The electoral circus exploded in full force on August 6, with the first televised leaders debate of the election hosted by Maclean’s and Rogers. While most of the bourgeois media and party hacks argue over who won the debate, the debate’s losers are clear: the working class and oppressed peoples of Canada.
Each of the four party leaders present committed to continuing a program of austerity for the workers of Canada. Harper committed to maintain a balanced budget in the face of another recession, an ironic promise given his record of running budget deficits. Trudeau and the Liberals, on the other hand, hopes to raise taxes by relying on the good will of the wealthiest Canadian families. Trudeau’s new taxes will go pay for moderate increases in social spending, particularly child tax benefits, but is still far behind what has been cut from the federal budget in recent years. Mulcair, a former Liberal cabinet minister in Quebec, and the NDP hit closer to the mark by identifying the need to raise corporate taxes, but still extolled people to “live within their means,” the favourite rallying-cry for proponents of austerity. Mulcair also remained committed to various environmentally devastating extraction plans, such as the Energy East pipeline. Ironically, Mulcair’s shift to the right has at times caused Trudeau and the Liberals to appear to be running to the left of the NDP.
All of the leaders remain committed to the maintenance of the “middle class,” whatever that means.
The NDP, a party which many well-meaning people think represents a more progressive path for Canada, is really no different than either the Liberals or Conservatives. Under Mulcair’s leadership (which was enabled by campaign donations from large Canadian banks) the NDP has surged to the right as it seeks to show the bourgeoisie that it will be a “responsible” administrator of the Canadian state. Earlier this summer Mulcair met with business leaders of the Economic Club of Canada and the Montreal Board of Trade to assure them that an NDP government would be good for business, and pledged to cut small business taxes. Mulcair’s efforts have not gone unnoticed; earlier this week an article in Bloomberg vetted the NDP as an acceptable choice for the Canadian bourgeoisie.
Despite superficial manufactured differences on economic policy, there was virtual agreement on all aspects of foreign policy. The four leaders each scrambled to demonstrate their commitment to Canadian imperialism. All were in favour of continued membership in NATO, all were in favour of continuing to antagonize Russia, all were in favour of Canadian involvement in Iraq against ISIS, and all were in favour of continued Canadian support for the apartheid state of Israel. The only notable differences were from Elizabeth May, who stated that she was the only MP to vote against Canadian involvement in the bombing of Libya. May’s differences with the other leaders were short-lived, however: her contention was that bombing Libya was an ineffective strategy to “fight terrorism” (a commitment to which all leaders hold to).
In terms of managing Canada’s internal colonies, each of the leaders demonstrated continued commitment to the colonial subjugation of indigenous people living in Canada. Trudeau and Mulcair made lip-service about working with comprador elements within indigenous society, but only to ensure the continued extraction of raw materials, necessary to fund Canadian imperialism. None of the leaders made any pretences towards respecting the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination; the purpose of nation-to-nation discussions is to forge greater national unity.
The results of the debate are not particularly surprising. It is clear, now more than ever, that all of the big bourgeois parties have a near identical program, despite minor and superficial differences. This is a fact that the “Anybody but Harper” crew miss: Harper is not uniquely bad, and in fact, the other leaders are clamouring for the opportunity to become the next Harper.
The debate helped to underline the necessity of a boycott campaign: even if we trusted that these parties would be able to implement their policies if elected free from the interference of lobby groups, the rich, undemocratic foreign agreements, and capital, the policy differences between the parties themselves are miniscule. No matter who wins the 2015 Federal Election, the working class will lose. Sure enough, elections continue to experience declining participation rates, particularly among working class and oppressed peoples, as people realize that their votes are essentially meaningless. And that is why the working class, in the struggle for socialism, must make a break with bourgeois politics and chart our own path. If revolution is the only solution, the only way to engage with this election is to turn the passive boycott already taking place into an active boycott.