Sunday, April 07, 2013

On priorities

Yesterday, I posted a brief overview of the policy resolutions set to be discussed at the NDP's federal convention in Montreal next weekend. But over the next few days, I'll go a step further in taking a look at the ones I see as most important for the party's development into Canada's leading progressive option over the long term.

Before I start listing individual resolutions, though, here are a few of the criteria I'll be applying in evaluating them.

First, I'll want to ensure that a priority resolution is substantive. It's well and good to offer statements of general principle or to state one's intention to study an issue, but I'll be looking for resolutions which provide some concrete definition to the NDP's policies in the years to come.

Second, a priority resolution should be forward-looking. While the convention is of course the product of a particular moment, I see it as better to define priorities which will remain relevant in future election cycles until such time as a policy proposal is fully implemented than to limit ourselves to reacting to the headlines. (On that front, I'll prefer resolutions which shape the NDP's long-term policy book to freestanding ones which will tend to be lost in the mists of time once the convention is over.)

Third, I'll be looking for resolutions which are distinctive. Thanks in no small part to the media Village, there's constant pressure on the party's leadership and caucus to equivocate or hew to the positions of other political competitors - and I don't see any particular value in having the membership further that cause. Instead, the most important contribution the membership can make is to evaluate which ideas set us apart from other parties.

Fourth, I'll want to promote resolutions that are innovative. It's natural that a large number of resolutions involve responses to immediate political issues, including the ones which are already being handled by the NDP's caucus. But I don't see the convention merely as a time to affirm that members agree with the caucus' opposition to the Cons' most egregious mistakes: instead,we should be looking to direct the party's attention to issues which haven't received the attention they deserve.

Finally, a priority resolution should be pragmatic. That doesn't mean that I want to limit the party's policy debate to bland incrementalism - but it does mean that I'll want to see some apparent means as to how an idea might be implemented in practice before making it a key focus for discussion.

Fortunately, there are plenty of resolutions submitted for the Montreal convention that look solid on all counts. And it'll be worth working to make sure those are the ones which receive the most attention from members at the convention - with the intention of ensuring that even media outlets inclined to focus solely on familiar frames are forced to notice there's a deeper progressive discussion happening within the NDP.

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