Friday, June 24, 2011

On learning experiences

Let's close this blog's discussion of #vancon2011 with one last post, this time dealing with the NDP's constitutional preamble - which figured to be the convention's main topic of interest until it was deferred for further consultation.

There's no doubt that at least some delegates were prepared to fight hard against the proposed changes. But I'm far from sure that the amendment would have been defeated if it had come to a vote at the plenary: while the new preamble won only a narrow majority in the resolutions panel, that same panel was almost unanimous in beefing up and passing the non-merger resolution which was later defeated in plenary, signaling that the influence of the delegates most averse to change was likely to be much smaller in a full vote than it was at the panel level.

So we shouldn't see the deferral as being based on a conclusion that a vote on the preamble would have faced a foregone conclusion. Instead, it looks to reflect a genuine sense that there's room to improve the revised draft now that the NDP has a bit of breathing room.

Now that the consultation process has been set in motion, though, it may be even more important than one might think at first glance.

After all, one of the major criticisms leveled at the NDP in this spring's election campaign was its willingness to consider constitutional change at the national level. And even with the public much less averse to reopening constitutional talks than Canada's chattering classes, there isn't much room for doubt that some controversy would result.

With that in mind, the NDP will probably be well served to consider the revision of its own constitution - complete with a need to broker compromises among multiple types of supporters in the face of changing party demographics - as a smaller-scale test of the challenges involved in engaging in the same type of project on the national level. And if it can satisfy its internal constituencies and come to agreement with time to spare before the 2015 election, then the experience and end result should provide a ready counter if the same line of attack surfaces again.

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