their website is here (there is an update on the lawsuit at the right side of the main page).

      [EDIT] I intend to write a post about these issues, and the lawsuit, soon. It’s a timely subject, in part because some of the same arguments that were made in the Bedford prostitution case around security of the person, etc., have been advanced against the government for their abuse of fiscal and monetary policy at the expense of the well-being of Canadians. It may be a long shot, but they recently won their appeal to a summary dismissal. So at the least it has a chance of advancing in the courts, and potentially bringing more attention to these issues.

  3. Thanks for the comments, everyone! It’s encouraging to hear from others who feel the same way.

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