March 25, 2014

A road-block to action?

Murry Dobbin is a long-time social activist, journalist and supporter of the New Democratic Party.  He has been associated with groups like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives,, and the Council of Canadians, which are to the left of today's NDP. Here he comments about a recent NDP day of action which shows even long-time supporters are upset with their party's rejection of extra-parliamentary action. We reprint a short part of Dobbin's commentary for that reason, which is also discussed by the Young Communist League in its 26th Convention Documents.

On Feb. 22, in the aftermath of a "boring" budget, Thomas Mulcair's NDP undertook a National Day of Action -- a welcome idea that's been long in coming and has the potential over time to be a political game changer...

And yet the potential in this first experiment of engaging Canadians between elections seems to have been squandered by the focus of the day of action. How is it possible that the NDP would finally understand the importance of this kind of citizen engagement and at the same time completely abandon any substantive ideas with which to start a conversation? The whole day of action is one huge political contradiction -- engaging citizens but only after you have redefined them as consumers.

The theme of the day of action consists of a handful of consumer issues, some of them almost pathetic in their level of triviality. The Big Five issues that the NDP presents are ATM fees, interest rates on credit cards, the usury of the "payday lending" industry, the collusion of the oil companies on gasoline prices and finally -- and this is really scraping the bottom of the barrel -- the fact that companies add a couple of dollars to the invoices they mail out to customers each month.

The campaign is billed as helping "make life more affordable" for Canadians. But these measures do almost nothing to accomplish that goal. The banks' ATM charges amount to an average of $21 a year per adult Canadian. The extra $2 charge on hydro and cable bills amounts to just over $100 a year per family. Credit card interest rates are outrageous -- but surely a progressive party should at least raise the question of the wisdom of racking up tens of thousands of dollars on credit cards while living beyond your means.

If you are going to have a day of action and national conversation why not talk about the real causes of poverty and inequality in this country?

Read the full article here.

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