Federal NDP no longer looks like bogeyman

My take on the NDP surge in the final days of the federal election is that voters frustration with the state of Canadian politics is overcoming their ingrained fear of the NDP.

Basically, centrist or right-leaning Canadians have traditionally shunned the NDP, fearing the party would jack up  taxes, embark on a host of expensive social program, send the country spriralling into debt and send investors scurrying for friendlier shores.

But now, their disgust at Harper’s secretive, mean and manipulative ways combined with their contempt for the Liberals inability to get its act together, has them taking another look. And they’re not that scared. As University of Western Ontario economist Mike Moffatt put it, this is “not your father’s NDP.”

Sure, the NDP platform contains spending and programs that are bound to tweak the sensibilities of those inclined to favour a more laissez-faire approach to social policy and economics. But most voters also know from past experience that election platforms shouldn’t be taken literally, no matter what party they come from.

Plus, no one imagines that the NDP is going to grab a majority government and be able to do whatever the hell it pleases. Right now the most probable way the NDP takes power is if it comes in second place but can topple the Conservatives and govern with the support of a shell-shocked Liberal party.

And so while most voters don’t think the Liberals deserve to form government, a growing number are comfortable with them as the economic conscience that keeps the NDP in check.  It’s easy to believe that a pragmatic need to hold onto power will keep the NDP from indulging it’s most extreme urges, just as it did with the Conservatives – though hopefully the NDP won’t be as begrudging and nasty about it.

And who knows, an NDP government supported by the Liberals just might be able to do some exciting things. Perhaps they’ll take stock of the political landscape and realize that its in both their interests to replace our first past the post electoral system for something more representational. At the very least, if they pull this off, I’d like to see them institute reforms that force future governments to be more open and transparent.

If there’s a message that I want all three parties to get out of this election it’s that we don’t trust any of you to have carte blanche to do as you please. We expect you all to work together no matter who is in power and just to be sure none of you get too comfortable in the driver’s seat, we are going to make you take turns being in charge.

And this time, just to show we’re serious, we’re going to hand the keys to the new guy.

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