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I'm always bewildered with Dippers who defend the Social Contract in Ontario. There was never a technocratic solution to the crisis. The only victory would have been political: an orderly, united retreat and repositioning for the next battle.
Instead of fighting the next battle on these terms, and recognize that electoral defeat was likely, they unleashed an austerity assault on public sector workers, which kicked off a fratricidal civil war that destroyed the strike movement against Harris, and still festers today.
But simply focusing on the Social Contract is to ignore how the policy and legislation fit into an escalating series of substantial, alienating betrayals of the NDP's various organized political bases. Doing so allows us to think further about the Social Contract.
September 1991
A year after winning, Rae abandons public auto insurance, cowed by media and business agitprop. Broken: NDP record of delivering public auto in Sask, Manitoba, BC. There was popular hope invested in winning a genuine reform that gave capital a real kick in the ass.
1992
Labour law reform takes a long 28 months after the NDP comes to office. And the legislation is substantially watered down from what labour demands. Again, the NDP publicly concede to business lobby agitprop and ginned up media controversy.
Christmas 1992
The NDP freeze annual social assistance increases (a cut after inflation). They hire welfare cops and deploy Thatcherite/Reaganite welfare bashing rhetoric. The same was soon happening with Harcourt in BC who went off on welfare "cheats" and "frauds".
Spring 93: PS unions invited to open up their contracts, co-manage rollbacks. Unions boycott
Summer 93: NDP passes Social Contract legislation over union objections. Rae Days arrive
Fall 93: PS unions + CAW win OFL from NDP. "Pink Paper" unions walkout of convention, loyal to NDP
1993, 1994
Successive austerity budgets hit education and healthcare. In 1997, at the height of the Common Sense Revolution hospital closures, Harris would routinely point out he was cutting fewer hospital beds than Rae.
1994: Bill 167, Equality Rights Statute Amendment Act
NDP legislation will allow same-sex civil unions (a decade before equal marriage passed by Martin Liberals). Rae allows a "free vote", and NDP MPPs, including cabinet ministers, vote with Liberals and Harris PCs to kill 167.
Betrayal is without question involved in these major policy decisions by the Rae government. Cumulatively, the pattern is one of consistent capitulation and shifting to the right. It marks a rupture and re-consolidation in the political dynamics and trajectory of the CCF/NDP.
Nor can the Rae government be a hyper-contextualized or personalized aberration. Harcourt and Romanow follow the same path. Doer, Dexter, Notley, Horgan...they fit the mould of the last 30 years of the NDP. They are not the developmentalist welfare state managers of the 1970s.
The Social Contract is integral to this larger decisive neoliberal turn of the NDP. It is the partial severing of its labour base from the party while delivering a severe precedent-setting economic body blow to workers, weakening popular democratic forces, emboldening capital.
Now, we can talk about inside or outside the NDP all we want. But there is absolutely no denying that the inheritors and present-day practitioners of this NDP-branded neoliberal "progressivism" are political opponents to be overcome by the left.
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