Category Archives: NDP

ONDP’s Horwath shifts slightly to the left

During the three days of the Ontario NDP Convention, April 21–23 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the party’s left wing won several significant policy and procedural victories.  Leader Andrea Horwath adapted to the situation, somewhat desperate to present a progressive face to the sparse crowd, and to a somewhat indifferent electorate.  The provincial Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne is in crisis, while the Tories led by Patrick Brown hold the lead in the latest opinion polls.

‘Pharmacare for Everyone’ is now a central plank in the NDP platform for the 2018 Ontario provincial election.  Dental Care was part of the same policy adopted, but so far is being ignored by Horwath.  Still, the gain registered for free medical drugs coverage is major, and it is in large part due to the foundation building work and steady agitation of the Socialist Caucus over the past five years.  Moreover, it took a successful floor challenge to the resolutions appeal committee, which tried to bury these linked issues in a long list of motions.

Similarly, delegates raised the priority of a resolution calling for free post-secondary education, and passed it handily.  This was a welcome riposte to Horwath who sidelined a similar policy adopted at the previous provincial convention. A motion calling for a big increase in welfare rates carried too.

In the mandatory Leadership Review vote, 89 per cent said no to opening up a leadership contest.  This was hardly a surprise given that the next provincial election is a mere 14 months away.  Noteworthy is the fact that over 11 per cent expressed non-confidence in Horwath so late in the process, reflecting simmering discontent with the 2014 ONDP election campaign and the leader’s performance since then.

Former OFL President Sid Ryan made two inspiring speeches at a floor mic.  One called for public ownership of Hydro in its entirety.  That prompted Horwath to quote Ryan, somewhat sheepishly but approvingly, and state that the party will strive for public ownership of both electricity generation and transmission lines in Ontario.

Scores of delegates wore SID stickers, encouraging him to run for federal NDP Leader.  The four registered NDP Leader candidates (Peter Julian, Niki Ashton, Guy Caron and Charlie Angus) cruised the outer hallway, chatting and glad-handing, but not matching the excitement that Sid Ryan and the left generated.  Sadly, on April 26, Ryan pulled the plug on his potential candidacy, citing personal reasons, plus his lack of French.

Socialist Caucus members distributed nearly 600 copies of Turn Left magazine, and collected over $245 in donations.  And that was quite an achievement, given that this ONDP convention was rather poorly attended.  According to the Credentials Committee, only 738 delegates arrived, out of 1059 who “registered”, and 1347 who were eligible to participate.  An underwhelming turnout of 54 per cent of those eligible to be delegates should be a source of concern for the party brass.

Socialist Caucus and Momentum candidates for provincial Executive did well.  They received 7.4 to 40 per cent of the votes cast by delegates in a range of elections, held either on the main floor or in regional caucus meetings.  Dirka Prout, John Orrett, Jason Baines and this writer earned the best results. This represents an improvement on our average scores at the federal NDP convention in Edmonton in April 2016.

The low attendance resulted in a dip in sales of socialist newspapers and literature.  Despite a lack of cooperation from the party brass, the SC seized and enjoyed the use of a good space for a literature table and banner.

Conclusion apparent:  even at an ONDP convention such as this, it is clear that radical socialists can count on a significant base of support, demonstrating strong roots, and showing the progress of efforts to construct a revolutionary presence inside the actually existing workers’ movement in English Canada.

by Barry Weisleder

SOCIALISM 2017 videos are now available online

The Relevance of the Russian Revolution Today

Speakers:

  • Jeff Mackler, national secretary, SA USA
  • Barry Weisleder, federal secretary, SA Canada
  • Aurélien Perenna, teacher and union activist of the New Anti-capitalist Party, France.

Videos:

Part 1:

Part 2: 

Q and A: 


Millions on the Move: Behind the Refugee Crisis

Speakers:

  • Jaime Gonzales, LUS-Mexico
  • Sharmeen Khan, No One Is Illegal
  • Yasin Kaya, SA-Canada
  • Nikolas Skoufoglu, a leader of OKDE, section of the Fourth International in Greece.

Videos:

    Part 1: 
    Q and A: 

Basic Income or Raise the Rates?

Speakers:

  • John Clarke, provincial organizer, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
  • Sharon Anderson from Put Food In the Budget

Videos:

    Part 1: 
    Q and A: 

Fake News: Who’s the Real Culprit?

Speakers:

  • Yves Engler (author of 8 books on Canadian foreign policy, including “Propaganda System”)
  • Jeff Mackler, national secretary, SA USA
  • John Wunderlich, Toronto Danforth NDP executive member and privacy issues consultant.

Videos:

    Part 1: 
    Part2: 
    • Q and A:

 


Labour Revivial: What will it take?

Speakers:

  • Sid Ryan, past-president of the Ontario Federation of Labour
  • Julius Arscott, Executive Board member of OPSEU
  • Aurélien Perenna, teacher and union activist of the New Anti-capitalist Party, France.

Videos:

Part 1:

Part 2:

A short report on the Ontario NDP Convention… and related texts

During the three days of the Ontario NDP Convention, April 21-23 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the party’s left wing won several significant policy and procedural victories. Leader Andrea Horwath adapted to the situation, somewhat desperate to present a progressive face to the sparse crowd, and to a somewhat indifferent electorate. The provincial Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne is in crisis, while the Tories led by Patrick Brown hold the lead in the latest opinion polls. Continue reading A short report on the Ontario NDP Convention… and related texts

Is Ontario NDP Ready for 2018 Election?

by Barry Weisleder

The Ontario New Democratic Party is heading towards the June 2018 provincial election, stuck in third place behind the discredited Liberal government at Queen’s Park and the chameleon-like official opposition Conservatives, according to most opinion polls.
Hydro electricity rates, which have doubled in ten years, command public attention. Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne’s last ditch plan to cut rates by 25 per cent has NDP Leader Andrea Horwath saying “me too.” But Horwath’s proposals to tinker with delivery costs, time-of-use rules, private profit margins, and her plan to buy back, at top market dollar, the 30 per cent of Hydro One that the Liberals sold off, leave many Ontario consumers cold.

Instead of a bold policy – immediate nationalization of all energy generation and transmission, with minimal, long term compensation to rich stock holders – the ONDP offers only short fixes. Typically, it calls for another study, rather than a phase-out of the dangerous and uber-costly nuclear power plants.

After the June 2014 electoral debacle, Horwath hired Manitoba NDP government guru Michael Balagus. His speeches to ONDP provincial council meetings have been larded with selective poll data he uses to rationalize opposition to free post-secondary education. He proposes commendable, but milquetoast, policies to ease union organizing and modestly raise the minimum wage.

Balagus and Horwath say the party should champion “bold policies”. Agreed. But where are they?

Is the platform now being cultivated in party back rooms, with the usual dearth of membership input, enough to warrant a vote of confidence in the Leader at the ONDP convention in Toronto, April 21-23, 2017?

Recall the Ontario NDP convention in November 2014. After months of intense campaigning, drawing on all the party’s resources, Horwath managed to hang onto her position. But she did so only after promising to atone, and by pledging to turn left.
In the mandatory leadership review, Horwath received 76.9 per cent support from the 1,055 district association and union delegates, only slightly more than the 76.4 per cent she got two years earlier.

The move to remove Horwath sprang from the discontent of NDPers with the June 2014 provincial election campaign she led.

Like Tom Mulcair, whose subsequent “balanced budget no-matter-what” mantra that sank the ship in the 2015 federal election, Horwath embraced moderate, populist themes and discarded social justice issues. Moreover, the turn to the centre was not mandated by the party ranks, and it strained relations with large segments of the labour movement.

The shift mostly helped the Liberals. Kathleen Wynne campaigned for pension improvements and a wage increase for low-paid workers, while Horwath promoted a Ministry of Cost Savings that seemed to target jobs in the public service. She also pledged to hold the line on wealth taxes.

Once the Liberals emerged with a majority government, costing the NDP three key seats in downtown Toronto, Horwath purged her senior staff and apologized to delegates at the party’s Provincial Council. She later told the Convention that she would “keep talking about our ultimate values and goals and not just our first steps.” While this was pretty thin, it persuaded many members to give her another chance – especially as there was no heir apparent to the Leader.

Still, the mood of the convention was angry, and quite critical of the party tops.
Although the establishment dominated elections to the provincial executive with an official slate, the organized party left wing, the Socialist Caucus, and independent candidates did remarkably well.

Debates on convention procedures and resolutions produced a number of upsets. In the opening minutes of the convention, delegates voted to amend the agenda, forcing the vote on Leader to occur late Saturday afternoon, rather than immediately following the Leader’s rah-rah speech set for the morning. This meant that hundreds of delegates summoned by conservative riding and union leaders to vote to sustain Horwath had to hang around an extra seven hours.

Motions of referral, with instructions to integrate tougher language into resolutions from the official vetting committee, succeeded in a number of cases. This radicalized the policy on Social Assistance, Post-Secondary tuition, the bitumen pipeline known as Line 9, the Ontario Municipal Board, and nearly did so on Minimum Wage. The rebellious feeling also produced a win for more time to debate Labour issues. It led over 30 per cent to vote against acceptance of the Provincial Secretary’s Report, a report that was clearly identified with the failed election campaign.

By far the biggest upset to the establishment was the victory for Free Post-Secondary Education, Abolish Student Debt — a long standing Socialist Caucus cause celebre. Sadly, the adopted free tuition policy was buried by Horwath, and remains interred.
In 2014, NDPers were looking for change. But as Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn then wryly observed, “New Democrats are sticking with their leader largely because they are stuck with her.”

That was cold comfort for the Leader who pledged to change her ways. The question is: What have we seen since then? Clearly, not enough to justify a vote of confidence.
In the wake of mass sentiment for the ideas of Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, and the march of 4 million women against Donald Trump’s agenda in January, there are plenty of reasons for the party and union left to continue to press for a Workers’ Agenda.

Mulcair’s cowardly remarks on heroic Fidel Castro

by Sid Ryan

Thanks to decades of right wing anti-Cuba propaganda, some politicians on the left run for cover when asked for an opinion on the legacy of Fidel Castro, who passed away on November 25.

The latest shameful example comes courtesy of interim New Democratic Party Leader Tom Mulcair, who tweeted the following: “Upon the passing of Fidel Castro let us think of the lives impacted by his actions and be hopeful for the future of the Cuban people”.
Is it any wonder that Justin Trudeau ate the NDP’s lunch during the 2015 federal election, and continues to dine at the party’s dessert table? Continue reading Mulcair’s cowardly remarks on heroic Fidel Castro