Sunday, March 18, 2012

Leadership 2012 Questionnaire Response - Paul Dewar

While noting the resources involved in responding to a request for information delivered late in the NDP's leadership campaign, I have to be impressed when a candidate who could easily enough have pointed to a well-publicized platform plank instead deal directly with the specific issues raised in a questionnaire. And the final two responses get extra points on that front - starting with Paul Dewar.
1. As leader, what changes (if any) would you seek to make to the NDP's:
(a) caucus management and discipline?

I know that as a big tent, our party includes a diversity of opinion. As I've shown during my years working as the Foreign Affairs critic (one of the files with the widest variety of opinions in our party), I reach unity and consensus through engagement and discussion.

As leader, Jack built a caucus team based on consensus and consultation with all of us elected MPs, and as leader I would follow the same path. For me, caucus solidarity is crucial and something all MPs must understand and abide by to the best of their abilities. It is something a leader must work on by meeting and listening in groups and individually to each and every MP.

I also want to be clear that I believe that difference of opinion held within caucus is natural. I am not interested in punishing colleagues for minor transgressions over policy. Rather, we must accept that our differences in opinion are valuable learning experiences and not reasons to divide us. Our party is a big tent, even more so since the last election, and what is important is that we, as a caucus, stick to a vision that encompasses our social democratic values and principles.

(b) membership engagement and organizational structure?

I'm the only candidate with a clear plan for engaging our members and riding associations in reaching out to voters and building our capacity to win the next 70 seats we need to form government. The details are in my Next 70 plan:

-Develop regional outreach plans, including a Western Strategy to reach out to new voters in Western Canada.

-Create Civil Society Outreach teams, led by MPs, to listen and share views, and coordinate with allies to advance progressive policies and build electoral support for winning the next election.

-Hire a youth organizer to work with campus clubs, youth groups and civil society organizations to organize young Canadians on college and university campuses, at high schools, workplaces and communities across the country.

-Implement an outreach strategy to New Canadian communities to increase diversity in our party membership and organization.

(c) policy development process?

As part of my Next 70 plan I’ve proposed to:

Set up a commission to organize around ‘Ideas for Progress’ so that we can build upon Jack Layton’s final letter to Canadians and create what Stephen Lewis described as the “manifesto for social democracy”. This commission would include Canadians from different walks of life, including the arts, labour, academia, business, agriculture, environmental organizations, poverty groups, women's rights organizations and others. It would allow greater access and involvement for Canadians in the development of our policies and planning.

In addition to this specific ‘Ideas for Progress’ initiative, I’d like to bolster our policy outreach and development processes at the regional and local riding levels in the build-up to our Party’s policy convention already slated for 2013.

(d) candidate recruitment and nomination process?

I will provide greater support to candidate search committees, I will maintain open and democratic nomination processes and I will provide additional resources to train candidates. We will share these resources with our provincial sections and progressive municipal allies.

(e) relationship to other political parties?

I have always worked with others to get results on issues that matter to us. I will continue that work in parliament with other party MPs or whole caucuses in Parliament and on an issue-by-issue basis.

(f) relationship to traditional allies in the labour, environmental and social justice movements?

I'm proud of our roots in labour, social and environmental movements. I will maintain and strengthen these ties, particularly by creating Civil Society Outreach teams, led by MPs, to listen and share views, and coordinate with allies to advance progressive policies and build electoral support for winning the next election.

(g) relationship to interests not traditionally allied with the NDP?

My outreach plans are meant to find common ground with those who have not traditionally voted NDP or have not voted at all. I have done that work in Ottawa Centre where we have grown our support in every election since I was first elected. I will create these new ties and expand our base by providing concrete solutions to issues that people care about, solutions that are rooted in our values and principles as social democrats.

2. As leader of the NDP, what roles would you anticipate within the party for:
(a) each of your fellow leadership candidates?

As soon as I win the leadership, I will invite my leadership colleagues to a meeting to discuss the road ahead. Ensuring that our caucus and our party is united and ready to take on Stephen Harper and the Government’s budget will be my first priority on March 25th – win or lose.

Part of building on our positive leadership contest will be to make sure that every one of my fellow candidates will be a big part of our fight inside and outside parliament to win the next 70 seats. I won’t speculate on specific roles before the leadership vote.

(b) any noteworthy organizers, volunteers or other participants in the leadership campaign on behalf of the other leadership candidates?

All campaigns teams have displayed great organizational skills. I don’t think it’s appropriate to mention individual names, but let me say this. One of the truly positive developments from our leadership race is that it has helped train a whole new generation of NDP campaigners. Organizers, press secretaries, social media experts – you name it, we’ve now improved an already strong NDP staff and volunteer team.

As leader I look forward to the opportunity to expand the team!

(c) the NDP's campaign team members from recent federal elections?

I will reach out to the campaign team members from recent elections to ensure they will be a part of our efforts going forward. Political judgment and strategic thinking are valuable skills that are gained over time through successes and mistakes. We will need the expertise of every team member to replicate our successes and avoid repeating mistakes.

3. If another candidate is elected leader, what other role do you believe would suit you best within the NDP?

I've always been a team player. We are fighting for a cause that is greater than any one of us. If our members elect another leader, I will offer my full commitment to working with our leader in whatever role they see fit for me in the team.
If there's any nit to pick in Dewar's response, it's that he's framed his first steps as leader around a question that he himself doesn't want to answer: it would seem a logical extension of "I'd ask what the other candidates want to do" to anticipate that Dewar himself would be able to offer a response.

But that's a minor point in what's otherwise a thoughtful and thorough response to some of the major organizational issues faced by any political party. And in particular, Dewar's commitment to working based on consensus decision-making and member-driven policy development and nomination processes - rather than seeing a need to close ranks and impose top-down discipline - only adds to my comfort level with the organizational plan he had already released.

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