Signature of a Society:Jack,Paul,Sheila and the Wajsman Manifesto
Itís funny, hearing Jack Layton described as a Hudson homeboy in the national media. For the past thirty something years, heís made his home in Toronto, where he built the power base that won him the leadership of the New Democratic party with last Saturdayís decisive first-ballot victory.
But Jacks Hudsonian roots show. Heís blind to race and gender, except when it comes to inequality. Heís a fervent environmentalist. He seeks to empower municipalities. He wants everyone to have a home. He doesnít like globalization, genetically-modified food or George Bush. Jackís leftist tendencies are so quintessentially Hudson, that when Jack spoke
Saturday, I heard his dad Bob talking to our Wyman Memorial Sunday school.
Cutting through Saturdayís NDP victory-bubble rhetoric, the odds are next to nil that a Layton-led NDP will cheat Paul Martin of a fourth Liberal term. The New Democrats would have to win most of Ontarioís 100 Liberal seats and strip another 50 from the Canadian Alliance and the Bloc Quebecois and meltdowns like that just donít happen to Canadaís Natural Governing Party.
But somethingís happening, both inside and outside the Liberal Party, that might give Laytonís left a window of opportunity. A think tank with strong Liberal connections is quietly circulating a document that challenges Martin and anyone else running for the Liberal leadership
to rethink what it is to be a Liberal.
Last week, I read Signature of a Society: A Canadian Manifesto -- A Pragmatic Populist Agenda for the 21st Century. You can read it yourself at www.iapm.ca, the website of the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal. The institute is directed by Beryl Wajsmann.
When I first read Wajsmannís Manifesto, I was stunned, not because of what it said, but because it sounds so...well, unMartin. An example: ďThe current spate of corporate theft in North America can be traced to one overriding element in continental corporate culture. Concentration.While the debate about concentration rages, the fact of concentration
continues. The only end served is not efficiency but greed. While 80% of our new jobs are produced by small business, bank credit and tax breaks go to the conglomerates. While the top 20% of our corporations and citizenry exploit the levers of legislation for their own fiscal
benefits, 80% of our total taxes are collected from small businesses and workingmen and women, 45% of who have no more than two weeks of cash flow in savings. In the midst of an already inequitable environment we now hear calls from the banks to allow mergers.
Does that sound like a platform of privilege? Or this: ďIn dozens of different ways the tax law says all Canadians are equal, but the rich are more equal than others. The pattern of
unfair tax advantage is total. The plush business lunch of executives in restaurants is deductible, but the soup and sandwich of the worker in the cafeteria is not. The cost of tax lawyers is deductible for the corporation, the cost of H&R Block for the individual is not. The truth
is that money earned by the wealthy is taxed less severely than money earned by the average Canadian.Ē
Iíve been told the document reflects the thinking of some of the most powerful Liberal backers in Canada. Itís said to have crossed Jean Chretienís desk and passages dealing with corporate interference and fund-raising sound suspiciously like Sheila Copps recent speeches. There is a new wave sweeping through Canadian politics, driven by RRSP-less baby-boomers, jobless Generation Xers and Naomi Kleinís No-Logo brand rebels. Beryl Wajsmannís Manifesto gives it a Liberal voice; Jack Layton is its NDP embodiment.
It could prove to be an interesting House of Commons.