Saturday, August 08, 2009

NDP brass clamp-down on convention policy?

My NDP friends like to rag on my Liberals about a policy process that's top-down, and that dampens grass-roots activism. Some of the criticism is fair, some of it's not. I wonder though how they feel about what's happening in their own party ahead of their own Seinfeld convention:

Absent this time will be the spam of lunatic resolutions from the party's fringe members such as 2006's proposal to have a trans-gender Day of Remembrance; the proposition from one riding association that the entire economy be nationalized; and, the motion from another constituency to have Canada withdraw from NORAD, NATO and the WTO. None of these resolutions was adopted but they took up valuable policy debate time and left the enduring impression that the entire party had slipped down a rabbit hole.

This time around, the party machine has tightened the leash on which the hardliners have attempted to hang themselves in the past. Jack Layton made gains at the last election, winning two and half million votes and 37 seats, by presenting the NDP as moderate and mainstream.

Party officials are keen to present today's NDP as a professional and competent social democratic party, in the mould of Gary Doer's three-time majority government in Manitoba.

Rather than adopt an unruly rag-tag of policies from the convention floor, the party has put together a policy document and asked the grassroots to send in their proposed resolutions for suggested improvements. "We've grown up," is how one New Democrat put it. "It's part of the ongoing modernization of the party."
What would an NDP convention be without wacky, idealistic and untenable policy resolutions? I guess we're about to find out, if the NDP brass gets their way in ensuring nothing that the powers that be feel would be embarrassing makes it to the convention floor.

But they'll probably be distracted by this compelling name-change drama anyways. Because a new name is really what the NDP needs.

As I said, we Liberals have our own policy drama so far be it from be to get too righteous about the NDP clamp-down on the grassroots. Perhaps, though, my NDP friends will remember the same in the future too.

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Kyle G. Olsen said...

Sod does this mean the NDP election policy is done and was presented to ever riding? If it is done (and it should be given Jack's election want) and it wasn't presented as the document to the ridings to spruce up then is even there tiny process even less purposeful?

If not, I look forward to reading the entire NDP platform at the end of the weekend.

Greg said...

First off, I would say that if the NDP depends on the National Post to tell them what is "acceptable" and what is "lunatic", then they are doomed.

Second, if the NDP is trying to be more professional (meaning more organized), that's fine. But, if by professional, they mean "bland, inoffensive, and middle of the road", I have to ask, why have an NDP at all? As Bill Davis said, bland works, but it makes for a very impoverished political landscape.

Spudster said...

This is such a bad idea. Wow. The Liberals have a democratic way of filtering out the nonsense that is much better than this.

The Liberal policy process requires resolutions go through multiple stages before reaching convention, and because of it, only resolutions which are reasonable make it to the floor. If the NDP had a similar staggered system to weed out crazy resolutions, they would have a lot more democratic legitimacy than this ridiculous process.

Also, I like it when the NDP is radical--it forces us to slowly move to be a little more progressive.

The Jurist said...

Jeff: As you should well know, what Ivison is trying to spin is a policy book which will actually provide a starting point for policy discussion. But that doesn't serve to limit the amendments and resolutions that can be offered. And while the Libs limited any input into the resolutions to be debated to riding association and commission presidents, the NDP is allowing resolution panels consisting of all convention delegates to set the agenda.

In sum, there's a difference between developing a more organized process to fit an open exchange of ideas within a public statement of party values as the NDP has done, and a secretive process to limit the scope of potential discussion as the Libs put together. And the fact that Ivison can't tell the difference doesn't change the reality.

northwestern_lad said...

Jurist... thanks for saving me the time by pointing that out. I've personally got a couple of resolutions going to the convention and I look forward to the chance to have them debated. And by the way, thanks to this set up, with the multiple resolution panels, it makes it easier for more resolutions to be debated.

Most importantly of all, unlike the aforementioned Liberal convention, all of the resolutions that are passed are actually binding. The party leadership cannot just decide to ignore the will of the convention just because they don't like it, unlike Mr. Ignatieff letting it be known that his leadership was going to ignore certain policy resolutions that passed through the Liberal convention (ie. carbon tax). All of this hardly makes this upcoming NDP convention "Seinfeldian" and hardly leaves me feeling so bad about it.

Blogging Horse said...

You are right and know it, BCer. Liberals are in no position to lecture anyone about shutting down grassroots democracy. So perhaps best not to.

The more compelling part of the National Post column is the part you selectively ommitted. The part that says:

"If either of those two men [Harper or Ignatieff ] were prime minister in 2004, Canada would still be in Iraq. That in itself is enough to mobilize the left in this country," he said.

The homogeneity of Harper and Ignatieff on so may issues is what has a lot of Liberals privately wishing their last convention could have been about more than where to apply the rubber stamp.

Mark said...

A transgendered day of remembrance is far preferable to a transmembered day of regenderance.

ADHR said...

Am I the only one who sees BCer trying to have it both ways? On the one hand, ragging the NDP for (allegedly) limiting the policy resolutions. On the other hand, ragging the NDP for not limiting the policy resolutions, which are "lunatic". Can't win for tryin', I suppose.

Jon Pertwee said...

I think you hit the orange nail on the head judging from the blustery response from the NDP supporters. Maybe one of them is upset that they cannot put forth a resolution to open diplomatic relations with Mars.