Thursday, May 19, 2011

What David Davis and Tommy Douglas Have in Common


On its face, a comparison between British Haltemprice and Howden MP David Davis and former NDP leader (the late) Tommy Douglas would seem entirely unreasonable.

One is a Conservative Tory MP, defeated by David Cameron in his bid to be Conservative leader. The other was, as leader of the NDP, the father of Canadian healthcare.

One is a former Shadow Deputy Prime Minister. The other is an icon of the Canadian left.

But as it turns out, they each have one thing in common: they both believe in workfare. (Or rather, Davis believes in workfare, and Douglas believed in workfare.)

Recently, Davis suggested that British welfare recipients should be put to work building rural broadband networks.

"A workforce of the unemployed should build the superfast network we need so urgently," Davis remarked. "Building a superfast rural broadband network is largely low-skill – digging trenches, laying pipes, filling them in. Only a small fraction of the cost is in high-tech materials."

Naturally, advocates for welfare recipients -- in both Britain and Canada -- would accuse Davis of barbarism; they would likely compare his proposal to advocating slavery.

When Douglas was the NDP Premier of Saskatchewan, his government implemented workfare. Able-bodied men who were beneficiaries of welfare were required to provide service to the state, often remarkably similar to what Davis has suggested.

It's something that the Canadian left will likely decline to mention when the British left rushes to condemn David Davis. Which makes it all the more worth mentioning.

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