By Barry Weisleder
Efforts to rebuild the New Brunswick New Democratic Party as a socialist, labour-based, working class party made considerable progress at a convention held at the Lions Club Community Centre in Moncton, July 22-24, 2022.
It was the first NB NDP convention in five years. It attracted over thirty delegates, both in-person and online, plus several observers. In the struggle to organize and convene the gathering, the NDP Socialist Caucus played a leading role, spear-heading efforts to overcome resistance by the provincial NDP leader who resigned rather than comply with the party’s decision to proceed.
Unlike most provincial and federal NDP conventions, this one was policy intensive. More than 90 per cent of the sessions were devoted to debate and voting on policy resolutions and constitution amendments. Many delegates, including leaders of the NB Federation of Labour, and caucus reps of the Rainbow Coalition, Environmental Caucus, Visible Minorities, Women, Youth, Seniors, and the Socialist Caucus spoke frequently and passionately on the big issues of the day.
Ann McGrath, Executive Director of the Federal NDP, addressed delegates on the second day. She defended the “Confidence and Supply” pact with the Liberal Party, which saw NDP MPs vote for Justin Trudeau’s Eco-catastrophic war budget. McGrath stressed “perseverance”, and asserted that the priority is to build local NDP electoral district associations.
The Convention adopted 33 policy resolutions and 12 constitution amendments, referring another half dozen proposals to the provincial council for debate, some of them requiring textual adjustments. Many of the approved motions originated with the Socialist Caucus.
Despite differences sharply expressed over how to handle police misconduct and racism/sexism/homophobia in public services, the NB NDP unanimously adopted measures to increase party democracy, including for the NDP candidate and leader selection process, diversity on the provincial executive, and the filling of vacancies that arise. New policies call for de-commodification of housing and the de-criminalization of drugs. An emergency resolution demanding public telecom service carried.
Elizabeth Byce, CEO of the NB NDP leadership race in 2021, reported on the candidate vetting process. Delegates, including major labour leaders, thanked Elizabeth for her “professionalism and diligence” in the role.
The cash-strapped party, running on sheer volunteer power, was able to provide translation into French and English only in a very limited way; it pledged to make the next convention fully bi-lingual.
The Federal Socialist Caucus provided a large literature display on a table inside the convention hall, as did Fair Vote Canada which campaigns for proportional representation.
The Socialist Caucus held a lunch-time open forum, attended by a dozen delegates. It featured a presentation by Barry Weisleder, SC federal co-chair. “Capitalism outlived its usefulness long ago”, he said. “Growing inequality, environmental crisis, widespread disease and inter-imperialist war stalk the world. No wonder that young workers everywhere are turning to socialism.”
Over $100 in sales of socialist literature occurred — among them titles on Eco-socialism or Extinction, How Can the Left Unite?, Vote NDP, Fight for Socialist Policies, Marx was Right, The Hidden History of Zionism, Women’s Liberation Today, Scientific Publishing, Marxism versus Anarchism, No Concessions, and the Struggle of Indigenous People for Liberation.
Several delegates signed up to join the Socialist Caucus. Interim Leader of the NB NDP, Alex White, was one of them.
Seven people gained election to the provincial executive. Socialist Caucus activist Josh Floyd is the new Secretary-Treasurer.
The NB NDP registers at 13 per cent in June 2022 opinion polls, up from 5 per cent a year ago. Now equipped with more progressive and socialist policies, and with its ties to the labour movement renewed, the NDP is poised to present right wing Tory Premier Blaine Higgs with a much bigger challenge.