New Democrats to discuss political co-operation at convention

Among the hundreds of resolutions New Democrats could debate during their policy convention in Montreal next weekend three are on the subject of political co-operation in order to defeat the Conservatives in 2015.

Some members say party should work with the Liberals and Greens

Three resolutions on the subject of political cooperation could be debated at the federal NDP's policy convention in Montreal next weekend. One priority resolution calls on the party to adopt a code of conduct to guarantee equitable and humane treatment of campaign volunteers by party staff. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)

The federal New Democrats are working on a wide array of resolutions ahead of next weekend's policy convention in Montreal — the first since Tom Mulcair was elected leader.

Among the hundreds of resolutions New Democrats could debate are a handful about whether to engage in political co-operation with other parties in an attempt to defeat Conservative candidates in ridings where close votes are expected.

Mulcair has already ruled out the idea of co-operating with other parties and Liberal MP Justin Trudeau, the perceived frontrunner in the Liberal leadership race, has said much the same thing about the NDP and Greens.

But some members of both parties, such as the NDP's Nathan Cullen and Liberal MP and leadership candidate Joyce Murray, support co-operation as the best way to stop Stephen Harper's Conservatives from steamrolling to another victory.

There are three resolutions on the subject of political co-operation that could be debated. Two favour co-operation while a third opposes it.

It's unclear whether they'll make it to the floor of the convention for a full debate because they aren't on the list of so-called priority resolutions.

Priority resolutions are most likely to wind up actually being debated and voted upon.

Code of conduct for volunteers

There is also a non-priority resolution calling for the NDP to withdraw from a host of free trade agreements, which flies in the face of Mulcair's call to keep an open mind on trade deals.

Another non-priority resolution calls for the party to develop a policy to permit doctor-assisted suicide for consenting adults who are terminally ill.

The priority resolutions are generally less likely to spark acrimonious debate

One that is to be presented on the party to adopt a code of conduct to guarantee "equitable and humane" treatment of campaign volunteers by party staff.

It says federal staff have in the past expressed confusion "over whether being nice to volunteers is a job requirement" during campaigns.

Since volunteers are not protected by collective agreements or compensated for their work, the resolution, proposed by New Democrats in Oshawa, Ont., says a code of conduct is needed to make sure they're treated fairly.

The resolution says the code should be drafted by a committee of volunteers; it should include a meaningful grievance procedure for those who feel they've not been treated nicely as well as disciplinary measures for staff who violate the code.

It calls on the party to have the code in place by the next federal campaign in 2015.

A number of priority resolutions are aimed at protecting the rights of workers and labour unions, a traditional NDP ally.

Others reflect the party's determination to maintain its newfound base in Quebec, which delivered 59 of its 75 seats to the NDP in the 2011 election, vaulting the party into official Opposition status for the first time in its history.

For instance, one resolution calls on the party to change the title of its national director back to the old title of "federal secretary" — out of deference to the fact that "the Canadian people includes the nation of Quebec and the First Nations."

Another calls for a review of the Broadcasting Act and legislation governing the national broadcast regulator "to take into account the different francophone and anglophone realities in the country, especially those of the Quebec market."

Another reaffirms NDP support for requiring all Supreme Court justices to be bilingual.

Pro-socialist preamble

Likely the most controversial priority resolution will be a proposed new preamble to the NDP's constitution, which is aimed at softening the party's socialist edges.

The current preamble touts the merits of "democratic socialist principles," including the principle of "social ownership" and an economy geared to meeting the social and individual needs of people and "not to the making of profit."

The proposed new preamble makes only a glancing reference to the party's "social democratic and democratic socialist traditions" and takes a much more hands-off approach to the economy.

It affirms that government has a role to play in creating the conditions for sustainable prosperity" and should have the power to "address the limitations of the market" in advancing economic justice and protecting the environment.

The party has tried twice before the rewrite the opening lines of its constitution but rank and file New Democrats have balked.

Party members will have a chance to review resolution priority as the convention gets underway next Friday in Montreal.

With files from CBC News