Decades of neo-liberal ideology has affected all quarters of the labour and social movements. The NDP was not immune. Voters in 2015 confirmed what many in the party grassroots have long felt – that the NDP is worthy of power, but only when its stance is clear and firm. If anything, Trudeau is moving rapidly towards Harper’s policy on carbon emissions, pipelines, indigenous rights, social welfare and war. The balanced budget cornerstone of our platform was widely confused with a commitment to implement austerity.
Our party has moved away from bottom-up politics and the social democratic tradition of member-based decision making. Our structures are more akin to an election machine that tolerates limited debate. Members are often seen merely as a source of revenue. Conventions are increasingly like pep rallies. At some point in the past we started to model ourselves after the US Democratic Party machine, rather than draw on the more radical Canadian and European socialist, social democratic and Labour Party traditions.
Following the example of Jeremy Corbyn in the British Labour Party, and noting the popularity of the ideas expounded by Bernie Sanders in the USA, it is time to reverse this trend. The federal NDP should re-assert our vision for socialism in the 21st century.
As we enter into an exciting leadership campaign, where ideas and direction will be debated, it is essential that all party activists call on NDP Federal Council to rescind the $30,000 Leader candidate entry fee. What started out as a money grab, has turned into an obstruction of genuine leadership candidates who have great ideas but limited means.
The NDP’s renewal and its road to power lies in the collective determination of workers, youth, seniors, women and all of the oppressed to rally behind a new, radical democratic socialist movement. Radical indigenous, anti-poverty and climate justice movements, along with the NDP grassroots, can together assist in growing global momentum for democratic socialism. We can change Canada and help to transform the world.
We need to increase local party activity, hold more educational seminars, and extend the time for policy debates, moving quickly to a goal of 60% of the agenda time at Convention.
To increase the activity of party electoral district associations, and to encourage their involvement in local working class issues and movements, it will be necessary that a larger share of centrally raised funds be directed to EDAs.
Conventions need to be more accessible to working people, students, seniors and the unemployed by reducing delegate, alternate and observer registration fees, by encouraging local members to host traveling delegates, and by more generously subsidizing the transportation of delegates from afar. E-communication is good. Electronic Town Halls year-round would be welcome. But there is no democratic substitute for direct, face to face dialog and debate at a party convention. Most of all, it is the obligation of party leaders to adhere to the policy adopted at convention.