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Where does the federal NDP go from here?

“That is what you get to do when you move up from manifestos, to the detailed, principled, practical plans you can really implement by winning an election.
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“That is what you get to do when you move up from manifestos, to the detailed, principled, practical plans you can really implement by winning an election.”

Rachel Notley

What a weekend for the NDP both federally and provincially! The federal party is doomed to oblivion and will likely take Rachel Notley and the Alberta New Democrats with them. Compared to the party that Thomas Mulcair once led, our premier looks like a right-wing Tory. But can she survive the blow dealt to her government by the radical proponents of the LEAP Manifesto?

The LEAP Manifesto is a broad-based policy document that proposes to fix all of the woes of the aboriginal nations to curing poverty and fixing the climate change problem all in one fell swoop. To bring this to the floor of a national convention being held in the Alberta capital city and propose that all energy infrastructure be shut down and that no more pipelines be built should have spelt trouble to anyone with a brain in their head. The motion, which was passed with a clear majority, was to have the manifesto referred to constituency associations and brought back in two years. But as Premier Notley correctly stated the proposal was simply “naive and impractical”.

Alberta delegates were particularly and rightly furious at this move, which just feeds into opposition criticism. As Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan put it: “These downtown Toronto political dilettantes come to Alberta and track their garbage across our front lawn.” He was of course referring to Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein, lead authors and proponents of the manifesto together with the rest of the eastern delegates who advocated for the resolution. Mulcair’s ambivalent support for the manifesto was also partly responsible for him losing his bid to keep his seat as federal party leader.

According to Linda Duncan, the lone Alberta MP for the New Democrats, “The LEAP Manifesto is coming from people who aren’t exactly part of the party.” Now, whom is she trying to kid – Avi Lewis is the son of Stephen Lewis, former chair of the Ontario wing, and grandson of the late David Lewis, leader of the NDP in the 1960’s. Stephen Lewis even spoke strongly in favour of LEAP at the convention.

But what are the broader implications of the support for the LEAP Manifesto? Is this just an indication of local Toronto based left-wing support to close down the energy industry or is it indicative of an east-west schism against the Alberta oil sands? Does it spell doom for Energy East? Is it something that can rally the Notley troops and gain her support in Alberta for the position she has taken?

It will also be interesting to see how this plays out at the federal NDP level and their upcoming leadership convention. Vocal opponents for the manifesto, such as Gil McGowan should stand up and run for the leadership of the federal NDP to test the waters and provide a strong fight against such a ridiculous policy authored out of the Toronto ivory towers.

Putting on a non-partisan hat for a moment we all have to be proud of Premier Notley and her Environment Minister for standing up, not just for her government policies but for her pragmatism in defending Alberta’s right to develop our resources and turn our struggling economy around. Yes, maybe she is doing the best to save her skin but she has taken a strong stand against the idealistic dogma of some of her federal cronies.

Ken Allred is a former St. Albert Alderman and MLA





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