Progressives and the NDP: making the hard choice


On June 23, 2012, 50 longtime NDP activists put the issue starkly in a j’accuse letter to Premier Darrell Dexter.

“If the NDP now actually stands for anything fundamentally different, for any change from previous governments,” they wrote, more in angst than anger, “it is hard to see what it is. And if the NDP is not a party of change… why should those who want change support it?”

They were responding, in part, to Dexter’s pledge to shave two points off the HST as soon as the province’s books were balanced. That, they claimed, would hobble chances of pursuing the party’s broader social goals.

“One can only imagine what the NDP, when in opposition, would have said about the priorities of a provincial budget, which gave… $304 million to the Irvings, cut the tax rate for large corporations (and) forced spending cuts on health care, and primary, secondary and post-secondary education.”

But now that decision day looms and polls show Stephen McNeil’s Liberals leading, the party’s progressive true believers must make a choice.

Should they sit this one out, let the party lose power and hope more progressive elements emerge — and that those progressive elements can retake power? Or should they hold their noses, dance with the one that brought them, and hope a rising economy will float their more progressive boats.

Dexter’s supporters counter — rightly — the NDP inherited a Tory/Liberal financial mess and assumed power just as the global economic meltdown went into full melt. The NDP not only balanced the budget, providing more stable funding for social spending down the road, but its modest successes — collaborative health care centres, capping the price of generic drugs, increasing children’s dental coverage, increasing minimum wages, capping cell phone cancellation fees — wouldn’t have happened under Liberals or Tories.

“Let’s get real here,” says Ray Larkin, another long-time party activist who supports the government. “The NDP may not have accomplished all we might have wanted it to do, but it has made huge progress on other issues… This is not a time to abandon ship or change course.”

One of those who did sign the letter — and asked not to be identified because he still has party connections — says he will vote NDP “but for not many good reasons. I think the potential is still there in the history and the principles of the NDP to allow for the possibility of more change and this is much more than I expect from the Liberals.”

Will other progressives ultimately come around?

The only certainty is that if enough of them don’t, the party won’t return to power. And would that really be a better outcome?

  1. If New Democrats and supporters abandon the NDP candidates it will be a very sad day. The NDP government has done so much in the areas of health, mental health, community services, seniors, the environment, job creation, managing the debt, education, and paving rural roads. McNeil’s platform will cut 1% from all departmental budgets except some aspects of health and education. Think about the implications of that!


  2. Open your eyes, progressives!!! You know what doesn’t take time? Liberal and Con gov’ts ability to reverse positive changes, and take us back to a regressive agenda. The NDP has done incredible things for this province and will continue to at an accelerated rate now that *they* have put NS’s finances back in order. If you are a true progressive, and have half a brain, you will realise the importance of voting NDP. By spoiling a ballot, you may as well just vote Liberal or Conservative, there is nothing more selfish. Lose the NDP, and NS loses all progress made over the past several years under Dexter.


  3. We mustn’t shoot ourselves in the foot. We worked so long and so hard to get to this point. It was extremely difficult coming in fresh, often working with a balky and at times disingenuous staff, winning them over, capitalizing on talent, making changes when and where we could, balancing the budget… I’m most active on the enviro front. It’s been tough. But, man, the government’s enviro record in the end has been extraordinary. Starting with the ban on uranium, the caps on non-renewable in power generation, the Wetlands Policy, the community involvement for the first PHP crown land lease, Buying Back theh Mersey


  4. We voted NDP on the promise education was a priority that would not be compromised. A former teacher,Ramona Jannex, was put in place to lead the Department of Education. Then we watched this government tear down River Hebert High School and leave it in ruins. On the eve of calling an election they announced they were going to, they promise, issue a tender to start construction work on the school. These children are educated in a construction war zone with broken windows, tarps, dust, no gym, no cafeteria. Their education is put on hold, they won an award last year but couldn’t accept it as they had no gym to hold the ceremony.
    We are going to vote for the Green Party this year and if we find no such vote possible on our ballet, we’ll spoil the ballet to be counted as voting for none of the above.


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