With Admirers Like These…

August 29, 2011

In the week between Jack Layton’s death and his funeral, I heard a lot of ‘While I disagreed with his politics, I admired the man’ sentiments. A nice — generous even – way of saying that you could like a person without ever agreeing with them politically. The much sought after bipartisanship in a time of official mourning.

Watching the proceedings on Saturday and digesting all that was said over the flag draped casket on stage at Roy Thompson Hall, I began to wonder about the above view. I admired the man but disagreed with his politics. What was there to disagree with?

Yes, yes. There’s always a reflexive dismissal of the concept of redistribution of wealth, fear of the cessation of mindless tax cuts, class warfare in a real pinch. All those left wing bogeymen that are dragged out from under the bed to scare us with. Slogans most but even those with a modicum of truth to them are simply means to an end, processes toward a goal. That goal sits at the heart of a person’s ‘politics’.

And Jack Layton’s politics?

Reading his letter to Canadians and listening to the words spoken in eulogy, his politics sought ‘a more inclusive and generous Canada’ with ‘greater equality, justice, opportunity.’ According to Stephen Lewis, Jack Layton wanted ‘an economy that would embrace equity, fairness, balance and creative generosity.’ Jack Layton represented the ‘politics of respect for all, respect for the earth, respect for principle and generosity.’

Again, what’s not to agree with?

I guess there are those out there who dismiss all that as pie-in-the-sky fantasy, naïve, granola crunchy utopianism. Pure sophistry in some cases. For them, inclusiveness, generosity, equality, justice, fairness and respect are all either not achievable or desirable. Thus, they disagreed with Jack Layton’s politics.

I could be wrong and simply give my fellow Canadians too much credit but I assume that those holding such beliefs are in the minority. That most of us, ultimately, see such things as respect, fairness, justice, equality as not only desirable in theory but absolute necessities for a society to function at its highest level. When we say that we disagreed with Jack Layton’s politics, what we mean is that we disagreed with the methods of achieving all those lofty goals.

Fair enough. But I think it’s well past high time that those disagreeing with the politics of Jack Layton start laying out their plans on how to create a more just, equal, fair and inclusive society because, after nearly 30 years of decidedly non-Jack Layton politics, we are further from those qualities than we have been in a generation. We’ve been told how tax cuts create jobs which, in turn, increases government revenue. We’ve been told how open and unfettered global markets create increased opportunities both at home and abroad. We’ve bashed unions as obsolete. We’ve been assured that a rising tide will raise all boats.

Looking around at the evidence, I’d suggest we’ve been sold a bill of goods. The global economy teeters on wobbly legs sinking into part two of what could be a double dip recession, brought on by unregulated financial behemoths run amok. Income concentration is at the highest it’s been in some 80 years. We’ve gutted our manufacturing sector and, not coincidentally, our middle-class, exchanging good paying jobs for cheap consumer goods. Yet, household debt is perilously elevated. University education – the cornerstone of our future well-being, living as we are in the information age – is becoming more and more of a luxury item. Even our public school system is creeping toward a have versus have-not status. Pensions, once a rock solid contract between employee and employer, are now viewed as relics of past prosperity, unaffordable in these days of austerity.

We live in society that has become less generous, less fair, less equal with fewer opportunities for fewer people. Pretty much the exact opposite of everything Jack Layton stood for. So it’s all well and good to wrap yourself in the admired the man, disagreed with his politics warm and fuzzy coat but it’s ultimately facile to the point of meaninglessness. By disagreeing with Jack Layton’s politics, you are, in fact, in agreement with systemic unfairness and inequality, injustice and a blatant disregard for the well-being of your fellow citizens.

So admire away. But it would be better for all of us if you put more thought into your politics.

submitted by Cityslikr


Meet A Mayoral Candidate XXVI

August 20, 2010

With another long work week coming to an end, it’s time to Meet (another) Mayoral Candidate! And this one’s for you, Sonny Yeung, our favourite commenting candidate for mayor.

Today: Douglas Campbell!

Just like his old school socialist politics, Mr. Campbell is not that current when it comes to technology either. And since we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke aren’t particularly savvy (or just plain ass lazy) when it comes to tracking down our subjects, well, we’re just going to have to deliver you his candidacy purely second hand. Citations will be duly noted. It’s like we’re channeling the spirit of Douglas Campbell through the diligence of others.

Now an octogenarian, Douglas Campbell has been running for public office since 1962, first as an independent candidate in that federal election for the Toronto riding of St. Pauls and subsequently in almost every other race that has come up. He ran for the provincial NDP leadership in 1970 and the federal NDP leadership in 1975. During this same period, Campbell was also running for various positions at the municipal level in Mississauga. He first faced off against Mel Lastman for mayor in the North York election of 1988 before turning back to the federal NDP scene in 1989 with a run to succeed outgoing leader Ed Broadbent. 2010 marks the fourth time he has thrown his hat into the ring for the mayoralty of Toronto where, in 2000 in a second showdown with Lastman, Campbell placed 4th with more than 8500 votes.

The other Douglas Campbell.

Douglas Campbell’s professional resumé is as eclectic as his political career. He’s been a seaman, a coffee house proprietor, a student, a teacher and high school principal and a cabbie. But it’s been a work life imbued by politics. He took part in the Great Lakes Seamen strike of 1946, fighting for reduced working hours. As a U. of T. student in the `60s, he protested involvement in the Vietnam War and took to the streets in the anti-nuclear movement. In 1968 as a high school principal, Mr. Campbell brought sex education into Newfoundland classrooms. There’s no mention how long it remained there. Or Douglas Campbell for that matter.

At this point, it’s probably not necessary to point out that Campbell’s your dyed-in-the-wool outsider’s outsider. A socialist when it was almost fashionable, he remains one to this day despite the label having become a short form to signify a relic, a historic artifact, and used by those who’ve dishonestly repackaged their 18th-century political beliefs into something seemingly new and shiny but just as punishing and equal as it was 300 years ago. I mean, Campbell was part of the movement who thought the Lewis led NDP was too centrist! That is hard core left wing.

“I’m a fighter for the working class. I’d like to see the profits of labour (taxes) go to pay for hospitals and schools. Now the taxes go to the people who put the politicians in power,” Campbell has been quoted saying.

He wants free education for everyone right up through university. “The sooner we get to that level, the sooner we might preserve this planet,” Campbell figures. Having grown up in Toronto during the Dirty 30s “where tens of thousands of [were] unemployed,” Campbell thinks things are just as bad here now. “To see people now lying in the streets is evidence things are getting worse.”

How would a Mayor Douglas Campbell fix the problem of homelessness and inequality? “My only concern is that we should have public ownership of everything,” he informed CP24. “Either we get rid of capitalism or the working class will be resolved to nuclear dust.”

Yeah!! What’s not to like about such a fidelity to an ideology that has so fallen out of favour? It’s like the political version of being a Toronto Maple Leafs fan. At least, his heart is in the right place.

Except for the odd flare up of racial and religious intolerance. In an interview with blogTO earlier this year, Campbell called Harry Truman “that lunatic-Jewish president” for ordering the end of the Canadian Merchant Marines. A Jewish president?! And because Premier McGuinty is Roman Catholic, somehow this means that George Smitherman is “a puppet of the Pope”.

OK. So let’s call him a man of his time and not necessarily discard the message because of the messenger. Maybe out there somewhere is a young person, raised in an environment where socialism, so totally and not entirely justifiably discredited, was never mentioned. They see this post and wonder, what is this thing this old, slightly bigoted man speaks of, socialism? Maybe they’ll discover that it wasn’t nearly as bad a notion as they had been raised to believed. That can’t be all bad.

While not going out and getting the opportunity to ask Douglas Campbell the question we’ve been asking of all the candidates we’ve profiled, we’ll use his own words to answer for him. If the current mayor would like to see his legacy as that of the Transit Mayor, what would a Mayor Douglas Campbell like to see as his legacy?

A Mayor Douglas would “keep up the revolution”.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr