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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Jack Layton: A political failure, but a master of "Raffi Socialism"

Toronto Life has a harsh assessment of Jack Layton's dubious legacy written by Stephen Marche:

Raffi socialism is not wrong; it’s much worse. It’s content in its impotence. Its constituent parts are feel-good, conventional, childlike ideas about how the world should work, substituting bike lanes or an empty critique of capitalism for practical policies that would actually improve the lives of Canadians. Today’s left-wing leaders, following in Layton’s footsteps, like to whine—about whether the head of the CRTC is bilingual or not, or about why we don’t have more bike lanes, or about the need for a hockey concussion registry.

Raffi socialism is downtown Toronto’s cheerfully useless contribution to national politics, born from the dysfunction of city hall. To become a councillor or mayor, you have to win a lot of votes, and then when you do, you’re only one decision maker out of 45. The OMB and the province make all the substantial decisions anyway, so it’s quite easy to praise public transit and parks without ever having to go to the trouble of finding the money to build them, and it’s equally easy to shout your respect for taxpayers and commuters while doing nothing to alleviate congestion. Rhetoric, alongside basic constituency business, is the job; the innovators of city hall invent new modes of political symbolism. As a councillor, Layton mastered Raffi socialism. Ford is inventing gridiron conservatism.

The Conservatives loved Layton; they loved his tireless impotence. No doubt Harper would like Layton’s legacy to live forever. The Conservative prime minister, elected with barely 40 per cent of the vote, faces no real Opposition caucus.

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