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By: Sophie Geffros

On Oct. 19, I’m voting for Alex Johnstone and the NDP because for the first time, Canada has a chance to elect a genuinely progressive government.

Liberals and Conservatives are two sides of the same coin. I grew up in southern Ontario, and I watched the federal Liberals and provincial Conservatives shatter our social safety net with their austerity measures. Though they have now traded places, the damage continues. Jean Chretien cut more from social programs than Stephen Harper has ever managed to. Kathleen Wynne plans to sell more public assets than Mike Harris ever could. It is Liberal philosophy to campaign left and govern right.

The Liberals cowardly support Bill C-51, a regressive piece of Islamophobic legislation that crushes civil liberties in the name of national security. Ever since Canadians made their disdain for the bill clear, Justin Trudeau has switched gears and claimed that if elected he will “amend” the legislation. Why sweeten a poisoned pill? Tom Mulcair and the NDP are committed to repealing Harper’s reprehensible legislation. Bill C-51 has been condemned by Amnesty International, the ACLU, the United Nations, Canada’s own national security watchdog, and every legal group in the country.

We can see the similarities between the Liberals and Conservatives at the local level, where both candidates are social conservatives. Filomena Tassi, the Liberal candidate for Hamilton West self-identifies as “pro-life” and has worked with Birthright, an anti-choice organisation that shames and abuses vulnerable pregnant teenage girls. She has described herself as possessing “traditional family values,” a phrasing which is most commonly associated with the worst kind of homophobic politics. She has refused to publicly state how she would vote on an abortion bill in the House of Commons. A candidate who is not willing to stand up for a woman’s right to choose and who supports an organisation which harms the vulnerable has no place in modern society.

The Conservative candidate, Roy Samuels, released a fear-mongering piece of election literature that suggested that an NDP or Liberal government would lead to ISIS murdering Canadians in their beds. He has suggested that the shameful inaction of the Conservative government on Syrian refugees is the result of so-called “security concerns” – the implication being that refugees fleeing danger only wish to come to Canada in order to destroy it from within. A candidate who openly engages in xenophobia and fear mongering likewise has no place on our ballots.

Liberals would have you believe that they will be allies to students, but this has never been the case. University costs in Ontario have increased disproportionally over the last 12 years. Since 1993, the average cost of post-secondary education in Ontario has increased by six thousand dollars.  The Liberal Party has only worsened this by federally cutting provincial education transfers, and provincially by cutting funding for universities. The party is not an ally to students, or to young people, or to anyone who relies on the government for some form of support.

Conversely, the NDP is the reason why Canadians have universal healthcare. We have committed 2.6 billion dollars to implement universal pharmacare. We have committed to ceasing military action in Syria and Iraq and immediately admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees, with an additional 9,000 admitted each year for the next four years. We will implement a federal minimum wage of 15 dollars per hour, and restore federal transfers for social programs, including 40 million dollars to build shelters for victims of abuse, so that nobody will be forced to choose between their personal safety and a roof over their head. We will also permanently remove interest on federal student loans.

On Oct. 19, I will be working to strike a blow against the forces of austerity, racism and opportunism that permeate the Liberal and Conservative campaigns. I am committed to being part of the solution by voting for the first NDP government in Canadian history. Frankly, I can’t afford not to.

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