Leadership race off to a rocky start: NDP brass to forgo democracy

by Barry Weisleder

The $30,000 entry fee, and the 25 per cent tax on campaign funds raised, are bad enough barriers. Now the requirement to collect hundreds of signatures of NDP members in five different regions of a vast country, including 100 from specifically designated equity-seeking groups, makes it virtually impossible for working class NDP members to be eligible to run for Leader. Ironically, the new rules will tend to exclude members of the very same equity groups whose signatures are required. And any NDPer who is not a veteran professional politician, or who is not rich, can just forget about being an “official” candidate for Leader.

To make matters even worse, the One Member One Vote process means that party members will not gather in one place to discuss the merits of the candidates. The capitalist media will have a predominant influence on popular perceptions of the contenders. NDP members will not meet before the election to decide the policies that the new Leader should implement. If there is only one ranked ballot cast, they will be unable to make second and third Leader choices as the sequential vote results are counted and revealed at each step. But even if two or more separate ballots are cast after the bottom candidate on the list is dropped each time, the voters are atomized. They make their choices in isolation – except from the barrage of propaganda issued by the corporate media and the big spending candidates. This is a perscription for establishment rule, not for working class political action.

The lessons of the failed election campaign in 2015, and the spirit of the change-hungry NDP federal convention in April 2016, appear to be lost on the party federal council. It presents a tone-deaf response to the cry for greater democracy, accountability and transparency. It makes a mockery of the demands and needs of the working class base of the party.

Will the NDP, having been driven deeply downwards in the polls by its conservative, autocratic leadership, continue to ape the parties of big business? Or will the rank and file take charge and fight to win democracy and socialist policies? More than ever it is clear: To survive, the NDP must turn sharply to the Left!

Fortunately, there is a socialist candidate for Leader, and soon there may be two.
Cheri DiNovo, NDP MPP for the Toronto provincial riding of Parkdale-High Park, is running as a loud and proud socialist. When she launched her campaign on June 7, she declared that she refused to pay the $30,000 entry fee. After being derided in the media as “unserious”, Cheri said she would pay up, but only under protest. (The NDP Socialist Caucus is petitioning to abolish the fee. For details visit: http://www.ndpsocialists.ca )
Avi Lewis, film-maker and co-author of the Leap Manifesto, is actively considering a run for Leader too. It is common to have several contenders from the party right wing, so why not have more than one from the left?

In a message to a June 26 picnic co-sponsored by the Socialist Caucus and Momentum in Toronto, Cheri DiNovo summed up her political platform:
“Our New Democratic Party looked more like the ‘old’ Democratic Party south of the border in the last election and is still controlled by those who want to ‘win’ by becoming neo-liberals. We’ve seen how well that works in elections in Ontario, BC, Olivia Chow’s (Toronto) Mayoral bid, and the last Federal debacle. Crazy is doing the same old things and hoping for a different outcome.

As I’ve said before: the only place left to go is left. Particularly with Trudeaumania 2.0 putting Leftist lipstick on a neo-Liberal pig.

“We need to remember who we are, who we were envisioned to be by our founding mothers and fathers. We need to become Socialists again. We need to posit an alternative to the casino capitalism that has become a fatal disease. We need to, yes, take a Leap, and enact the sort of strong legislation that makes us a beacon on climate change rather than a contributor to the climate crisis. We need to eradicate income inequality, provide everyone with the education, healthcare, childcare, housing, and green employment they need. Everyone, yes everyone, should be in a union. This used to sound utopian to many. Now to imagine a world of the 1% existing into the next century sounds more than utopian – it sounds insane.”

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