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2021 NDP convention day two: Party takes historic step on Palestine

Significantly, the party adopted a progressive policy on Palestine, endorsing sanctions and an arms embargo on Israel

Canadian PoliticsSocialism

Jagmeet Singh at the 2021 NDP convention, April 10, 2021. Photo from Twitter.

To read Christo’s full coverage of the 2021 NDP convention, click here.

The second day of the 2021 NDP convention remained deeply flawed from a technical standpoint, meaning that far too few resolutions were addressed. But historic votes indicate that the NDP membership is united in moving toward a more just Canada and world.

In some cases, certain resolution blocs only had one resolution ultimately get a vote on the floor, due to a mixture of far too little time allocated for debate, persistent technical difficulties, and incessant points of order and privilege.

More seriously, numerous delegates raised credible concerns that there was a fundamental lack of accessibility for members with disabilities in many of the caucuses, where closed captioning and sign language interpretation was not provided. For a party based on social justice, this is unacceptable.

Nonetheless, the debates on the floor today gave me hope for positive movement forward. First, the membership gave overwhelming support to an 80 percent top marginal tax rate and a $20 federal minimum wage. While I would have preferred a more ambitious wealth tax than the proposed one percent, this is a definite break from the neoliberal consensus on taxation that pervaded the pre-Jagmeet Singh NDP, which saw Tom Mulcair decry taxes higher than 50 percent as “confiscatory.”

We also saw near unanimous support for striking Indian farmers, who are currently involved in the largest general strike in world history. And, although it nearly didn’t happen, NDP delegates finally voted on a policy that would help achieve some measure of justice for the Palestinian people by approving a resolution to stop the sale of arms to Israel and boycott trade with illegal Israeli settlements encroaching on Palestinian lands.

While even this resolution may not go far enough in putting pressure on the Israeli apartheid state, 85 percent of the delegates joined together to take a massive step in holding Israel to account in a way no major Canadian political party ever has. This is without a doubt a major victory for activists who worked tirelessly to ensure this resolution achieved a high priority, and given the slow pace of the convention, even one rank lower would have seen this overwhelmingly popular initiative buried.

It was too close for comfort, but history was made. As Amy Kishek and Geneviève Nevin, two top organizers on this resolution noted, “The adoption of this policy today firmly positions the NDP as one of the few parties demanding the end of Canada’s support for illegal settlements and suspending the flow of weapons to and from Israel until Palestinians are free.”

We also saw a crucial intervention by labour leader Marie Clarke Walker, who forced an essential amendment on a resolution on combatting racism. As originally proposed, the resolution would have likely increased police spending by attempting to ‘educate’ the RCMP on the realities of systemic racism. But as Clarke Walker noted, this is pointless, because the issue with police racism isn’t education—it is inextricably rooted in the nature of policing itself. While this is in no way a motion to defund the police in general or the RCMP in particular (that resolution was too far down the list to reach the floor in this flawed format) it is at least an acknowledgment by the vast majority of delegates that giving law enforcement more money is not a solution to police violence.

To be sure, there were disappointments. As noted above, the failure to allocate sufficient time for debate—less than in usual conventions—meant that vital resolutions like one on the cancellation of student debt went undiscussed. The party’s existing policy on this matter is quite poor, and so a resounding rebuke from the membership would have been important to see.

The delegation also narrowly rejected a resolution amendment which would have taken a stronger strand in the fight on climate change in an effort to appease pro-fossil fuel elements of the party. As it stands, the party seems unwilling to fully reckon with the fact that some form of a ‘Green New Deal’ will require a fundamental transformation of our economy, and not just mere tinkering that avoids the hard decisions that come with confronting carbon capitalism.

Still, today was a good sign that that the left of the party is organizing in a way it has not in recent years. They are strongly asserting left priorities, and while this convention’s format has stifled some of this energy, it won’t go fully back into the bottle.

Christo Aivalis is political writer and commentator with a PhD in History. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, and Passage. He can be found daily on YouTube and at his new podcast Left Turn, Canada.

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