As It Happens

Cheri DiNovo says 'delusional' NDP needs to get back to social democratic roots

Ontario NDP MPP Cheri DiNova says it’s time for her federal counterparts to admit they lost the last election because of their austere economic policies.
Ontario NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo. (Twitter)

Cheri DiNovo is an Ontario NDP MPP. And as her federal counterparts get back to work in Ottawa, DiNovo says they still need to address the reason so few of them survived the last election.

DiNovo spoke with As It Happens host Carol Off about missed opportunities and what changes the NDP needs to make moving forward. Here is part of their conversation.

Carol Off: Ms. DiNovo, what do you mean when you say your federal counterparts of the NDP are "delusional" about what happened in the last election?

Cheri DiNovo:  Well, what I think most party members and most Canadians didn't hear is, first of all, the the fact that this was devastating for the New Democrats. That we lost, particularly in Toronto, a lot of phenomenal members of Parliament and that this was a time for real soul searching. We didn't hear that. We heard some glib responses. We heard boasts that this is the second best result ever. This I said, and I do believe, that's delusional. You know I'm a United Church minister. I have dealt with death. Denial in politics, as in death, is not necessarily a good thing.

 It's time to actually come back to ourselves. It's time to tell the world who we are and to stand up for the values that are already operational in many social democratic countries and need to be happening here.- Cheri DiNovo

CO: What do you think went wrong?

CD: Well I think what's been going wrong over a number of elections now, starting with Adrian Dix, even Olivia Chow, and certainly this last experience, is that we've veered from who we are. I think who we are, the party of Tommy Douglas and J.S. Woodsworth, the party I grew up with, the party of democratic socialists or social democrats even. I think we've veered from that and at a particularly bad time in history. It's a time when we've got Bernie Saunders to the south of us, Jeremy Corbyn across the ocean, both describing themselves as democratic socialists. It's time to actually come back to ourselves. It's time to tell the world who we are and to stand up for the values that are already operational in many social democratic countries and need to be happening here.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair speaks to supporters, Monday, Oct. 19, 2015 in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/CP)


CO: Every time that this discussion comes up about what role the NDP should play, there's this tension between this idea that it should be a protest party, a conscience of parliament party, on the one hand and on the other hand, why shouldn't it seek power, as it's had power in provincial government? So is that what you're talking about?

CD: Absolutely. But you know, principles before power is what I would say. You know there's that old biblical quote that, "you gain nothing if you lose your soul and still gain the world." I think we've had examples of that too with NDP governments. To me and I think to most most rank and file, and most people who seek social justice in Canada, independent of partisan stripe, they want to see a party that actually stands up for principles and values. Then I think we can't help but win, even if we don't win government. C-51 was a classic example. We stood for that and it was the right thing to do. Even though 82 per cent of Canadians at that point, in those polls, didn't agree. I think we have to stand up for our values and I honestly believe that if we do the vast majority will follow us. I think that if we try to win and it's just about winning, it's not about principles and directions, we'll lose on both counts.


CO: We saw the Liberals steal the thunder of the NDP. But there were polls that indicated that [Mulcair] was a strong contender - that [the NDP] could have been the government. So why do you think that opportunity, that lead, was blown?

CD: Well again, I think we weren't bold enough. But where we really lost folks was when we started talking about balanced budgets. When we pulled away from fully legalizing marijuana. Those were the issues I think that were problematic for us. Again, it goes back before the campaign. To how do we develop our campaign policies and our platforms? I think that's where we need to be ourselves again and to listen to our rank and file. And our rank and file have been calling for us to move left for a long time now. I think now we have the space to do it. Certainly Bernie and Jeremy have given us that the space. Even Justin [Trudeau] has given us that space by tacking to the left. So let's be who we truly are and that is the social democratic, democratic socialist party of Canada.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

To hear the full interview please select the Listen audio link above.

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