What to watch for at the NDP convention
Leader Tom Mulcair speaks to the NDP caucus during a retreat in Montebello, Que., on January 19, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Adrian Wyld)
Sonja Puzic, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, April 7, 2016 1:16PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, April 8, 2016 6:37AM EDT
New Democrats are gathering in Edmonton this weekend for the federal party’s policy convention, where they will discuss the future of the NDP – and decide the future of its leader.
Sunday’s vote on Tom Mulcair’s leadership is the most anticipated item on the agenda, but delegates will also tackle other key issues, including party renewal after losing more than half the seats the NDP held going into the federal election.
Here are four things to watch for at the convention, which begins Friday:
Will Mulcair survive the leadership review?
There’s been a lot of speculation about Mulcair’s political future, after the party went from 103 to 44 seats and lost its Official Opposition status on Oct. 13.
In a letter to supporters four months after the election, Mulcair took full responsibility for the disappointing results and said he could have “done a better job.”
After initially evading questions about what percentage of the delegate vote would be required for him to stay on as leader, Mulcair suggested in an interview with The Canadian Press that 70 per cent would enable him to keep the top job. But he did not commit to an exact number.
Some party members and observers, however, don’t believe that Mulcair will reach that target and should step down, even though the NDP’s constitution says that the leader needs support from 50 per cent plus one delegate to avoid triggering a leadership election within a year.
In an interview with CTV’s Power Play on Thursday, Mulcair acknowledged that he has never set a threshold for his leadership vote. He only said that he hopes to get “strong support” ahead of Sunday’s vote.
Although some prominent NDP MPs, including Nathan Cullen, and a number of union groups have publicly expressed their support for Mulcair, the head of the powerful Canadian Labour Congress says the party needs a new leader.
CLC President Hassan Yussuff told The Canadian Press that it’s not personal, but the NDP needs to move on with someone else in charge. He is scheduled to speak at the NDP convention on Friday.
The NDP’s youth wing also seems to be backing away from Mulcair, by calling for a “generational renewal” of the party “at all levels.”
Jerry Dias, the national president of Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, told CTV’s Power Play this week that his delegates will show up at the convention “already knowing how they’re going to vote.”
“Am I concerned if Tom leads after the convention? The answer is no,” Dias said. “But one thing that’s for sure is he has to be a part of a solution. And if we’re sitting at 11.7 per cent in the polls one month, three months, six months or a year from now, then the discussion is going to be much different.”
However, if Mulcair doesn’t get 70 per cent of support from delegates on Sunday, Dias said, “He should think about stepping aside.”
Asked whether he’s hurt by comments from NDP members who are calling for a new leader, Mulcair told Power Play that he respects differing points of view.
“(The NDP) is not a cult. It’s a party, it’s a movement,” he said, adding that he “wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The Leap Manifesto
Another item on this weekend’s agenda is the so-called “Leap Manifesto,” which calls for a radical shift in the NDP’s position on natural resource projects, among other things.
The manifesto was first released last September, during the election campaign, and spearheaded by left-wing thinkers such as author Naomi Klein and her husband, documentary filmmaker Avi Lewis.
The manifesto urges a swift transition away from fossil fuels and a rejection of all new pipelines. It argues that Canada could transition entirely to renewable energy in two decades and also calls for a universal basic annual income, as well as military cuts.
Now, there are efforts within the NDP to work some of the Leap Manifesto principles into the party’s policies.
However, the proposals related to pipelines and fossil fuels could be a tough sell at a time when out-of-work oil and gas sector workers – many of them union members crucial to the NDP’s core support -- are desperately seeking new jobs in the industry.
On the convention agenda for Saturday is a discussion about how the NDP can build a “nation to nation approach” with Canada’s indigenous communities. Scheduled speakers include Quebec MP Romeo Saganash and Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, who has been critical of the Liberal government’s budget spending on indigenous child welfare services.
The NDP has also accused the Liberals on breaking their promises to First Nations, despite plans to spend $8.4 billion over five years on indigenous communities. Mulcair has said that the federal budget still fails to “close the gap on education” when it comes to indigenous children and youth.
A new (tropical) Canadian province?
Among the dozens of items on the NDP’s resolution list for this weekend is an eyebrow-raising, although not new, proposal: adopt the tropical islands of Turks and Caicos as Canada’s 11th province.
Resolution 1-92-16 says that the “potential for Canada to develop the islands into an affordable tourism industry for all Canadians has stirred much emotions” in the past and should be seriously considered.
The idea to annex Turks and Caicos has been kicking around for nearly a century. But many constitutional law experts have said that it is unlikely to ever happen.
With files from The Canadian Press