Why the Coming Canadian Elections Matter

  • India would have a lot to learn
  • Leftist NDA’s victory may spur Indian Left
  • Poor in both countries lead miserable lives
  • Governments in both countries help the rich
  • Blind belief in trickle-down effect has to go

(Vithal Rajan)

Vithal Rajan PhotoIn October 2015 Canada goes to the polls, the results of which could have profound significance for India. This may sound strange. Canada is a huge country, blessed with enormous oil reserves, hydroelectric power, vast wheat fields and untold mineral wealth. Canada has enviously the world’s largest fresh-water reserves. And it has a population less than 3% of India’s. It is a dream for many Indians, mostly from Punjab, to settle there, for real estate prices are lower than in India, and mortgages are available for the asking. A member of the rich G-8 group, Canada has a closer relationship with the United States than even Britain.

And yet despite its great wealth potential, the gap between the haves and the have-nots in Canada has been growing at an alarming rate, as it has in India, for the last few decades. The top decile [10%] of its population owns over half of Canadian wealth. The top 1% of India’s population owns almost half of Indian wealth, and its top 10% close to three-fourths. The bottom half of the population of both countries own less than 5%! Worse, the bottom 10% of Canadians are drowned in debt and own nothing at all, while the pro-rich Indian banking system refuses credit access to the poor.

While there has always been great wealth inequality in North America and in India, the rapid widening of the gap in recent times has been a product of the application of ‘Reaganomics,’ by ideological American economists, who continue to persist in a blind belief that helping the rich and the very rich will somehow trickle down some benefit to the masses of the poor. Their one major scheme to lessen unemployment has been to shower incentives on the rich, and cut their taxes. The economists and government planners have turned a blind eye on mega-scams, poncy schemes, and financial recklessness. When things have gone horribly wrong, and the market has crashed, they have blamed governments for trying to save their people from catastrophe. While rich Canada has only 25 dollar billionaires, India has 51 dollar billionaires in its shameless list, while half of its children are malnourished, and hundreds of thousands of farmers have committed suicide.

The Liberal Party has had a long track record in Canada like the Congress Party in India, and both have mired their reputations with corruption scandals. The Canadian Progressive Conservative Party like the Indian BJP has yet to follow progressive economic policies. Till recently, the New Democratic Party of Canada [NDP] was as inconsequential in politics as the Indian left. Then the placid Canadians woke up to the fact that their leaders were not delivering social justice or even simple fairness in their governance. For the first time in Canadian history, the so-called marginal NDP became the official opposition in Ottawa after the 2011 elections.

In the coming contest next year, the NDP, which does not command the support of rich donors like its great rivals and exists on small donations from the people, offers a slew of people-centred policies to correct the country’s lop-sided economy. The NDP promises better child care and public health services, higher employment and pensions, better housing and a more secure future for new immigrants. South Asians, especially professional Indians, have traditionally voted in conservative fashion, for the Liberals or the Conservatives, since their policies are very similar and support the better-off sections of the population. They should see it as their duty to their adopted homeland to support the NDP’s policies which will help the great majority.

If the NDP form the next government of Canada, it will blow a big hole in the credibility of right-wing economics in the heartland of North America. It will show that the ‘Chicago’ economists and their Reaganomics had nothing better to offer than selfish schemes for the rich to help themselves at the cost of others and the nation. So far, the Indian government’s economists have shown little ability at original thinking and have slavishly followed Western styles in policy making. A people’s victory at the polls in Canada might influence the government here to re-focus on the plight of the poor, the SCs and STs, women and farmers, the urban slums and the unorganised sector.

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