The LB Podcast Blog
In politics, as in many things in life, there are some things viewed as benign or relatively inconsequential, such as joining a political party, donating money, or volunteering for your local EDA, or electoral district association. But then there are parts of political life that always seem to draw a lot of attention and controversy, especially within a political party's internal affairs. Some of those include conventions, vetting candidates, dealing with media scrutiny, and having a cohesive political message during elections. As I've been a member of the NDP for a number of years now, I happen to pay a little more attention to them than the other political parties, so this episode will of course focus on the NDP. But rest assured, the issues I'm going to talk about are certainly not limited to this political party. With that said, here are just a few of the more pressing sore spots the NDP is going to need to address (and soon).
The Policy Book
There's quite a heated debate going on over on Twitter right now about whether or not policy resolutions passed at the last convention actually count as 'policies' for the book, or merely 'directives' for the party to follow should it form government. The answer you get depends on who you ask:
But according to the NDP's own constitution, section 4 article 5 reads as follows:
5.Authority of Conventions
Conventions are the supreme governing body of the Party and shall have final authority in all matters of federal policy, program and constitution.
So what exactly is going on here? Who is making decisions for the NDP with respect to policy, the members, or Federal Council? And why are 13 of the 29 resolutions passed at the last federal convention missing from the party's policy book? Did Federal Council decide to turf them indefinitely? Did the party treat them as directives rather than policies? If so, why? Who decided to create this distinction between directives and policies? There are many questions that the NDP needs to answer to its members before the next convention in April.
Israel & Palestine
Now this might be one of the most contentious issues in Canadian politics in general, but it's certainly the most contentious amongst NDP members when it comes to policy. The issue centres around the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands in the West Bank and Gaza, and has been a major flashpoint in Canadian politics, particularly with respect to its unwavering support of the state of Israel. No matter which political leader you ask, they always re-affirm their support of the Jewish state, and call for a two-state solution.
But over the past 2 decades, the BDS movement (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) has been gaining steam, both on university campuses and within political parties on the left. Nowhere has this been more apparent than at the last NDP convention, where senior MPs and caucus members flooded into one of the convention rooms in the early morning hours to defeat a proposed Palestine resolution from making it to the floor for debate. I was at that convention and saw the wave of members running into the room at the last possible moment before the doors were closed.
Since then, there have been a number of NDP members and MPs making headlines concerning the Israel/Palestine conflict, from Charlie Angus's spat with B'Nai Brith, to Randall Garrison's support of a pro-Israel lobby, to the party blocking the nomination of Rana Zaman for defending the Palestinian "Great March of Return" in Gaza. None of these are new issues, but they will certainly be ones that the NDP will need to address within its caucus and membership in order to decide which side of history they want to be on.
The Green Party
This topic almost always seems to come up any time an election is near, and the past year has been no exception. With a possible spring election looming, talk has already begun surrounding Green Party leader Annamie Paul's intention to run in ridings in Ontario, BC, or P.E.I. Now on the surface, news like this should be fairly straightforward to any politico or average citizen. But to the NDP, it's just another reminder that the Greens are beginning to make voters take notice of them. And that notice seems to always come at the expense of the NDP.
And that brings me to my next point - it shouldn't have to be that way. The NDP have a long and storied history of being a party that unites labour, environmentalists, social justice advocates, women's rights and LGBTQ rights movements, and young people alike. The Green party has its roots in the protest movements of the 1960s, as a reaction to consumer culture. So the NDP has a lot of experience and political significance within its CCF/CLC roots to draw from. It shouldn't even have to consider the Green party as a threat to its goals. But therein lies the dig - time and again they have let the Greens get under their skin and control the narrative.
And that's too bad, because the Greens aren't going to form government any time soon. Polls consistently put Green Party support nationally at around 5-6%, which suggests that even if Annamie Paul does win a seat in Toronto, it's not going to change their fortunes that much. The NDP, on the other hand, are polling in the high teens, and in some recent polls, as high as 22% nationally. In BC, where the NDP has most of its caucus, the party is nearly always in a tough fight with the Conservatives. So why does the party waste so much time on the Greens with stupid leaflets and radio ads targeting them? It makes no sense, as the two parties have very different views on a lot of policy ideas.
A Cohesive Message
Since an election is likely to happen some time in the next few months, now is the time for the NDP to reckon with its history of competing interests within its ranks, such as climate change activists, union industry workers, and the Socialist Caucus. They also have to contend with the growing influence of the Courage Coalition, whose membership consists of current and former NDP members. However, it should not focus on what the media is saying, through the polls, opinion pieces, or other party policies and statements. The NDP needs to pick a lane, choose a message, and run with it. They also need to start running on policies that appeal to young voters, as they are once again the largest voting bloc in the country.
The time for political wishy-washiness is over, and the time for the NDP to stand on its principles as a true social democratic movement is now. With its campaign debt now finally paid off, it is in a better position than it has been in several election cycles. The NDP can build on that and put those resources to good use, and to hit the ground running. It's going to be a tough road ahead, and there are obviously a lot of cards stacked against its chances at forming government. But one thing that I must be perfectly clear about, is that all of what I have said here comes from a place of love. I am still an NDP member, who donates monthly. I want the NDP to succeed, and I want a social democratic government in Canada. It's up to the NDP to decide if it wants to be one too.
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