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Elliot Leven: Op-Ed: Why Manitoba Jews should vote NDP

Elliot Leven, September 15, 2011

[Editor's note: Any of our readers are welcome to write in and express their political views. We welcome the exchange of ideas. Elliot Leven is a long-time member of the  New Democratic Party] 

When Manitoba Jews go to the polls on October 4, they should vote for the provincial NDP. Though not perfect, the NDP is the best choice in the provincial arena.

 
It goes without saying that the Manitoba NDP scores well on traditional tests such as support for the State of Israel. Retired NDP Premier Gary Doer and current NDP Water Stewardship Minister Christine Melnick have both been honored by the Jewish National Fund at Negev Dinners, Doer in 2006 and Melnick in 2011.
 
More importantly, the Manitoba NDP stands for the kinds of values that have always been important to Jewish voters, such as commitment to human rights. It was an NDP government that gave Manitoba its first human rights law in 1970. It was an NDP government that improved and modernized that law in 1987. The 1987 amendments included the addition of “sexual orientation” as a prohibited ground of discrimination. 
 
Adding “sexual orientation” was viciously and savagely opposed by the Manitoba Progressive Conservative Party, then led by Gary Filmon. Hansard (the official transcript of debates in the Legislature) from 1987 can be found on the Internet. I particularly direct readers to the Hansard for July 7 and 8, 1987. The comments of Progressive Conservative MLAs during the “sexual orientation” debate are truly horrifying. Typical are comments like: “Why is this government endorsing a lifestyle that encourages the sexual abuse of young boys?”
 
I understand that 24 years have passed since that chilling debate. However, to this day, the Manitoba Progressive Conservative Party has never apologized for its hateful conduct, and the party continues to laud the retired Gary Filmon as a wise statesman.
 
The Manitoba NDP has made errors over the years, but it has always championed human rights, and it has never championed bigotry. That should count for a lot with Jewish voters.
 
With the Manitoba Jewish population aging even faster than the general population, health-care has to be a crucial issue for Jewish voters. Were it not for the CCF (the predecessor to the NDP) and the NDP, Canada would not have a universal, publicly funded health-care system (“medicare” as we usually call it). Not surprisingly, the NDP has always been the staunchest champion of medicare, and has defended the system from attacks by those who would weaken or dilute the universality of the system.
 
The NDP is not perfect, and has made errors over the years. But when push comes to shove, Manitoba Jews can bet that the NDP will defend medicare more bravely than any other party. That should count for something with Jewish voters.
 
The NDP’s record on economic issues is satisfactory. Though opposition parties like to accuse the NDP of a tax-and-spend mentality, the record does not bear this out. Since 1999, the NDP has not increased income taxes and the provincial sales tax. Surprisingly, it has actually reduced income tax rates for small businesses. The NDP has raised some user fees, which troubles the political left more than the political right.
 
As for Premier Selinger, he has shown himself to be a sensible and moderate political leader. He appears to be an incrementalist by nature – if he wants to change the status quo, he does so gradually and over a period of time.
 
This October, Manitoba Jewish voters should focus on priority issues when deciding how to vote. On issues like human rights and health care, the NDP is the best available choice.
 
 
 
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