A candidate for major office with policies that appeal to the most progressive elements of the political left who is also the safe choice for so-called centrist strategic voters is kind of like a unicorn. It seems like Ontario may have found their unicorn in provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath.

According to a recent poll by Maclean’s and Pollara, Horwath and her party are in second place with 30% support. They trail frontrunner Doug Ford whose “Progressive” Conservatives are leading with 40% support, but are beating incumbent premier Kathleen Wynn whose Liberals are down to 23% support.

The writing is on the wall, or rather on everyone’s screens. Wynne can’t win. If you want to stop Ford Nation from taking over Queen’s Park, you have to vote NDP. Even right-leaning media are admitting Horwath won the first leaders’ debate.

Strategy Meets Solid Progressive Policy

So Horwath is the practical choice for those who don’t want to deal with a Ford at the provincial level. But what about those who see the Liberals as only a slightly less spiteful and ridiculous option than Doug?

Well, last time around, the NDP, under the same leader, desperately tried to position themselves as a watered-down version of the Liberals, to the chagrin of the party faithful. Now, the official ONDP Twitter account is posting stuff like this:

But they’re backing up the sassy tweets with a truly progressive platform that prioritizes universal dental and pharmacare, re-nationalizing Hydro One, turning student loans into grants, improving care for seniors by ending “hallway medicine” and raising taxes on the wealthiest people and corporations. Solid old-school NDP policies all, but the spin they put on some of them is just brilliant.

Bringing Hydro One “back into public hands” is coupled with an estimated 30% reduction in Hydro bills. Meanwhile, “creating thousands of student jobs” is the addendum to their plan to subsidize tuition.

But the best messaging, hands down, has got to be this:

“Protect middle class families by having the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations pay their fair share.”

They have successfully found a way to pitch a longstanding socialist solution to economic inequality as an appeal to the most coveted demographic for so-called moderates, the middle class.

More Left Through School and Weed

Another poll, this one by Forum Research, predicted a PC majority with the NDP as a “strong” Official Opposition. Since it doesn’t really matter how strong the opposition is in a Majority Government, the ONDP need to find a way to do just a bit better than predicted and overtake Ford or at least hold him to a Minority Government.

The only way for them to do that is to keep doing what they’ve been doing, just push a bit further. This is not the time to retreat back into old ways. Playing it safe, this time, means pushing the envelope more.

Horwath has her party’s traditional base back. Now she needs to mobilize new voters and get them excited enough not just to cast their ballot but to volunteer as well.

Proposing free tuition would be one way to do it. They could even announce how they plan to pay for it: with weed.

Seriously, I’m not kidding. Bear with me for a moment.

When cannabis becomes legal in Canada, Wynn plans to tightly control it through the LCBO. Ford, meanwhile, wants a free market, something that has garnered him support on the left.

The ONDP has remained pretty much silent on the subject and I understand why. Wynne’s position is extremely unpopular, especially among NDP supporters, but championing the free market just seems so un-NDP.

But in this case there is a third way. Have the government run medicinal marijuana and cover it as part of pharmacare but open up recreational pot sales to any business that successfully applies for a permit.

The government can regulate the product for quality and ensure proper labour standards and at the same time get a chunk of sales tax from all the places selling it, way more than they would from the mere handful of stores Wynn wants. Then they use the new revenues to pay for post-secondary education.

The spin is simple:

Wynn wants to privatize essential services like hydro and nationalize recreational products like pot with a plan that will make it unprofitable for Ontarians. Ford wants the Wild West. We see this as an opportunity to improve Ontario’s economy and provide a free education for all Ontarians.

It’s just one idea, but I’d hate to see the most left-leaning party that has a chance blow it and lose to Doug Ford over weed. The ONDP should really have a position on this issue which is currently wooing potential future hardcore supporters far to the right.

No matter what they decide to do on this front, though, Ontario New Democrats need to remember that their path to victory is keeping their traditional base and inspiring a new base with bold progressive and unabashedly socialist policy, pitching it in a way that doesn’t terrify suburbia, and driving the point home that Wynne can’t win and the only way to keep Ford Nation and all of their regressive social policies out of Queen’s Park is to vote NDP.

A unicorn is special because it’s a unicorn. If it tries to pretend it’s just a horse, then it loses any advantage it had.

* Featured image by E.K. Park via WikiMedia Commons

John Cook has succeeded in raising $200 000. The Gawker editor’s worldwide campaign to raise funds to obtain the supposed video of Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoking crack from Somali drug dealers reached its target earlier this week. But is Gawker tossing more mud than there already is?

True, the scandal surrounding Ford’s supposed crack use has not only springboarded Canada, or at least Toronto, onto the world stage, but it has brought us into the realm of The Running Man‘s dystopian reality. Canadian politics has long been insulated from the vulgarities of US style vice scandals. But it would appear death by media for public amusement has now arrived.

Further investigation into the Ford clan’s sordid history uncovered the operation of a high stakes narcotics trafficking ring in “Etobi-’coke’ North.” The report sheds light on associates including Klan leaders, a black belt martial artist and a Caribbean drug dealer involved in a bizarre foiled coup of the Dominican government, details so sensational it makes the Charbonneau Commission seem like a search for lost pocket change.

Toronto City Councillor Doug Ford, Brother of Rob Ford, speaks to the media.

Ford’s improprieties may have hoisted Canada into the political hall of shame, an arena typically occupied by American politicians like Elliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner, but is Gawker’s campaign is human degradation profiteering pure and simple.

Their campaign drive fancies itself a crusade for “truth” and an exercise of “democracy.” Since Gawker cannot afford it themselves, Cook asked people to take money from their own pockets to give to drug dealers.

Cook asserts that if people wish to view the video, by paying for it, they are exercising their rights as consumers. In other words, contributing money translates into a “vote.”

After taking money from the public, instead of submitting the alleged video to the authorities, Gawker intends to charge users a member’s fee at Gawker.com and at private screening parties they plan to host, with popcorn and swag to boot. Gawker will directly profit from the Ford video, meaning Cook will have  completely corrupted the “democratic” process. Those without money are without a voice, they are excluded from so-called “voting” which proliferates a perverse US notions that money equals speech.

It seems that Gawker can no longer reach their original source for the video, but even if the footage can be obtained, what does it mean besides profits for the website?

Under Toronto’s system, City Council cannot eject Ford from office nor could it force an early election. The video could, at best, be damning circumstantial evidence at trial. It would hardly be hard proof guaranteeing Ford’s conviction.

Toronto City Council, Council Chambers, City Hall, The Clamshell, Toronto Ontario.

Until the next municipal election, true democracy in action, only Rob Ford can remove Rob Ford. And if the mayor’s profile history is any indication, Ford would not resign under any circumstances.

If definitive proof indeed can be presented that Mayor Ford inhaled crack, Ford should not be tried at the hands of the media with the pubic circus acting as judge, jury and executioner.

Partisanship, pre-determined and emotional disdain of Ford would best be checked. Vigilantism with its non-transparent and potentially unaccountable wrongful actions cannot suffice as substitute justice.

Critics espousing public accountability and transparency in executive, legislative and municipal government cannot exclude themselves. One cannot have their cake and eat it too.

There is no inherit benefit in viewing smut footage only to confirm minds already made up. Like the Jun Lin snuff video, we are all degraded just from watching it.

Ford may have diminished Toronto public office and Canadian politics but watching the alleged video, even just demanding to see it, makes us, along with Ford, unclean and corrupt.