as parliament returns, let cats be cats and mice be mice

A new Parliament opens tomorrow, and with it, we step into a great unknown. Will Stephen Harper's Conservative majority plunge us into chaos? Will the government impose a neoliberal austerity agenda that shreds what remains of Canada's social programs? Will his social conservative base have free rein to chip away at our rights and freedoms? And if so, will the NDP opposition oppose him at every turn?

Lying beneath these questions is a truth we cannot repeat often enough: the majority of Canadians did not vote for this government.

A new Environics poll shows that the majority of Canadians oppose two central pieces of the Conservative plan: corporate tax cuts and the purchase of wasteful, unnecessary fighter jets. But the popular opposition goes much deeper than that.

In the recent federal election, 5,832,401 million Canadians voted for the Conservative Party. In our ridiculous, undemocratic, first-past-the-post system, this translated into 23 new Conservative seats in Parliament, but represented an increase of just under two percent (1.96%) in Conservative votes over the 2008 election.

The NDP, on the other hand, won the votes of 4,508,474 Canadians, gaining 67 seats, an increase of just over 30 percent over the last election.

In other words, support for the Conservative Party is pretty much static, while support for the New Democrat Party is surging.

What's more, in 122 ridings won by either the Conservatives or the Liberals, the NDP came in second. In fact, the NDP finished below second in only five percent of ridings nationally. The results in many of these ridings were very close: in 14 ridings won by the Conservatives with the NDP finishing second, the difference was a total only 6,000 votes.

And if we speak about eligible voters, as opposed to people who voted, we see that only 24% of electorate voted Conservative.

The mainstream media tells us that this great Orange Wave was powered by ignorance. Voters didn't want the Conservatives or the Liberals, so they voted NDP, without really knowing what they were voting for. I ask you, why would that be?

Why would voters understand they didn't want Liberals or Conservatives, but somehow not understand what the NDP stands for? Did Jack Layton not campaign his heart out? Did the NDP not run ads announcing its platform? Was Michael Ignatieff so much more visible than Jack Layton during the 2011 campaign? No, no, no.

The corporate-owned, hidebound media cannot (or perhaps will not) process the plain truth in front of their faces: millions of Canadians wanted change, and they wanted change from the left.

On the other hand, Liberal partisans decry the results of the 2011 federal election because, they say, the strong showing for the NDP handed the Tories their long-sought majority. Progressive people were "supposed to" vote for the other neoliberal party, simply out of duty, whether or not that party earned or deserved our vote.

But if, like me, you care not about parties but about people, you see that - despite our grave disappointment at having a Conservative majority - millions of Canadians rejected both corporate parties and called out for a leftward shift. A strong plurality of Canadians want a return to real liberalism, a government of social democracy, where government coffers exist for the good of all, not the enrichment of the few.

We may be entering a period of turmoil, but we are also entering a period of opportunity. But resistance is not automatic. History teaches us that the NDP itself will be divided by those who caution "pragmatism" - that is, a shift to the right, to prove that the NDP is a "government-in-waiting" - and those who call for a return to the NDP's historic role as a labour party and social democrat party.

Four and a half million Canadians didn't vote NDP so that the party would become the Liberals. We voted NDP because we want the NDP! We shouldn't assume that a Harper majority means we can't win our battles, but nor should we assume that an NDP Opposition means our perspective will be represented and our voices will be heard.

It's up to us to hold their feet to the fire. We must constantly be on Jack Layton and all the NDP Critics, to tell them what we want and what we expect of them.

We expect them to oppose war and the march of militarization. We expect them to oppose a so-called austerity budget that will enrich private industry while eroding the quality of life for the great majority of Canadians. We expect them to uphold the rights of labour, women and all working people. To champion the environment over industry, and public health care over private profit. To speak up for the rights of aboriginal people. To oppose anything that chips away at reproductive freedom.

We don't want an Opposition whose goal is to "make Parliament work". That simply means giving in to everything the Government wants. We want an Opposition that will oppose.

Jack Layton, I voted for a mouse. I won't sit by and let you become a cat.

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