PHOTOS: Guardian journalist Martin Lukacs, moments before his remarks to the 21st annual Parkland Institute Conference in Edmonton yesterday morning. Below: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; British Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Prime Minister Theresa May (U.K. Photos: Wikimedia Commons); and bestselling Canadian author Linda McQuaig before her keynote address to the conference Friday evening.

Is Canada ready for more Jeremy Corbyn and less Justin Trudeau?

It almost certainly is, according to Martin Lukacs, one of the authors of the Leap Manifesto and now the Guardian’s Montreal-based Canadian correspondent.

Mr. Corbyn is the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, the unrepentant socialist thoroughly reviled by the very finest people in British society and their right-wing echo chamber around the world, who was supposed to have been completely undone by Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May’s brilliantly timed U.K. election just a year after the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Trudeau, of course, is well known around here.

Instead, Mr. Lukacs reminded about 300 participants in the Edmonton-based Parkland Institute’s 21st annual conference in a biting, often hilarious deconstruction of Prime Minister Trudeau’s “progressive neoliberalism” at the University of Alberta yesterday morning, Mr. Corbyn saved his party, his career and possibly Britain when Ms. May’s best-laid plan went spectacularly awry on June 8.

The theme of the Parkland conference: “Collapse: Neoliberalism in Crisis.”

By way of background, the Guardian is the internationally respected British newspaper of liberal inclination that is despised by billionaires and 1-per-centers around the planet.

For example, in a paean to Donald Trump published by the National Post Friday, former newspaper magnate Conrad Black, who in happier times gave up his Canadian citizenship to become a British Lord, mocked the Guardian as being “on the verge of bankruptcy and reduced to a pitiful variation of crowd-funding.” The Post, which Mr. Black founded in 1998 to advance the cause of neoliberalism, ironically appears to be on the verge of bankruptcy and reduced to a pitiful variation of begging for handouts from taxpayers.

Mr. Lukacs argued yesterday it was Mr. Corbyn’s unabashed advocacy of “the much-older politics” of real socialism that made it possible for Labour to come close to toppling the Conservatives, instead of the other way around as the establishment narrative demanded.

The British media and even his enemies in the Labour Party accused Mr. Corbyn of wanting to turn the clock back to the 1970s, the speaker noted. Young British voters considered the inexpensive education, access to pensions and other benefits of that era before neoliberal dominance and concluded, “The 1970s sound pretty good!”

“The model we should look to in Canada is Jeremy Corbyn,” Mr. Lukacs stated.

Mr. Corbyn may not be a selfie god. His suits aren’t well cut. “Instead of relaxing with the Aga Khan, he goes for bike trips around Europe.” But he does boldly address the anxiety of an age in which it’s increasingly clear neoliberal economics are a worldwide catastrophe, and he’s not afraid to say, “Nationalize it!” aloud.

After 30 years of the same neoliberalization process in Canada under successive Liberal and Conservative regimes, Mr. Lukacs argued, international elites swoon at Mr. Trudeau because his “blandly positive, strenuously empty” rhetoric “puts the best gloss on the bankrupt and corrupt neoliberalism of the 21st Century.” He “rarely lets his cuddly mask slip.”

Like U.S. presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Mr. Trudeau “airbrushes out any conflict over interests and ideology.”

The “click-bait PM,” as the obsequious British press dubbed Mr. Trudeau, “is the Ryan Gosling of neoliberal politics … onto whom you can project any of your desires and wants.” In other words, said Mr. Lukacs, quoting Marx, our prime minister is telling the world: “These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.” (Hey! That’s Groucho Marx — Ed.)

Such fawning international coverage bolsters Mr. Trudeau and his agenda domestically, Mr. Lukacs noted.

Alas, like the party he leads has done historically, Mr. Trudeau’s role is not to change our system, but to assiduously defend it, and to defend the billionaire class it benefits, Mr. Lukacs argued. So at a moment when it is becoming obvious everywhere neoliberalism is in crisis, no wonder they love him!

The Trudeau Liberals say the right things about women’s rights, gay pride, Indigenous reconciliation, and religious accommodation, all the while advancing a neoliberal economic agenda that has devastated the lives of working people throughout Canada and around the world, regardless of their diversity. What the Trudeau Liberals offer, Mr. Lukacs said, “is really just an accommodation” to the neoliberal order.

Case in point: The Liberals’ pre-election vow to not engage in fiscal austerity to deal with the recession. “His anti-austerity spending pledge has turned into a stealth privatization program.”

The NDP’s response to Mr. Trudeau’s original pledge in the 2015 election campaign was then-leader Thomas Mulcair’s ill-considered “no-deficit promise, which was a big part of why the NDP lost the election.”

The great risk with allowing this Liberals to succeed with this strategy, Mr. Lukacs went on, is that it “creates fertile ground for the new right-wing populism that has so viciously triumphed in the United States.”

“If the left doesn’t start seizing these opportunities, it’ll be the right that starts using them to punch down, rather than up” – just as Mr. Trump did in the United States, and Jason Kenney hopes to do in Alberta.

Mr. Lukacs continued: “The task of every generation of leftists in this country is to get wise to the ways of the Liberal Party!” What we need is a televised Heritage Moment, he added: “The Liberal Party’s history of progressive fakery.

“We need a Canadian Orwell to taxonomize the way Liberals have managed to use language to serve their ends!”

The good news, Mr. Lukacs asserted, is that Liberals are historically sensitive to pressure from both the right and the left. So just as they’ve used think tanks, media and academics to their right to shift Canada’s centre of gravity rightward, “we need to drag the centre in our direction.”

He acknowledged a key point in Friday night’s conference keynote address by Canadian author and former NDP candidate Linda McQuaig that income inequality matters because with big money comes great political power.

The equity symbolized by Canada’s health care system, Ms. McQuaig suggested, may be why right-wingers in Canada work so hard and consistently to undermine it, despite its overwhelming popularity with Canadians.

Canadian health care, she explained, “enshrines the principle of equality. As a Canadian, you have access to excellent care. … A billionaire can’t get treated any faster in an Emergency Room than a janitor. … No wonder they’re so angry! What a triumph!”

And that’s the point, Mr. Lukacs told his audience the next morning: Politics is rarely if ever the win-win proposition politicians who are trying to sell us a bill of goods would like us to think.

“We need to recognize there are losers in politics.” And under neoliberalism, working families, and democracy itself, have been the losers. “We’ve lost that sense of conflict and we need to regain it politically.”

“Let’s stop asking for selfies and start demanding a whole lot more!”

Alberta Political Update: Right wing jockeying continues

Meanwhile, as Parkland conference participants met in Edmonton, jockeying on the Alberta right for the right to pretend to be in the centre continued apace.

About 400 supporters of the newly Progressive-Conservatized Alberta Party gathered in Red Deer yesterday, resulting in plenty of upbeat rhetoric reminiscent of Mr. Lukacs’s description of the usual federal Liberal folderol.

Jason Kenney, leader of the un-reconstituted conservative brand, the United Conservative Party, dismissed the Alberta Party, the presence of plenty of disaffected former PCs notwithstanding, as really just being Liberals.

And the leader of the real Alberta Liberals, David Khan, has announced, as predicted in this space, that he will run against Mr. Kenney and anyone the Alberta Party manages to agree to put forward in the Dec. 14 by-election in Calgary-Lougheed.

The governing NDP has already picked its candidate, Calgary physician Phillip van der Merwe.

The by-election was called after a PC MLA stepped aside to allow Mr. Kenney to claim a safe seat in the Alberta Legislature.

Join the Conversation


  1. One would hope that Canadian folks will become more aware of the downside of the “30 some years of the neoliberalization process thanks to the Conservatives and Liberals and how neoliberal economics are a worldwide catastrophe.” How much more clearly does this need to be defined and for it to register?
    It is a reminder of the (I believe in 1961) Tommy Douglas ‘Mouseland Speech,’ thought by some to be the best political speech, ever. Douglas, the political wizard, had the Libs and the Cons characterized as the fatcats then already. What is mind-boggling are “the mice” who keep voting for neoliberal politics, many of whom are the 1% wannabes, or something…….

  2. It would appear that Jason Kenney’s attempt at conversion therapy, to get more mainstream voters into his “big tent”, appears to be failing miserably if the increased interest in the Alberta Party’s annual general meeting in Red Deer is any indication. Looks like right-wing vote splitting made easy as Sunday morning.

  3. The biggest problem I have with socialist policy is their obvious dislike of business and their belief you should tax the hell out of it or nationalize it. When I look at the tax policies of social democracies like Norway and Denmark I see their corporate tax sits at roughly 24%. When I look at historical rates in Norway in the late 80’s their corporate rate was 50% which was lowered substantially in about 93 to 28% and has trended a bit lower to today’s rate. If the labour movement could look at business as a partner instead of an adversary I might be able to show some support. As far as I am concerned social programs are for the people and should be payed for by the people through income taxes and sales taxes. I think if a goal of secondary education payed for by government is a good idea but first you need the tax policy to pay for it. I believe it was Sweden that I was reading about that in grades 1-12 the money follows the child wherever he goes whether it is to a public or private school and this has raised the bar throughout the whole system because each school is competing to educate your child. Until those on the left realize that private enterprise and competition can be a benefit the goal of a more equitable society will never be achieved. The same goes for those on the right, they have to realize that a well run and funded government can work together with business to achieve a better economic climate for all.

    I certainly does make me chuckle every time someone calls the Alberta Party right wing and the NDP centrist, it certainly makes me wonder how far left you are when you consider the NDP centrist. As for the large number of people at the Alberta Party’s AGM, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that there is a lot of people not happy with either the UCP or the NDP as a choice in the next election. Enjoy your day

    1. It is interesting to note though, that a social democrat country like Norway believes that it is a good thng to have a good relationship with ‘labour.’ There’s nothing like having a happy, involved work force to make business spin.
      Here is some info:
      “Labour Relations”
      Also, social democrat countries such as Norway and Denmark, who we have perceived to have very high tax rates, and when we get commentary from their citizens, they feel they get good return for their money which is probably due to the ability of these smart, social democrat countries to do decent equal wealth distribution with their capitalist wealth. As we know, it is possible to achieve impressive individual wealth in Norway…the other day, their wealthiest woman received a rather stiff fine the other day for a DUI.
      Norway, again, was, as it has come to pass, been smart about their oil and gas industry, and their national
      Statoil, in that they did not charge royalties and instead charged a fair tax rate on their oil and gas industry profits. This not only allowed their oil and gas industry to thrive, but they created a fair return to their citizens. Now, we only dream of how that should have happened in Alberta. Certainly, even with being part of a bigger country, Alberta could have had a few $hundred billion in our Heritage Trust Fund. I don’t know about anyone else, but, for me, being raised in a good right wing wealthy Dutch farming family, Norway’s $1 trillion sovereign fund really makes money talk….and they are rated as the happiest society in the world. They’re doing a few things right, me thinks, for a social democracy.

    2. Dear Farmer B, what is it about the NDP’s policy on pipelines for example, which is surely as dedicated to them as anything the previous 40+ years of PC governance committed to, that you find anti-business? Are you sure you aren’t simply substituting a prejudice you have concerning the NDP for what the Notley government is actually doing?

  4. An excellent summary of Lukac’s address…and the political issues he asks us to consider. Why Canadians keep playing pointless two step games with the old line parties has always been a mystery to me. Together, Liberals and Conservatives served the neo-liberal agenda in Canada for the last 30 years….the only miricle being that they haven’t gutted Tommy’s legacy of universal health care.

    They have damaged it however…and will continue to play penny pincher with real economic programs…and profligate with secret subsidies to Big Extractivist corporations.

    What you leave out however, is what I believe should interest all true progressives…and that is the directional suggestions of the Leap Manifesto, which Mr. Lukacs co-authored. If there is to be a sustainable 21st Century, more of us must up our own game………and be willing to think outside of the old dualistic, left right box.

    Our elites don’t just monopolize all the wealth our labour creates, and generously distribute the poverty. Their dreams of world domination, and weapons of mass destruction don’t create real jobs. What they do, is devestate the land and water, the forests and the plains, the aquivers and the ground water, that all life depends on.

    They are climate criminals…and pretending they can be reformed by socialist policy, even the 30 year consistent truth telling of a Jeremy Corbyn, might be overly optimistic thinking.

    So how do we begin the serious conversations, and deep alternative thinking, that the Leap Manifesto asks us to engage in? We’re running out of time

  5. So, Mr. Lukacs has plenty of complaints about the PM, perhaps some even valid, but precious little example and no evidence whatsoever. Perhaps a more fulsome understanding of his beefs was had in person at his speech.
    My take away from this is Mr. Lukacs’ pique at Trudeau for not being loud enough or strenuous enough against his definition of neoliberalism.
    It sounds like a bit of a bait and switch here. I’ve never understood Trudeau to be a neoliberal, nor a populist. I haven’t seen him do anything supportive of the billionaire class.
    That he’s photogenic and well-spoken is hardly a fault. I know there is this panache about a bumbling, stumbling beer-swilling pol being closer and more accessible to the common voter but that’s just foolish nonsense, as has, and is, being demonstrated.
    The empty rhetoric offered by the ‘right’ produces a lot of heat and light but is not a substitute for good governance, even by an official opposition. Further, good governance does not require a lot of controversy or histrionics, often, even ideology.
    Mr. Lukacs may want to reconsider the militant aggressive defense of ideology realised in the Brexit campaign as the standard-bearer of ‘good governance’ as opposed to being “sensitive to pressure from both the right and the left”. I’ll take someone who provides some accommodation over sticking it to everyone to serve some political ideal.

  6. I don’t think the neo-liberal agenda is the property of only certain political parties. For instance, in the UK Tony Blair’s Labour Party seemed to embrace it fairly enthusiastically. However, I do get the feeling this agenda is close to running its course. Several years ago when people were struggling the excuse “we are in a recession” was given, now the economy seems to be growing at a reasonable pace, yet more and more people seem to be left behind.

    There is a lot of frustration out there which right wing populists have been more successful at taking political advantage of this frustration so far. At one point I thought the occupy movement would be an impetus for a bigger change in our society, but once the threat from that diminished, the 1% and governments just basically went back to what they were doing before. In fact I think ever since communism collapsed, western democracies no longer felt an ideological threat and powerful financial interests have pushed governments in a continual rightward direction with only occasional countervailing pressure.

    In our current economy, powerful monopolies and oligopolies seem to be able to do mostly whatever they want. The rules against this sort of thing, which at one time were sometimes vigorously enforced, now seem to be mostly ignored. In some ways, I think the issue is not free market vs. government, but our currently economy doesn’t really represent a free market any more.

    Perhaps eventually frustration will lead citizens to demand more of their governments whatever party is in power, however I think things will have to become economically worse for that to happen. The next recession may be the tipping point, as this so called economy recovery has provided so little progress for most people.

  7. Jason Kenney’s big tent has more in common with a pup tent. Although the term ‘circus’ tent does come to mind…..along with all the other beings found within.

    Inclusive is not a a term that comes to mind.

  8. Was there any honouring at the conference of those who have been in the trenches for decades fighting neo-liberalism? Such as centenarian and Spanish Civil War veteran Bill Krehm and his Committee On Monetary and Economic Reform colleagues? Or Bill’s compadre, octogenarian Ann Emmett, who, along with Bill and the eminent lawyer Rocco Galati, launched the lawsuit against the Bank of Canada? Please don’t tell me the conference squandered the opportunity to offer positive ideas by once again only calling out the evils of the hegemenous private money interest! We should by now know this and be well on our way to formulating ways to confront it by at least replacing its debt-money system.

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