Status quo result after hours of debate on 1 member, 1 vote at NDP convention

More than 550 delegates to the NDP convention grappled for hours with how to choose their next leader Saturday, but came up empty.

Resolutions to change voting rules for leader stymie delegates

More than 500 people are packed into the convention. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

More than 550 delegates to the NDP convention grappled for hours with how to choose their next leader Saturday, but came up empty. 

A majority of the members are in favour of some type of system that has delegates and allows unions and other groups a portion of those.

But a significant minority touted a one-member, one-vote system. 

Changes to the party's constitution require a two-thirds majority vote. 

Several resolutions fell to the two-thirds rule as the convention wore on, leaving status quo regulations in place. 

Some minor changes to the party's constitution did pass. Others were swiftly defeated.

Delegates voted down a motion to change the name of the NDP to Manitoba Democratic Party.

The resolution was proposed by the Lac du Bonnet constituency.

The argument was made that the party was hardly "new" in Manitoba anymore, having been around in the province since 1961.

The party also voted in former senior civil servant David Woodbury as the new party president, replacing Ovide Mercredi, who stepped down this at the beginning of the convention. 

Manitoba Federation of Labour president and NDP party executive Kevin Rebeck asked the one-member, one-vote group asking them to "move toward the middle" on the committee-generated option. (CBC)

Compromise confounding

The party had several options for changing its leadership voting formula on the table, including proposals a party committee spent months canvassing and researching. The committee hoped those choices would strike some sort of compromise. 

Former cabinet minister Steve Ashton and interim leader Flor Marcelino led a band of determined delegates seeking the one-member, one-vote (OMOV) changes.

The group had support from long-time organizer and activist Sel Burrows and Mynarski city councillor Ross Eadie.

Party executive and Manitoba Federation of Labour president Kevin Rebeck made an appeal on one option the party committee had developed, telling the crowd "It's not a surprise I support this...but I get that people don't like it."

Rebeck appealed to the OMOV group asking them to "move toward the middle" on the committee-generated option.

But the motion didn't get the required 2/3 majority and was quashed.

The Manitoba Federation of Labour had another resolution that would have a leadership contest voted on by delegates where affiliates such as unions would be represented. 

But the option missed the 2/3 vote threshold by a mere 14 votes.

The opposition frustrated many at the convention. 

David Woodbury has been elected president of the provincial NDP after serving for several years as an associate deputy minister responsible for the Treasury Board.

Evan Krosney called the committee's option a "good compromise solution" and scolded the OMOV group, reminding them of the party's roots.

"This party was founded on organized labour. Pallister is attacking organized labour and I want to stand up to that," Krosney said.

Ashton made a rigorous call for hybrid version of the OMOV resolution, his voice getting hoarse as he warned the convention the party would never form another government if it didn't broaden its membership.

Freshly elected party president David Woodbury says the party will use the changes that did come from the convention and has confidence it will still mean a vibrant leadership convention in the fall.

"Democracy is sort of a little messy isn't it? And that was a lot of democracy on the floor today. It was not big management going on, it was the delegates speaking their we are where we are, and we are going to make the best leadership contest get out of that," Woodbury told CBC News after a long day of resolutions.

Bad news for Ashton: Prof

The wrangling is significant as the party will choose a new leader in the fall. There has been speculation Ashton is eyeing a run for leader and some mused a one-member, one vote system would help his cause.

"The old status quo system has tended to reward people who were connected to the caucus or to some of the leading organizations that form part of the NDP," said Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba.

Thomas said the delegate system could favour an establishment candidate like Wab Kinew.

Ashton's previous leadership bids have never garnered support from any of his cabinet colleagues. He worked to sign up hundreds of new NDP members in targeted constituencies, leading to accusations that much of his support comes from people who are not truly connected to the party. 

Thomas said Saturday's decision is a blow to Ashton's potential third bid later this year. 

"This is not a good sign for Steve Ashton," Thomas said.

Whether Kinew can win the leadership will depend on whether any other establishment candidates emerge, Thomas noted. 

Community activist and United Food and Commercial Workers union staffer Michelle McHale is the only declared candidate in the race.

With files from the Canadian Press