When it comes to the NDP leadership race, Rick Salutin asks the most important question of all: What differentiates the NDP from other political parties? The difference used to be pretty clear:
At any point in the 50 years after its founding in 1932 (as the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, or CCF: which contained the answer in its name, unlike ‘New Democratic Party’), that question would’ve been easily answered. “Unlike Liberals, we are democratic socialists, we’ll demolish or at least tame the scourge of capitalism” — a view grown mildly resonant again, after 2008.
The last of the party's democratic socialists was Ed Broadbent. But things really got confused when Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair were elected leaders:
Then came Jack. At the convention that chose him, venerable NDPers said embarrassing, dated (if faddish) things like: Jack thinks outside the box. As if that had anything to do with anything or, for that matter, were true.
In 2004, under Jack Layton, the NDP voted to kill a transformative national child-care program, which the Liberal government had enacted, but which died as a result, giving us nine years of Harper conservatism. The NDP has never apologized for that, which would at least show they remember what their principles once were.
Then in 2015, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair promised to run no deficits if elected, after the Liberals promised to do so, effectively swapping principles. Self-congrats are less in order here than self-criticism, if not self-loathing.
These days, Salutin writes, the answer to the question, "What differentiates you?" seems to be "We're morally superior."
You can't win an election if that's the chief plank in your platform.