NDP Needs to Back Canada’s 99%

Party Has Potential to Guide Muddled Movement

Canadians are standing together against the current economic divide in our population via Occupy movements ongoing in almost every major city in this country. Like their peers around the globe, this country’s poorest “99 per cent” are out on the streets and asking for change.

While their qualms with the capitalist system have been made clear, the movement has been met with criticism for lacking direct and specific demands for change.

Fortunately for the 99 per cent in this country, we have a political party that has long supported the rights of the working class; a party with socialist roots. This is the time for the New Democratic Party to seize the opportunity to defend and guide the interests of the Canadian 99 per cent.

This party has the potential to take the occupiers’ plea for change and turn it into policy that truly listens to the all-the-more vocal majority. But if they want to do that, they need to step their game up and put forward a socialist platform.

While the middle class is being squeezed, those at the top have been hoarding. According to a report by Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the country’s top one per cent have seen their income double over the last 30 years.

“People are sick and tired of seeing their leaders always taking the side of big business with billions in tax cuts,” NDP Interim Leader Nycole Turmel said in a CBC report last week, referring to the Occupiers.

Acknowledging the protests and denouncing the capitalists is a good start, but left-wing phraseology shouldn’t be the end of it. The NDP needs to follow up its talk with concrete proposals that people know will make a difference.

Again last week, Turmel was interviewed by the CBC after a day in the House of Commons where she mentioned that the government should limit raises for CEOs. With corporate greed finally becoming a dominant point of political discourse, this is a pretty meagre attempt at change.

After having been squeezed for so long through inflation, low wages and poor services, what difference does it make to the indebted workers and students that a CEO would have to, for example, get a $100,000 bonus instead of a $500,000 bonus, while they’re still making their million dollar salaries every year? It’s a nice thought, but we’re looking for something a little more substantial.

The NDP needs to think big. Their biggest success to date is Medicare, something the party fought long and hard for, championed by Tommy Douglas. They made a big, long-lasting change—and that is the kind of action that we need now.

Through the Occupy movement, the workers and youth learn to rely on their own strength and ingenuity, but they must ask the NDP to be their voice in Parliament. In return, the party must fight for free education, universal childcare, invest in public housing projects, free public transit, an end to war, an end to corporate tax cuts and bailouts, a halt on attempts to privatize healthcare and push for an overall end to austerity.

In order to do so, the party must cease its talk of moving to the centre—instead it should be a socialist alternative. If the NDP stands in the middle of the road, it will get hit by traffic from both sides. This is what the Liberal Party has been trying to do for decades—and we all know what happened to them.