Proposed NDP resolutions reveal grassroots itching to shift to the left

If party activists were frustrated by the NDP's centrist leanings in the last election campaign they'll now have a chance to adopt a wide range of resolutions at the party's convention in Edmonton that would push it in a much different direction.

Activists are proposing NDP wholly adopt Leap Manifesto, universal income, 'robust' taxation and socialism

Delegates at the NDP's convention in Edmonton will vote on a series that could potentially the return the party to its social democratic roots. (Jim Young/Reuters)

If party activists were frustrated by the NDP's shift to the centre in the last election campaign, they will now have a chance to endorse a wide range of resolutions at the party's convention in Edmonton that would take the party in a much different direction.

Delegates from across the country could vote on whether to embrace policies that have been largely ignored by current NDP Leader Tom Mulcair: a universal living wage, free dental care for all, "public" banking, an endorsement of the Leap Manifesto, the ripping up of all trade deals and putting socialism back in the party constitution.

If adopted, the NDP would effectively return to its roots as a party characterized by social democratic — if not outright socialist — principles.

"Canadians, in the light of our party's 2015 election campaign, have been left in doubt about the NDP's primary convictions," one resolution from Nova Scotia says. "Be it resolved that the New Democratic Party of Canada will assume the responsibility to advocate courageously and explain the social democratic perspective in the public arena."

Many of the proposed resolutions, however, will not make the convention floor.

Here is a look at a few of the hundreds of proposed resolutions party members could consider this weekend: 

1. Endorse the Leap Manifesto

At least 20 riding associations and affiliated party groups have proposed resolutions that would commit the NDP to endorsing the Leap Manifesto.

"It is centrally important that the NDP be perceived as a key vehicle for lessening income inequality, providing well-paying green jobs, and addressing the climate disaster that faces us," the resolution reads in part.

The manifesto, backed by climate activists Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein, among others, is focussed on aggressively tackling climate change, ending all trade deals and reorienting Canadian society away from consumer capitalism.

Stephen Lewis, centre, speaks next to Ashley Callingbull, left, Mrs. Universe 2015, and author Joseph Boyden while joining other actors, activists, and musicians in launching the Leap Manifesto outlining a climate and economic vision for Canada. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Sponsors of the resolution say by aligning the NDP with the manifesto's "overarching narrative and goals," the party can become the true vehicle for progressive voters.

Lewis and former MPs Craig Scott and Libby Davies have endorsed a resolution jointly proposed by the Vancouver East and Toronto–Danforth riding associations that rejects a wholesale endorsement of the manifesto, but rather calls it a "high-level statement of principles."

The resolution encourages internal debate as to how the manifesto's policy prescriptions can be adapted and modified to fit within the confines of the party's next electoral platform.

2. Guarantee an annual income

A group of electoral district associations from southwestern Ontario are calling on the party to "campaign for and seek to legislate a livable Guaranteed Annual Income for all Canadians."

It proposes a model similar to income support systems already in place for seniors — like Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement — but for all Canadians.

"The provision of a Guaranteed Annual Income can reduce poverty and income insecurity, enable people to pursue opportunities relevant to them and their families, and improve health and educational outcomes," the resolution says.

3. Postal banking

A series of resolutions demand the NDP expand the scope of Canada Post to include banking at branches set up inside post offices across the country. This would provide Canadians with access to a "public" bank, which would offer basic banking products like chequing accounts, short-term loans and credit cards.

One NDP convention resolution proposes Canada Post offer basic banking services to boost profits at Crown corporation. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

It would be targeted at low-income and rural Canadians where access to traditional banking networks is limited. The profits generated by Canada Post could then be ploughed back into its traditional business, and restore door-to-door delivery.

"A public banking option would create competition in an increasingly cartelized financial sector and lead to market pressures for accessible services ... and would not engage in risky, speculative investments with depositors' money as seen most prominently in private banks in 2008," the resolution states.

4. Universal dental coverage

While NDP Leader Tom Mulcair — and the current Liberal government — have previously advocated for some form of national pharmacare, new party resolutions are proposing an expansion of medicare to dental services. 

"Dental care was part of the second stage of Tommy Douglas' vision for comprehensive health care in Canada," the resolution reads, and including dental coverage in medicare could reduce the link between poor oral health and poor health in other parts of the body.

Tommy Douglas, known as "The Father of Medicare", shown in Ottawa with the Parliament buildings in the background on October 1983. Douglas advocated for medicare to also insure dental services. (Canadian Press)

"Canada's NDP believes the provision of basic dentistry must be added to the comprehensive services that provinces are required to provide under the Canada Health Act," one resolution proposes.

Pharmacare is still a top priority for some party members as delegates will vote on proposals that would commit the NDP to integrating pharmaceuticals into the existing medicare program.

5. 'Robust' taxation

The perennial question — how are you going to pay for all this? — is partially addressed in a series of resolutions including one from the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding association, which demands "fair and robust taxation to enable the government's share of the economy to attain a level needed to stimulate the domestic economy permanently."

Another resolution jointly sponsored by riding associations in Thornhill, Etobicoke North and Hamilton Mountain demands "steeply progressive tax reform.

"It will be costly to provide $15/day childcare, significant improvements in public transportation and decent, affordable housing for all in need, and other vital social expenditures required," the associations concede, and thus the NDP should campaign for "radically progressive tax change ... to steeply tax big business, the banks and the super-rich."

6. Tear up all trade deals

Mulcair campaigned against the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the last election, in contrast to Stephen Harper's Conservatives, who helped pen the deal and the Liberals who were non-committal. Now, party activists want the NDP to go one step further and tear up all existing and proposed trade deals including NAFTA, CETA and TPP. 

"Be it resolved that the NDP replace current policy with a clear statement calling for the ending of all trade deals," one resolution from Scarborough Southwest says.

Another would compel the party to "call upon the government of the day to put a halt to any further attacks on our Great Nation, by not ratifying any agreement with trading partners that attacks our legislated rights and liberties with impunity."

7. Reform the party itself

NDP President Rebecca Blaikie said in a recent interview with CBC Radio's The House that the party is simply "too white." A party resolution proposes to ramp up Indigenous representation on electoral district associations, among other diversity measures.

NDP President Rebecca Blaikie says her party is "too white," and needs to actively address its diversity deficit to better reflect Canadian society. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Activists from Nova Scotia are also suggesting the 'New' should be dropped from the party's name; another resolution wants to restore the term "socialism" in the federal NDP constitution preamble; other activists are demanding the party commit more resources to rebuilding in Atlantic Canada; and lastly others are calling for separate federal and provincial and territorial party memberships.

Read the proposed party resolutions for yourself: 


John Paul Tasker

Parliamentary Bureau

J.P. Tasker is a senior writer in the CBC's parliamentary bureau in Ottawa. He can be reached at john.tasker@cbc.ca.