PoSitics, Week 2: The NDP

Hey NDP Socialist Caucus – turn those frowns upside down!

Welcome to PoSitics. This special Gazette feature seeks to present a positive, upbeat analysis of each party’s platform so that Dalhousie students can approach the upcoming election with an appropriate sense of hope. We want students heading to the polls debating which party they WANT to vote for, not agonizing over who scares them the least. Surely things can’t be as discouraging as we’ve been led to believe … right?

Well gang, we survived our First Contact with the Conservative platform last week, and I’m proud to say that even though there we moments we seemed to be heading Into Darkness, we managed to keep our “Facers” set to smile. (Get it? Star Trek references! Who says politics can’t be fun?)

This week we come to the New Democrats, the party that earned the second most seats in the 2011 elections.

Since the start of the campaign period, the NDP have unleashed a torrent of big-ticket promises to pretty much any segment of the population that contains at least one voter with a pulse and a photo ID. They surprisingly haven’t yet released any platform planks specifically dealing with post-secondary education, but they have made commitments to young Canadians. They’ve promised to create 40,000 jobs, paid internships and coop placements for young Canadians, and to protect young workers by cracking down on unpaid internships.

Some Negative-Nellie economists have questioned the effectiveness of these promises, suggesting that the tax increases the NDP have proposed to pay for their generous platform would in fact cost the economy upwards of 250,000 jobs – but PoSitics is not the column to dwell on such pessimism.

Who even cares about lost jobs anyway when we can get PAID internships and co-op placements?

Yes, we’ll back on the streets six months after we graduate, and sure, losing another 250,000 jobs would transform our already shaky job-market into a Mad-Max-esque opportunity wasteland.

Still, let’s focus on the bright side – an additional 40,000 of us will have just the sort of real-world experience needed to land one of the wasteland’s coveted new positions. Remember, no matter how bad things get, Immortan Joe is always looking for the next Bullet-Farmer or Imperator Furiosa!

The good news doesn’t end with the internship promises either. While they are the only commitments specifically aimed at students and youth, we’ll also enjoy the fruits of some of the NDP’s other promises. Take the $15/hour federal minimum wage – how awesome would that be?

Granted, most of us won’t see a penny of it, since it only applies to crown corporations and federally regulated industries, but things will definitely be looking up for any students among the 1 per cent or so of minimum-wage earners working in federally regulated industries like railroads, airlines, banking, or uranium mining!

For the other 99 per cent of us who haven’t been able to land any part-time, minimum-wage uranium-mining gigs, there’s still plenty to get excited for in a potential NDP government. While it’s true that the NDP has been tracking towards the center this election cycle, this certainly isn’t a reason to panic.

I mean, would it have been encouraging if the NDP hadn’t quietly deleted the membership-approved policy book that affirmed their commitment to reduce post secondary education costs and relieve student debt?


Might we have preferred it if Mulcair hadn’t proudly declared that he does not believe in free tuition for university students?


Would we have a little more hope that this was all just a misunderstanding if the NDP hadn’t guaranteed balanced budgets beginning their first year in office, a promise that all but extinguishes any hope for additional progressive programs outside of the specifically costed promises in the election platform?

Well … yes … but negativity won’t get us anywhere!

Let’s not forget, the NDP is only doing what is necessary in order to achieve power. You can’t win a Canadian election without occupying the political center. The same thing happened here in Nova Scotia, and that worked out, right? Remember how exciting it was when Darrell Dexter’s NDP swept to power? Now that was a real victory for students.

For years in opposition, Dexter’s provincial NDP told us how much they valued students, and golly, when the time came to back up their words with action, they sure delivered.

Take my degree program – law. Before the NDP came to power, those crafty PCs suppressed the value of law students through caps and freezes on tuition increases. It’s hard to imagine imagine the shame past law students felt when they inspected their tuition invoices each semester and realized that the university thought the knowledge they were working so hard to learn was only worth about $11,000 per year.

The NDP wasn’t about to stand for that. The party stuck it to university administrations from their very first budget, slashing post-secondary funding and freeing law students from the tyranny of tuition caps. Dalhousie had no choice but to recognize the true value of our degree. By the time I started law school in 2013, that once shamefully low tuition had shot all the way up to $16,870 per year!

This jump in tuition has changed everything. Now, whenever it’s a rainy day and some university administration fat-cat rolls through a nearby puddle in his fully loaded Mercedes Benz, I can wipe the muck from my face and proudly stare him down as he roars away. He may assume he’s better than me because I can’t afford an umbrella, or because I’m so broke that I’m forced to keep the ratty, ill-fitting Queens of the Stone Age t-shirt I got for Christmas 2005 in my wardrobe rotation – but I take comfort knowing that the market values my education more than his luxury car, tailored suit, and stupid, elitist umbrella combined. Talk about a confidence booster!

So stay positive, friends – it’s a tight three-way race, and the NDP are in the thick of it. If Mulcair keeps charting the same center-bound course that Dexter did for our provincial NDP, then Canada might only be three short weeks away from electing its first truly student-friendly socialist orange governing party!

See week one of PoSitics, where we observed the Conservative party, here.

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John Hillman

John Hillman is the Gazette's Opinions Editor. John is a second-year law student, but he has been at Dalhousie for much longer than that. Recently discovered cave paintings indicate he was first observed lurching around campus by Halifax’s original human settlers some time during the late Pleistocene epoch. He started writing for the Gazette back when you were in elementary school, but he unexpectedly went off the grid a half-decade ago to concentrate on helping found Punditry.ca, a DSU-focused political blog. Where exactly was he hiding between the years 2009-2013? Certain individuals would prefer he not comment. Why has he returned? Not because of a top-secret Illuminati indoctrination project known only as the Omega Initiative, that’s for sure.

You can email John at opinions@dalgazette.com.

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