Sounds like our friends to the north are in for a rough next four years after the elections held yesterday. From Democracy Now: The Right and Left Claim Success in Canada: The Conservatives Win Majority in Canadian Election as Left-Leaning NDP Makes Historic Gains:
AMY GOODMAN: We turn to Canada, which saw a significant political shift after its national election Monday. The Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, was elected to a majority in the Canadian parliament, ending five years of minority government. Harper has vowed to continue pro-corporate policies that have led critics to label his government the most right-wing in recent Canadian history.
But the election also saw major gains for the [New] Democratic Party, which won enough seats to become the official opposition party for the first time. The NDP nearly tripled its parliamentary seats as both the Liberal Party and the separatist Bloc Québécois suffered major losses. It was the first time the Liberal Party did not finish in either first or second place in a national vote. While the Liberals have long been seen as a centrist party, the NDP’s historic surge could herald a new era in which a progressive alternative challenges the ruling government.
To discuss the Canadian elections, we’re joined by Stephen Lewis, longtime member of the NDP. He led the party in Ontario during the 1970s. He later served as Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations in the ’80s and later as the U.N. special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, co-founder and co-director of AIDS-Free World, an international advocacy group based out of New York.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Stephen Lewis. Talk about these elections, what they mean. What does it mean for Harper’s majority? And remember, you’re talking to an audience, in addition to a Canadian audience—and it was wonderful to be in Canada this past weekend—people all over the world, who are not very familiar with Canadian politics. [...]
AMY GOODMAN: The NDP is responsible for ushering in Canada’s single-payer healthcare system. In 1962, as you mentioned, the Saskatchewan premier, Tommy Douglas, who was also NDP’s first federal leader, won the passage of single payer in Saskatchewan with every other province soon to follow. Now, it’s very interesting, especially for viewers and listeners in the United States and in the rest of the world, because Tommy Douglas is the grandfather of Kiefer Sutherland, the actor, you know, the star of 24, for example, which is, by the way, “trending” today, Kiefer Sutherland, because of the action that took place that killed Osama bin Laden, you know, in sort of 24 style. But in 1983, three years before his death, Tommy Douglas talked about healthcare.
TOMMY DOUGLAS: If you want a two-tiered health program, then just continue the way we’re going. And I remind you that in this movement we pledged ourselves 50 years ago that we would provide healthcare for every man, woman and child, irrespective of their color, their race or their financial status. And by God, we’re going to do it!
AMY GOODMAN: That was the first leader of the NDP. That was Tommy Douglas, responsible for bringing in single-payer healthcare, first in one province, which is interesting, because it looks like Vermont in the United States is poised to bring in single-payer healthcare just in Vermont. Stephen Lewis, the significance of healthcare as part of the progressive agenda of the New Democratic Party that has now just become the second party of Canada.
STEPHEN LEWIS: Oh, it’s visceral to the NDP, Amy. It’s in our molecular structure. It’s holy writ. We will fight for Medicare to the death, and the public healthcare, which is provided in Canada to every single citizen, is something of which we’re immensely proud. The people of Canada consider healthcare to be the dominant political issue in any campaign, and there will now be a struggle in the House of Commons, in parliament, because the Conservative government would like to privatize dimensions of healthcare. I rather doubt that the Canadian public will permit that, and the NDP will fight a very, very hard to maintain the—what you call the single-payer system. That is one of the things which distinguishes us and identifies the democratic left.