Category Archives: NDP

Singh drifts left, Horwath treads water

by Barry W.

The convention was on Andrea Horwath’s home turf, but Jagmeet Singh stole the show.  The federal New Democratic Party leader grabbed national headlines when he spoke to Ontario NDP delegates about his New Deal for People.  It seeks to expand public health care to include universal pharma care by 2020, followed by free dental, vision, hearing, mental health services, long term home care and addictions treatment.  He proposes to pay for it by upping the federal corporate income tax from 15 to 18 per cent, and by creating a new, 1 per cent tax on people whose net worth is more than $20 million.  In a break from Tom Mulcair’s no-deficit, soft-austerity 2015 campaign, Singh vowed to fund green programs and infrastructure through a new $3 billion “climate bank”, to push to retrofit all buildings by 2050 (in the process creating 300,00 new jobs), and to build 500,000 new affordable housing units within a decade.

Ontario leader Horwath, on the other hand, demonstrated why her party is stagnant.  She repeatedly showcased her caucus of MPPs and paraded a bunch of talking heads.  They offered anti-Doug Ford rhetoric, decried wildfires and floodwaters, said ‘me-too’ for pharma care, and issued platitudes for a more just society.  Even her “Green New Democratic Deal” is mainly a 28-page discussion paper rather than a policy.  It fails (as does Singh) to challenge monopoly control of the carbon-fueled economy.

The ONDP and labour bureaucracy tightly controlled the June 14-16 convention in Hamilton.  They stifled criticism.  You wouldn’t know that thousands of auto workers’ jobs are being buried. The top brass put innovative, radical resolutions at the bottom of every topic list.  The leadership exhibited little sense of urgency about removing the Ford Conservative regime despite its onslaught against workers and the environment. A blinkered obsession with preparations for the 2022 Ontario election, three years down the road, ruled the roost. 

Party chief of staff Michael Balagas provided a laughably Pollyanna interpretation of the latest public opinion polls (showing the Tories, NDP and Liberals close together, and the Green Party rising fast).

Identity politics and milquetoast motions dominated the proceedings.  The agenda imposed by the top brass devoted less than 39 per cent of the convention time to policy discussion.  The rest of the time filled up with ‘showcases’, guest speakers (including Dan Riffle from Wall Street’s, war-mongering Democratic Party USA), ‘breakout’ sessions for chatter but not for voting on policy, the numerous elections, and plenty of procedural wrangling.  Cutting, shrinking or reassigning such agenda items to the margins could have restored hours of rank and file democracy to the gathering.  Late starts (delegates were locked out of the main hall after Saturday lunch, and again on Sunday morning), squandered a further 40 minutes of precious policy time.  When, in the opening minutes, Socialist Caucus member Elizabeth Byce asked the convention chair why so little time was scheduled for policy matters, the chair rudely interrupted her with an abrupt “We will cover as much policy as possible.”  But that was a dead letter from the word go.

This is not to say that many of the adopted resolutions are not worthy – just that several were adopted nearly unanimously. They consumed scarce time that could have been spent addressing controversial issues submitted by dozens of local NDP district associations.

Adopted resolutions included: “Policy Sunset and Reaffirmation Resolution”, “Stop the Legalized Theft of Workers’ Pensions”, “Replacing the Term Aboriginal with Indigenous”, “Equity-Seeking ‘Victory Funds’” (to raise money for campaigns that feature visible minority and female NDP candidates); “Cannabis Growers Workers”; “Expand the Powers of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario”; “End Hallway Medicine”; “Opioid Crisis”; “Full Day Kindergarten”; “Health and Phys Ed”; “Black Canadian Curriculum”; “First Nations Job Creation”; and “Development without Displacement”.  Again, these motions could have been approved, omnibus-style, with one vote.  Their positioning effectively scuppered other issues.

Multiply-endorsed resolutions that officials prevented from reaching the convention floor included: “Nationalize GM”; “Share the Work, Shorten the Work Week”; “Dump Doug Ford with Mass Extra-parliamentary Action”; “Social Ownership and Economic Democracy”; “For Public Ownership of Telecom”; “Boycott apartheid Israel, End the Siege of Gaza, uphold Palestinian Rights”; “NDP should be clear: Hands Off Venezuela”; “Eliminate Tuition, Ancillary Fees and Student Debt”; “Public and Democratic Hydro”; and “Build Social Housing as an Emergency Priority in Ontario” (12 different affiliates submitted that one!).

A Left Break-through

A weak resolution titled “GM Jobs”, was referred back to the appeals committee with instructions on Saturday.  In the last minutes of the convention on Sunday, after obtaining unanimous consent, it returned to the floor.  Added were the words “including a new vision of a publicly owned facility that could produce green vehicles and/or any other product that meets public need in order to face the climate crisis and transition to a green new economy.”  Oshawa delegate Rebecca Keetch spoke forcefully to the imminent loss of 5,000 jobs, including her own.  Convention finally adopted the motion, in part due to the SC resolution calling for Nationalization of GM, and thanks to our collaboration with CUPE-Ontario President Fred Hahn, whose dogged efforts paved the way for this small victory.

As seen at the federal NDP convention in Ottawa, February 2018, Palestine shook things up.  But a motion to appeal its low rank on the list of resolutions simply ran out of time for consideration.  Only ten minutes are allowed for appeals from the floor in each policy segment.  The right wing stacked the mics to ensure that left wing appeals would not be heard.

The Resolutions Appeals Committee, chaired by former federal leader candidate Brian Topp, became a lightning rod for discontent.  Several times it suffered defeat on the convention floor as exasperated delegates fought its status quo priorities.  In defiance, a policy to reduce the voting age in Ontario to 14 years carried. Likewise, delegates defeated “Support for Mobile Crisis Response” that relied heavily on police involvement, a motion backed by the party establishment.

Socialists steadfast

An appetite for radical left media was evident.  Delegates snapped up over 500 copies of Turn Left, the glossy, full-colour Socialist Caucus magazine ( .  Donations on site added to the $3,300 raised to fund the publication prior to the convention. Scores of delegates bought copies of Socialist Action monthly newspaper.

NDP staff had said “No literature display tables will be allowed”, although the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Broadbent Institute each got one. Nonetheless, the Socialist Caucus found a way to display its materials, as did former OFL president Sid Ryan who sold copies of his new book “A Grander Vision.”

The convention was poorly attended.  Party officials predicted 1,500 delegates.  The last Credentials Report, claiming that 1,045 attended, tried to bandage this raw sore.  The fact is that only 720 delegates voted for President and Treasurer.  Only 730 voted for V.P. candidates. Fewer than 530 voted for Members At Large. Most of the time, empty chairs outnumbered occupied seats.

Support for Andrea Horwath (expressed in a leadership review vote) was underwhelming.  The norm is 95%+ for a Leader (especially one who made major gains at the previous provincial election).  As Toronto Star columnist Rick Salutin wrote on June 21, “She got 84 per cent support at last week’s NDP convention, not a healthy sign. If her party were serious about power, there’d have been more dissension.”

Socialist Caucus candidates garnered 12.2 to 27 per cent of the votes for the 15 top executive positions that the SC contested. Over 200 delegates marked ballots for Julius Arscott for V.P.  He told the convention, “The NDP must call for mass action, including general strike action, to defeat the Doug Ford/Bay Street agenda. Some may say that is labour’s jurisdiction. But the NDP is directly tied to the struggles of the working class.  We have a huge stake in this fight!”

The establishment slate swept, as expected.  Sadly, independent socialist candidates (like Jessa McLean and Tim Ellis) failed to break through.  A united front socialist slate would surely help in the future.  Once again, the Socialist Caucus provided the most visible, principled, all-round left opposition – and it demonstrated growing support.  A ‘Meet the Socialist Candidates’ pub night attracted a big crowd on Saturday. 

Dozens of new contacts, new volunteers for the SC steering committee, new subscribers to the left press, added to the positive political harvest for class struggle activists.  While it is clear that NDP officials will not lead the fight in the streets against the arch-austerity corporate agenda, they may be compelled to join an upsurge as teachers, and other public and private sector workers suffering job loss and frozen wages, gird for a hot autumn.


Will Jagmeet Singh’s campaign in Burnaby South save the NDP?

by Gary Porter

Jagmeet Singh, elected Federal Leader of the NDP on October 1, 2017, will run in the anticipated Burnaby South by-election for a seat in Parliament. This could be a tremendous opportunity for Singh, the NDP and the working class across Canada. The election will focus, in part, on the critical shortage of affordable housing and on the Trans Mountain pipeline extension.

After much hesitation, Singh now opposes the twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific coast through Greater Vancouver. The line would threaten ocean species with the inevitable leakages and spills of heavy, filthy bitumen. Bitumen sinks to the ocean floor; it cannot be cleaned up and leeches out toxins for years.
Singh publicly advocates free universal pharma care, dental care, eye-care and free post-secondary education. Such provisions are already common in the state medicare services of nations much poorer than Canada.

To finance it, Singh says: “One of the massive ways we can afford that is tackling the offshore tax havens that exist. Our current government doesn’t have the will, the conviction or the courage to do anything about it.”

He is correct of course, but the real problem isn’t merely finding where capitalists hide their profits. It is the profit system itself, a system that must be replaced by social ownership and workers’ democratic control.

Singh states that he is not necessarily opposed to government deficits. That is a step past Tom Mulcair’s dogged loyalty to a balanced budget in the 2015 federal election – when the NDP lost over half its seats.

But Singh does not challenge capitalism, nor the imperialist foreign policy that flows from it. He does not mention, let alone advocate socialism. In that respect he is even more timid than Democratic Party loyalist Bernie Sanders in the USA.
Singh, to many, seems more style and less policy. Since the leadership race, party support has fallen. The NDP has had difficulty raising funds and has failed terribly in by-elections. Not a single NDP federal candidate has been elected. Why? It is simply because Singh has advocated modest reforms to a system based on capitalist profit, not human need.

If Singh took a clear stand against the austerity policies of the capitalist parties, if he advocated a policy of building tens of thousands of publicly owned, affordable homes for workers and the poor, if he made a strong defense of workers’ and union rights, and pushed unambiguously to expand medicare to include pharma care and dental care, and campaigned to enact free post secondary education in his first term as Prime Minister, millions of Canadians would listen.

If he mobilized workers and the poor in Canada and demanded much steeper progressive income taxes, including a maximum income above which taxes would be 100%, in addition to shutting down tax shelters and imposing harsh sentences for tax evasion by the rich, millions of would cheer.

It is time for the NDP leadership to break with Canadian imperialism and start fighting for the exploited and oppressed of the world. If Singh began a massive social media campaign to expose the lies of the Israeli state and its imperialist allies in Ottawa and Washington, if he explained clearly why he supported the rights of Palestinians against apartheid Israel and stood up for the people of Venezuela and Syria under attack, millions would begin to grasp the nature of Canadian imperialism.
If he advocated getting Canada out of NATO, and ending the sale of arms to the Saudis and the Israeli state and to the Ukrainian far-right government he could distinguish himself indelibly from Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

To be credible on the environment, he must distance himself from British Columbia NDP Premier John Horgan on the massive Site C power dam. It is being built to support a fracking industry. Singh should advocate nationalization of the oil and gas business in order to wind it down and to build in its place a massive, publicly-owned green energy industry.

He has said little in defense of workers in Canada, the United States and Mexico as the ruling classes heat up their trade war. When he has spoken, it has been to support the interests of Canadian capitalists in the fight with American capitalists. The NDP should be defending the interests of workers across the continent.

He has said virtually nothing in defense of workers and the poor in Ontario faced with the barrage of cutbacks and attacks on their living standards by the savagely right-wing Doug Ford provincial Tory government.

Burnaby South is currently an NDP seat. It is the scene of one of the major environment battles in Canada. It is a seat with many resident unionized workers. The NDP will not get a better chance to prove its worth.

Now is the time for Singh and the party leadership to face up to reality. Their utter failure to deal with most of the real problems facing workers and the poor in Canada is leading to a stunning, demoralizing decline in party fortunes.

This is a golden opportunity to take up the Socialist Caucus program and move sharply to the left. Now is the time for rank and file NDP members to demand a sharp left turn. In Burnaby, Vote NDP, and fight for a socialist policies.

Les hauts dirigeants du NPD n’ont pu bâillonner les délégués au congrès

Par Barry Weisleder

(Traduction libre de l’anglais)

Le congrès à Ottawa, du 16 au 18 février, ne marquait pas uniquement l’occasion de lancer Jagmeet Singh en tant que nouveau chef du Nouveau Parti Démocratique travailliste. Ce fut aussi une tentative, pas entièrement réussie, d’établir son contrôle sur l’appareil du parti et d’imposer un message politique timoré. À cet égard, ce fut un effort de promotion hautement centralisé, à la Jack Layton, conçu pour éviter la controverse et ainsi, restreindre le débat constructif.

D’abord, la direction du parti relégua au bas de la liste des priorités les motions progressistes, endossées par des douzaines d’associations de circonscriptions locales du NPD, qui portaient sur des enjeux tels que la démocratie, le Moyen-Orient, l’OTAN, l’ALÉNA, les nouveaux oléoducs, l’élimination des droits de scolarité postsecondaires, la propriété publique, la progressivité du régime fiscal, etc. Ainsi, on voulait s’assurer que ces motions ne furent pas soumises à vote au congrès. Des ateliers préliminaires, qui se sont déroulés tôt vendredi matin, ayant pour but de considérer des amendements à la liste de priorités déterminée par la bureaucratie du parti, furent dominés par l’aile droite et entravés par de nombreux obstacles procéduraux.

Néanmoins, des arguments contestataires et pointés furent avancés, et les membres de la base, comptant des centaines de jeunes et de nouveaux délégués, réussirent à effectuer des percées. Voilà qui s’annonçait l’élan du futur.

Durant le panel sur les politiques d’affaires extérieures, alors que plus de 400 personnes bondaient la salle, une motion visant à prioriser une version atténuée de la résolution proposant le boycottage, le désinvestissement et les sanctions (BDS) envers Israël fut débattue. Elle échoua par seulement 11 votes. Lors d’autres panels, les délégués ont lutté ardemment pour des motions promouvant des politiques de scolarité gratuite et la consultation par internet des membres du NPD sur les priorités politiques, ce qui a porté ses fruits.

Nombre des 1 751 délégués enregistrés au congrès ont exprimé leur désarroi devant l’obstructionnisme qui se dressait dans les parages. On eut recours à une série de motions d’ordres et d’arguments procéduraux afin de court-circuiter les résolutions établies en sessions plénières. Les supporteurs du Caucus Socialiste ont évité de telles tactiques, à une seule exception significative.

Nous avons contesté l’intimidation flagrante et les tactiques dominatrices employées par les sbires de Jagmeet (qui tentèrent de saisir contrôle de tous les microphones, pour et contre, et de museler les voix pour la Palestine lors du débat, samedi soir, sur les affaires mondiales), et nous avons été plutôt fructueux.

De ce fait, le cas de la prisonnière politique palestinienne Ahed Tamimi, âgée de 17 ans, emprisonnée par Israël pour avoir « embarrasser l’Occupation », fut rapporté à la télévision nationale. La couverture médiatique porta sur un groupe de délégués, plus d’une centaine en nombre, et principalement composé de jeunes, qui ont formé deux files au centre de la salle de congrès, brandissant des affiches sur lesquels on pouvait lire « Free Tamimi ». Le Caucus Socialiste a aussi réussi à recueillir une majorité (558 votes, 56,1 pour cent) afin d’ajouter 30 minutes à la session plénière pour débattre l’enjeu du Moyen-Orient. Malheureusement, nous n’avons pas atteint la majorité renforcée nécessaire de deux tiers des votes pour réussir à modifier l’ordre du jour. La politique adoptée, énonçant le statu quo, les-deux-côtés-sont-responsables-de-la-violence, la solution obsolète de la création de deux États, en laissa plusieurs à se demander ce qu’était devenu de l’engagement aux libertés civiles vanté par l’avocat Jagmeet Singh.

Alors que le temps filait, les socialistes n’ont pas tenté d’expédier des résolutions sur les politiques d’équité, même si les motions non controversées (tels que la modification du titre d’un comité du parti) ont empêché que soient abordés d’autres enjeux plus contentieux. Il va sans dire que nous avons voté en faveur de toutes les résolutions prônant l’équité.

Le Caucus Socialiste a voulu rationaliser le procédé, afin d’assurer plus de temps pour le débat de politique, en tentant d’amender l’ordre du jour, à l’ouverture du congrès. Même si nous n’avons pas gagné ce vote, ce geste contribua au succès ultérieur de la résolution avancée par le groupe Courage, visant à trouver de meilleurs moyens pour prioriser les résolutions. Malheureusement, la mesure finalement adoptée propose simplement un projet de recherche sur l’utilisation de l’internet pour consulter les effectifs du parti. De ce fait, il n’y aura pas de modification, avant le prochain congrès, au mécanisme existant de priorisation de résolutions excessivement corrompu et manipulateur. Ce sera peut-être pour le congrès suivant.

Plusieurs délégués (surtout ceux qui n’ont sont pas fanatiques du gradualisme au pas de tortue) m’ont remercié et d’autres compagnons du Caucus Socialiste d’avoir tenté d’amender l’ordre du jour. Sûrement, les nombreux conférenciers et les exposés informatifs auraient pu être présentés lors de sessions du soir. N’aurait-il pas été préférable de bénéficier d’activités instructives en alternative au souper avec le chef de parti à 300 $ le couvert ou les rencontres sociales soi-disant gratuites dans les bars aux prix dispendieux? Nécessairement, la base du parti continuera de lutter pour une démocratie plus ouverte au sein du NPD. Il faudra s’efforcer pour instaurer un programme allouant 70 pour cent du temps du congrès au débat de politique, à comparer au ratio méprisable de 42 pour cent observé au cours des congrès précédents des trois dernières décennies. On peut prédire avec confiance qu’au prochain congrès, le NPD appuiera la politique pro-BDS, un résultat impensable il y a seulement quelques années.

Le panel le plus marquant fut « Nation à Nation ». Les conférenciers invités étaient l’activiste-artiste Ellen Gabriel, l’enseignante et consultante anti-violence, Sahra MacLean, et Ian Campeau, un fondateur du groupe de musique A Tribe Called Red. Ils ont présenté des analyses anticapitalistes incisives et excitantes. De même, le chef du British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, a envoyé un message vidéo de solidarité qui a fait soulever la foule, lorsqu’il affirma que « nos deux partis sont socialistes ». Ce fut la seule fois que le mot « socialiste » fut prononcé au-devant de la salle au cours de la fin de semaine.

Le Caucus Socialiste a célébré l’élection d’une de ses candidates à la direction (Dirka Prout pour coprésidente du Conseil des femmes du NPD) et fut ravi du fait que ses candidats ont reçu un soutien important durant les scrutins, avec Corey David recevant 16 pour cent des votes pour président, Gary Porter avec 27 pour cent pour Trésorier, Chris Gosse avec 20 pour cent pour vice-président de la main d’œuvre, et un appui populaire passant de 20 à 33 pour cent pour divers postes au sein de la direction et du conseil fédéral. Quel autre courant gauchiste à l’intérieur du parti présenta aux délégués un choix lors des scrutins pour la direction et le conseil fédéral? Quel autre mouvement au sein du parti a lutté pour des politiques socialistes honnêtes, ou encore pour un programme transitoire articulant les revendications de la classe ouvrière?

Les partisans du manifeste “Un bond vers l’avant” (Leap Manifesto en anglais) ont organisé une rencontre fougueuse d’envergure au Musée de la nature, mais ils ont choisi de ne pas intervenir au cours du congrès du NPD. Ceci a permis aux mandarins de l’establishment du parti de mettre au rancart toute discussion au sujet de la vision prônée par le manifeste. Courage mérite d’être reconnu pour son organisation pancanadien remarquable visant à promouvoir ses propositions pour une démocratie plus ouverte au sein du parti et l’éducation post-secondaire gratuite. De même, on doit féliciter le mouvement des Palestiniens, des Juifs progressistes et autres, qui ont conduit la campagne visant à interdire l’entrée au marché canadien des produits issus des colonies israéliennes illégales. Enfin, NPD Momentum a attiré un public modeste à une série d’événements appelé « Le Monde Transformé ».

Malheureusement, aucun de ces groupes n’a présenté une plateforme politique alternative ou une équipe de candidats pour contester l’establishment du parti de droite, ou encore moins, pour cibler le système capitaliste toxique. Malgré les efforts du Caucus Socialiste, autant avant que durant le congrès, aucun des leaders des groupes sous-mentionnés n’a démontré la volonté de collaborer sur des enjeux spécifiques ou des actions. Alors qu’une fusion des forces politiques n’est pas pour aujourd’hui, en raison des importantes différences entre les programmes et stratégies, une gauche unifiée pour l’atteinte d’objectifs particuliers est possible… et elle serait puissante, sinon irrésistible. L’unité dans l’action devrait être notre objectif commun.

Le forum sur la politique étrangère du Caucus Socialiste eut lieu vendredi soir et présentait l’auteur de Montréal, Yves Engler. Cet événement attira une grande foule et provoqua une excellente discussion qui a animé les délégués au cours des deux prochains jours, alors qu’on s’engageait dans des combats au congrès pour défendre une démocratie plus ouverte et certaines résolutions urgentes. Avec le soutien de douzaines d’associations de circonscriptions de partout au pays, plus de 20 résolutions du Caucus Socialiste furent comprises dans le cartable des projets de résolution du congrès. La table de présentation du cartable devenu un centre d’activisme, générant des revenus d’environ mille dollars. Plus de 35 personnes ont adhéré au Caucus Socialiste au cours du congrès. Loin de se sentir isolé, le groupe fut dynamisé par l’expérience.

Lors du vote de révision de la direction du parti, Jagmeet Singh a obtenu l’approbation de 90,7 pour cent des délégués, un résultat auquel on s’attendait alors qu’il avait accédé au poste de chef du parti il y a seulement quatre mois. Or, il a payé un prix politique pour ses tactiques maladroites de surcontrôle et son discours fade et décousu de 40 minutes. Singh a réussi à fâcher des centaines de jeunes, nouveaux membres, alors que les commentateurs sont demeurés perplexes. La chroniqueuse du Toronto Star, Chantal Hébert, résuma sobrement ainsi : « le discours du nouveau chef n’a pas marqué un grand départ du passé récent ».

L’approche de Singh vise à réduire l’inégalité sociale. Comment? En fermant les échappatoires fiscales, en augmentant l’impôt sur les sociétés, en façonnant un programme d’assure-médicaments pancanadien et des programmes de soins oculaires et dentaires, en réalisant la réconciliation avec les Premières Nations, et en prônant un système de scrutin proportionnel, selon ses dires. Or, en quoi cela diffère-t-il de l’approche du précédent chef discrédité, Tom Mulcair, surtout en l’absence de quelconques propositions audacieuses appelant les grandes entreprises à absorber ces coûts?

Singh a complètement évité le sujet des oléoducs (ignorant la guerre du vin et des mots entre les gouvernements NPD provinciaux de la Colombie-Britannique et de l’Alberta) et il demeura silencieux à l’égard du fléau des changements climatiques (est-il en faveur d’une taxe sur le carbone, d’un système de plafonds et d’échanges, ou de l’appropriation publique des géants de l’énergie afin de rapidement financer une transition rapide vers l’énergie verte?). Son plan général de politique ressemble plutôt à un roman mystère qu’à une plateforme d’un parti politique.

Au son du claquement à une seule main, les fonctionnaires du NPD ont décrété que la réunion serait un « congrès sans papier ». Or, l’application mobile dysfonctionnelle mise à disposition empêchait l’accès à l’information en temps opportun et constituait une source constante de frustration.

En fin de compte, l’image l’a emporté sur la politique, mais non sans difficulté. Si la balance du pouvoir ne penche pas vers la gauche aujourd’hui, il n’en faudrait que peu pour qu’elle bascule… surtout si les socialistes et les progressistes décident de s’unir pour défendre la cause commune de gagner le NPD et d’œuvrer pour un programme travailliste. Après tout, la victoire n’est pas gagnée sans lutter.

Democratic – the NDP’s middle name, eh?

by Elizabeth Byce

Is the New Democratic Party democratic? Compared to the Liberal and Conservative parties, it is. The policies of the parties of Bay Street are set by their leaders, not by members. Their conventions are just a showcase for party big wigs and a playground for trial balloons. Whatever else happens, the interests of the rich prevail.

The NDP, on the other hand, is a working class party, based on the unions. Its purpose is to fight for the needs of the vast majority, against the evils of capitalism. Its policy is decided by working class delegates at large party conventions. There should be ample discussion, and the policies are to be implemented, supposedly. But is that really what happens?

My experience is that very little debate on policy occurs at convention. Decades ago, most of the time at NDP conventions was devoted to policy debate. But in recent years, less than 25 per cent of the time is spent that way. Worse, very few radical, or even slightly controversial resolutions make it to the floor. Even worse is the fact that progressive policies that are adopted are often quietly buried.

I can think of three examples: Canada get out of NATO, abolish the GST, and demand public ownership of the energy resource sector.

A controversial issue today is Palestine and the campaign known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the racist Israeli state.

Before the October 19, 2015 federal election, the NDP leader blocked nomination bids or removed locally nominated candidates for the crime of just mentioning Palestine, or for quoting Amnesty International data on the crimes Israel committed against the people of Gaza.

But the majority of New Democrats support self-determination for the Palestinian people; they even back the BDS campaign as a peaceful tool in the quest for a little justice in the Middle East. That’s why Palestine is such a big issue in the NDP today – which brings us back to the issue of internal democracy.

The NDP badly needs a democratic revolution. What would that look like? It would be much less costly to become a convention delegate. Most of the time at convention would be devoted to policy debate, which would make for more time to deal with resolutions submitted by grassroots bodies, including progressive and socialist policies. The party brass would be stopped from obstructing or removing locally nominated candidates for political reasons. Party electoral campaigns would not just reflect, they would highlight the most progressive policies adopted by the ranks at convention.

Resolutions circulated by the NDP Socialist Caucus that aim to make those changes are in the convention resolutions book now, submitted by many NDP district associations, unions and youth clubs. It’s time for a change, don’t you think? Join the democratic revolution.



On eve of NDP federal convention: Policy, not Image, should be Focus of Leader

by Barry Weisleder

The honeymoon was over in record time. The business press that blatantly boosted Jagmeet Singh over his lackluster NDP leadership rivals turned away from him within weeks of his October 1, 2017 triumph. A burst of unfair media criticism quickly gave way to a studied disinterest. Singh was unjustly singled out for comment on the Air India bombing – which occurred when he was six years old. He was chided for not immediately seeking a seat in Parliament. And then, the NDP did very poorly in the six by-elections held on December 11. It now sits at a mere 17 per cent in opinion polls.

Singh gave a stirring speech to the B.C. NDP convention, but later dodged the Site C Dam decision. He has been nearly mute on a rising wave of issues including the future of NAFTA, the rebellion against electoral fraud in Honduras, Trump’s affront to Palestine on the status of Jerusalem, and Washington’s supply of lethal weapons to the reactionary regime in Kiev. Even on tax evasion by the rich and powerful, including by Liberal Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Singh has been out-hustled by Tories Andrew Scheer and Pierre Poilievre.

The problem now is not image, or timing, or electoral tactics. It is political. It is the lack of bold policies, and the absence of direct action.

Recall that Jagmeet Singh was the most conservative of the four aspirants who ran the last lap of the leadership race. The political up-side of his win was his positivity and pride as an articulate, equity-seeking racial minority person.
The thirty-eight year old turbaned Sikh lawyer from Brampton is the first Person of Colour to head a major Canadian political party. The significance of this was evident, long before the Terry Milewski CBC interview, when he was confronted by a racist woman in Peel who absurdly berated him for being a Muslim. Singh countered by simply repeating the words “We love you. We support you.” Bourgeois pundits lapped it up. The truth is that racism and incipient fascism must be countered by stressing the need for working class unity against the system that breeds racism, and by initiating mass actions to crush the racists. But to establishment politicos, that’s not ‘cool.’

Singh handily defeated his opponents for the NDP leadership by skillfully recruiting from his extensive social network. His election represented a doubling down on the party’s shift to the centre, to glamour politics, to trying to beat the Liberals at their game. Snazzy three-piece tailored suits, and his news conference engagement to an attractive South Asian woman, have failed to out-dazzle Justin Trudeau’s ‘sunny ways’, his super-selfie persona. It is simply a losing proposition for the NDP to compete with Justin in a glamour gambit when the NDP base, the working class, needs system change that will not result from another personality contest. This is especially true when the political right wing, including the Liberal government, is moving ever more stridently against democratic rights, to condone criminal tax avoidance, to tighten the grip of imperialism on the world, and to put profit before the environment.

Sadly, the most left wing candidate for leader, Niki Ashton MP, squandered the opportunity to present a bold socialist policy platform, to integrate grassroots socialist activists into her campaign, and to turn it into a vehicle for mass action against capitalist austerity. She steered away from the radical path of British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Jagmeet Singh, former Ontario NDP Deputy Leader, appointed leadership opponent and Quebec MP Guy Caron to be NDP House Leader until the 2019 election. Charlie Angus, who was praised by the Toronto Star for having “the most nuanced position on pipelines and energy projects”, is left out in the cold. Does this mean Singh will oppose pipelines, and fight for public ownership and for a rapid Green energy transition away from carbon dependency?

Maybe. But it would take enormous pressure from below to move him in that direction. Remember,Singh initially favoured the Energy East pipeline, then backed down under pressure from Niki Ashton and others.

When he last ran for public office, he initially opposed LGBTQI-positive sex education in Brampton schools. As an Ontario MPP he fully backed Leader Andrea Horwath’s failed 2014 Ontario election campaign opposing tax increases on corporations and the rich (a policy not unlike Tom Mulcair’s ‘Balanced budget, No matter what). As Horwath’s Consumer Affairs Critics, Singh did nothing to advocate public auto insurance, a longstanding Ontario NDP policy championed by beloved NDP MPPs Mel Swart and Peter Kormos.

During the 2017 federal leadership race Singh stunned members when he came out against universality in seniors’ benefits. He infamously toured Israel hosted by Zionist organizations, and he was backed by the openly pro-imperialist NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Helene Laverdiere. On post-secondary school fees and student debt he has been vague.

On the positive side, Singh has a visionary position on illegal drugs. He wants to de-criminalize all drugs and invest in the treatment of substance abuse as a health issue.

However, he never uses the word “socialist” to describe himself; he proposes only minimal changes to tax law; and offers not a word about striving for democratic control of the economy. He is silent on internal party affairs, particularly the need for greater democracy.

So, what is to be done? Party and labour leftists should press Singh sharply on Pharma-care, dental care, free post-secondary education, steep taxation of corporations and the super-rich, for BDS against Israeli apartheid and Canada Out of NATO, and for public ownership, particularly in the areas of energy, banking, telecommunications and transportation. We need a commitment to respect the local NDP candidate nomination process and for the Leader to actively campaign for the policies adopted at convention.

Instead of trying to revive a short-lived honeymoon for the new leader, working class activists need to set a militant tone at the February 2018 NDP federal convention. This should be done by advancing socialist policies and by demanding that Singh lead the fight for a Workers’ Agenda. He can do it, if we unite to demand it.