Fake populists, fake progressives – can’t the elite all just get along?

Is nothing for real anymore?

We recently learned the “populist” and “grassroots” political organization, Ontario Proud, is in fact corporate-funded as well as conservative-led.

And, this week, the Trudeau Liberals dangled progressive visions of a guaranteed annual income — someday, right after electoral reform, perhaps — although they’ve done almost nothing for working Canadians all year long (except violate their charter freedoms with anti-union legislation).

The real news story of 2018 was the fake fight between fake progressives and fake populists. And what they want you to know is it’s absolutely essential you pick a side. Because if you don’t, their game will come tumbling down. So you gotta really believe.

In the United States, the people bailed out the banks and the Democrats put the bankers back in charge. In Europe, there’s been a decade of austerity under conservatives and putative social democrats.

In Canada, under Conservatives and Liberals, income polarization continues, social programs get cut, workers’ economic strength weakens, infrastructure is turned into a finance rent-seeking scheme and oil and gas companies get billions in subsidies — currently by a government that claims to be a global climate leader.

Not surprisingly, this might make some people believe the political-economic elite and the Canadian people aren’t on the same team.

There is, of course, a perfectly rational way out of the economic and political disaster foisted on us. The high cost of everyday life needs to be unwound using policy initiatives, including a public drug plan and childcare. We need to attack money laundering and tax housing speculation. Critical monopolies like power grids should be turned into ratepayer-owned co-ops. Public investment in infrastructure needs to be delivered on-time and on-budget by ending the finance of the finance sector. And the labour market should expand bargaining power for people, especially those who are precarious and with low income. The billions being spent on oil and gas subsidies should be reinvested in what’s being labelled a Green New Deal. We should seek international trade and diplomatic alliances with countries that share our social and democratic values. We should stop arming tyrants.

It’s a pretty obvious plan. But it doesn’t help the political and economic elite. So to replace the obvious solutions, we have political fakery — in two brands. And you better believe it. Or at least one of them.

Brand A pushes the fake populist narrative that refugees are today’s crisis, tax cuts for the rich will raise wages, and the oil and gas industry needs more public subsidies. Brand B sells the fake progressive line that things are great, ending racism is one call-out away, and life-changing investments in people are just around the corner.

But surely Canadians understand that, whether it’s Brand A or Brand B, fake populists or fake progressives, Conservatives or Liberals, their reality doesn’t change. The recent political history of Ontario proves that.

During 14 years of their rule, the Ontario Liberals privatized transit finance and the hydro grid, cut the corporate tax rate multiple times, froze the minimum wage, violated the charter freedom to collective bargaining, overbuilt a privatized power production industry with outlandish guaranteed prices, cut health care to the lowest in Canada, and let public schools and public housing decay.

That 14 year of Liberal austerity was followed by an 18 month fake progressive gambit which, when it failed, turned into a two-week alliance with the fake populists in a double-barreled attack on NDP support for public child care and the charter freedom to collective bargaining.

And, so for the last six months, Ontarians, having absolutely rejected fake progressives, have been getting real with the fake populists. The Conservatives campaigned “for the people.” Now elected, they are cutting the people’s schools, social assistance and transit to free up money to give to elite income earners, polluters and (again) private corporations. It’s almost like exactly the opposite of being for the people.

As the game of fakery plays on, allowing the economic process to continue, nothing changes for most people — redoubling the need for fakery. How this will resolve — unless, somewhere, people elect a real progressive populist who can unwind this mess — is a worrying question on which to end 2018.

4 Replies to “Fake populists, fake progressives – can’t the elite all just get along?”

  1. You nailed it.

    Only 1 problem….and it’s a huge one
    to have a “smart” government actually “for the people” you require “smart people” to draw politicians from; not sure Canada’s population has enough smart people that understand. Seeing as you are pretty much the only columnist that makes sense in Canada


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