Friday, September 26, 2008

Michael Byers Shows His Concern for the Working Class

Shut down the oilsands, says NDP candidate

Thank god for the NDP -- Canada's "working-class" political party. Always so full of concern for the working class.

...Or maybe not.

In a debate yesterday at the University of BC's School of Journalism, Byers made what have been described as controversial remarks. More than simply controversial, they make one wonder if the entire NDP isn't suffering from some kind of deeply-rooted identity crisis.

Lamenting that climate change may mean that his sons will never see a polar bear in its natural habitat, Myers remarked on the alleged urgency of the alleged crisis.

"We have to do something to address the climate change crisis, we need to do so now," Byers announced. "We need to go after the big polluters, we need to shut the tarsands down."

And all the working-class men and women whose livelihoods -- their ability to support themselves and their families -- depend on the Fort MacMurray oilsands?

"Yeah, fuck those guys," Byers remarked.

Well, not really. But he may as well have.

For her own part, Liberal incumbent Hedy Fry was truly shocked. "That's a headline," she said afterward. "It's quite a statement."

And it is. It's a statement on the true nature of the NDP.

For decades, the NDP has portrayed itself as the "conscience of the nation", as the party of the working class.

Yet the party remains notoriously weak in rural and suburban ridings where most working-class people actually live. Instead, the party finds the bulk of its strength from urban ridings in Vancouver and throughout Ontario.

Those of its ridings that do represent the abstract working class all come from within Ontario's "golden horseshoe". Meanwhile, the ridings that represent the working class throughout the rest of the country tend to find themselves in the hands of Conservative candidates.

If anything, the NDP is increasingly becoming the party of the urban elite. After all, Michael Byers' appeal to working-class individuals has likely just taken a rather significant dip in the wake of his comments, which demonstrate certainly a lack of concern, if not outright contempt for, working class individuals who happen to work in the "wrong" industry.

When one considers that all of those working class men and women whom Byers would so readily put out of work produce a product that is complementary to, and necessary for, that produced by so many of the NDP's constituents in Ontario, one has to wonder precisely where Byers' head and heart are at in this federal election.

Certainly not in Alberta, where he's just fucked his party royally. Edmonton-Strathcona candidate Linda Duncan, running neck-and-neck with Conservative incumbent Rahim Jaffer, may have just found her campaign complicated significantly by her colleague's unfortunate remarks.

Even what should otherwise be a bastion of strength for her campaign -- the University of Alberta, with its campus located within the riding she seeks -- may turn out to be significantly less so, as Engineering and Business students, counting on continuing prosperity from the tarsands projects Byers so desperately wants to kibosh, turn away from her campaign.

All of this for a policy point that runs contrary to that of his party -- NDP Jack Layton has called for a moritorium on tarsands development, not for a complete shutdown.

In the end, the damage Byers has done to his party may actually turn out to be minimal. The party is in contention for a single seat in Alberta. Not exactly difference-making stuff.

But the damage Byers has done to that working class vineer the party has traditionally spread over its very real inner shell of urban elitism may turn out to be more devastating in time.

At least for once the NDP will be able to be honest -- both with Canadians and with itself -- about from whom the party actually draws its support.

So, in that sense, thank god for the NDP and all the positive things that they've accomplished for this country. (Public health care is a wonderful thing, mr Douglas and we love you for it.)

But thank god for Michael Byers, as well. For shining a little light on the otherwise obscure shadows of the inner party.


  1. You can hear the full debate on the UBC Journalism School student website:

  2. Kinda make you wonder what they would do if they actually, by some grotesque fluke, took power in Ottawa. How would they weasel out of their stupid promises?

  3. Simple. Just look at the way Bob Rae did it in Ontario.

    Could you imagine Bob Rae's outrage in the House of Commons over the matter? More than a little ironic, I'd daresay.

  4. Sigh... as a New Democrat working in the oilpatch, I do wish Mr. Byers would shut his damn mouth.

  5. I actually feel for you.

    Think about it this way: of all the NDP supporters out there, you're one of the ones people should respect for their beliefs.

    Considering the kind of taxes you, in particular, would pay to support the kind of programs the NDP would like to implement, if anything you're in favour of redistributing some of your own wealth, as opposed to merely everyone else's.

    I know it sounds contrite, but I actually respect that. A lot.


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