Category Archives: NDP

High Expectations confront New NDP Gov’t in British Columbia

by Gary Porter

Victoria, B.C.: After only 120 days in office, the freshman New Democratic Party government on Canada’s west coast had to face delegates elected by the membership of the mass labour-based party at its provincial convention, November 3-5. Expectations were high on the major issues affecting working people, indigenous communities, women, visible minorities, and the impoverished in British Columbia. After 16 years of harsh Liberal Party rule, public services have been slashed, fees increased, the public infrastructure neglected, the environment ravaged, climate change ignored, labour rights attacked and all restrictions on corporate campaign financing were removed — resulting in a wild west show of bought and sold politicians.

In the May 2017 election, the NDP won 44% of the vote, and the Green Party 16%. The parties won 41 and 3 seats respectively out of a total of 87. The two parties came to an agreement by which the NDP formed the government, with Green Party support on key issues.

Almost 800 delegates came from labour unions and riding (electoral) associations, the party youth wing and the women’s rights standing committee. The delegation reflected the true face of BC where over 30% of the population consists of visible minorities, 6% are members of indigenous nations and about 30% of the labour force is unionized. While professionals and some small business operators were present, big business was not in the convention hall.

The NDP Premier, John Horgan and several cabinet Ministers reported on early actions of the government. The list included: increasing welfare by $100 monthly, increasing the amount recipients can earn before social assistance reductions occur, cutting provincial medicare fees in half and promising to eliminate the fee completely over time, increasing the minimum wage (though it will take years to reach the goal of $15/hour), and announcing its opposition to the proposed Texas-based Kinder Morgan pipeline designed to carry bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands to the fragile Pacific coast. The pipeline would result in an eightfold increase in tanker traffic in the Straights of Georgia and Juan de Fuca, endangering the marine environment, and affecting Vancouver, Victoria, and potentially Seattle.

The Premier announced he was “reviewing”, rather than opposing, the massive Site C power dam project in north-east BC. The project is outrageously expensive, unnecessary and likely to serve primarily to power development of the tar sands in Alberta. Some indigenous people oppose the project while others support it. Some unions, such as United Steelworkers support the project, and other unions reject it. Environmentalists uniformly condemn it.

The NDP government could play a leadership role and counter pose green public energy projects, incorporating equity hiring policies for women, indigenous peoples and visible minorities in a new green energy sector.

In fact, the NDP government faces a huge opportunity to get profit-oriented capitalist businesses out of energy production and distribution by simply expanding the scope and purpose of the government-owned BC Hydro, which distributes electricity to residences and businesses in B.C., and by taking over private energy corporations and operating them solely to meet public need rather than private profit.

The NDP leadership, however, is not socialist. It is social democratic — committed to reforming capitalism, not replacing it. Even so, social democratic parties have undertaken ambitious nationalization programs.

The convention delegates participated energetically in convention floor debates, although a mere five hours was devoted to dealing with resolutions submitted by unions and local party associations.

Socialist Action supports the NDP Socialist Caucus, which is open to all NDP members. The SC advocates social ownership and democratic workers’ control of the principal means of production, distribution, transportation, communication and finance. It advocates a dramatic reduction of work hours, with no loss of pay or benefits, to ensure that the working class obtains the benefits of automation. The SC calls for nationalization of polluters, the right to self-determination for indigenous peoples, fair trade, and for swiftly putting an end to Canada’s participation in imperialist military alliances such as NATO and NORAD.

Socialist Caucus speakers at the mic ripped the federal Justin Trudeau government’s tolerance of the utterly unfair tariffs on BC lumber imposed by the Trump administration, proposing that Canada cease buying American war planes, which would result in a loss of hundreds of billions of dollars to the U.S. arms industry. The SC advocated an annual cost of living increase to keep pace with the minimum wage, and argued for free tuition for all post secondary students to make education truly accessible to working class families and other low income British Columbians
These ideas won substantial, even wildly enthusiastic support, although none were formally adopted. The reason for that is simple: amendments can not be moved directly from the floor. Only motions of referral, with specific instructions to the resolutions committee, are accepted. Typically, referred motions never return to the floor due to the lack of adequate time for policy debate.

The convention did adopt resolutions for the reestablishment of a Human Rights Commission in BC, measures to fully restore union collective bargaining rights, for proper funding of the infrastructure, for much improved public transport in BC. The gathering called for halting the seizure of indigenous children by the child welfare system and instead demanded efforts to help indigenous families deal with the issues of drug addition, poverty and joblessness, and a plan to build 1700 affordable public residential rental units. Delegates mandated repairs to the infrastructure of the BC Hydro corporation and the BC Auto Insurance Corporation, badly undercut by the previous government which opposes publicly owned services on principle.

In addition, the closure of the wild west show, of unlimited corporate donations was approved. Party and candidate donations will be restricted to individuals only and to a maximum of $1200 annually. Unfortunately, this puts an equal sign between unions and private for-profit corporations, which mis-educates workers, limits the political intervention of workers’ organizations, while capitalists with enormous resources will always find a way around the rules. The NDP government pledges to introduce a system of proportional representation in BC, and to increase training for child care workers, expand childcare facilities and charge only $10 daily per child. The convention demanded that the Trudeau federal government establish a framework to add pharma care and dental care to existing medical coverage for all.

When the convention endorsed the $15/hour minimum wage, BC Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger said labour is patient, but not too patient — insisting that the measure be fully implemented before the end of 2018. The palpable tension between popular expectations and bureaucratic opportunism is a sign of things to come.

Photo Credits: Joshua Berson Photography

Who is Jagmeet Singh?

by Barry Weisleder

The thirty-eight year old turbaned Sikh lawyer from Brampton is the first Person of Colour to head a major Canadian political party – in itself, a significant development. As the target of racist attacks, he must be defended, although not in the way he did when confronted by a racist woman in Peel who absurdly berated him for being a Muslim. Singh simply repeated the words “We love you. We support you.” 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.

Singh handily defeated his opponents for the NDP leadership by skillfully recruiting from his social network. His election represents a doubling down on the shift to the centre, to glamour politics, to trying to beat the Liberals at their game. All this occurs at a time when the right wing, including the Liberal government, are moving ever more stridently against democratic rights, to shore up and extend the grip of imperialism on the world, 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, environmental plunder and war. She steered away from the path of Jeremy Corbyn.

Jagmeet Singh, an Ontario MPP who lacks a seat in the federal Parliament, appointed leadership opponent and Quebec MP Guy Caron to be NDP House Leader until the 2019 election. Charlie Angus, who has what the Toronto Star calls “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 a rapid Green energy transition away from carbon dependency?

Given his overall record, it would take enormous pressure from below to move him in that direction.

Recall that Singh initially opposed LGBTQI-positive sex education in Brampton schools. As Deputy Leader of the Ontario NDP 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’ stance). As her Consumer Affairs Critics, Singh did nothing to advocate public auto insurance, a longstanding ONDP policy championed by beloved, deceased 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. Singh initially favoured the Energy East pipeline, then backed down under pressure from Niki Ashton and others. On post-secondary school fees and student debt he has been vague.

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

At the same time, 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.

That means 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 and Canada Out of NATO, and for public ownership, particularly in the areas of energy, banking, telecommunications and transportation.

Instead of offering a care-free honeymoon to the new leader, working class militants need to set the tone at the 2018 NDP federal convention. This should be done by advancing socialist policies and by demanding that Singh lead the fight for a Workers’ Agenda.

Photo: Photo: Nathan Denette/Canadian Press

A Big Opportunity for the Socialist Left

Jagmeet Singh’s election as federal party leader is, at least in part, the revenge of the NDP top brass and the liberal media establishment. They never forgave the party and labour union ranks for forcing the leadership review that ultimately deposed Tom Mulcair following his disastrous 2015 election campaign. Enormous resources were marshaled to portray Brampton, Ontario MPP Singh as “an outsider” and a “fresh face” with a cool, hipster image who can challenge Justin Trudeau for “middle class” allegiances.
But what’s in it, concretely, for the working class? What does it mean for the vast majority of Canadians who are the victims of capitalist austerity, growing inequality, and environmental chaos?

While barely over half of the eligible party members voted, Singh’s first ballot victory inclines many to think that he embodies meaningful racial and generational change. So, it will be crucial to hold him accountable, to insist that he not retreat even from his sparse ‘progressive’ policies, and furthermore, to demand a bold socialist alternative to Trudeau’s Harper-lite regimen. This should include public ownership of the energy sector, and attention to the much-ignored issues of foreign policy: BDS and justice for Palestine, getting Canada out of NATO, and reducing the military budget, which Trudeau just increased by a whopping 70 per cent.

Illusions in Singh may soon be dashed. This is a time of social upheaval, from indigenous Caledonia, to Catalonia in the Spanish state. Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders showed that the open road is to the left, not the centre. Thus, now is the time to fight for a Workers’ Agenda, for socialism, inside the only mass, labour-based political party in North America.

The NDP Socialist Caucus recognizes the huge opportunity and the heavy responsibility to unite all anti-capitalists and social justice fighters inside and outside the NDP. We invite Niki Ashton MP, her supporters, and all leftist backers of the other candidates, to come together now. With conservative forces dominating at the summit of the NDP and labour unions, the space is open for an insurgent, militant left wing in the major working class institutions, organizing from the bottom-up.

The Socialist Caucus national conference, to be held on Saturday, December 2 at the University of Toronto’s Woodsworth College Residence, may be a turning point.
Together, we can unite the left and build on the momentum that caused the NDP leadership candidates to tack to the left. The working class needs socialist solutions to the crisis of capitalism and to counteract the rise of the alt-right.

We can, and we will, advance… Socialist policies. More democratic debate. Socialist candidates for federal NDP executive. Direct action against capitalist austerity.
Get ready for the NDP Federal Convention, February 16-18, 2018 in Ottawa. Stoke your ideas and your energy.

Register now for the NDP Socialist Caucus conference in Toronto on Saturday, December 2.

Please visit:  www.ndpsocialists.ca  
E-mail:  info@ndpsocialists.ca     
Phone:  647-986-1917

 

Photo: CHRIS SO / TORONTO STAR

British Columbia Turns Left

by Caitlin Brown

The May 9 election in British Columbia (B.C.) showed a dramatic attempt by voters to break from 16 years of austerity under the Liberal Party towards a left social democratic program. Like other regions of Canada, the western-most province was hit hard by the 2008/9 economic meltdown; its staple natural resource industries, fishing, mining and forestry, are plagued by continuing lay-offs and now face U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariffs. Intense real estate speculation fostered immense income inequality. The shift to the left electorally was a response to this situation.

Continue reading British Columbia Turns Left

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