In case you haven’t noticed, the Toronto Star recently decided to dispense with the New Democratic Party descriptor when referring to NDP-connected municipal politicians. They are now, it would appear, “Progressives.” I can’t tell you exactly when this change took place, and it certainly hasn’t been codified in the Star’s Journalistic Standards Guide. But the use has become so rampant that I think “progressive” is now the officially sanctioned Star synonym for “NDP”.
Sounds much more harmless, doesn’t it?
It first came to my attention when the Star used the “progressive” word to refer to at least six different municipal candidates on its editorial slate for the recent Toronto City Council elections. Each of the six appears to have strong NDP ties, yet the Star’s editorial team found a way to utilize “progressive”, instead. As in:
“…he is a progressive voice on city council”
“…a forthright advocate of progressive causes”
“She’s a progressive with strong history of grassroots community work…”
“…an outspoken advocate for his ward and for progressive issues on council”
“..a council progressive”
“…a compelling and progressive presence”
The Star’s Education Reporter followed suit a few days later, when covering the outcome of the Toronto District School Board elections. “Progressive” was used when “NDP” would have been technically correct.
Just this morning, the Star’s City Hall bureau used the descriptor “Council’s Left wing” and “Progressive Councillors” interchangeably:
Rob Ford was elected mayor four years ago on a promise to take a sledgehammer to city council, its transit plans, and its budget. Immediately after he won, council’s left wing began trying to figure out how to thwart his agenda.
John Tory was elected mayor Monday on a promise to bring council together. He will get a grace period.
Tory, a moderate conservative, will be granted an opportunity to be the consensus-building pragmatist he said he would be, progressive councillors said in interviews Wednesday.
As a noun, “progressive” refers to someone who is an advocate of social reform, according to the Oxford Dictionary. As an adjective, it would imply someone “favouring change or innovation.” Golly, I think I fall into each category, and I’m certain that most of my political mentors, including Norman Atkins, Dalton Camp, Pat Carney, Mary Collins, Eddie Goodman and Hugh Segal would all see themselves as advocates of social reform, social change and innovation.
Of course, the antonym of “progressive” is generally “conservative”, “regressive” or even “reactionary.” Although “left-wing” politics are often associated with the late 19th century Progressive Movement, in the case of Toronto politics, it seems as though the Toronto Star is doing a disservice to its readers by hiding a politicians’ New Democratic Party association with this potentially less-threatening “progressive” moniker.
Only 20% of Torontonians voted for the NDP’s Mayoral candidate. And yet, upwards of 35% of Toronto Council seats are going to be held by NDP-associated politicians for the next four years. And all that goes with that brand, for better or worse.
For the media to pretend otherwise can only be a conscious, overt and inexplicable effort to deny a long-standing reality on Toronto City Council: there are no “party politics”, except when it involves NDP-backed candidates advocating the NDP agenda.
(disclosure – this post, like all blogs, is an Opinion Piece and personal view and does not reflect the views of the TPA/WDBA (boards or staff) or the Federal government.)