Let me start by saying, I am not a partisan New Democrat, although I was a member of the New Democratic Party (NDP) when I was much younger. More recently I have preferred the centrist Liberals, and I was considering voting Conservative in the coming federal election; however, under the leadership of Tom Mulcair, I think that the NDP offers the best choice for Canadians, especially if one happens to be an immigrant from the Middle East. Here are 10 reasons why:
1. Support for Palestinians. Like the two other major parties, the NDP supports a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. In addition, the NDP specifically opposes, “Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.” Mulcair responded sympathetically to the Palestinian request for statehood status at the United Nations (UN) in 2012, while Prime Minister Stephen Harper vehemently opposed it.
2. Support for Israel. Mulcair supports Israel’s right to exist and defend itself, even when a political cost must be paid. He has successfully sidelined a small, but vocal, anti-Israel element within his party. Harper is often cited as a strong ally of Israel, but I have my doubts as I explained in the Times of Israel. I think that the mature and dignified approach of Mulcair is more valuable to Israel and to peace.
Being pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel at the same time is a significant challenge in a conflict that is very polarized, but Mulcair is in a better position than either of the two other leaders to meet that challenge.
3. Balanced on the Middle East. Mulcair’s response to the war between Israel and Hamas in 2014 showed a deep concern for Palestinian casualties, but at the same time, he did not waver in his support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorists. Being pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel at the same time is a significant challenge in a conflict that is very polarized, but Mulcair is in a better position than either of the two other leaders to meet that challenge. Canada is not a major player in the Middle East, but if we can ever help mediate between the two sides, Mulcair would be more credible than Harper.
4. Cautious about military interventions. I have argued in the past that the NDP erred in not supporting military action against Daesh (ISIS), but the NDP has supported other military actions, such as the Canadian mission in Libya under a UN mandate to protect civilians. The NDP makes these decisions on a case-by-case basis, but it is clear that it is less keen on military interventions than Harper who had supported the disastrous U.S. intervention against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
The new anti-terrorism legislation has been denounced by a long list of legal experts … The NDP is the only major party to oppose the bill.
5. Bill C-51.The new anti-terrorism legislation has been denounced by a long list of legal experts who wrote that it, “vastly expands the scope of covert state activity when that activity will be subject to poor or even non-existent democratic oversight or review,” and by the privacy commissioner of Canada who said that, “measures in the bill to protect against unreasonable loss of privacy are seriously deficient.” The NDP is the only major party to oppose the bill.
6. Mulcair’s experience and capability. Those who do not support Harper’s policies, particularly on the environment and on scientific research, will look for an alternative, and Mulcair, who has experience in government and who is knowledgeable on many issues, is a more credible choice than the Liberals’ Justin Trudeau. Trudeau has never been elected to any post, not even as a school board trustee, before he was elected Member of Parliament in 2008. Since then, Trudeau has shown poor political judgement, making several gaffes that embarrassed his party, including an inappropriate sexual joke during a debate about the serious topic of Daesh.
7. Support for manufacturing sector and small businesses. Mulcair has pledged to support Canada’s manufacturing industry and small businesses. These sectors provide good jobs and business opportunities to new immigrants.
Mulcair took a bold stand against the “charter of values” that was proposed by the Parti Quebecois in 2013, despite the potential electoral cost to the NDP in Quebec.
8. Support for minority rights. Mulcair took a bold stand against the “charter of values” that was proposed by the Parti Quebecois in 2013, despite the potential electoral cost to the NDP in Quebec. He declared, “What we have today is an attempt to impose state-mandated discrimination against minorities in the Quebec civil service. That for us is an absolute non-starter.”
9. Strong social policies while fiscally conservative. The NDP is notorious for its concern for the working class and the disadvantaged, but also has had an excellent record of fiscal conservatism during its tenures in provincial governments. This dual approach helps new immigrants who are struggling to find jobs and make ends meet.
10. Support for immigrants and refugees. New Democrats support immigrants and refugees, not only in theory, but also in practice. In the case of gay Palestinian John Calvin who is seeking refugee status, I have personally contacted all three parties, but three weeks later, only the NDP MPs have taken the time to respond, ask questions and try to help.
The Conservative government is increasingly arrogant, secretive and unimaginative. The Liberal party failed to rebuild itself and is instead attempting to rely on a glamorous name in order to seduce what it appears to believe is a naïve electorate. I do not expect miracles from any government, but I believe that under the pragmatic and experienced leadership of Mulcair, now is finally the right time to give the New Democrats a chance.
Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin. He lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. He writes at http://www.jpost.com/Blogger/Fred-Maroun and http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/author/fred-maroun/.