Is Progressive Old or New

Buzz Hargrove, the energizer bunny of the Canadian Association of Auto Workers (CAW) has come out with a long overdue idea. The Liberal Party of Canada and the federal NDP party should join forces. Hargrove, you will recall, implored his members and likeminded folks across Canada to vote for the Liberals in the last federal election. He wanted people to vote for the NDP only in ridings where the Conservatives didn’t have a chance to win but where the Conservatives were strong, to vote either Liberal or NDP, choosing the stronger candidate in order to thwart the Conservatives.

Now Hargrove has stated the obvious. The New Democratic party, says Hargrove, is neither new nor is it democratic. They tossed him out of the party after the federal election without actually letting him know or letting him defend himself. His defence against betraying the NDP is that his 900 plus delegates in a CAW meeting voted to ask people, or instruct people, to vote strategically to stop the Conservatives. At any rate Hargrove is correct in saying the 45 year old NDP is neither new nor democratic. Just ask Bev Desjarlais who was booted for raising a dissenting voice in the NDP.

It seems strange that the CAW would want to stop the Conservatives who brought in the Free Trade agreement that so richly benefited the auto industry and auto workers but that’s what they did. The greater story is that Hargrove has uncovered and has had the courage to say that the NDP has grown stale along with their Liberal friends. They have forgotten that they have to have more in their platform than “Liberals are good, Tories are bad.”

Many of today’s generation may have forgotten that the NDP grew out of an amalgamation of trade union support and the social unrest of the prairie farmers in the 1920s and 30s. The CCF or Canadian Commonwealth Federation was lead by men like Woodsworth and Tommy Douglas. It was also lead by Hazen Argue, a Saskatchewan farmer, who went on to become a Liberal Senator.

Some may also remember that the Liberal Party of Canada, the party of Laurier, became very protectionist and tariff oriented. They did so in the early 1900s to keep hold on the Ontario manufacturing vote, imposing tariffs to prop up Canadian industries like Massey Harris for example. (ever wonder why Vincent Massey was such a famous Liberal?) The western farmers, under the leadership of men like Tommy Crerar of Russell, Manitoba rose up out of the prairie soil and demanded lower tariffs and lower input costs for farmers. They formed the Progressive Party and elected 65 members in the early 1920s. Prior to that Crerar had tried to get his lower tariffs and non -compulsory Wheat Board policies injected into the Liberal war cabinet of WWI. He failed and thus he was thrust into leading the Progressives.

Over time, about 40 years to be exact, the Progressive members and their influence flowed into the Conservatives, the Progressive Conservatives and into the Liberals who until the late 1950s were called the Liberal Progressives. Interestingly enough the word progressive has little or nothing to do today with the meaning it carried in the 1920s. Then it meant low tariffs, a voluntary wheat board, grain cooperatives and low government spending. Now it’s as likely to mean compulsory wheat board, high tariffs, high taxation and high levels of government intervention. It’s also as likely to mean advancement of social issues such as samesex marriage, unrestricted abortion and any number of things that someone dreams up to foist on an unsuspecting society.

Would it be fair to ask if polygamy is progressive? It’s certainly not new and I don’t think it’s democratic. But I’m
sure somebody thinks it’s progressive.

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