Correcting the many faults of the NDP.
Layton & Co. will be getting lots of advice from armchair political strategists over the next few months. An early offering from the Globe's Jeffrey Simpson upbraids the NDP's for a supposed preoccupation with spreading the wealth rather than creating it, and its disdain for Big Business:
The federal NDP has always been better at talking about redistributing wealth than creating it. Mostly, the federal NDP sees job-creation coming from subsidies. It longs for some kind of industrial strategy, deeply dislikes free-trade agreements, and harbors a suspicion of corporate size. Very few of its MPs have ever been prominent in the private sector.
Corner stores, family farms, co-ops and small businesses are fine, but the federal party has this thing about corporate size. Big oil. Big banks. Big telcos. Big agribusiness. Big mining. Corporate big is bad; labour big is good.
At least under Layton, each election platform has showcased entrepreneurial and job-creation schemes based on green tech - a multi-trillion dollar industry this century - medical research, manufacturing prowess and more exporting initiatives, especially beyond the tried-and-true U.S. market.
As to subsdizing such businesses, well, that's how both Harper and Obama have been trying to get the ethanoll business off the ground - a dubious effort, that, given how it takes more energy to produce most forms of ethanol than it gives off, a diverts corn production from food and livestock feed, driving up food costs. (Corn derivatives are in everything.)
Conservatives scorn national industrial policies. Yet every nation has one. It's just not labelled as such. When a non-French company tied to take over French drug giant Sanofi, it arranged for a reverse takeover with the French managers and investors coming out on top. Phamaceutical research is, for the French, a keystone industry with indelible links to a network of French universities. So, was that protectionism (Simpson) or sound industrial policy.
There's only one reason Canada has one of the world's few centres of excellence in aerospace, in Montreal. And that's lavish federal and provincial subsidies to Bombardier, world leader in commuter aircraft, and Pratt & Whitney, a rare U.S. branch plant that actually makes things (jet engines) in the Great White North. Each of those firms, in turn, relies on scores of suppliers, many of which have growun up around their operations in Montreal and, in Bombardier's case, Downsview and Thunder Bay as well.
The U.S. Congress subsidizes the military-industrial complex and the oil industry, and I'd be surprised if there's single Fortune 500 company that didn't receive tax breaks, grants or subsidies from federal, state and local governments last year. Boeing is America's biggest single exporter; Illinois, Kansas and Nebraska are grain exporters to the world. Each is subsidized to the hilt by Uncle Sam - as Airbus incessantly complains about, even after the corporate welfare it receives from Paris and Berlin is drawn to its attention.
These folks who favour letting the private sector go it alone have my assent. Gosh, I'd love to see GE, which paid not a dime in taxes on its U.S. operations last year, so adept was this colossus at manipulating the tax code, truly go it alone. Especially since that's what so many of us think everyday people who've fallen on hard times believe they should do. Pull themselves up by their bootstraps!
Very few Tory MPs have been prominent in the private sector, either. The closest the PM himself came was heading up a far-far-right pro-business think tank. As for disdain with Big Business, I'm a fan of honest, strategically gift and community minded big businesses. And rumour has it there are a few out there. But Enron, Exxon, WorldCom, Bank of America, Citigroup, Livent, the oligopoly of Canada's Big Five banks whose proliferating fees will soon have them charging admission to their branches...well, I think suspicion of the big things - including Big Labour - comes naturally to most of us. (Big Labour is by now an oxymoron, of course, since union membership in Canada's workforce is down to 30% and in the U.S. it's a mere 12%.)
The story I want to read is how Canadian progressives - 60% of the electorate - for the first time in history decided to put all their chips on the NDP, relegating the Grits and BQ to observer status. That would take some legwork, a lot of interviews with riding presidents and kids who were drawn into putting up NDP lawn signs. With scant help from Big Labour, ever since Buzz Hargrove counseled his members to vote strategically for the Grits. (A gambit that failed, of course, to the Tories' benefit.)
Instead of that story about how Canadian politics works I'm to endure a few months of gratuitous advice for the NDP and the Tories as well, I'm sure. Sound and fury signifying not much.