It’s Time For NDP Leader Jack Layton To Call For An End To Prohibition

If NDP MPs are interested in finding solutions, they will set themselves apart from the Conservatives and Liberals by pushing for a national debate on the prohibition of drugs.

Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton will be in Vancouver Kingsway tomorrow (March16) to push for more crime prevention and more resources for the police.

This visit comes at a time when the federal NDP is languishing. A March 10 Ipsos Reid poll for Canwest showed that the federal NDP only has the support of 12 percent of Canadians.

I suspect that Layton is pushing the crime issue because it will help the provincial NDP, which will try to unseat the B.C. Liberals in the May 12 provincial election.

One of Layton’s higher profile MPs, Dawn Black, will run for the provincial NDP in New Westminster. Black is the mother of two Vancouver police officers, and she’ll be talking up the crime issue as well.

Black, along with other New Democrats like Mike Farnworth and Carole James, will say the solution is more police and tougher laws. They probably think this will increase their chances of seizing power.

But so far, the NDP has refused to speak about prohibition, which is the central issue driving a lot of the gangland carnage on our streets.

Last month, retired judge Jerry Paradis told the Straight that the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s and 1930s led to the proliferation of criminal organizations and widespread violence.

The same could be said for previous bans on gambling in Canada and the United States.

If federal NDP MPs are interested in finding solutions—rather than just electing provincial New Democrats this May—they will set themselves apart from the federal Conservatives and Liberals by pushing for a national debate on the prohibition of drugs.

Vancouver East NDP Libby Davies has set an example by courageously speaking out against prohibition in the sex trade. She has taken a lot of abuse for doing this. But she knows that in the end, this is what will save lives.

Perhaps some of her NDP colleagues in Parliament (Bill Siksay? Don Davies? Peter Julian?) can stiffen their resolve, and start talking about solutions rather than engaging in cheap photo ops designed to pander to the corporate media.

The NDP has nothing to lose. With its current polling numbers, the party will be decimated in the next federal campaign. Taking a stand against drug prohibition could transform the next federal election because Layton would get lots of coverage from antiprohibitionist journalists, including Dan Gardner and Ian Mulgrew, just to name a couple. The news media employ scores of libertarian-minded commentators and reporters who will love this idea.

Often, the NDP and its precursor, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, have been vindicated when they weren’t afraid to speak the truth to the corporate media. Layton took a risk when he called for the withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan. He now reflects the dominant view within the country.

In 1970, then-federal NDP leader Tommy Douglas took a stand against then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s draconian imposition of the War Measures Act to deal with two political kidnappings. Douglas was vilified, but history has vindicated his position.

The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation wasn’t afraid to call for universal pensions, universal health care, and unemployment insurance—all of which are mainstream concepts today.

The NDP is at the crossroads in 2009. Does it back the status quo on illegal drugs—which amounts to a death sentence for scores of Canadians in the coming years—or will it take a risk by seeking longlasting solutions, even if those solutions rile our American neighbours?

Layton should forget about those provincial NDP dinosaurs—they’re beyond hope when it comes to developing imaginative policies—and get on with the job of serving the country.

– Article from The Georgia Straight on Sunday, March 15, 2009.