Eight months of the NDP in review: Main themes pretty much as predicted on Day 2

Posted on December 23, 2015, 12:45 am
10 mins

PHOTOS: Premier Rachel Notley gives her victory speech on the historic evening of May 5, 2015, moments after the Alberta NDP’s victory was declared. Below: Former British Columbia NDP premier Dave Barrett, former Ontario NDP premier Bob Rae, later a federal Liberal, and CCF-NDP activist and journalist Gerald Caplan.

There is no war on Christmas, but the Organized Right’s war on the Alberta NDP proceeds apace.

On May 5, 2015 – to the astonishment of most, the great joy of many and the deep consternation of a group of powerful people who had imagined they had fixed things so they were immune forever from the setbacks inherent to a true democracy – the 44-year-old Tory Dynasty collapsed and Rachel Notley’s New Democrats filled the gap.

On May 7, I wrote in this space that for the Notley Government the hard part was yet to come. I made three predictions:

  1. That training and managing an inexperienced caucus would be difficult, but since the people who made it up were bright, young and energetic they would mostly do well. So far this has turned out to be correct.
  2. That forming a cabinet that wouldn’t mess up would be harder, indeed, monumentally difficult, but while some disasters were inevitable, it was an achievable task. Ditto, notwithstanding the recent brouhaha over farm safety laws.
  3. That the market-fundamentalist claque that has had its way with Canada for 30 years and Alberta for nearly 80 – including its corporate financiers, think-tank auxiliary and legislative and media arms – would shake off the shock of having been defeated at what it thought was a deadbolt cinch and declare open, unremitting war on the NDP government of Alberta. It is said here that this third point has come true in spades.

Barrett-JPG-LAs noted on May 7, distinguished journalist, academic and lifelong CCF-NDP political activist Gerald Caplan’s description of what happened to Bob Rae’s NDP government when it was elected with a similar degree of surprise in Ontario in 1990 remains an instructive, practical guide to what is happening now in Alberta.

“Within months,” Dr. Caplan wrote, “Rae’s government faced an unrelenting, brutal four-year onslaught that was unprecedented in Canadian history.” His 2010 column in the Globe and Mail went on:

“It is no exaggeration to say hysterical fear-mongering and sabotage was the order of the day. Launched within the very first year of the new government, the attackers included every manner of business big and small, both Canadian and American-owned, almost all private media, the police (especially in Toronto), landlords and lobbying/government relations firms. Their goal was clear, and they had the money and power to achieve it.

“They were determined to undermine the government every step of the way, to frustrate the implementation of its plans and to assure its ultimate defeat. In all three goals they were successful. The considerable achievements of the government – often forgotten or dismissed – were wrought in the face of a deep recession and ferocious obstruction.”

Instructively, Dr. Caplan recalled: “After the new finance minister’s very first meeting with the banking community, a bank vice-president told him, in the presence of an aide: ‘Nice speech, Mr. Minister, but we’re going to kill you.’”

?????????????????At least this much has changed: the financiers of the market fundamentalist creed would be unlikely to speak such truths aloud today. They would leave such commentary to the private gatherings of their sprawl cabals and bun fest fund-raisers where the only chance for it to come to light would be offered by a sympathetic waiter with a discreet digital recorder.

Despite the fact the Soviet Union was imploding at the time, Dr. Caplan remembered, right-wing columnists of the day “actually resorted to old-fashioned red-baiting, smearing the government as ‘red’ or ‘communist.’”

That these attacks hurt the economy of Ontario as well as the NDP mattered not to the militant neoliberal right. The goal was the destruction of Ontario’s modern experiment with social democracy, driven by the right’s vicious and irrational hatred of the Rae Government.

The recent death of Bill Bennett, the Social Credit premier of British Columbia who replaced New Democrat Dave Barrett as one-term premier of that province, reminds us that, Dr. Caplan’s memory notwithstanding, the frenzied assault on the NDP experienced by Mr. Rae was not really unprecedented.

Well, it has all come true.

The Soviet Union may be long gone, but here in Alberta the Red-baiting resumed at once, and has never slackened.

Economic sabotage by corporations hoping to create the conditions that will see the Notley Government swept away has certainly impacted the provincial employment rate. And while the NDP cannot be excused for fumbling the introduction of its farm-safety law, the extremist rhetoric and outright lies of the Wildrose Party, not to mention the obscenity and sexualized death threats of its supporters, have been astonishing even to those of us who anticipated the worst.

Caplan“The real danger to Alberta,” Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid warned back in May, is “loose talk from the conservative side about the NDP inevitably bringing economic doom. Such prophecies can be self-fulfilling.”

That, of course, is the whole idea. Mr. Braid’s implicit criticism of such fear mongering was based on the naïve assumption the deep-pocketed, determined promoters of these strategies don’t actually intend to do harm.

Well, we’re in the thick of it now. There is no difference at all from the attacks against Mr. Barrett’s government, or those against Mr. Rae’s, except that thanks to the rise of social media their ferocity and ugliness are right out there for all to see.

A factor in this, of course, may be that 2015 really hasn’t been a very good year for neoliberal extremists here in Canada. Indeed, I don’t know about you, but with nine days left, I can’t recall a year that I’ve enjoyed as much from a political perspective.

Not only was the 44-year Progressive Conservative Party dynasty unexpectedly but deservedly swept away, so was the odious Harper Government in Ottawa, and in an equally entertaining fashion. Voters in Alberta also had the good sense to keep the Wildrose Party and its more extreme version of market-fundamentalism out of power.

Many of us had come to believe the conservatives’ propaganda about the invincibility of their political calculations and ruthlessness, and their indomitable and inimitable grasp of Big Data. They obviously believed it themselves.

So how refreshing to see two of their most important governments go down, one after the other, at once the victims of their own hubris and voters’ desire for real democracy.

Under the circumstances, one can almost empathize, if not quite sympathize, with the right’s uncontrollable fury at this turn of events. Notley Derangement Syndrome, compounded by Trudeau Derangement Syndrome, is upon us with a vengeance.

Let us only hope that for out-of-the-blue NDP victories, three times is the charm, and the Notley Government learns from their opponents’ sordid history to stick to its principles and not betray the constituencies that moved to support the party as soon as Ms. Notley demonstrated the party’s credibility.

And in this festive season, let us celebrate a wonderful year past … and keep our powder dry for a year ahead that, if nothing else, is bound to be interesting.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

11 Comments to: Eight months of the NDP in review: Main themes pretty much as predicted on Day 2

  1. Sean Murphy

    December 23rd, 2015

    Hear, hear!

    Fortunately, with many mainstream media considering shutting down their comments sections, the right-wing zealots may lose some of their exposure.

    Reply
  2. Athabascan

    December 23rd, 2015

    Eight months and I have no complaints about the progress and work of the NDP. Well done!

    Is 2016 the year the NDP will deal with Athabasca University once and for all? I sure hope so. The list of things that need doing is a daunting one.

    It would be nice if all their students, the townsfolk, and all the employees could finally take breath and no longer worry about the viability of that University. It’s been teetering on the brink of insolvency for years.

    It doesn’t help that AU’s Board of Governors is populated by cronies appointed by the previous Conservative regime.

    Reply
  3. Darrell Stokes

    December 23rd, 2015

    Keep it up Dave.
    You won’t be making any friends on the dark side, but all of us who remember how to smile instead of baring our teeth, are behind you.
    I wonder if you get any inane, threatening comments on this forum.
    Probably not, since in order for them to be offended, they would actually have to read a reasoned response to their vitriolic hate-talk.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      December 24th, 2015

      Many inane. Very few that are threatening. DJC

      Reply
  4. Jeff

    December 23rd, 2015

    Indeed, mainstream media seems to be a magnet for the weirdest, reactionary bunch.

    Reply
  5. Prairie Observer

    December 23rd, 2015

    The CCF government elected to power in Saskatchewan in 1944 was resilient enough to stay in power for 20 years. It also had its share of political and business opponents seeking its early demise. The Douglas government’s history has been extensively described and analysed by many impartial sources. Is there anything to be learned from its experience in holding power?

    What has potentially changed in the last 75 years – was the Canadian political climate more civilized back then? (The last few weeks in Alberta may make the answer to this question obvious.)

    There presently seems too much negative thinking and behavior in right of center political parties in both Alberta and Ottawa. Neither seem to understand that such conduct has significantly contributed to their recent electoral setbacks. Will they both end up like the American Republican party, which continually strives to out-crazy itself on a daily basis?

    Reply
  6. Mark

    December 24th, 2015

    I have been most surprised out of all of it at the media’s reaction. Their reporting on the farm safety bill basically involved quoting the wildrose.

    On most issues, the media will simply get comment from the opposition, rather than doing any independent research, which makes every issue appear evenly balanced.

    Reply
    • Penny Leman

      December 24th, 2015

      It is interesting to me that each side of the equation accuses the media of skewing information to the benefit of the other. If what is being reported does not support our stance then it is obviously biased. Not to say it isn’t – just to say we all tend to seek out reports that support what we already believe and view those that disagree with a degree of cynicism. Neither side reads the information to learn or understand about the other. Politics interest me but rarely is the information given ever well balanced. Just my opinion.

      Reply
      • David Climenhaga

        December 24th, 2015

        This is like the saw-off theory of journalism – “if everyone is complaining, we must be doing something right.” Unfortunately, life is more complicated than that. Mainstream media has always spoken for the Establishment – it’s the “fearless champion of the overdog,” as we used to put it in my media days – as you would expect since it was expensive to own and run. So while it may not be interested in the nuttiest theories of the extreme right, black helicopters and the like, it tends to concentrate on finding fault with bigger threats to the people and organizations that own it, like the rights of working people to bargain collectively. Indeed, the media’s whole need for “balance” – when one side of the argument is not supported by any evidence, but gets repeated anyway because it benefits certain interests – is a form of media bias. So it’s said here we actually get more true balance, and have a more genuine “marketplace of ideas,” in the current situation in which technology and social change have diminished both the power and profitability of MSM. The fact is, the Alberta media, especially Postmedia, has been consistently biased against the NDP, and it shows both in what they say and what they don’t say. The coverage of the debate over Bill 6 – and the media’s consistent refusal to analyze the bill rather than just repeat competing talking points – is a disgrace.

        Reply
  7. jerrymacgp

    December 24th, 2015

    On the subject of wild, paranoid comments: I read a story on the Edmonton Journal app this morning, about a tiny aboriginal community along the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories, that had back in the 50s said ‘no’ to sending their kids out to a residential school, and had instead built its own school. It’s kind of a feel-good story about an otherwise dark part of Canada’s history, and most of the comments posted were generally positive; but one of the comments was really out there.

    This commenter made all sorts of wild accusations about residential schools being about worship of Lucifer, blood sacrifices and cannibalism, and even brought references to the Illuminati into his screed. Now, Indian Residential Schools were a bad policy, whose implementation irreversibly scarred generations of indigenous families, the repercussions of which we are still dealing with today. But cannibalism and blood sacrifice? I don’t recall any credible reports of that sort of thing… I think someone needs more layers of tinfoil in his hat.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      December 24th, 2015

      Considering what went on, are you certain?

      Reply

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