Sunday, September 13, 2009

Alberta NDP Convention Liveblogging - DRP Resolution

11:08 AM The room has been fairly well involved through the proceedings this morning, but it wasn't hard to tell which issue figures to inspire the most passionate views, as lines including dozens of people formed once the resolution was called. And while the first speaker of course gets to speak in favour in trying to talk down the NDP's chances on its own, the overwhelming majority of the speakers are (as expected) set to speak against the resolution.

11:09 AM Brian Mason is the first speaker against the resolution and gets a strong round of applause. He discusses some of the history the DRP's previously-rejected efforts as raising the potential for a split within the NDP itself, and asks the DRP's proponents to respect the decision of the convention if it does vote against the resolution.

11:12 AM That answers my question - one of the DRP backers lists the 10% number in the resolution as a typo which should read "40%". He goes on to make a case which interestingly mirrors some of the focus on "winning" vs. "principle" which has arisen in various was at both the Saskatchewan and federal NDP conventions.

11:15 AM One of the apeakers against the resolutions takes on the question of strategy head-on by noting the dangers for candidate recruitment and development, as well as the federal party's chances of being sufficiently organized to add to its seat total.

11:17 AM The third "pro" speaker paints the DRP strategy as a path toward PR in contrast to the present strategy playing to an FPTP system, stating that the time to be "NDPers plain and simple" would be after a change in electoral systems.

11:18 AM A Labour Caucus member takes to one of the "con" microphones to emphasize labour's respectful opposition - recognizing some frustration within the DRP and indeed in the labour movement as reasonable motivation, but rejecting the proposal as making it less likely that a progressive government would actually emerge (while appealing to other opponents of the DRP to work with its members).

11:21 AM The next "pro" speaker launches into a laundry list of concerns about the state of Alberta politics based on voter turnout and party membership and says "something has to change" based on the assumption that Albertans generally are not partisans. He mentions precedents of other NDP provincial branches in Manitoba and Nova Scotia which once didn't run full slates, but I'm not sure how the analogy is supposed to apply unless either of them actually reduced their scope from province-wide to a more limited focus rather than merely building up from less ridings to more.

11:24 AM The next "con" speaker paints the NDP's position as being the "voice of the people" as distinct from the PCs and the Liberals who remain "the voice of business", and the Greens with their "ultra-ring-wing politics".

11:26 AM A "pro" speaker paints the issue as being about the needs of the many vs. the needs of the few - with the former best served by cooperating with other parties to take down the PCs and implement PR. This seems to be a common theme - but is there any indication that the Alberta Liberals in particular are favourable toward PR?

11:28 AM A point of personal privilege is raised about the proceedings being videotaped; the chair needs to take some time to consult, but the issue is quickly resolved as the camera operator agrees not to film any more.

11:30 AM A "con" speaker notes that the political scene is already looking more favourable with the Wildrose Alliance splitting votes on the right and the Greens out of the picture, and expresses concerns about trading away the ability to run a campaign in Edmonton Gold Bar (getting huge applause by stating he won't vote Liberal under any circumstances).

11:32 AM Alvin Finkel speaks up in favour of the resolution and criticizes the idea of "needing to work harder" as being a solution, and speaks in favour of working with the Liberals to avoid backlash for rejecting an expected appeal from David Swann.

11:35 AM Rachel Notley speaks against the resolution, pointing to research showing that voter splits don't actually figure to favour the NDP in ridings where Liberals aren't an option - such that an arrangement wouldn't actually solve any of the problems, and would stop candidates like Linda Duncan from ever running (let alone winning).

11:38 AM A "pro" speaker says he was threatened while campaigning and thrown off of a reserve while trying to win a seat to improve living conditions in MacLeod.

11:40 AM The blog's good friend Idealistic Pragmatist speaks to her disillusionment in the U.S. which made her a Canadian by choice, criticizing the idea that a choice of only two options can make for a healthy democracy and pointing out that the motion doesn't reflect the desire for PR that many people share on both sides.

11:42 AM The "pro" speaker notes an increase in involvement on her side of the question - and it does seem fair to point out that as quickly as the DRP has sometimes been dismissed, it does seem to have a reasonable number of speakers on its side. The speaker also points to the prospect of a coalition at the federal level, and notes right-wing coalitions in other provinces like Saskatchewan and B.C. which have managed to remove NDP governments from office.

11:45 AM The "con" speaker characterizes the resolution as "desperate", leading to the NDP being perceived as disenfranchising its supporters and volunteers and failing to speak for the province as a whole.

11:47 AM A "pro" speaker expresses concern about the amount of time required to get the NDP to power in comparison to the damage being done in the meantime, citing her history working with the NDP in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and stating that Alberta's situation is fundamentally different based on longstanding public support for the PCs.

11:49 AM The Chair tests the view of the room as to whether to continue with the debate - and surprisingly there's still a strong vote in favour of continued debate.

11:52 AM David Eggen speaks on the "con" side - approving of the effort at meaningful democratic engagement on both sides of the debate, and pointing to that as an example for trying to get the public involved as well. He then points to his own experience in Edmonton Calder as an example of how efforts to remove choices can backfire - as the Liberal campaign's weakness allowed the PCs to siphon off votes on the soft right and take back the seat.

11:53 AM A "pro" speaker notes the support for Parliamentary cooperation on both the provincial and federal levels, and suggests it should be reasonable to do the same an electoral level.

11:56 AM On the "con" side, a former candidate comments on her experience knocking on doors in a riding where the NDP hadn't done that in 25 years, and expresses concern about giving voters the opportunity to be heard.

11:58 AM Talk of conciliation on the "pro" side, as a speaker expresses her desire to continue working with all sides of the party before criticizing the province's current governance by "oil barons" and pointing out shared policies with the Libs which might improve matters on the environmental front.

12:00 PM A UFCW speaker wonders exactly how much interest there will be from the other parties, and argues that any alliance will have long-term ramifications even if it's intended to be only temporary while expressing her gratitude for the NDP's support for the union (and criticizing the Liberals' failure to support labour priorities).

12:02 PM "Reluctant" support for the motion from a Leduc supporter: "what attracted me to the NDP wasn't the brand, but the need to build socialism in my province and my country". The speaker notes that the NDP itself is effectively a coalition in Manitoba, while Alberta's political culture includes a division between the centre and centre-left.

12:05 PM A "con" speaker discusses the dangers of the "thin edge of the wedge", as the means to a recognized end may become harmful in the ultimate effort. In this case, her concern is that a two-party system won't actually work, and that the attempt to get there will prove divisive.

12:08 PM Another test of the floor as to whether to continue debate, and this time a motion passes to call the question.

And the vote goes strongly against the resolution, as the "pro" side's strength in speeches doesn't appear to have made much headway within the broader crowd. The final count is announced as 123-27.

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