Inside Politics

New Democrats to debate modernizing party constitution -- again.

After two (presumably) agonizing years of backroom negotiations, New Democrats will, it seems, at last be given the opportunity to formally consider updating the preamble to the party's decades-old constitution when party members converge on Montreal later this month.

A bit of background, shamelessly copypasted from a 2011 post:

A quick recap/reminder for those of you who may have dozed off midway through the thrilling finale of the NDP's 50th anniversary convention last June: Delegates were all set for an epic floor fight over a resolution that would have excised the existing preamble in favour of one that would, among other changes, replace all references to "democratic socialism" with "social democratic principles." The proposal squeaked through an earlier closed-door workshop session, but more sparks were expected to fly when it went before the full plenary session on Sunday.

But at the very last minute -- literally -- party president then-elect Brian Topp materialized on stage with an eleventh hour pitch for compromise: specifically, a motion to refer the matter to the federal executive, which would consult with members and report any salient findings at a future convention.

When I inquired as to the status of Topp's seemingly hastily arranged promise earlier this year, I was assured that the matter was under active consideration, and told that all would be revealed before the 2013 convention got underway.

As it turns out, that was entirely correct. 

Earlier today, the party confirmed that it would be putting a putative revised version of the preamble before delegates during the upcoming convention, although there is, of course, no guarantee it will make it through the plenary.

The latest offering, which was generated via committee-based consensus, would seem to have more chance of success than the 2011 proposal, however. 

Rather than risking raised hackles by removing the word 'socialist' entirely, it would cast it in a historic light, while simultaneously expanding -- by 200 words, no less --  on a more general theme of progressiveness without tying itself to any particular ideology.

The existing preamble, as it currently appears in (after mysteriously, if temporarily, disappearing from) -- the NDP Constitution, which clocks in at 168 words:

The New Democratic Party believes that the social, economic and political progress of Canada can be assured only by the application of democratic socialist principles to government and the administration of public affairs.

The principles of democratic socialism can be defined briefly as:

That the production and distribution of goods and services shall be directed to meeting the social and individual needs of people within a sustainable environment and economy and not to the making of profit;

To modify and control the operations of the monopolistic productive and distributive organizations through economic and social planning. Towards these ends and where necessary the extension of the principle of social ownership;

The New Democratic Party holds firm to the belief that the dignity and freedom of the individual is a basic right that must be maintained and extended; and

The New Democratic Party is proud to be associated with the democratic socialist parties of the world and to share the struggle for peace, international co-operation and the abolition of poverty.

... and here's the revised version put forward by the Constitution Committee, which, at 368 words, is nearly three times as long:

Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. New Democrats are Canadians who believe we can be a better one - a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build sustainable prosperity, and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world's environment. New Democrats work together to these ends for the sake of our fellow citizens and in the interests of all of humanity.

New Democrats are proud of our political and activist heritage, and our long record of visionary, practical, and successful governments. That heritage and that record have distinguished and inspired our party since the creation of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation in 1933, and the founding of the New Democratic Party in 1961.

New Democrats seek a future which brings together the best of the insights and objectives of Canadians who, within the social democratic and democratic socialist traditions, have worked through farmer, labour, co-operative, feminist, human rights and environmental movements to build a more just, equal, and sustainable Canada within a global community dedicated to the same goals.

New Democrats celebrate Canada's diversity and the deep histories, traditions and aspirations of all of its peoples.

New Democrats believe in freedom and democracy, and in a positive role for democratically elected and accountable Parliaments, legislatures and the governments responsible to them.

New Democrats affirm a role for government in helping to create the conditions for sustainable prosperity. We believe in a rules based economy, nationally and globally, in which governments have the power to address the limitations of the market in addressing the common good, by having the power to act in the public interest, for social and economic justice, and for the integrity of the environment.

New Democrats belong to the family of other progressive democratic political parties that govern successfully in many countries around the world. In co-operation with like minded political parties and governments, New Democrats are committed to working together for peace, international co-operation, and the common good of all - the common good being our fundamental purpose as a movement and as a party.

According to the agenda, the proposal could hit the convention floor on April 15th -- the final day of the upcoming confab.

Stay tuned! 

Tags: blackberry jungle, NDP, new democrats

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