Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Canada (and Quebec) Inc. give Mulcair's NDP leadership bid kiss of death

March 14, 2012

André Pratte, head editorialist at La Presse, wrote a piece on March 5, 2012 which caught my attention. It was titled "Mulcair a raison" (Mulcair is right).

I worked for 35 years at La Presse as a journalist writing on world affairs, and I never wasted time reading its editorials (which are signed, unlike English Canadian papers) and which, of necessity, operate within a strictly defined "ideological corridor" that says the Editorial page is the mouthpiece of its owners, the Desmarais family, of Gesca and Power Corporation.

So, for once, I rushed to read the blog, at the end of which I wrote a simple two-sentence comment:

"André Pratte's support for Thomas Mulcair is the kiss of death of Power Corp. and Canada Inc. to his attempt to take over the NDP. And putting up that old liar and war-monger Tony Blair as a model (for Mulcair to follow) is pathetic and anachronistic -- we are in 2012, the old Blair-Bush World Order is teetering, and we now have to deal with the 99%'s challenge to the hegemony of the 1%."

My comment was kept in the queue for hours to be "evaluated" by an administrator -- and then it disappeared!

There's an interesting irony to this. In 1994, when Pratte was a La Presse columnist, he wrote a piece entitled "Tout est pourri" (Everything is rotten) about the anti-Power Corp. rant of an irate caller. "Power Corporation runs everything, everyone knows that. (Jean) Chrétien, (Daniel) Johnson (Jr.), that's Power Corporation," the ranter went on. At some point, Pratte omitted some requisite quotation marks. He was suspended for months, and sent to purgatory, before rebounding as Head of Editorial at the paper!

We know that both Brian Mulroney and Paul Martin went through the Power Corp. stables too, and that John James "Jean" Charest, Thomas Mulcair's former boss, came from Mulroney's decimated federal Tories to take over the Quebec Liberal Party from Daniel Johnson Jr. in 1998, under intense pressure from business circles.

In the days that followed Pratte's blog, Pierre-Paul Noreau of Le Soleil, also part of the Desmarais media empire, Jean-Jacques Samson of Le Journal de Montréal, which belongs to the union-bashing Quebecor empire of the Péladeau clan, and Bernard Descôteaux of Le Devoir, the small elitist paper whose brand of Québécois nationalism is moving ever closer to the interests of Quebec Inc., have endorsed Mulcair's NDP leadership bid.

Backwards and retreat with Tony Blair

Revealingly, they all look backwards to 1990s Britain and to Tony Blair's so-called "New Labour" as the appropriate recipe for a Mulcair-led NDP, blind to the fact that Blair was then, and the NDP leadership race is now -- and for the future.

No statement has struck me as more contemporary and forward-looking than Brian Topp's unhesitant and courageous answer to a media question on Palestine's bid for a UN seat when he launched his own NDP leadership campaign: "We want Canada to vote with the rest of the world."

Mulcair's ultra-Zionist position on Palestine and the Middle East would never countenance such a possibility. On this issue, he remains solidly entrenched in his bunker with Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman (and their friend Tony Blair, the Quartet's very ineffectual special Mid-East envoy), while the entire Middle East is changing as people demand a future of social and economic justice and democratic participation.

And while the BRICS nations rise, while the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) solidifies, while Russia and China block NATO's bid to replicate Libya in Syria, and while Latin America goes its own way with a CELAC that excludes North America, the OECD club remains entrenched in an Old World Order in decay.

Quebec voters thirst for social justice

I am from Mulcair's Outremont riding and I helped his campaign in the 2007 by-election that propelled him to the House of Commons, especially in the heavily South Asian Park-Extension district. But his rigid, unconditional, doctrinaire defence of Israel as being "above reproach," and ruthless attacks on those who had other views, made me change my mind.

Quebec voters elected Mulcair because they wanted to shift to a federal party committed to social justice, the NDP, after years of identity politics with the Bloc Québécois. It's interesting that after winning with 11,374 votes to 6,933 for his Liberal runner-up in 2007, he managed only 14,348 votes to his Liberal rival's 12,005 in the 2008 federal election. But in the 2011 Orange Wave he got 21,906 votes to the Liberals' 9,204.

Mulcair's backers like to present him as the "architect" of the 2011 NDP wave in Quebec. I beg to differ. The 2007 by-election showed that Québécois voters were already considering shifting from the Bloc to the NDP, and Jack Layton is the one who made the difference. When he recruited Mulcair, they went along with him. It could have been someone else. The wave kept building and came to a head in 2011.

The 1% strikes back

Quebec voters want Quebec (and Canada) Inc. to be reined in. Quebec Inc. has grown exponentially since the PQ came to power in 1976. It operates more and more in partnership with multinational corporations in extracting wealth from poor nations and spreading poverty, war and corruption. So much so that the sovereignty issue has receded -- though it's far from extinct.

Voters here have shown they are prepared to take a chance with the NDP to push back neo-liberalism (of both Conservative and Liberal hue), and to re-prioritize social justice. And now the debate is about the 99 per cent challenging the power of the 1 per cent.

Thomas Mulcair's NDP leadership bid is looking more and more like a counter-attack by the 1 per cent to take over the NDP and steer it towards the so-called "extreme centre," and even turn it into a "New Liberal Party." That is something Quebec voters will not accept. The 1 per cent does not fear a backlash: a rightward shift would make the NDP decline -- if not disappear in Quebec -- and the moribund Liberals could reap enough votes to breathe new life into their party. This could also be helpful to the Bloc, which, like the PQ, has become too friendly to Quebec Inc. to raise an immediate threat of separation.

NDP members need to give serious thought to these cynical manoeuvres when they elect the new party leader. If they pick Mulcair because they think he will (or did) win Quebec, they are mistaken. Quebec will go forward with its twin concerns of identity and social justice, and if the NDP is too closely associated with Quebec/Canada Inc., it is unlikely to be their party of choice.

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