Open Letter to the NDP

A few years ago I became a supporter of the NDP. I listened to Jack Layton and his vision for Canada and was inspired. Not to mention that I couldn’t stand Paul Martin and the Liberals seemed to be agreeing more and more with the Conservatives on issues that I did not.

Recently it has become apparent that indeed, I am a centrist. I don’t tolerate overly polarizing views or people very well (though I do hear them out on the issue and give them their opportunity to explain their rationale) and would much prefer to see people get to the bottom of an issue, brainstorm all of the possible solutions and then pick the best. Sadly that doesn’t happen very often in this “democracy” of ours where few-to-no MPs actually listen to their constituents after gaining power.

The Liberals, however, seem to be mounting a new steed and marching forward under the leadership of an intellectual. Someone who is truly smart, creative even (he has written several fiction novels which, so I read, are actually good). And so I have begun breaking my ties with the NDP both in private and in public in favour of re-joining the Liberal party in the hopes that I may help push them in what I would consider to be the “right” direction.

So yesterday when I e-mailed the riding president for Sarnia-Lambton asking him to take me off his mailing list because of a newly realized difference of opinion, he replied stating that he was “sorry that you feel that way about the NDP’s support of Unions and Pensions. I guess there is only one Party that you would find favour with at the present time.”

Indeed, I’m sorry too.  I’m sorry that the NDP is such a staunch supporter of unions no matter if they misbehave and care little for the financial state of their employers and that the NDP is a staunch supporter of defined-benefit pension plans (as opposed to defined-contribution) that place such huge liabilities on the employer and the employee thinks poses no risk to them (which Stelco employees can tell you certainly isn’t the case in the long run). The NDP candidate also seems to infer that I support the Conservatives – hardly! They’re a polarizing party that cares about nothing more than winning and retaining power, not truly what’s right for the country. They follow a methodology of certain values which is dangerous to any country or economy.

This is the e-mail I sent back to the NDP candidate in question, slightly refined for the purposes of flow with this entry.

There’s nothing wrong with supporting pensions and unions. My problem is that lately unions tend to misbehave and act only in their own interest without regard to the business they work for – that’s a problem. Staging protests outside an arena and slowing down traffic is an absolute nuisance and unnecessary; especially when a good portion of the people arriving at the arena don’t even live in Windsor.

And the CAW seems to be delighted in single-handedly destroyed the auto industry in Canada recently! I used to work for a non-unionized auto plant and could not have been happier. Individuals were rewarded with increased pay and promotions, laggards were punished – exactly the way it should be. The CAW cares about nothing more than increasing the pay and benefits of it’s employees without giving a damn about what shape Ford, GM and Chrysler are in. That’s not a sustainable model! The plant I used to work for just made some changes to it’s pay structure and positions in order to remain viable and more realistic when you compare workloads of different positions – to me that makes sense, and in the end it rewards the people who work the hardest there.

The CAW and CUPE are doing nothing but alienating what little non-union support they have, even within Windsor. They do their best to maintain the status quo without innovating or taking into consideration that the companies they work for are doing so poorly. Why would Chrysler stay in Canada when someone like Ken Lewenza explicity blurts out that there’s no way they’ll concede $19 worth of compensation? It’s ridiculous.

If the banks can’t maintain defined-benefit plans and the CPP has to be extremely aggressive in their investments in order to do so, why must the auto companies be kept to theirs? Because heaven forbid the auto companies download a little bit of responsibility onto the workers and the financial advisors working the account, right? A defined-contribution plan puts the responsibility back into the worker’s hands, along with their financial advisor, giving them the ability to choose the right investments for them. Doesn’t that make more sense? Shouldn’t that be the way we always operate?

Government has its place, and looking back at history and moving forward, I think a very centrist approach is the only way to go. Find the best ideas, leave the partisanship out, and you end up with a better country in all manners. The Conservatives are a bunch of morons and a few candidates have recently jumped ship from the Green Party to the Liberals. Jack Layton is a great man, but in the end I can’t support unequivocal support for unions or the defined-benefit plans they adore so much. It’s unsustainable when they act the way that the CAW and CUPE have recently.

This goes hand-in-hand with my post on self-responsibility. You should be able to rely on government to provide health care, police protection and municipal services along with a small portion of your retirement income (but only because you pay into the CPP, and the money is invested by the CPPIB). People need to take more responsbility for their lives at home, at work and at play. You can’t always rely on government to protect you, let alone your employer. Ford, GM and Chrysler are in business to make money, not to make sure you have a nice retirement fund or that you have the best benefits possible. Those are perks and niceties, not necessities. In fact they cost so much they take away from the money you could be making hourly instead but it’s less expensive for a business to provide benefits instead of wage increases.

If you don’t like what your employer is doing, find a new job.

9:30PM UPDATE: And here again we see a great example of what I’m talking about. Local manufacturing firm Accuride wants to change their defined-benefit pension plan to a defined-contribution benefit plan for new employees. Reduce liability on the employee, put it back where it belongs on the employee and their financial advisor! Unfortunately the London Free Press article mistakenly states that the investments rely purely on how the stock market performs, which isn’t true at all. Most investment portfolios include some fixed-income investments, which are not traded on the stock market. This type of misinformation doesn’t help anyone but the union employees in their fight for better wages and benefits than the rest of us.