Thursday, December 13, 2012

On needed advantages

Thanks in large part to an extremely active provincial leadership campaign, I haven't discussed the evolution of the federal NDP over the past few months in as much detail as I'd like. But while there will be plenty more to talk about over the next little while, I'll comment on a couple of the new stories emerging at the end of the fall sitting of Parliament.

Let's start with this from Lawrence Martin:
For New Democrats, it’s time for a national powwow. National leader Thomas Mulcair is planning to bring together all provincial NDP leaders for a party conference in January. The goal is to set a coherent and cohesive policy agenda for the party moving forward.

It’s an unusual step. Federal party leaders don’t normally collect all their provincial counterparts in one room. It’s risky — it could expose divisions. But Mr. Mulcair is confident that the huddle will produce a united front, one which gives Canadians a clear idea of where the party wants to take the country.
Of course, the flip side to that "risk" is that it serves to nicely distinguish Mulcair from some federal leaders who are rather more frightened to share space with their provincial counterparts. And the exercise in team-building will also provide a noteworthy contrast to the Libs' individual-driven leadership race (which otherwise figures to continue to receive outsized media attention.)

But the content of the meeting looks more noteworthy than the mere fact that it's being convened. I'm all for encouraging cooperation between the federal and provincial NDP in building a common message on issues of interjurisdictional consensus - and indeed one of the greatest advantages the NDP may hold is its common brand across Canada.

That said, it's somewhat striking to see the meeting aimed at setting a policy agenda taking place in advance of the federal party's spring federal convention. And we'll want to make sure that agreement among party leaders isn't taken to override the NDP's membership.

Meanwhile, Mark Burgess discusses the increased NDP presence in national lobbying firms. And there, I'd think it's worth pushing back somewhat against the premise of the spokespeople playing up such links as a sign of development.

After all, one of the NDP's most effective messages in 2011 was the theme that "Ottawa is broken." And the Cons have done nothing but give the NDP ample ammunition to argue that government capture and closed-door decision-making have resulted in the needs of the general public getting crushed under the weight of corporate interests.

Under those circumstances, I'd much prefer to see the NDP pressing its advantage as a party which hasn't been co-opted by the same old vested interests - and indeed which has enough membership strength to avoid such a fate. And the more high-profile party figures talk up the concept of fighting for turf within a broken system, the more difficult it may be to make the case that the NDP can and will fix it.

8 comments:

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  3. Greg,

    IMO, you & Lawrence Martin have missed an important benefit of such an event.

    Many Canadians cling to the superficial view that the NDP is some trendy niche outfit.

    They are ignorant of just how deep its historical roots are...and just how wide its reach is, throughout this vast federation.

    This is especially true of voters in the east. Here in Ontario, it is not uncommon for voters to settle on the Liberal candidate...merely because they assume "the Big Red Machine" is the only formidable challenge to a distasteful (yet resourceful) Conservative candidate.

    But now...we will have an interesting contrast.

    The Liberals will re-introduce themselves as a one-man "TED Talk"...delivered by a flip-flopping boy, who just happens to speak with a girlish lisp.

    The NDP will re-introduce themselves as a national force...led by many respectable men & women of real education & firm values.

    Which serves as the more formidable challenge to the Conservative anarchists who currently rule our land?

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    1. Oddly enough, I'm not sure the Libs will disagree so much with that contrast as with how you've framed it: they seem to have accepted the idea that Justin Trudeau's name alone will make all the difference even as their party brand lags behind. And particularly if Trudeau isn't up to the task, that could help the cause of entrenching the NDP as the leading national progressive party.

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  4. Anonymous6:59 PM

    Where can I find out more about this party leader conference? LM seems to be the only source of information on it that a google search can find. Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but the Sask NDP won't have a new leader by the time of the conference,rght? So who will represent them?

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    1. I hadn't heard anything about the conference until Martin's column either - though I wouldn't expect a lot of public promotion unless there are some more open events linked to it. And good question about who will speak for the Saskatchewan NDP, though absent word to the contrary I'd expect John Nilson to be the representative.

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    2. Anonymous9:44 AM

      Well thanks for bringing it to my attention. I will be curious to see what, if anything, comes out of it.

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  5. Anonymous9:20 PM

    I really appreciate your comments and your perspective on increased presence from the NDP in the world of lobbyists. Why is a sign of maturity to buy into a corrupt and broken system?
    I beg the NDP to look at change and not same old, same old...
    Thanks!

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