(A blog from before that I like and updated, first published on 4/27/11.)
A year ago, cousin Gordon and I – he, the country boy, and me, from the city – talked about his oldest son, before a birthday milestone that the boy would reach..
“Adam turns 18,” Gordon said. “He’ll be able to vote.” Not that his son was eligible for the hockey draft, his plans and pride that he would attend his alma mater, or that he could now look forward to his son moving out of the house. That Adam will be able to vote is all Gordon needed to say about his aspirations for his son.
Later, I said to Adam – an intelligent, talented, musical, athletic, good-looking and well-liked teenager – “Eighteen, huh? You’ll be able to vote.”
“Yes!” He pumped his fist like he’d just scored the winning shot in a church league basketball game. In our family, political roots grow deep in the rich, dark soil around Moosomin, Saskatchewan. It is in our genes, like the dirt ground into our jeans. Adam, and his younger brother, Greg, were taught by their father, who learned from my Uncle, who was raised by our pioneer grandfather whose father was a plains settler, that it is more important to defend democracy than your own end.
I wouldn’t hazard a guess that my young cousin will cast his ballot for the NDP – although, it’s likely. It did seem he wanted to rid the country of the Harper government. But, alas, that must wait for another day. I would never attempt to influence his or another’s vote, but really. Harper? (I do, however, insist that he, and everyone in our family, be a Yankees fan.)
Adam’s father and mother raised him to make good decisions. The freedom to choose. A choice that traces its origins, in part, to the United Church of our grandparents. But he, like any teenager, sometimes takes a few swings and misses before hitting the right one. Sure, Gordon would prefer his son to vote Liberal, but he’d readily admit that decision is out of his hands. After all, his father, my uncle Fred, was a staunch Liberal until he moved to spend his retirement years in Alberta. Go figure.
I also know – as a native of the province that gave rise to the party of the revered Tommy Douglas – that the NDP can govern, and govern well. And, unlike the other federal parties and their provincial counterparts, the NDP is Canada’s one, true national party – born and raised in Saskatchewan.
Douglas’s CCF was formed by common Canadians who believed the Liberals and Conservatives weren’t ideologically equipped for relieving the real hardship that thousands suffered during the Great Depression. My dad, who road the rails during the Dirty 30s, was a “Douglas man.”
Under Douglas’s leadership and, later, Woodrow Lloyd, the CCF governed for twenty years. During their 20 years of leadership, Saskatchewan was enlightened, innovative, fiscally sound, and broke through social barriers.
With the brilliant Alan Blakeney as leader, the party (now the NDP) was just as bold in governing the province for 11 years – investing in it’s natural resources through new Crown Corporations including Saskatchewan Potash and SaskOil. The Blakeney government was also instrumental in the repatriation of the Canadian constitution and the development of the Charter of Rights.
When Roy Romanow’s NDP beat the ironically named Devine Conservatives in 1991. Under Premier Grant Devine, Saskatchewan’s government was rife with corruption and near bankrupt. Romanow balanced the budget and restored the province’s fiscal health through tough choices and unNDP-like choices as spending cuts and higher taxes. By 1995 the budget was balanced and the government focused on many social justice issues.
The values and beliefs of the federal NDP are framed within Saskatchewan’s neat borders and they inform anyone who calls the province home. Whether grudgingly or not, everyone from Saskatchewan has some socialism in their veins. The numbers are vast and spread across this country. If you want proof, go a Canadian Football League game when the Riders are the visiting team.
I remember being 18 and a member of the Saskatchewan Young New Democrats. I shared a dilapidated old house with former Saskatchewan Justice Minister Frank Quenell. It was a flop-house within a few short blocks of the legislature where young social democrats from all over the province and Canada found a piece of floor, a plate of spaghetti, political arguments and all night parties. The NDP, not the house, was then and remains, the anti-establishment party. It speaks to common Canadians. And, if I were to hazard a guess, there are more of us common folk than have been willing to admit.
Not so, young Canadians. They’re fearless. They seem willing to take a risk that will shake this country out of its lethargy. To put it simply, for most Canadian young people, the NDP is not their parent’s party. And the late Jack Layton is seen as more like the cool teacher who they would invite to a party than their dorky dad. Layton was, for most part, fearless. What else do you call a leader who campaigned full-out after prostrate cancer and hip surgery, and was willing to re-open the constitution?
The kid world is the social network and their numbers are great. Why would it be any surprise that the majority of them are drawn to the social democrats. They call social media open source. They call it and protect it as democratic. It’s socialism, online or off, and its clicking.
So Adam, take seriously this responsibility because your family fought for it. You come from a family and a place that has always talked politics around the supper table and has always voted. You come from a province that grows good things and great ideas. You’re cutting your political teeth in a time of great importance in Canadian political history. And Adam, remember to tell your son or daughter the story, and make sure they’re Yankees fans.