March 26, 2013

Which way forward for the NDP?

People's Voice Editorial

The New Democratic Party's retreat towards "qualified support" for the Canada‑European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is raising serious concerns within the trade union movement, and rightly so. As OFL President Sid Ryan wrote recently, "this particular trade deal is being negotiated in secret and in the interest of multinational corporations. A number of affiliates have invested significant resources into campaigning against CETA and have been working alongside coalition partners to raise public concern."

The OFL President is not alone in his objections. Many trade unions and social justice movements - the backbone of the NDP's voter base across Canada - have campaigned hard to block CETA for years. The abject turnaround by Thomas Mulcair has shocked many of these organizations, which traditionally count on the NDP to represent their views on Parliament Hill.

Sadly, the NDP's change of course did not surprise observers who have followed its trajectory in recent years. Sensing a possible victory in the 2015 federal election, the party which claims to be the voice of "ordinary Canadians" is bending over backwards to reach out to big capital. This trend pre-dates Thomas Mulcair; recall Jack Layton's January 2009 speech to the Toronto Board of Trade urging workers to take pay cuts to save jobs, or his moves to water down the NDP's anti-war positions.

When labour activists gather at the Canadian Labour Congress conference this month, there should be no illusions about a Mulcair NDP government. Only massive pressure by trade unions and all people's movements can compel political parties to put people's needs ahead of corporate greed. Leaving the political struggle to the NDP caucus in Ottawa will not achieve this goal.

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