Last month I was asked by the NDP, whose newsletters I receive by email, to fill out a brief survey on their campaign so far. The questions were repetitive and asked things like "I believe Tom Mulcair is fighting for a stronger middle class," "I believe the NDP is in the side of middle class families," "I value Tom's ability to protect the middle class," etc...
I abstained from most of these questions and when I was asked at the end to offer specific feedback for the campaign, I let loose. I informed Canada's social democratic party that I did not appreciate their fight for the middle class, nor did I care. In fact I went further...
For me the crisis facing Canadians is not one of an attack on the middle class, either by taxation or a lagging economy, but rather the shocking and moral issue of poverty and destitution.
I was raised to believe that "as you treat the least of these..." -- or in a more secular wording "societies can be judged by how they treat their most vulnerable members." And so to my mind the first role of government is to care for and address the needs of the poor, the sick, seniors, youth, etc., understanding full well that in addressing these problems they will create an infrastructure and fiscal-culture that will in many ways fuel its own economy.
The middle class are, in my opinion, not the Canadians with the most pressing needs -- though God knows they are loud. Oh, and they vote, which brings me to my main point.
As a socialist, I was excited for this election as I hoped the NDP would stretch its wings and become a vocal proponent for the poor, the under-housed, the underemployed, etc.; that they would put front and centre the issues that carry the greatest ethical and moral weight for Canadian society.
The party of the little man -- Tommy Douglas's party of mice refusing to be led by cats -- is now courting middle-income Canadians, an arguably small group, but, as I said earlier, a group that votes, in groups and often.
This, I know, is their strategy to become an elected government, and I appreciate that. But the long term toxic nature of this mindset is frightening to me both as a socialist and as a democrat.
As a democrat I see how this constant courting of the middle class, in an attempt to appeal to the voting population, actually shrinks that population. I myself am not middle class and may never be. In an economy that is more and more service based and less about manufacturing there will be a large number of Canadians carrying buckets of student debt, no doubt, who will not darken the door of the middle class, or have liveable incomes.
More so, many people in Canada recognize that they are poor, or at least under-employed, left behind by the economy, and not likely to draw any comfort from "tax breaks for families that earn over 50,000 in combined household income" or what have you.
Faced with a political establishment that does not speak a word on their behalf, or mine, what invariably happens? Either radicalization of some kind -- often the last resort for people who see the victimization of entire segments of a population -- or effective disenfranchisement. People will simply stop voting and thus lose their political voice, sinking deeper and deeper into political apathy.
With a loss of faith in the functions of democracy, the vulnerable and weak turn resentful, and from this sinister things arise.
Canadians need to ask themselves, as we approach this election and will likely have a new or old government on our hands: To what extent are the weakest a concern for us? Just how much do we care?
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