NDP publishes discussion guide on Leap Manifesto
By John Riddell. The Federal New Democratic Party has sent its constituency groups a detailed guide to the Leap Manifesto, which compares the Manifesto’s provisions with adopted NDP policies. The manual is a response to a decision by the party’s April 2016 convention to adopt the Manifesto as a basis for discussion.
The guide’s publication is the NDP’s first publicized move to implement that decision.
The NDP was badly defeated in the October 2015 federal elections, and since then its poll ratings have fallen disastrously. Its decline is widely blamed on an election campaign that was seen as to the right of the victorious Liberals on key issues.
The party’s new “national director,” Robert Fox, hints at a course correction. According to The Tyee, Fox says, “he plans to encourage more activist groups to work with the party, and doesn’t believe the controversial Leap Manifesto is a ‘radical document’.”
Fox also suggests that “half of the country’s Liberal Party supporters also support the Leap.” That may well be true of those who voted Liberal in October. Yet he misses the obvious: controversy over the Manifesto has focused on its call for a halt to construction of more fossil fuel infrastructure (e.g. pipelines), a stand that is sharply counterposed to the policies of not only the Liberal government but also his own federal NDP.
The NDP’s present stance toward the Manifesto is summarized in the following comments on an email discussion list by Richard Fidler, which he has authorized for publication here. Richard has also written the most insightful analysis of the Leap Manifesto and its semi-acceptance by the NDP (see “Climate justice movement shakes Canada’s New Democratic Party”).
By Richard Fidler: The NDP federal leadership has taken some modest steps toward implementing the Edmonton resolution directing the party to debate the Leap Manifesto, although so far it is left to individual constituency associations to follow through on this initiative.
Attached hereto is the Discussion Guide to the Leap that has been distributed to Electoral District Associations as a basis for discussion. It discusses each topic under three headings: first, “Relevant NDP Policy,” second, the specific Leap document proposal, and third, what the 2015 election platform had to say (if anything) on the topic.
It is striking just how many of the Leap proposals were already in the party program in some form. However, as we know, many of these proposals adopted by the party membership in convention have in practice simply been ignored or deformed by the federal leadership and NDP provincial governments. To put it another way, however, equally striking is how most of the Leap proposals were not innovative, but simply reflected the common sense of a broad left that has developed in recent years and been endorsed by the majority of NDP members.
The main strength of the Leap Manifesto is not in its specific proposals (the NDP document faithfully reproduces them) but in its overall presentation of its approach, which stresses the urgency of a radical change in course if we are to avoid climate catastrophe, and ties together the specific proposals as a strategic approach to the fight for “climate justice.”
A public meeting held here in Ottawa last Thursday drew more than 200 people to hear the Leap Manifesto debated between Avi Lewis (one of the authors) and Prof. Thomas Homer-Dixon, who had attacked it in the Globe & Mail. The meeting was videotaped and I will forward the link to these lists as soon as it is available. The entire meeting turned into a debate over capitalism and whether and how we can replace it. Well worth watching. Lewis made a very strong defense of the Manifesto that was quite explicit in its anticapitalism.
The Leap Manifesto was of course a compromise negotiated between the initial signatories. In conversation after the meeting it was confirmed to me that the reason the Manifesto does not call for a complete shutdown of the Tar Sands, for example, was that Jerry Dias would not put Unifor’s signature on the Manifesto if it did. Unifor represents many of the Tars Sands workers. Fuel for further debate….
The appointment of Robert Fox as NDP national director is indeed a promising sign that the Leap debate will gain further impetus within the NDP. Along with many others, I worked closely with Robert in the 1980s in Nicaragua solidarity, and more recently we engaged in Cuba solidarity as well as other progressive causes.
For more on the Leap Manifesto, see Richard’s articles:
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