To keep summer from being too enjoyable, it is customary for there to be a panic about something. Panics are not easily staged in this country, owing to the absence of sharks. Most of the things we panic about happen a bit later in the year— the Blue Jays and Expos facing elimination from their respective pennant races; back to school; the tail end of American hurricanes. But it wouldn’t be right to have an entirely panic-free summer. So this summer it’s the New Democratic Party.
The New Democratic Party has just won three federal byelections. It is also leading all other parties in Gallup polls. Although the present trend never continues, the NDP could be in power after the next election if the present trend continues. Of course, the polls are volatile, reflecting the volcanic makeup of Canadians, a fiery people, given to frenzied dancing and likely to explode at any given moment, even without byelections or other forces of provocation.
To demonstrate how volatile we are, not too long ago the same polls showed the Liberal party so strong that it would have formed the government not only of Canada but of several other countries as well, if a general election had been held the next day, which it wasn’t. When those polls were taken, the New Democratic Party was trailing the Welsh Nationalists—not by much, but still trailing.
Now the New Democratic Party is the big fright of the summer of 1987. NDP Leader Ed Broadbent is Jaws V. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the polling booth.
So severe is the panic, so immense is the fear surrounding the increasing power of the New Democratic Party, that at least one major Canadian business is considering contributing to it.
That may sound pretty drastic, but it was one of the reactions of businessmen surveyed by the Toronto Globe and Mail in the wake of the July 20 byelections. While not all were so frightened as to ponder actual financial contributions, many fears did emerge, including the 50-cent dollar, domination by labor unions, adverse stock market reaction (or “tremors through the business community,” as they are usually called) and nationalized banks.
The NDP’S moderation of such traditional socialist policies as those in favor of nationalization does not impress
everyone. “Does a leopard change its spots?” one businessman asked.
That is one important question, and there are many other questions as well. Since it is possible that we may have to live with the NDP threat for a while, it is time to discuss some of the commonly held views surrounding an NDP federal government in Canada.
When the NDP governs Canada, all Canadians will eat black bread.
That common antisocialist view is completely false. Multinational corporations own many Canadian bakeries and cannot, under American law, convert to black bread. Canadian-owned bakeries would also resist, for fear of losing export markets.
The dollar will be worth 50 cents when the NDP governs Canada.
That obviously depends on how long the NDP governs Canada, since all dollars are worth 50 cents eventually. It is possible that the 50-cent dollar will be
So severe is the panic about the power of the NDP that at least one major business is considering contributing to it
more readily accepted this time, because the new Canadian dollar resembles a 50-cent piece already.
An NDP government will send tremors through the business community and cause the stock market to nosedive.
That is undeniably true. Super Bowl games cause the stock market to nosedive. So does cloudy weather, any statement by the President of the United States, the failure of the air conditioning at the Toronto Stock Exchange and an unsuccessful Burt Reynolds. There’s no reason why an NDP government should be any different.
NDP foreign and defence policies will cause our allies not to trust us.
There is a danger of that all right. Britain may not consult us next time she invades the Falkland Islands. The United States may not consult us in advance of the next invasion of Grenada. It’s true that we were not, as trusted allies, consulted last time, but that was because of an oversight. Next time it might be on purpose.
Under a federal NDP government, all lawyers will be forced into a govern-
ment legal-care system.
Not true. The NDP is full of lawyers and realizes that such a scheme would face extreme difficulties. Also it would appeal mainly to doctors.
When the NDP is elected, the streets of Ottawa will be full of people talking with Saskatchewan accents.
That is true. However, the streets of Ottawa are already full of people speaking with Saskatchewan accents. No one notices, because no one knows what a Saskatchewan accent sounds like.
When Ed Broadbent is prime minister, everyone will have to smoke cigars and listen to Bach or Brahms or one of those guys.
That is an exaggerated fear. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows people not to smoke cigars, and most communities have local bylaws requiring restaurants to establish NoBrahms areas.
Svend Robinson will be justice minister.
A lot has been made of. that possibility, but it will not be a matter of serious consequence. After a few months nobody remembers who the justice minister is anyway.
Pierre Berton will be poet laureate.
That is a matter of more serious concern, given the fact that many stops along the CP Rail main line don’t rhyme with anything at all.
When the NDP runs the country, the streets of Ottawa will be full of union leaders with Scottish accents.
Again, an unjustified fear. In fact, the streets of Ottawa will be full of union leaders with Saskatchewan accents, listening to Brahms.
The parts of the Ottawa streets that are not full of feminist union leaders will be full of middle-aged spritzerswilling Granola-munching oldVolvodriving neighborhood activists trying to increase the population of whales and four-way stop signs.
That is true, but if you keep your children inside they’ll be all right.
The election of an NDP government will prove, once and for all, that the leopard cannot change its spots.
That is the key question, of course. The history of Canadian politics has shown that Liberals and Progressive Conservatives can change their spots. However, no leopard, so far as anyone knows, has ever been elected to the House of Commons.
Charles Gordon is a columnist for the Ottawa Citizen.
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