However, I'll take some time to discuss the session on the party's constitution and internal governance.
While far too much talk about the convention focused on the constitutional preamble (which I discussed here), two other highly-ranked resolutions also raised the prospect of constitutional change. And indeed, the first resolution on the topic led to my first direct intervention in a federal NDP convention.
Resolution 7-01-13, explained as being intended to ensure that nomination rules are set at the federal level rather than devolved to the NDP's provincial wings, read as follows:
7-01-13Unfortunately, having spent most of my time analyzing the convention resolutions looking at policy points which I hoped to see promoted, I hadn't looked a in a lot of detail at the issues seen as non-controversial enough to already be at the front of the line. And while I'm happy to see standards set at the national level, it struck me as questionable to leave total discretion in the hands of federal council rather than ensuring that the NDP's nomination rules and procedures are based on meaningful constitutional guidelines - particularly given my frequent criticism of other parties for practices like shielding incumbents from nominations or appointing candidates from the top.
Resolution to Amend the Constitution Submitted by Federal Council
WHEREAS the NDP has different rules governing nominations in each province; and
WHEREAS using different rules in each province creates inconsistency and confusion;
BE IT RESOLVED that Article XV of the constitution be struck and replaced by:
Article XV: Rules governing the nomination of candidates
1. The Federal Council shall create rules and procedures for the nomination of the federal candidates.
2. The Federal Council shall review these rules after each general election.
As a result, I moved as follows:
MOVED that Resolution 7-01-13 be referred to Federal Council to develop a new Article XV providing for federal nomination standards which respect the principles of open nominations and electoral district association-level nomination elections.Fortunately, Nathan Rotman's response indicated that those values would be taken into account in the current Council's work. But ultimately, I'd still see it as important to ensure that the core values underlying the NDP's nomination process can't be fundamentally altered by Federal Council without membership approval - and I'll want to see some discussion on that point (with a lot more advance preparation on my part) at the party's Edmonton convention in 2015.
Naturally, the constitutional preamble - featuring a couple of amendments from the pre-convention version - was the subject of a heated debate. But the most effective interventions came from the pro side - including the likes of Bill Blaikie who could say that he had concerns about the party's previous proposed amendment, but saw the new version (which he of course participated in drafting) as having resolved those issues. (And that stood in stark contrast to the "con" side, which seemed aimed mostly at expressing the greatest possible outrage rather than convincing anybody who might have been on the fence).
If there was any key lesson to be learned from the standpoint of planning the convention, it may have been that there's a need to address more policy than it's possible to debate over the course of a weekend. In particular, I wonder whether a mechanism to designate some resolutions as "non-controversial" would allow for a show of party support without spending a lot of time debating resolutions which don't face any opposition - but there's obviously room to discuss how best to get to more policy priorities.
But this weekend nonetheless highlighted how an engaged membership and an effective leader can reinforce each other rather than being seen as mutually inconsistent - and the NDP looks to be on solid ground on both fronts as it builds up to the 2015 election and beyond.