By: Noah Niznick
This weekend New Democrats from across Canada will gather in Edmonton for the NDP’s biennial national convention, where members will come together to debate policy, hear from distinguished speakers including Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, and chart a course for the party’s future following October’s federal election.
Heading into the convention there has been a lot of focus in the media on organizations, candidates and party members speaking about their support for or against Thomas Mulcair’s continued leadership. With the entirety of the NDP’s Quebec Caucus and a number of senior Canadian labour leaders openly supporting his continued leadership, what could ultimately be the deciding factor allowing Mr. Mulcair to continue his position as leader is the volume of delegates in attendance representing the labour unions already supporting him, along with the presence and support of trade unionists and labour organizations that have not yet publicly declared their support. With a well received speech to attendees, and a heavy presence on the convention floor interacting personally with delegates, there also remains an opportunity for Mr. Mulcair to exceed the expectation of pundits and come out with a strong leadership mandate from members. No matter the result, I do expect New Democrats to come out of the convention united and re-focused on growing the party.
While the scheduled leadership review will certainly be the convention’s main event, it will also be interesting to watch as delegates debate policy resolutions put forward by numerous local riding associations calling on the party to adopt elements of the Leap Manifesto. Released in September with the backing of 100 progressive leaders, including environmentalist David Suzuki and former Ontario NDP leader Stephen Lewis, the Leap Manifesto proposes a far bolder and more aggressive agenda in combatting climate change and income inequality than that offered by any major Canadian political party during last year’s election. Regardless of the leadership question, how warmly the party embraces the policies proposed in the Leap Manifesto will be indicative of how it casts itself in building towards the next election.
Finally, rookies of political conventions can rest assured that in between the policy debates and speeches there are also a number of extracurricular events and activities that are part and parcel with the convention experience. First and foremost, make sure to stop by at CJPAC and CIJA’s ‘Bagels and Coffee’ Breakfast Reception on Sunday from 8:00AM-10:00AM on site at the Shaw Convention Centre happening in Meeting Room 4.
Another can’t miss are the hospitality suites which provide a great opportunity to meet and engage with other delegates, MLA’s and MP’s, senior party officials, and possibly even Tom Mulcair, who I’m sure will be making the rounds Saturday night in advance of Sunday’s leadership review. These events are generally fairly well publicized by convention goers, but I suspect given the locale the Alberta NDP might have a few things planned in the evenings in close proximity to the convention site which you won’t want to miss. Finally, for first time visitors to Edmonton like me, why not take a stroll up to the Alberta Legislature, I mean we came this far we might as well fully indulge our inner political nerd right?
All in all, political conventions are an important of part of our political system, offering a great opportunity to meet and engage with like-minded, politically inclined Canadians and help shape our country’s political future. And with so much at stake, this weekend’s NDP convention should be one for the history books!
Noah Niznick is a former NDP staffer and currently works as an Advisor at Public Affairs Advisors Inc. in Ottawa.