Monday, February 28, 2011

Socialist Anti-Tax Populism

In this new era of Rob Ford tea-party-esque populism, framing a message for an unapologetic socialist party is difficult. Martin Regg Cohn`s article in The Star makes mention of two concurrent debates at the federal and provincial level and how Liberals and NDPers deal with communicating tax policy:
Horwath has staked out her turf on corporate taxes to distinguish herself from provincial Tory Leader Tim Hudak, who largely owns the HST as a pocketbook concern. She too has tried to profit from discontent over the HST , but often sounds like a discordant echo of the taxfighting Tories or a socialist Tea Party.
And Horwarth`s HST taxtics have created tensions within Ontario’s house of labour. Ontario Federation of Labour head Sid Ryan complains that her rhetoric undermines public support for the taxes that fund social programs. And Canadian Auto Workers head Ken Lewenza once publicly lectured Horwath: “Andrea, the harmonized sales tax, as unpopular as it may be, cannot be an issue from the progressive side. . . . We do not want every Ontarian to think that taxes are bad.”

Sid Ryan`s comment could be echoed federally, as Jack Layton releases a new set of ads today that slam the HST in Ontario and British Columbia. What is surprising is considering the significant policy planks available for the NDP to mention under a right-wing government (affordable housing, gap between rich and poor, decaying infrastructure, unemployment, CPP, etc etc), they choose taxes.

As discussed in a previous post, this is a losing game for a left-wing party, especially the NDP. Tapping into anti-tax populism is both awkward from a philosophical standpoint for the NDP, but more importantly, it compromises the progressive movement generally, as it advances no social concerns, while moving a significant government revenue source (in this case the HST) into the crosshairs.

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